Dealing with Your Diagnosis
When you are told you have cancer, very often it becomes a life-changing experience for you, your family and close friends. There is a lot to come to terms with and the news can be a great shock and throw you into confusion. It is not uncommon to have feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, feeling alone, loss of confidence and control, but this usually gets easier as the shock wears off and the situation becomes more real to you. There is no ‘right’ way of reacting to the diagnosis; everyone reacts in their own way.
Fear of the future
Uncertainty about the future is one of the hardest feelings to deal with, and you could feel irritable, angry and frightened. It is normal to worry about dying if you’ve been given a cancer diagnosis. Many people find it helps to find out as much as possible about prostate cancer and the ‘stage’ that you have been diagnosed with and what is likely to happen. Not everyone feels this way, but it is worth discussing this with your doctors or nurse specialist, as they know your situation and treatment options. You could write down some questions listed in the next pages before you next see your consultant.
Remember that not all prostate cancers need be treated. Many are so slow growing that they may never cause a problem in your lifetime. Only the more aggressive types need active treatment.
Think positively. Look at your treatment options, along with the side effects, so you know what to expect. They are all detailed in this booklet. Be as active as you can; the fitter you are the better your body will be able to cope with treatment. Think more about your diet; this is a way that you can make a difference in fighting the disease. Find someone to talk to about prostate cancer. It could be someone close to you, a counsellor, someone on your medical team or someone you may meet at a support group meeting. It is always useful to offload what is going on in your head and find answers. Try to manage stress by learning techniques to relax.
Further support for yourself and/or your partner. If you or your partner find yourself badly effected by the stresses of your cancer, take action and seek further support from your GP, your local mental health line or Macmillan.
Many men survive prostate cancer that has been diagnosed in the early stages, but for some the treatment can be hard on your body and it can take some time before you feel fit again. Some men have side effects that gradually improve, while for others these can be ongoing or delayed. Not everyone experiences side effects, but some may experience difficulty sleeping, feeling weaker and more tired, lost or gained weight, stiffness in muscles or joints.
If you are worried about erectile dyfunction or urinary problems following treatment, read the Sexual Problems and Problems with Continence sections. They may help to put your mind at ease. There are on-line communities or forums for prostate cancer, where men can share their treatment experience and ask questions of others. These can be an effective way dealing with prostate cancer together.
Local support groups also have meetings where men get together to share their experiences of treatment and living with the disease. Here you can often offload worries and know that someone within the group understands what you are going through, or just listening to other men talking about their treatment journey can help.
Some men will be diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and be put on hormone therapy. Other men, in the early stages of localised cancer, will be put on active surveillance. In both cases the treatment can be long-term and on-going. If you are on hormone therapy, in some hospitals there is a specialist nurse who can do an holistic assessment and help prescribe or refer you to other agencies that can help.
If you are on Active Surveillance, some men find this to be quite stressful and are so concerned at having cancer in the body without having radical treatment to remove it that they opt for surgery or radiotherapy with all the possible side effects those treatments carry. The best way of avoiding anxiety over whether you should have radical treatment or stay on active surveillance is to educate yourself fully on the facts about prostate cancer. You are then able to make a logical decision on what is right for you. Reading this booklet fully is one way of doing that.
Living a healthy lifestyle can help your body recover more quickly. It can also reduce the risk of other illnesses such as heart disease or strokes. Some men will want to change entirely the way they were living before diagnosis. You may have a stressful job that allows the options of working part-time or taking early retirement. You have control over what you eat and a well-balanced diet has been proven to help fight many diseases. Evidence is now emerging that shows exercise can reduce fatigue, improve mood, psychological wellbeing and body composition. Adopting lifestyle changes has been proven to reduce the rate of PSA progression in patients on active surveillance. See the section on Diet and Lifestyle.
REMEMBER: Take control of your cancer: don’t let it control you.