Craig Pynn Tells It Like It Is
As a rule, I steer away from endorsing one prostate cancer book over another in this space. There are many good clinical and personal account books out there for patients. But here I make an exception to mention Craig Pynn’s just published book: One Man’s Life Changing Diagnosis: Navigating the Realities of Prostate Cancer.
I first met Craig through this blog. As often happens in a forum like this, one gets to know others rather quickly. When I had the one opportunity to meet him and his wife in person in Chicago at an Us Too meeting, he mentioned that he was in the midst of writing a book. Following that meeting, we would often correspond through My New York Minute and email. It was the engineer in him that told me that my seven weeks of radiation was equivalent to more than 46,000 chest x-rays. One Saturday morning, after I posed a silly question via email, he responded within 30 minutes with how many hot flashing men to would take theoretically to power a small town. I was disappointed to learn that I hadn’t discovered a new alternative source of energy. It is Craig’s unique mix of engineer’s mind, openness and sense of humor through adversity that I believe make his book so readable.
When Craig first asked me to write the Foreward for his book, I was surprised and honored. As I read the manuscript in a short night and a plane ride, I knew I would be happy to do. I believe it is a solid source of comfort and companionship for many of us who have been initated–with little choice–into this brotherhood.
I asked Craig for an interview to mark the release of his book and share it with you here.
What was your primary reason for writing this book?
When I was diagnosed in 2009 with advanced prostate cancer, about all I knew was that it was “prostate,” not “prostrate.” My engineer’s brain demanded getting up the learning curve fast. I found lots of books and online resources that covered the clinical facts. But I never found what I really wanted: a book written by a man with advanced prostate cancer, writing from his heart about what it’s like to experience this disease. Someone who took a “360-degree” patient’s-eye view of the physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual dimensions of being diagnosed, treated and living in the aftermath of treatment.
I figured there had to be other men (and their wives, partners and children) with the same anxiety I felt. I’ve written for guys like me, who when they heard, “you have prostate cancer,” felt dread followed by fear and who know little about this disease, and what it does to a man and his family. Not just its physical toll, but how it changes his life—and the lives of his loved ones—in virtually every dimension.
It is one of the most personal accounts of a man’s journey through prostate cancer, which makes it an easy and gripping read. Was it difficult to get so personal?
No, which was surprising, since I’m not a “personal feelings” kinda guy. Just after my diagnosis, my wife Susan suggested that I start keeping a journal. Given the intensity of my feelings and fears, that was exactly the right prescription. I wrote things I would never have said aloud. So what started as therapy morphed into the story in the book.
But. You are an engineer—a logic and numbers type of guy. We see glimpses of that in your book. Were you always able to talk so easily about personal matters, or did prostate cancer change you?
I think it’s because I’m engineer that I have been able to talk about such personal matters. Prostate cancer changed my life—and the story of that transformation is at the core of this book. The biggest change was realizing I had to tackle this disease head-on, which meant being able to talk openly about “personal matters.” Staying in denial and not confronting what’s happening “down there” leads too easily to what we engineers call a “sub-optimal outcome.”
Maybe it’s because I’m a baby boomer. Unlike our “greatest generation” fathers, I think we boomers take our personal health into our own hands and are unafraid to speak up. The old Marcus Welby, “I’ll do whatever you say without question, doctor” model just doesn’t hack it.
People often, thank me for writing my blog, which I find interesting. I just see it as a dialog between men who share a common challenge and need to share their experiences and validate their feelings with others who can understand. It’s as useful to me as it may be for others. I believe your book provides the same type of forum. Do you agree?
Yes, I think it does. I hope that my book accomplishes a portion of what MYNM has been able to do in terms of starting and sustaining dialog. Not just about the clinical stuff, but our equally important feelings and fears, joys and the terrors that accompany us on this long—and for some of us, never-ending—cancer journey.
I want the book to be a credible platform for discussing all kinds of issues relating to this cancer—as it affects us individually and as a society. As long as my cancer remains in remission and I have the energy, I hope the book provides an entrée to be invited to meet and talk with as many men and women as I can. Real progress is being made in prostate cancer treatment and research. But there’s so much more yet to be done—and much more money yet to be raised. To do that requires that we speak up nationwide as empowered men.
Last year, I sat helplessly at the bedside of my friend Bill as he died of metastatic prostate cancer. His was a painful, ugly death. If my book can serve as another platform for dialog and networking, and more importantly, as a call to action, then I will have honored Bill—and the other 30,000 men dying every year from this scourge.
What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard someone say about prostate cancer?
“Oh, don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Prostrate (sic) cancer isn’t really a serious cancer like breast cancer is.”
Where are you at in your journey?
I completed radiotherapy in June 2009, and have gone “on vacation” this past March, following three years of hormone therapy. My PSA has remained undetectable for the past two and a half years, which is good news indeed. Like you, Dan, I will always live with the “overhang”—the very real possibility that the cancer will return. But in the meantime, there’s much to be done!
I know it’s a cliché, but that’s because it’s true: every day is a gift to be opened and used. There’s nothing like advanced cancer to remind you of that each morning. Carpe diem!
What is the first thing you would you tell a man who told you he was just diagnosed with prostate cancer?
Douglas Adams in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy said it best: Don’t panic! Then: Take a deep breath. Slow down. There’s plenty of time. Don’t decide anything right away. Be willing to talk not just with doctors, but also with other guys, who are farther down the same path. Try to learn as much as you can from as many trustworthy sources as you can. And, as the shock subsides—and it will—find something to enjoy about each day.
Note: Craig’s book will be available in bookstores soon and can be ordered on Amazon.