Roger G. is an Australian man with prostate cancer.
He spoke with Prostatepedia about how he dealt with anxiety and depression during his prostate cancer journey.
How did you find out that you had prostate cancer?
Roger: My general practitioner had been checking my PSA since 1999. I’d had some issues with urination. He wasn’t too concerned because my PSA hadn’t changed much. In 2003 it had risen to 3.8. In 2004, he said I should get another PSA test but said to leave it until early December, which I did. By that time it was up to 5.6. He referred me to a urologist who said, “We’ll do a biopsy. No hurry. Come back after Christmas.”
I went back to see him in January. The cancer looked pretty well contained. My Gleason score was 3+4=7. He said we’d have to operate, but there was no rush. At that stage, I was a little bit anxious about it all. I thought: Here we go. Just my luck to have cancer, but let’s get on with it. The urologist said, “If it has spread, which I don’t think it has, you can go on hormone treatments. Lots of people get 12 more years with that. Don’t worry.”
I had the bone scan to check if it had spread. Nothing was found in my bones. I had them book me for surgery as soon as they could. The surgery went well. Three months later, I went back to see him. My PSA was 4. He said, “Surgery failed.”
A week later I had another PSA test. It was 5. I started to feel a little bit anxious, but he told me not to worry. He sent me off for a PET scan, which took a little bit of organizing. This was back in 2005 when the PET scan machines were new. They didn’t even know which PET scan to give me. I now know that the PET scans I had were part of a study to determine which was best for prostate cancer. I had one scan and then another. It lit me up like a Christmas tree. There were three big red dots well apart and away from where my prostate was. I was pretty anxious about it all.
How did you deal with that feeling of anxiety?
Roger: I asked, “How long have I got?” They estimated two to five years. I asked about surgery? “No,” they said, “That’s like weeding a garden.” What about radiation? They said they’d have to burn my guts out. I asked what to do. They just told me to “Keep fit and come back in three months.” I was 59. My experience with cancer in my family was pretty grim. My dad was diagnosed with cancer and died three weeks later. It wasn’t prostate cancer, though. My aunt died from lung cancer.
One of my sisters said it was breast cancer, but I didn’t know that at the time. She died pretty soon after her diagnosis. My dad’s brother was 72 when he told us he had lung cancer on Boxing Day in 1995. He was dead by Easter. I was a mess. I would see healthy people and say to myself, “How come you are okay and I have only a few years?” The black dog was giving me a hard time.
But that’s when I organized myself to see the psychologist at the hospital. I had a breakdown. I saw her every week and just talked about how things were going.
She suggested I obtain the Guided Mindfulness Meditation CDs by Jon Kabat-Zinn and start with body scan meditations. I bought the discs. These helped a quite a lot, and I felt as though I was doing something to cure the cancer.
Then, by chance, I went to a support group meeting in one of the Melbourne suburbs—pure chance. I couldn’t find anybody at the meeting who was in the same boat as me. Everybody I met had either had surgery and was all clear, or they were just waiting and watching. But also at that meeting was a motivational speaker. He was fantastic. He talked about how it was mind over matter and about self-talk. He mentioned Lance Armstrong’s book: It’s Not About The Bike.
It’s about turning things around with this self-talk stuff. It all gets to you. I’ve only got a few years to live. I want to really enjoy the rest of my life. Now, I say to myself, “You’re going to be okay.”
Anxiety had me looking at the dark side. Everything on the TV was death. It wouldn’t matter what it was. It was all death to me. It was all why me? A good friend invited me around to his place for a drink and we enjoyed a bottle of red wine. For the first time in two months my nerves settled, and I knew that I could put the black dog in his kennel. Things took a dramatic turn. My boss, who was very understanding, told me of his brush with cancer and how he was given the all clear.
A work colleague told me about his 80-year-old father who had been told he only had a year to live when he was 40. When I took my first PSA test in 3 months, my general practitioner said it might be down. And it was: 3.4!
Cancer is tough. I’m sure most people wonder why me at some point.
Roger: I went through a period when I had a tough time. I was on a hormone-suppressing drug when my PSA went back up to about 20. I got a little bit depressed once
I started on that. I went back to the meditation tapes. There were other issues, too, with loss of libido and putting on a bit of weight. I use the meditation CDs and selftalk. I keep myself fit. I do a good bit of resistance training and stretching.
In June 2016 I had another serious mental breakdown. My general practitioner put me on a mood enhancing drug. Now I’m feeling terrific and energized.
And you lead a support group, don’t you?
Roger: I’m the secretary there. That keeps me busy. I play golf three days a week. I walk around the golf course, dragging my clubs around behind me. Even though I was depressed, I still played golf and worked out at the gym.
Do you have any advice for other men facing similar circumstances?
Roger: Prostate cancer is a chronic disease. If you get a black mood, use self-talk. Talk to yourself inside your ear: “You won’t have any symptoms. They don’t happen. If you do get a bit of pain, well, you can just let them do a bit of radiation.”
You’ve got to keep in touch with your oncologist, just to see if you are eligible for one of the new effective treatments. Work out because your bones degrade when you’re on hormone treatments. Exercise is medicine. Get your heart beating and get your muscles working. This will give you a sense of control over your destiny.
If you are anxious or depressed, see your general practitioner. The medication my general practitioner prescribed sorted that out (and decreased the intensity of the hot flushes).
I enjoy my grandkids. Two of my daughters are married. I’ve got four grandkids. It makes me see the joy. I am really looking forward to all the joys of old age. I had a friend who is about 12 years older than me and he has dementia. I think prostate cancer is a better route.