Survive and Thrive Letter – James Farnan

To begin I wish to express my sincere thanks to Helen, Paul and Fiona of the Marie Keating Foundation for giving me the opportunity to participate in the programme. Throughout the programme they displayed a level of empathy ,understanding and support to each and everyone in a professional manner. Also I wish to thank the other participants who also took part in the programme. We were all on the same pathway however we were all experiencing different realities in our lives post cancer procedure.

Understanding each other’s problems allowed us to alleviate fear, gain confidence and respect everyone’s understanding of the journey we were all facing. And finally to my wife and family and the friends who supported me a big thank you.

My story began in September 2020 with a routine visit to my GP who  became concerned around my regular yearly blood test. The GP requested me to have a PSA blood test and following the results referred me to a consultant to investigate a possible prostate infection. Just to say at this moment I was not unwell and was fully fit and living a normal healthy life.

On meeting the consultant he requested a number of tests over the next two months. Fearful that this might take some time as we were now in the middle of Covid by the middle of December all had been completed.

In the second week of January I returned to meet the consultant and was given the news that I had prostate cancer. As a person with no symptoms of any illness I was shocked. It was evermore daunting because of Covid restrictions no other person was allowed to be with you.We had a long discussion about the different procedures available and the best remedy for me was complete removal. On making that decision I was introduced to the cancer support team who helped me in understanding the pathway forward and the support that they would give.

Going home and revealing to my wife and family of my situation was a challenge however it had to be done and because of Covid I was advised to limit my contacts but to keep as healthy as I could. My Covid bubble became just my family and the word Isolation had now become part of life.(I absolutely hate that word now.) By mid February I had my procedure completed by laparoscopic radical prostatectomy .

The following weeks saw a slow recovery and as I was a participant in the “Men on the move programme” I was still able to attend over Zoom to have a chat but unable to complete any exercises. My exercise was limited to pelvic floor exercise and limited walking. During this time I was asked would I write a short synopsis of my experience from a procedural point of view and how being involved in  the “Men on the Move” programme was helping me cope with my feelings.

It was at this point I became aware of the Marie Keating foundation. After completing that I had a phone call from Helen who explained their thinking about a Survive and Thrive programme .After speaking to Helen I signed up to the Survive and Thrive programme. If my memory serves me right it was a milestone in the programme as it was being designed to include male participants.

When the programme commenced over Zoom I was struggling with my emotions so much that my mood and attitude had changed and I was not enjoying life so well.  When I’d meet someone who knew of my procedure it was always the words “ sure you’re looking well” Little did they know how you were feeling inside and as a man I suppose it was not something that I was comfortable discussing. I’d just keep those feelings to myself and move on.

I did not know what to expect from the programme, however from the first session I realised that the other participants were experiencing symptoms similar  to me or more serious than me. By the end of the first session I think it is fair to say that we gained respect for each other and as we would move through the course that we would be there to support each other. Although we never personally met and we’re all from a variety of backgrounds we were all sharing our pain and grief. Each week we selected a challenge to complete for the next week and we all strive to meet that challenge. However when one’s  health did not allow us to achieve the task it was not the end of the world.

By week 3 there was a great buzz around the session. There was joy, laughter and many tears . However Helen and Paul lead us through those moments. The “Tool Box” designed to lead us through the programme gave us the variety of action plans needed each week to help us succeed. The One to One team rooms allowed us to help each other in a simplistic approach to have discussions and come up with ideas to share to the group.

Everybody’s point of view was respected and this allowed all of us to have high regard and much respect for each other. Our sharing of success, failures, family support or lack of it and how various circumstances can have positive or negative impact on our recovery were discussed As we come to the final week of the programme the learning for me can be summarised as follows

Cancer recovery is a journey that can last a long time.

That our recovery might not bring us back to our normal self, however if we accept the reality of where we are that we will have a pleasant understanding of what we need to do to keep some shape to our lives going forward.

Taking a step back and making a slight change to our mindset will give us a different aspect to the challenges we face.

That there is support out there to help us along the way and it is not a shame to ask for support.

And that like life we will face many high points and even many lower points going through this recovery and beyond. However, if we remain cool, calm and collective our learnings from this programme will wash away the tears and bring us lots of laughter.

Many thanks to everyone for the journey over the last six weeks