Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who in the World Do You Think You Are?

On an outing to Disneyland this past November we found ourselves surrounded by an abundance of heads donning Mickey and Goofy ears, wannabe Jedi Warriors and an assortment of Disney princesses. And those were just the parents. As for me, I just settled in to being plain old John from Vancouver. No fanfare, no autograph seekers and no special treatment at any of the attractions. The fire truck driver did let me sit at the wheel on Main Street while he snapped a picture. Wow … I sat where Walt Disney sat!

Along with the fictional characters of our youth, sports teams and athletes, beer companies, and colleges across the land all strive to imprint themselves into our personalities. What does your favorite t-shirt say? I know I have my fair share of logo-laden garments. Your sports teams wax and wane, the t-shirts fade and tear, and your college teams still have a hard time graduating their star players. What is it that drives us to identify ourselves with other people or other things? Are we trying to feed our alter ego or live vicariously in another galaxy far away?

With prostate cancer another defining dimension is added to your life. However, this dimension chooses you rather than you choosing it. No one can really answer the question, “Why did I get prostate cancer?” But we can wrestle with this next question, “What can I do now that I have or have had prostate cancer?” Do I wear it like a hat or a T-shirt? Truth be told, there is not a market for “Prostate Power” t-shirts. There is an enigma associated with this cancer. It strikes at the core of a man’s “maleness.” This is a cancer that most men would rather not talk about.

One of the benefits from the offerings for the prostate cancer patients at Loma Linda is attending the Wednesday, men only, clinical support group. In this format we can bare it all in a manly sort of way. No fancy paintings on the wall and no soft music or water features attending our souls. Just a bunch of guys sitting around a table with a center piece of chocolate chip cookies and fruit juice discussing and sharing questions and concerns about our personal journey with prostate cancer. We all had something to add because we all had been impacted by this cancer.

With more men being diagnosed earlier, the opportunities to draw on the experiences of others are also increasing. Not all of us are going to start a prostate cancer foundation, but opportunities to involve ourselves in others’ lives are all around us. At work, in the neighborhood, at the gym or at the barbershop we can find men who are or will be faced with this disease. This is not a challenge to wear your story but an invitation to share your story. After all this is who we are.

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