Practicing What We Preach! Living with Co-Morbidities...

Posted on April 22, 2016   |   

This blog post was written by COPD State Captain, “Uncle” Jim Nelson. Uncle Jim and his wife, Aunt Mary, are active COPD advocates. They describe their experience with COPD and a recent diagnosis of prostate cancer below.

Those who know us, or who have read our writings or heard our speeches over the past few years, know that we express a boundless enthusiasm for the activities and attitudes that help us get through the day. We speak from many years of experience with lung disease, with the struggle to function, with the use of oxygen, and finally with the adventure of a double lung transplant. We have been, as they say, "there..."

Well, here we are again. My PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) level had risen sharply- a cause for concern! A biopsy led to a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Knowledge is power - We have always preached that it is better to learn as much as possible about any malady that might be affecting you. Uncertainty leads to stress, a feeling of loss of control, and fear. Knowledge about your disease might not be pleasant, but it is truly valuable to learn about what to expect and the possibilities of treatment.

Being your own best advocate - It is no secret that a patient will receive better care, will be more well-informed, and generally will stay healthier if they have an advocate, someone who is willing to and capable of understanding the needs of the patient. The advocate can be a caregiver, a family member, or a professional. John

Can you become your own best advocate? You, the patient, are the center of this whole fiasco! It is in your best interest to have someone on your side, someone who knows what you are going through, someone who really, really cares. Why not you? That does not mean that you have to get up on your high horse and start demanding stuff! Quite the contrary. You can get a lot more cooperation from your caregivers and medical professionals with a smile and a bit of patience.

Do your research - We know more than we ever wanted to know about prostate cancer, its symptoms, its manifestations, and its treatment. We have learned that there are a variety of approaches, including surgeries, hormone therapy, and radiation methods. We have chosen surgery.

Find every excuse you can to exercise - I will not be able to do any heavy exercise for 4 weeks or so after the operation, so I will be trying to be as strong as I can prior.

My Urologist/Surgeon told me that I was the healthiest 75-year-old transplant patient that he had ever encountered. I tried not to blush.

Persistence - I could have easily just waited, relied on someone else to take care of the arrangements and the appointments, and they would have likely been accomplished eventually. However, I am not built that way. Call it control, call it what you will, it is my life with which we are dealing, and no one with the exception of Mary and Wendy is going to care nearly as much.

During each of the seemingly endless phone calls, I was unfailingly pleasant to those from whom I was seeking help. We laughed, we chatted, and I laid on the charm wherever appropriate. I used my “Yes, Ma’am”, and “No, Ma’am”, and I thanked each of them profusely, whether they actually did anything or not. I learned many years ago that it is unwise to upset anyone who is in a position to hurt me.

I will freely admit that I uttered the occasional really bad word during the days of phone calls, but I made sure that those words were heard only by Mary if she happened by.

The operation was performed robotically, so I have 6 little holes in my tummy, rather than a major incision. One night in the hospital, and we were back out in the world, waiting for the results. If the cancer had spread outside of the prostate gland, we would be faced with the radiation and perhaps the hormone therapy. We were willing to undergo that treatment if necessary, but it would be time-consuming and inconvenient.

Finally, today, we met with the Urologist/Surgeon, who gave us the best possible news! No cancer outside of the prostate! Several weeks of gradually building back up my exercise tolerance, and we will be back to normal! And our normal is pretty darned good!


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  • What a great testimony. And you have both been through so much, yet still remain one couple in love and unity.
    I admire your due diligence re the prostate cancer, agree with the exercise bit and I'm sure your love for each other has a positive effect on your health and wellbeing.
    Me, not only am I grateful to be an Englishman, I am a coward when it comes to pain and surgical procedures.
    My approach is,
    "Don't tell me about what you're going to do, I really don't want to know. Please, just get on and do it!"
    I have taken this approach with colonoscopies, ops on nasal passages and benign tumours (correct spelling btw)
    Mind you I am also a Christian, and I know however long and well I live, I must die. I just pray the Lord it will be something quick; like in my sleep (preferable) or crossing the road in the path of a very fast truck or bus... (second choice).
    Thanks so much for sharing. I hope you'll keep us up to date here?