A prostate cancer diagnosis can be scary and confusing. You may be working through a host of unpleasant emotions, as well as wondering what the road ahead will look like for you and your family. Although prostate cancer is the second most common cancer for men, it’s also one of the most curable kinds. With this in mind, taking certain steps during your journey will make it a bit more tolerable. Here are the best ways to not only cope with prostate cancer, but to survive it.
Tip #1: Maintain a Positive Attitude
Cancer can have a severe emotional impact. Dealing with treatments, side effects, and oftentimes, uncertainty, can take a major toll on a person’s well-being. Although this time may prove to be discouraging and even terrifying, keeping a positive attitude will take you far. Not only does maintaining your optimistic outlook help to keep medical conditions like anxiety, fatigue, and depression at bay, it makes for a smoother recovery.
A major source of stress for prostate cancer patients may be expenses. Talking to a financial professional or with other patients about this hurdle is a great way to remain calm and, most importantly, confident. One cancer survivor recounts his payment troubles: “When fighting cancer, it’s easy to rack up bills fast,” says Bob Hayman. Hayman found a local nonprofit to cover many of his expenses while he underwent treatment.
Aside from the advice you’re probably used to hearing, such as eating a well-balanced diet and continuing to exercise, there are many ways to keep your motivation levels high. For one, getting fresh air makes a world of difference. You’re likely to spend a lot of time inside, whether in a doctor’s office receiving treatment, or at home recovering. Just the simple act of being outside can greatly “clear the mind of negative thoughts.”
In addition to maintaining your social life, speaking with other survivors or trained professionals, and taking your medications as specified, continuing to live your life and creating happy memories should be at the top of your priority list. It’s been proven that expressing gratitude has monumental physical and mental benefits, from higher self-esteem to better sleep. Hold the great parts of your life in high regard, and focus on the little things that make you happy in your daily life.
Tip #2: Enlist the Help of Your Family
Turning to your family and loved ones for help can have a huge impact on your journey. Knowing that you have a built-in, unconditional support group at your side will boost your morale day in and day out, especially during the times that you need it most. Don’t be afraid or hesitate to ask your family to continue to educate themselves about prostate cancer. The more they know, the more they can be of help to you. A great place to start would be to send loved ones the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s Guides, especially “An Introduction to Prostate Cancer,” and “Health and Wellness: Living with Prostate Cancer.”
Another way for families to get involved is to attend your doctor’s appointments and tests (at your request, of course.) This way, your family will be an extra set of eyes and ears when you’re going through treatment, potentially catching information (or asking about information) that you may miss. Your family will get a closer look at what you’re going through, so they can better relate and help you cope. In addition, because men are typically less likely to discuss “health concerns or share their fears,” active support from family and loved ones can really make a difference.
Tip #3: Push Your Doctor For Every Option
Technology in medicine continues to see major advances. Therefore, “help” is constantly evolving. It’s important to push your doctor for the latest in treatment. Ask him or her about recent solutions that they have found to be successful, such as a nerve monitoring tool like ProPep, which allows surgeons to make informed decisions about which nerves to spare during prostate surgery.
Especially during tough times, your doctor can truly become a major source of support and relief. If you maintain an open and honest relationship where you feel comfortable asking difficult questions, your doctor can help ease your mind and put you on the right path. Particularly before surgery, it’s important to know exactly what you should be asking.
For instance, post-surgery incontinence is a significant concern for men. Most men would typically ask: “What are your post-op continence success rates?” Instead, however, try reframing the question: “How many pads do your patients use per day, 3 months after the surgery? How about 6 months?” It’s crucial to be as specific, detail-oriented, and knowledgeable as possible. Check out our list of questions that you might be asking, and the correct way to ask them here.
Tip #4: Do What’s Best For Your Body
As you may know, stress, fatigue, and a slew of other health problems are not only a consequence of your recovery process, but can interfere with your recovery process. While it seems like a menacing and unfair cycle, taking as best care of your body as possible can greatly reduce this common problem.
Keeping a regimen of exercise is always a good idea, cancer or not. But for prostate cancer patients especially, the right amount of exercise can not only alleviate problems such as anxiety and fatigue, and increase heart health and optimism, it can improve the strength of your pelvic floor muscles. In poor condition, these muscles can cause “weakness, pain, and dysfunction.” Aside from both moderate and physical activities (playing golf and walking with and carrying your clubs counts!), Kegel exercises are simple, can be done anywhere, and play a role in your post-surgery continence rate.
Studies show that men “who lead active lifestyles have better survival rates than those who do not.” But if you’re the kind of person who hates cardio on a treadmill, remember that there are plenty of activities and sports out there that get the job done. Try hitting tennis balls off a backboard, swimming laps, or even just walking briskly outside. Staying active will benefit you in more ways than one, and you’ll feel the results as soon as you start.
In addition to exercise, a well-balanced diet aids your recovery and may help to prevent the cancer from coming back. Keeping a healthy weight is of dire importance, as studies show that “the risk of dying from prostate cancer is more than double in obese men diagnosed with the disease compared with men of normal weight at the time of diagnosis.”
Because your treatment may affect your appetite and eating habits, working with a nutritionist or registered dietician can help make sure you are on the right track with the nutrients you need. Although it’s recommended to get plenty of “plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.), lean protein, and low-fat dairy, as well as avoid processed foods and red meat as much as possible,” some treatments greatly interfere with appetite, making this food plan hard to stick to.
If water and food taste unpleasant or bland, flavor them — fresh fruit works wonders in water, and seasonings (like garlic, cayenne, dill, and rosemary) are great on food. Even with a compromised appetite, try your best to eat small meals throughout the day. You don’t have to eat large meals all at once. In addition, make sure to get your protein from foods such as “fish, egg whites, cheese, beans, or high protein smoothies.” There are several preparations to make these foods taste delicious.
While dealing with prostate cancer will certainly prove to be a major hurdle in your life, you already have several resources in front of you to make the experience better. Follow these tips to optimize your quality of life while you recover, and ensure a happy and healthy new beginning.