An Introduction to My PCa Journal Essays
On the day that I was told I had prostate cancer (11/23/99), I started my cancer journal.
At the time, the journal wasn't intended for anyone but myself. The essays merely reflected my feelings and were written as my personal "therapy." Thus I make no apology for the language, the attitudes, the ignorance or even the length of some of them. I wasn't writing for "publication" but merely to keep my wits about me and sometimes my sanity. But I finally realized that they should be made available to other men with the disease.
I don't post these here with the idea that I am special. I am not. I have read accounts of men who have gone through more than I can imagine. Some of their stories are at this site because they inspired me. It is just that I like to write. It has been my profession, love, curse and therapy for all of my life and so I can toss off a few thousand words with ease. (Sometimes too easily - laugh.) Thus I might be able to express an idea better than some. But that has nothing to do with prostate cancer.
I decided to post these here on the long shot that some part of some moment might resonate with a man (or their companion) who might feel alone. The diagnosis and the treatment can do that to you. It is how I felt, which was why I turned first to my journal.
If these were in a book with a comment on the cover how it is "the story of a man who struggled with depression and treatments to overcome the disease" or some such heartening message, it would be easier to read them, because you would know the outcome. But you don't here because I don't. My journey is far from over. That is something I share with a lot of men.
Yes, I've made it through bouts of fear, depression and suicidal thoughts that I write about in some of these essays. But I am still diagnosed "end stage." I just don't know where the "end" is. It could be months or years. Until then, Phoenix5 is my life and I'll try to update these as I can.
To get back to the essays: They are posted pretty much as they were written at the time. I did some copy editing (fixing verb tenses, typos and my chronic split infinitives as I could find them) but I decided not to change the content, update it or even add a footnote to fix an error or remark on how I have changed from a certain attitude. That would destroy the integrity of the journal. I leave changes, developments and my education for later entries to reflect.
Don't expect much on the "technical" side of my journey. I didn't write much about PSA scores, grading, methods and the like. I've included scales and scores at the site but you won't find me talking about this in my journal. My interest was what was hitting me in my mind, my heart and my gut as a person and as a man.
Not every journal entry is here. Many were merely reiterations or repetitions of my fears. After all, it is just a journal. But I will be going back through some and seeing what I can lift out that might be new and add them. I just wanted to insert this introduction in case anyone finds them before it is completed.
I admit that it wasn't easy to put these here. Some friends and family will see what I went through and it will be tough on them. All I can say is that it was what I was feeling and thinking and it is what I have to do now (hopefully) to help some others.
When I was editing these and reading where I was and how I felt, it took me back through those times of confusion and fear. But it allowed me to see how far I have come, sometimes one day at a time or even one hour at a time. Sometimes it was minute-by-minute. And let me add something that took me months to realize: I couldn't have done it without Caren, my companion, friend and partner. There are others but Caren was here with me from before the diagnosis, yet not even she saw all of these journal entries until now.
I do warn the prospective reader that there are times when the content is brutal or perhaps insulting to someone's standards but that is where I was at the time and I think that is where a lot of men are at various moments in their journey. I and they have thought about impotency, death and suicide and sometimes the brighter parts of one's life. My problem was that there was little to encourage me for months. I would read upbeat messages (especially in books) that told me what I needed was a "positive attitude" and all it did was irritate me. As I remarked somewhere or to someone, I felt like a guy who suddenly found himself bleeding profusely in a mangled car, after an accident, smelling gas leaking and being told to "get a positive attitude" when what I needed was to be extracted from the wreck, not someone standing there preaching to me while I'm trying to decide if the car is going to explode.
These essays merely tell how I met it and battled it in those early months. All I can do is be honest as to what I said because I think that there are some others out there that might be encouraged not to give up. That's my primary message. This beast will drive you to your knees or maybe sprawled on the floor as I was once but don't give up. If you are sprawled, get to your hands and knees and catch your breath. If you can't get to your feet, okay. Catch your breath but fight it and when you catch some breath, look the damned beast in the eye and tell it, "Is that your best shot?" and then with whatever power brings any fighter off the canvas, get up. The only control this beast has over your mind and your attitude is what you give it.
If you haven't already, chances are you are going to go through hell as a man and you are going to be punched and pounded and insulted and degraded until you want to give up and die. Don't. Don't give up. Don't give the beast the pleasure of winning. It wants you to quit, to give up, to surrender but that is where you should draw the line and that is where you are still a man. With whatever words you want to say it, you spit in its face to tell it that you won't quit and you will fight for another minute, another hour, another day if you have to and then you look for reinforcements, others who can help. They are there.
That is why Phoenix5 is here. That is why I put these essays here.
We can still spit.
Robert Vaughn Young