Handling the Emotions of a Prostate Cancer Journey
- Rugby star Kenny Logan, the 50-year-old husband of Welsh TV presenter Gabby Logan, 49, has recently opened up about his prostate cancer journey. Most recently, he talked about the negative emotions he had to deal with before surgery and beyond.
- Prostate cancer, the most common form of cancer in men, can sometimes be misdiagnosed based on results from a PSA test. Still, our experts maintain that the PSA tests are helpful, and you should talk with your doctor about your own risks for the cancer and screening options.
- A cancer battle, or any health struggle for that matter, can lead to a whole host of complex emotions – and it’s okay to allow yourself to feel the negative ones too. But holding onto hope in the face of adversity can be a really powerful way to get through the toughest of times.
When Welsh TV presenter Gabby Logan, 49, urged her husband, Rugby star Kenny Logan, 50, to get a wellness check, the couple never expected the resulting prostate cancer diagnosis.Read More
Thankfully, Kenny did, and he got a biopsy within about three or four months. He had no pain or symptoms prior to his wellness appointment, but he was diagnosed with prostate cancer on February 7.
For treatment, he opted to have his prostate removed, but the thought of that operation and the journey that lay ahead was emotionally hard for Kenny.
“I cried my eyes out, thinking no way do I want to leave my kids at only 17 or Gabby,” he said of the night before his surgery. “It was the first time I really thought I wouldn’t make it.”
Thankfully, Kenny’s cancer was caught when it was and his three-hour surgery went well. He’s also had minimal side effects which has been a huge plus.
“I knew there was a chance of urine leakage and had a few accidents,” he said. “But all’s fine now. Gabby and I had also talked about the possibility of erectile dysfunction. But I’ve been very lucky on that front.”
And just two weeks ago Kenny got the best news: he no longer had any sign of cancer.
“That was the biggest phew,” he said. “It hit me hard when the surgeon said that if, instead of presenting early, I came to him some years on with symptoms, the cancer might have moved to my bones and I couldn’t have been cured.
“He said that at 50 you have to try to find prostate cancer as there are no symptoms in the early stages, when it can be cured. If it finds you, the outcome will be different… Now I just want other men to get tested. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t.”
Understanding Prostate Cancer
Before we talk more about prostate cancer screening, let’s get a better understanding of the disease itself. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men – except for skin cancers. About one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. The disease begins in the walnut-shaped prostate gland located between the rectum and bladder. This gland produces the fluid that nourishes sperm.
Symptoms of the disease are inconsistent and hard to pinpoint.
“Prostate cancer is a very odd disease in that it doesn’t have a particular symptom,” Dr. Edwin Posadas, director of translational oncology and the medical director of the Urologic Oncology Program at Cedars-Sinai, explained.
But changes in urinary function like urinating more or less often or waking up at night to go more than usual could be a sign of the disease. However, it’s important to note that these potential symptoms could also could be caused by a urinary tract infection or even an enlargement of the prostate gland (which is not cancer).
Doctors that have spoken with SurvivorNet shared a hopeful outlook when considering a prostate cancer diagnosis because there are many treatment options, and there’s been significant treatment progress over the past decade. Surgical and radiation options, for example, have made improvements in reducing side effects of treatment while still providing excellent cure rates. Even for men with an advanced-stage diagnosis, many new options exist to treat prostate cancer and help them maintain an excellent quality of life.
Prostate Cancer Screening
In the United States, many prostate cancer cases are caught with screening examinations. Screening guidelines depend on your risk for the disease. Age, race/ethnicity, geography, family history and gene changes are the main risk factors for prostate cancer. You should talk with your doctor regardless, but here are some things to consider when gauging your risk for the disease:
- Men younger than 40 are less likely to get prostate cancer, but age-related risk quickly rises after age 50. Approximately six of ten cases of prostate cancer are found in men older than 65.
- Prostate cancer develops more often in African-American men and in Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races, and these men tend to develop the disease at a younger age.
- Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia and on Caribbean islands. It is less common in Asia, Africa, Central America and South America. The reasons for this risk factor are unclear, but more intensive screening and lifestyle differences like diet might be contributing factors.
- Most prostate cancers occur in men without a family history of the disease, but it’s still important to look at your family history because prostate cancer does seem to run in some families. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer, for instance, more than doubles a man’s risk of developing the disease with a higher risk for men with a brother with prostate cancer than those with a father who have it. The risk is also especially high if a man has several affected relatives that developed the cancer at a younger age.
- Inherited gene changes, or mutations, like that of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes can also elevate risk, but this probably accounts for a small percentage of overall cases.
It’s not clear if the benefits of prostate cancer screening outweigh the risks for most men. Nevertheless, screening can be life-saving, and it’s important to at least discuss the pros and cons of screening and your risk factors for the disease with your doctor.
Prostate cancer screening methods look for possible signs of the disease, but they can’t determine for sure if you have cancer. The only way to know for sure if the patient has prostate cancer is with a prostate biopsy – a procedure in which small samples of the prostate are removed and examined under a microscope. But generally speaking, screening for prostate cancer involves a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test and a digital rectal exam to feel the prostate gland.
“It’s slightly uncomfortable but painless, and takes less than 30 seconds,” Dr. Posadas said of these methods. “The amount of information that is gained from that is tremendous, and it can be a life-and-death type decision that is made.”
But it’s important to note that the PSA test is not perfect. The prostate-specific antigen is a protein secreted by the prostate gland. Men have a small amount of PSA in their blood all the time, but large amounts can be a sign of cancer because when cancer cells grow, PSA spills into the blood.
An elevated PSA test, however, does not always mean you have prostate cancer. It can simply reflect that your prostate is enlarged – which is common – or it could signal an infection or inflammation. Because of this, the PSA test is controversial since high levels may lead to over-treatment in men who are more likely to die from something else. Regardless, our experts maintain that the PSA tests are helpful, and you should talk with your doctor about your own risks for the cancer and screening options.
Staying Positive through Treatment
It’s very normal to have negative feelings throughout your cancer journey, and it’s okay to express them too! Anger, shame, fear, anxiety – it’s all to be expected. But doctors will tell you that people who find a way to work through the emotions and stay positive tend to have better outcomes.
“A positive attitude is really important,” says Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “I’m pretty good at telling what kind of patients are going to still have this attitude and probably going to live the longest, even with bad, bad disease. And those are patients who, they have gratitude in life.”
At SurvivorNet, we get to share many stories of positivity and resilience because there’s no shortage of brave cancer warriors holding onto hope in the face of adversity.
Danielle Ripley-Burgess, a two-time colon cancer survivor, is another resilient cancer survivor like Kenny Logan. She was first diagnosed with colon cancer in high school and proceeded to beat the disease not once, but twice. Understandably so, Ripley-Burgess has had to work through a lot of complex emotions that came with her cancer journey. Even still, she’s always managed to look at life with a positive attitude.
“As I’ve worked through the complex emotions of cancer, I’ve uncovered some beautiful things: Wisdom. Love. Life purpose. Priorities,” she previously told SurvivorNet. “I carry a very real sense that life is short, and I’m grateful to be living it! This has made me optimistic. Optimism doesn’t mean that fear, pain and division don’t exist – they do. Our world is full of negativity, judgment, and hate. Optimism means that I believe there’s always good to be found despite the bad, and this is what my life is centered around.”
She moves through life with a sense of purpose unique to someone who’s been faced with the darkest of times. Happily in remission today, she’s determined to, one day, leave the world better than she found it.
“We can choose to stay positive, treat others with respect and look for the light in spite of the darkness,” she said. “This type of attitude and behavior will lead to the kind of legacies I believe all of us hope to leave.”