Issue Introductions

Set New Life Goals

The December 2021 issue of CONQUER magazine is focused on prostate cancer and men’s attitude toward health. In her introduction, Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG, highlights men’s reluctance to open up to others and their tendency to hide any sign of vulnerability, hindering discussions about their health and preventing emotional healing.
December 2021 Vol 7 No 6
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship®; Co-Founder, Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators® (AONN+); University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer, Professor of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Co-Developer, Work Stride-Managing Cancer at Work, Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions
Breast cancer survivor

Hello, everyone, happy holidays! This issue of CONQUER magazine includes many educational articles and patient stories, with a focus on prostate cancer, including prostate cancer diagnosis, disparities in prostate cancer care, and men’s approach to dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

You will read several stories from prostate cancer survivors who discuss how they came to realize the importance of sharing their experiences with others. Unlike women, who in most cases are open about their concerns and their diagnosis, men, frankly, are not. Men tend to choose not to open up to others, and not to allow their vulnerability to show.

The article on grief and loss encourages patients with cancer and survivors to focus not on “being strong” but instead on “being authentic”—I love that! By being authentic, you will quickly learn that you feel better after talking, and you can guide others on how to cope with a prostate cancer diagnosis, sexual concerns, and much more.

As clinicians, we have witnessed during the 2-year pandemic that many men and women didn’t get their routine cancer screenings, either because they were told not to, or chose to delay them. Either way, COVID-19 affected the number of people diagnosed with cancer in 2020 and 2021, which resulted in a larger number of people being diagnosed with cancer in the latter half of 2021 and will dramatically increase in 2022.

I am not a fan of looking backward, because we are “here” today, and must move forward and get people in for cancer screenings, and, if diagnosed, get their treatments promptly. A physician discusses in this issue the impact the pandemic has had on cancer diagnosis and treatment. Also, more people are now participating in virtual or live support groups, and you may be joining as well. You may be among those with a delayed diagnosis, and many men will want to learn about your story.

A nurse navigator explains some key barriers that patients should bring to their navigator’s attention. Navigators are excellent about educating patients and spouses. Get empowered with information, so that you could actively participate in your own cancer treatment decision-making.

Often, men want to make decisions without discussing them with their spouse or partner. I encourage you to be open with your loved one, because your relationship will also be affected by your diagnosis. Also inquire about couples support groups, which many institutions offer. Remember, although you are now a patient with prostate cancer or a survivor, you are always a son, a partner, a dad, a husband, an engineer, a farmer, a funny guy, or a collector of baseball cards. Don’t let cancer throw a shadow over who you are.

I hope that some good things can come from this journey. We have to look for the good things. They don’t announce themselves. I speak from experience as a 30-year breast cancer survivor, and the daughter of a German farmer who dealt with his initial prostate cancer diagnosis for 5 years, then lived with metastatic prostate cancer for 5 more years, outliving the projected time he was given by 2 years. As his daughter, who is also an oncology clinician, I learned a great deal from being on this long journey with him. Because of his frankness, I have been able to help many men diagnosed with prostate cancer, by applying his wisdom.

You, too, will develop a wealth of information as you undergo your personal journey. Consider sharing some of that knowledge with others. Your experiences can benefit others, just as I hope the patient stories in this issue will benefit you.

Be well and safe. Enjoy the holiday season, and look to the New Year as an opportunity to set new life goals. And remember—don’t postpone joy.

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Last modified: January 7, 2022

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