by Ron Cooper
I was pretty attached to the feral cats living in my neighborhood. The older female gave birth to an adorable litter, which provided me with hours of amusement as I watched them play outside my living room window. But when several of the little ones were run over on the nearby street, I broke down in endless tears.
“How could this happen?” I wailed to my wife. “They didn’t deserve this. How could this happen!?”
This went on for days, but it was little wonder, given the status of my cancer treatment.
I was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer in 2014 and had my prostate removed that year, but the surgeon could not extract all the cancer cells. By the summer of 2015, my stage III cancer had spread, and I started radiation and hormone therapy.
The former was a breeze, but the latter sent me on an emotional rollercoaster for months on end.
The hormone therapy was in the form of an injection intended to rob my body of testosterone, on which prostate cancer loves to feed. You might liken hormone therapy to a sort of male menopause. The treatment causes flushing and sweats and difficulty sleeping. It also puts your emotions on edge.
For me, that played out when those baby kitties were killed, as well as at other times. One day, I was out driving when I spotted a panhandler on a street corner and just burst into tears after I handed him some cash. At other times, a favorite classical music selection playing on the car radio would elicit a weepy reaction that would leave my wife shaking her head in the passenger seat. I am partial to Chopin and Brahms, and the Mahler adagietto just kills me every time, my emotions on full view as I pull to the side of the road to gather myself.
Just reading a sad story in the newspaper would set me off. One was about a piano teacher who continued to take on students after her stage IV cancer diagnosis. Toward the end of her life, the students gathered at her home for a special tribute concert. It was the crown- ing point of her career. A few days later, she passed away.
I clung to that article for days, crying every time I thought about the special relationship between the teacher and the students. I read and re-read that article, and the tears kept flowing.
I have been free of hormone therapy for three years, and my tears come now in fits and starts. But I will always be grateful for my two-year trail of tears during hormone treatments. It taught me that, when you allow yourself to be open to a good cleansing cry, you will reap a nice reward – a kinder, more compassionate you.
Ron Cooper is the author of A Grateful Survivor: Tips & Tributes for Cancer Caregivers, the story of his cancer journey. You can follow Ron’s blog at RonCooperAuthor.com. He writes mostly about aging, caregiving, and the coronavirus, with a little satire thrown in for good measure. Good for Ron, a new group of feral cats are now roaming his neighborhood.
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2020.