For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
When my friend of over twenty years, Rev. Dr. Fred Smith, told me of his diagnosis of prostate cancer, I wanted to be supportive in whatever way I could. I asked him if I could write about the choices he’s making and what keeps him motivated.
Fred liked the idea of bringing his diagnosis out of the private experience and into a public conversation. He wants to make his story available to other Black men and their loved ones who could benefit from the way he is insisting on answers from his healthcare providers, asking detailed questions, and making decisions about his health based on what works for his body and how he wants to live. I was delighted he said “Yes”! So, over the next few months we will sit together each week and talk about what’s going on with his strategy to take his health in his hands and be the CEO of his health team. I will write about his activities leading up to his June visit with his physician. In June, they will have another look at his PSA and make decisions based on what they find. We are walking with Fred as he works on his wellness.
At our first meeting this week, I asked Fred two questions:
- How did he learn of his diagnosis?
- How has the diagnosis changed his life?
Fred learned of his diagnois after a routine physical examination. I’m a woman and don’t have a personal experience with a man’s physical examination, but I learned that it includes “two fingers inside the rectum to check for tumors”. They checked Fred for tumors and found from his blood work an elevated PSA. An elevated PSA by itself does not mean cancer, but the blood work + the physical exam resulted in his cancer diagnosis.
After learning of the diagnosis that changed his life, Fred said he did not believe it at first and searched for another answer. He consulted another physician and did some research on his own. Then once he accepted the new normal of his life, he decided to make some decisions that would enhance his life rather than totally turning his power over to his medical team. He decided to include homeopathy as part of his treatment and consulted a homeopathic physician.
Let me stop for a moment and say that neither Fred nor I are recommending “alternative” treatment, which means not using scientific medicine at all. The path Fred has decided to take is one of “complementary” treatment where he uses both scientific medicine and traditional therapies such as homeopathy, herbs and dietary supplements, acupuncture, massage, meditation, and nutrition (Hippocrates, born in 460 BC and called the father of medicine said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.) I am writing this not only as Fred’s friend, but also because in my private practice, I offer wellness support. I practice integrated wellness because I also include how spirituality influences our health and wellness. Fred, as a strong believer in prayer and the impact of faith on our lives, draws upon his religious beliefs as part of what keeps him well.
Now, Fred is focusing on what he can do to strengthen his body and expand the options that have been presented by his medical team. Homeopathic treatments are designed to work with the body’s own immune system to offer resistance to disease; in this case, cancer.
What I find most useful in Fred’s story, and certainly valuable for other men, is his determination to not only be a part of his healthcare team, but to be the leader of how they decide to treat him. He respects his medical team, but does not turn over to them what happens to his health and his life. Fred has decided to live his life not with fear, but with the faith that his courage, strength, and wisdom will help him through this challenge as it’s helped him through so many others before this.
Fred does three things that make him the CEO of his health:
- He reads as much as he can about prostate cancer, its treatment, if there are clinical trials (click this link for active national clinical trials) that might benefit him, and other treatments outside of the medical standard of care.
- He surrounds himself with positive people who support his decisions and allow him to talk when he needs to process what he’s feeling. Or just allow him to be silent when he needs to reflect.
- He exercises, tries to eat more nutritiously (we’re working on that in our next visit), and pays attention to the stress in his life so he can reduce its impact on his wellbeing.
A prostate cancer diagnosis is really hard to hear. Fred was no exception. But, he moved from the shock and denial that comes with hearing he had a life threatning disease to “commando” action—on a reconnaissance mission to take back his power. He believes he can make a difference in how well he feels and what decisions are made by his medical team. Taking charge is not new for Fred—so why not be CEO and take charge of his health?
Next week we look at Fred’s grocery shopping and I will give him suggestions on how he can prepare healthy meals. He told me the recipes must be easy and taste good!! Okay, Boss!! Got it 🙂