Being told you have cancer can render you mute, and viscerally disconnected between head and heart. The fear, complexity and taboos associated with prostate cancer in particular mean that finding a comfortable and effective language to express yourself can be challenging. Yet learning and using this language is crucial to achieving good outcomes for you and everyone around you.
A shared expressive and honest use of language is what will enable you to:
- Understand what’s happening to you
- Communicate with healthcare professionals
- Communicate with partners, family and friends
- Make informed choices about your care
- Support your mental health
As many of us know the power of communication doesn’t come just from words themselves – who delivers them is equally if not more important in giving us the confidence to receive, accept and share their meaning. The medium is often the message.
In our mission to support men in understanding their prostate cancer and making the right choices in their treatment, we’ve engaged a wide range of men who’ve used words to expressively and impactfully share their stories about living with prostate cancer. Many feature in our blog and podcast series. Raymond Poole and Gogs Gagnon have written books which we think many men and their partners will find helpful in providing a language and approach to support their own experience.
Following his prostate cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, Raymond Poole has used words to express his emotions and communicate his experience with honesty and humour, inspiring others to develop their voice and make better choices about their prostate cancer support and treatment. He’s Irish, so that may not come as a surprise
In his two books Nothing’s So Bad That it Couldn’t be Worse
and Taking the Piss out of Cancer, Raymond is unflinchingly open and honest about the side effects of prostate surgery and his personal struggles with erectile dysfuncton and incontinence.
But he is particularly emphatic about the impact of prostate cancer on his mental health.
“Burnout is a term we have all heard about but we make the assumption we have all the bases covered so that will never happen to us as that sort of thing only happens to others. Those were my very thoughts in relation to prostate cancer, sure that only happens to old men, I will be in my late 70s before I even have to think about that and even if I do contract it, it’s not that serious an illness. How wrong was I? the only thing I’ve discovered about having cancer is that it’s not just your body that’s affected but your mind, your mental health, your partner, your family and most definitely your business. This then creates a loop whereby it impacts your stress levels that, in turn, impact on mental health and wellbeing.”
He uses poetry and dialogue to express his feelings, and will shortly be publishing a book of poetry with proceeds supporting Unicef – keep an eye on his website for updates.
“If I am not true to myself then why should others be true to me. If I have no self respect how then can I respect others? If I am always a victim and never a survivor who then truly wins. I live to love and love to live in tandem we will fall.”
Gogs Gagnon was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 57, and after his surgery and recovery, he decided to share his story to inspire others to advocate for their health and learn from his experiences. Prostate cancer hits at the very core of manhood, he says, and in a deeply personal account of his experience from diagnosis to recovery he reveals intimate details that every person impacted by the disease — man or woman — needs to know.
In “Prostate Cancer Strikes: Navigating the Storm” Gogs writes with honesty and humility, reflecting constructively on his decisions along the way and encouraging his readers to keep an open mind about their situation:
“above all, give yourself at least enough time to recover from the initial shock of your diagnosis before making a decision. Become your own health advocate and understand your test results. Research your options based on the best available evidence from scientific research, reputable studies and facts. Even the best medical professionals in the world are human. They’re capable of making mistakes. Some may even be limited by their own modality, so that a radiation oncologist may endorse radiation while a surgeon may prescribe surgery.”
He strongly advocates for second opinions:
“If possible being someone with you to all your appointments and have them take notes while you ask questions from a list you prepared ahead of time. Don’t be afraid to ask for more than one opinion – this relates not only to treatment options but also to confirming if your diagnosis is correct. It’s far better to take your time than to rush into treatment and later regret it.“
You can hear Gogs discussing his book on a podcast interview from last year.
Are there any writers that have inspired you about living with prostate cancer? We’d love to hear from you