Ganging Up on Prostate Cancerby Eva Emerson
After being diagnosed with early prostate cancer, your physician usually gives you three options: surgery, radiation therapy or holding off on treatment while simply tracking the cancer's growth. Faced with difficult health decisions like this, some men find answers-and hope-at meetings of a prostate cancer support group at USC/Norris.
"The men want to talk to someone who has been through treatment for prostate cancer, to know what to expect and to help them make better choices," says Carol Marcusen, L.C.S.W., a licensed clinical social worker. As the only exception to the "Men Only" rule, Marcusen runs the USC/Norris support group for men with prostate cancer, a six-week series offered three times a year. In addition, she has separate groups for spouses and couples and also organizes the monthly Prostate Forum, a lecture series for patients and their families featuring cancer experts.
On the first night of a newly formed group, men fill the room. Four men are there expressly seeking help in choosing an initial treatment plan. Others have already had surgery and want to hear about follow-up radiation. Still others finished treatment years ago, but continue to deal with prostate cancer's lingering presence, ranging from worries over recurrence to how best to cope with the side effects of treatment that affect many prostate cancer survivors.
In the process of dealing with their own disease, the men in the group freely offer up their own stories with hopes of helping others. "I think a lot of people would be surprised at how open the men can be. The tone of the group encourages frank discussion," Marcusen says.
Veteran firefighter and prostate cancer survivor Dorsey Caldwell has been coming to meetings for the last few years, following his successful treatment for the disease. "I get satisfaction talking to others, giving others the benefit of my experience. When I was going through treatment myself, I was alone," Caldwell says.
Most importantly, perhaps, Caldwell and other survivors send a message of hope to other men. "We're all proof that you can live after this disease," he says.