At the age of 58, I went to see my urologist for a prescription refill. Before filling it, he told me he wanted to check my prostate. When the exam was over, he said, “I’m very sorry to tell you this, but I felt a suspicious lump, and we need to schedule you for a biopsy.” I left the office terrified.
A month and many sleepless nights later, my biopsy confirmed I had prostate cancer. After much deliberation and prayer, I went to the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center to have my prostate removed via robotic surgery.
The first indignation to face after surgery was the loss of urinary control. I was leaking through my diaper and wetting my clothing a minimum of three times a day, so I refused to leave the house. I was also coping with the second distressing effect of prostate surgery–the loss of erectile functioning, commonly referred to as ED. After a month of living in diapers and coping with ED, I came to the conclusion that surgery had ruined my life forever. I sank into a deep and dark depression.
My faith didn’t penetrate the depth of my despair. Questioning whether I was spiritually immature or lacking in faith added to my suffering. I was in the process of falling off an emotional and spiritual cliff while everyone else was celebrating my healing. I felt alienated from everyone, including my wife.
There are many things a couple must grieve as they cope with the temporary and permanent life-altering changes brought about by prostate surgery. Depression is common among men who’ve had their prostates removed, even if they receive the news that surgery cured them of cancer. Even in these best-case scenarios, marriages become highly stressed. Unfortunately, the issues couples face are so personal, most couples choose to struggle alone, which prolongs their suffering. Brenda and I did not share our struggles with our church family or friends who hadn’t gone through cancer. Our “healthy” friends just didn’t seem to have a frame of reference to be supportive or helpful.
My post-surgical depression began to lift after a spiritual breakthrough that occurred when my wife told me about a Charlie Brown comic in which Charlie decided to hate one day at a time. I laughed for the first time in weeks. I’d been projecting the hatred of my life decades into the future.
I thought about the manna that God provided in the wilderness and the Lord’s Prayer. Manna was good for one day, and we are instructed to ask our Father for daily bread. Jesus reminded me that today’s trouble is sufficient unto itself. Last, the words of a hymn came to mind, “Morning by morning new mercies I see.” I resolved to hate one day at a time—but I also decided to look diligently for mercy and the activity of God each and every day.
My wife and I know how important it is to hear from other people further along the journey of adjusting to life without a prostate. We wrote a book together in order to bring insight and hope to couples struggling with the permanent emotional, physical, spiritual, and sexual changes that occur. We also host a website: www.whereisyourprostate.com, which provides information and links to our faith-based pre- and post-surgery support forum.
I’m in awe as I think about our Lord, who delivered me from the depths of despair to become a person who can testify that we worship the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Brenda and I are now called to comfort those facing prostate cancer with the comfort we ourselves received from God.
After receiving his master’s degree in social work from Michigan State University, Rick Redner spent two years as a medical social worker. For the past 30 years he’s owned and operated two sandwich shops in Modesto, California. You can contact Rick at [email protected]