Wed 14, Jun 2023 , Bridge Magazine
My name is Stephen Jones and I am recovering from cancer. I am 58 years of age (56 at time of surgery). I have a beautiful, supportive wife, Robyn and three adult children. I live in Melbourne.
My cancer is of the prostate gland, a part of the body that is hidden deep in the recesses of the pelvic region in males. It’s not outwardly visible, its rarely spoken about and most men don’t even know its function. I didn’t really know what its function was, even though my father had the same affliction 25 years prior to mine.
After some deliberation about what treatment to have, I decided on a radical robotic prostatectomy (RRP) in December of 2020. This surgery removes the diseased gland completely, along with some of the surrounding tissue. I am lucky that there is no longer any sign of cancer in my body.
Incontinence and erectile dysfunction are the unwanted physical side effects of the procedure. Recovery from these issues greatly differs. Some men recover completely with few ongoing issues, others suffer lifelong problems and never fully recover and then, there are a lot of men in between.
Mental fatigue, loss of self-confidence, loss of self-esteem and loss of connection are the invisible side effects that those recovering often suffer in silence.
My physical recovery continues even after two years, and I am happy to report that I would consider myself 95% recovered from the physical and mental scars of the journey.
I have never written anything meaningful, never expressed myself with words, never even contemplated wanting to write, but somehow, something in me was woken during my recovery.
I could see words; I could feel words. They were a little consuming and seemed to come to me when my mind was in a restful place, on my country walks, while I was at rest and sometimes they would wake me in my sleep.
In hindsight, these words were very therapeutic for me. They allowed me to express the bad bits, the good bits and everything in between. I wanted to be able to share my story with those following in my footsteps. I wanted them to not feel as alone as I did.
I am extremely anxious when sharing them as some of these are my inner most private thoughts. I have anxiety around them even being worthy of display, but as I have been encouraged by many people who have read my words, I feel it’s time now to share them with a wider audience.
Here is one I would like to share.
We hide behind our faces of stoic masculinity
Some afraid to smile from behind our manly beards
From behind our etched faces
Faces of character, love, and strength
Our masculinity hides the frailty of fear
It hides our ability to speak
It hides our inner expression
Our willingness to share
Our pride of who we are, what we stand for
Our innate urge to protect, to guide, to provide
Somehow the loss of part of who we are
Burns deep into the fiber of what it means to be us
Our stoic masculinity – that thing we hold dear
We are more than the sum of one part
Take all you want but you will not be able to break us
You may bend us, but you won’t break us
Fear is not weak; it is just an emotion like any other
Tears are not weak; they are an expression of sorrow and loss
We are allowed to feel fear and we are allowed to show emotion
And we are allowed to have pride in our stoic masculinity.
© Stephen Jones 2022