Depression and Prostate Cancer

April 7, 2010

In NYC where I live, there’s a sign on the side of a building–on West 72nd Street, to be exact– which claims that “Depression is a flaw in chemistry, not character…”  It is, in my opinion, obvious that depression is NEVER  a flaw in character–what an absurd notion.  But what about the reverse; is it always a flaw in chemistry?  IS IT A FLAW AT ALL?  If it is one, then we must rush to correct it; but perhaps the depressed person–for example, the prostate cancer survivor or his partner–is simply mourning for what is lost, coping with a new and scary landscape, searching for a new identity.  

There has been much recent flap lately in PCa circles about how to cope with the depression that often follows treatment.  Whatever treatment it was:  prostatectomy, seeds, beam radiation, cryo, chemo, hormones, proton beam, even HIFU, it is likely to have changed forever  the way a man lives and experiences himself as a sexual being.  Then there’s the flip-side depression:  the partner’s.  What do you do when you’re the one left back on shore, the one whose body hasn’t forever been altered?  The one, perhaps, whose libido is still active?

Some people are turning to antidepressants, and some doctors are advocating this kind of treatment.  On the man’s side, the fact that many such drugs hardly enhance erectile function should certainly be discussed.  Beyond this, however, what is there in our culture that spurs us on to medicate everything?  

Perhaps the way to cope is to go running or listen to music or redefine yourself as you are now.  Join a community of others who have suffered the same way.  Reach for the person on the other side of the room–or the bed; and don’t be afraid of who you are now. Depression may just be the bridge to the next part of your life.  That’s what I’d say to anyone, post prostate cancer, who reaches first for a bottle of pills.

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From the Wife’s Perspective

February 3, 2009

"Man Sitting — Back View" (1964) Wayne ThiebaudLeonard Lopate on WNYC FM (93.9), just interviewed a gifted writer, Dana Jennings, who has been speaking — through columns/blog in The New York Times — with alarming frankness about the effects on his life of prostate cancer treatment protocols. Much of what he said yesterday (January 28th, around 1:30 PM) struck me as familiar and moving, almost a mirror image of what I’m trying to do with my book, How We Survived Prostate Cancer — a mirror in the sense of everything reversed. His story is the patient’s, while mine is the partner’s.

As someone who came to write a book about prostate cancer from the wife’s perspective, I first went looking for something to read that would get Dean and me through the treatment crisis; not finding that story, I wrote it. Jennings seems to have begun writing about prostate cancer for much the same reason. Read the rest of this entry »