The Merits Of Talking

Move more, eat healthily and think positive: not easy when one is psychologically diminished. Even if physical activity, the open air and a beautifully set table are good for your mood, sometimes trying “just won’t do”. There are times when you simply cannot do it. The same goes for your shape or your figure, there only seems to be destiny.

“Right after the treatment, I had it bad. I spent more than a year experiencing difficulties and was searching for ways to control the effects of the disease and the drugs. The group is a great help. Once you receive an answer, you are doing better. You made it!” Josef, aged 80

Good Reasons For Doubting

Whether or not you have been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, the disease has suddenly entered your life and you, like the majority of other men who are affected, may have suffered mentally from the brutality of this interruption. With the disease come the doubts, the questions of how life will proceed: “How much time do I have left?” and “In what physical state?”

Treating the disease brings its own set of upheavals. The consequences of the surgery on urinary and sexual functions, for example, can cause severe agitation. Hormonal treatment may affect the mind and its effects on the body cannot be considered psychologically neutral either.

More generally, prostate cancer is a disease of ageing. When it hits – if they do not experience their autonomy and virility weakened – men find themselves remembering they are growing old. Also, while the majority of men do not want to be considered ill, many among them find that those near and dear to them forget that they are.

Admit That You Are Suffering

“Right after the treatment, I had it bad. I spent over a year experiencing difficulties and was searching for ways to control the effects of the disease and the drugs”, Josef confides. He found his much needed support in a patient group and considers it a good way for “realising” one’s condition. “The group is a great help. Once you receive an answer, you are doing better. You made it!”

Admitting psychological pain, whether it be distress or depression, and deciding to open up to someone is not easy, and most certainly not when one is a man of your generation. Listening to other patients and expressing oneself appears to be the least painful option: “Among us, we play the role of the psychologist. We know, we admit that these things are hard. We also know that men who want to talk do not always find the words” Josef explains.

Don’t Keep Your Thoughts To Yourself

Putting into words what one is feeling, is at first relief. Some men find that talking in a patient group allows them to feel less lonely about their situation, while being able to express what they, as individuals, feel. Other men may prefer talking privately to a doctor or nurse, and some like Bernard even consult a psychologist.

“The day that I told my wife what I was feeling, she insisted on me seeing a professional. I had my reservations, but she told me that if I had a toothache I would see a dentist! The psychologist helped me to put things back in order, and although I didn’t go see him for a very long time, there is a clear before and after. Most importantly, he has taught me not to keep things to myself,” says Bernard.

Do not keep your worries to yourself. If you find those around you indifferent, tell them, find a way for sharing instead of blaming. In the talk groups, one hears things like “communication has become difficult”, “words scare me”, and “the disease sets apart more than it unites”. Treat these issues as you would treat other undesirable effects of the illness and not as destiny.

Asking Questions Is Fundamental

Hearing the news that you have cancer or the cancer has returned, the treatments, the unwanted effects… all of these elements in the process of acceptance raise a whole new series of questions. One is not always capable of hearing all the information that is given. Doctors are just like other people; some doctors are good at explaining, others do not explain anything or do so very poorly. Not understanding or not knowing are stress factors and can thus cause distress. Remember you can also talk to your nursing team as well as your doctor!

Jan advocates that information is a prerequisite for action: “The message of our organisation is to “take matters into your own hands”. In order to be able do this, one needs a solid base of knowledge and a stimulating framework that is regularly provided with information.”  Knowing your enemy so your are better prepared fight is an age-old concept.

Counteract The Negative Spiral

Physical activity, having goals and social contact are good for your mood. The opposite is also true and refraining from following the programme because you are feeling tired or depressed will not help you generate the required energy. Over the course of the programme, you need to force yourself to keep up the minimum recommended rhythm. Do not make your temporary discouragement worse by feeling that you are no longer “capable”. Being stronger than a moment’s weakness, that’s what is good for your mood!

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