Avoiding the John Wayne Approach to Prostate Cancer


One of the first lessons I learned when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer is that the disease doesn’t give “do-overs”. That’s really not fair, because if I had it to do all over again (and seriously, who would choose that option?) I’d take all of the  mulligans I could grab and change a few things.

Want to avoid my three favorite mistakes? Here’s how:


Right after diagnosis I did about the dumbest thing a guy can do: I chose the John Wayne approach to prostate cancer. What’s that? Imagine John Wayne in one of his westerns walking up to the long-suffering female and saying in his iconic drawl: “Well little lady go on back in the kitchen and rustle us up some grub, while I step outside and take care of this cancer.

All it took were three words in an exam room, “You’ve got cancer,” to turn me into a character straight out of a 1950’s cowboy movie. Yep, I could go it alone. Except, I really couldn’t.

My wife Charlotte countered the me-against-the-world attitude by fostering a team spirit. She helped me find the answers to the millions of questions I had about the disease, its treatment and possible outcomes, and showed me that we (not just me) were fighting this battle. It didn’t take long before I sent John Wayne into the sunset, gratefully accepting the support of my faith, family, friends and physicians.

Tip #1: You can’t go it alone. Accept and even embrace the help that’s offered.


I’m such a “Type A” personality that I was eager to move ahead with prostate surgery as soon as possible. My doctor didn’t even hint that immediate action was required, but my irrational reaction made me feel that way.

I overcame my sense of urgency by taking the time to talk with physicians and survivors to gain a better perspective. It allowed me to get the deep breath I desperately needed so I could make clearheaded, informed decisions. So, unless your physician prescribes immediate action, don’t rush to make treatment decisions you’ll live with for the rest of your life.

Tip #2: Just breathe. Take time to become the best informed patient possible so you can weigh your options and make the choices that are right for you.


Mark Twain once famously said, “’I’ve worried about a lot of things in my life and some of them actually happened.” That was post-diagnosis me in a nutshell. I worried about the slightest thing and shut out everything else.

Truth is most guys don’t handle change very well. I know I don’t. But, my attitude improved when I decided to embrace the “new normal” of my life as a prostate cancer survivor. I stopped worrying about the things I couldn’t control. Instead, I replaced my worry with a simple statement – a “mantra” that I repeated to myself whenever my attitude needed some latitude: “I choose to embrace the life I’ve been given, rather than mourn the life I’ve lost.”

It was an affirmation that my life, even with its shortcomings, was a pretty wonderful thing. Somehow, it gave me the peace I needed to focus on the good things in my life – like my improving health and the support of my family and friends.

Tip #3 Focus on the good things in your life and celebrate them daily. Remember to “Embrace the life you’ve been given, rather than mourn the life you’ve lost.” 

If you’ll avoid my three favorite mistakes, you may not need any do-overs to help you along your prostate cancer journey. But just to be on the safe side, I’ve got one last piece of advice. If somebody offers you a mulligan, take it.

You never know when it’ll come in handy.

This blog post was contributed by Robert “Bob Hill”, is an eight-year prostate cancer survivor and author of Dead Men Don’t Have Sex: A Guy’s Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer. 

1 thought on “Avoiding the John Wayne Approach to Prostate Cancer”

  1. Pingback: Diagnosed with prostate cancer? 5 tips to "keep your eye on the prize" | Sammons Says by Baylor Health Care System

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Avoiding the John Wayne Approach to Prostate Cancer