Steve prostate cancer survivor : a ray of hope emerges from darkness

Steve, an English professor at the Community College of Qatar, describes his cancer experience in a positive light. His journey began when he noticed he had some issues with voiding and went to see a doctor at a local clinic for a check-up. Thinking it would just be an enlarged prostate (non-threatening enlargement of the prostate gland), since it was a common condition in men his age, Steve had no worries. The doctor, however, requested a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. The test results indicated a high PSA. Steve then went to see a urologist who did further testing, including an MRI and a biopsy. The tests confirmed that he had a cancerous lesion on his prostate, but much to Steve’s relief, the doctor thought that the cancer likely was not an aggressive type.  Sadly, Steve’s relief did not last long. His biopsy specimen was sent on to a pathologist in Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) for confirmation. The second opinion indicated that the cancer was actually more aggressive and dangerous than initially thought. The news left Steve devastated.

Steve, living alone in Qatar, away from home and support, made coping with the diagnosis of prostate cancer that much more difficult. “It was just me, the world and death,” is how Steve described this brief but dark time in his life.  He did not have much of a support system or anybody he could really talk to in Doha.  However, this darkness was soon to end.  He came across a friend of a friend whom he had met a few years back.  He described this person as very kind and empathetic. Seeing as she was a yoga instructor, she encouraged Steve to start practicing yoga and to change his lifestyle.  Steve was more than happy to live a healthier lifestyle: “I wanted to be disciplined. I wanted to make every effort.” He stopped drinking and even stopped smoking; “I thought I would never be able to stop smoking, but it wasn’t hard once my mind was made up. I was so determined to adjust my thinking, to adjust my way of life, to live in a healthy way.” Steve also cut out meat from his diet and lost 10 kilos. On top of cleansing his body by changing his diet and letting go of harmful habits like smoking, he began cleansing his mind by dedicating a certain time every night for yoga, meditation, and contemplation.

As time passed and the date of the surgery got closer and closer, Steve continued to prepare himself. He started educating himself on his prostate disease: “I read like crazy. I read and I read and I read… every imaginable aspect of this cancer.” As part of his pre-surgical orientation, he was introduced to three other men who were going to have the same operation at the same time.  Steve connected with one man in particular in his surgical cohort. They would talk about the role of spirituality and shared their feelings and experiences together.  Being among a group of people going through the same experience as he made him feel a bit more at ease.

Albeit very painful for a couple of days afterwards, the surgery went smoothly and Steve recovered very quickly without any side effects and was released from the hospital three days later.  As Steve recovered in his apartment, he took on a new hobby: painting with acrylics. This was quite unusual and surprising for him since he never had an urge to paint in his life. Painting became his escape from his otherwise dull environment. He described painting as a wonderful outlet to express himself because there was a lot going on inside of him.  He loved blending bright colors and felt a tremendous rejuvenation explaining that “I needed to do something creative. I needed color around me.” He redecorated his entire apartment making it a lot more interesting and colorful. He changed the rugs, some  furniture, and even put some of his own paintings on the walls. Steve also developed a close affinity with plants and constantly wanted to be around them. He would take frequent walks to local gardens and let the plants bathe him with their energy. “It was something spiritual… something from God. I felt like I was tapped on the shoulder: ‘Pay attention. You have this gift of life. Use it.”

Steve’s story is a very inspiring one. It teaches you that strength comes from within, a ray of hope emerges from darkness , although the presence of family and friends in your life at times of hardship can add a lot of comfort, all you really need is yourself. You are capable of changing your life,  Steve’s advice to cancer patients is to be proactive, “Take control of your own health, You can change your life ,  be actively involved in your disease, its treatment, and especially the healing because nobody cares more than you do. It’s your life and it’s your health.”

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