Minutes after learning he had prostate cancer, Bob Hill, author of Dead Men Don’t Have Sex, gave his wife, Charlotte, a comforting hug and said, “It’s going to be okay.” At the time, he now admits, “I didn’t know who I was trying to convince.” But he was right. Things did turn out okay. Thanks to the right treatment and a “positive, take-charge approach,” Bob is cancer-free nearly a decade later.
Not that the road was bump-free. After undergoing surgery, Bob battled incontinence for six months. During this difficult period, he reached out for help—and that’s exactly what he urges others with prostate cancer to do.
“Don’t be John Wayne,” Bob advises. “Now, little woman, you just rustle us up some grub and I’m gonna go out back and take care of this prostate cancer,” Bob drawls, chuckling. “You don’t have to go it alone—and you shouldn’t. There’s plenty of help—but you have to reach out and get it.”
I named my cancer. It’s hard to fight an unseen, unknown foe. “I named my cancer ‘Karl.’ If I could name him, I could beat him.”
I asked direct questions. “If you ask your doctor a direct question, you’ll get a direct answer. Say, ‘I’m having this problem—whenever I bend over to pick up the newspaper, I have some leakage.’ ”
I created a mantra (and repeated it often). “Mine used to be: I choose to embrace the life I have been given rather than mourn the life I have lost. I am going to have a good second half of my life. Now, my new mantra is: I’m strong. I know I have the capacity—the reservoir deep within me that I can draw from—if I ever have to fight this again.”
I trusted the people around me. “I built a bubble of trust,” says Bob. “I trusted my surgeon. I accepted the help my spouse was offering. I accepted help from friends.”
I worked with a nurse navigator. “A nurse navigator can provide a road map to recovery. She can provide access to support groups and give you information that allows you to make informed decisions.”
I changed my way of thinking. Instead of, “I’ll never be continent again,” Bob shifted to, “Someday I’ll have control of my bladder.” Then to, “Soon I’ll have control of my bladder,” and from there to, “Now I have control of my bladder.” And finally, “I will have control of my bladder forever.” “The challenge is getting from never to someday,” he adds.
I found support. Some things—like incontinence and ED (erectile dysfunction)—can be tough to talk about. Bob found online discussion boards where he could ask things anonymously. “That’s where I learned how I could taper from a heavy pad to a lighter pad. I wound up with panty liners as my incontinence began to improve.” If you think a meeting might help you, but don’t know where to begin, “ask your nurse navigator about a support group in your area,” suggests Bob. “It’s a brotherhood. Those guys are all about helping.”