Robert in Late Teens
Robert Graeme Hughes
The decision to grow a moustache to raise funds for reasearch into prostate cancer and men's mental health has caused me to think a lot about my dad, Robert. He died in April 2012 of complications from cancer and heart disease.
About three days after my dad’s prostate was removed, I saw him riding his bicycle. He was gaunt, mildly jaundiced, and in obvious pain. He had no reason to be on his bike—he was about 80 at the time—except that he lived with a chronic habit of doing exactly what he was told to avoid.
As his primary support for health care (along with an angelic group of ladies who lived near him), this kind of behavior drove me a bit nuts.
Somewhere in my early 20s, a quarter century ago, I reckoned my dad was likely an undiagnosed manic-depressive. Today I suspect he would fall into one definition or other of bipolar disorder. He struggled with physical illness from his 40s until he died in April 2012 of complications from cancer (prostate initially) and heart disease. He was 84 years old.
The research world is crowded with studies trying to figure out the link between poor mental health and physical illness. I think we all understand that there is a link.
The Canadian Mental Health Association—Ontario Chapter (CMHA) stated that Canadians who have “symptoms of depression also report experiencing three times as many chronic physical conditions as the general population.”
The 2008 study identified that there is a reciprocal relationship between mental and physical illness—each aggravates the other. Mental illness was associated with twice the risk for certain cancers in some studies. The CMHA also cited studies that show mental illness can interfere with cancer treatment.
I’m no medical researcher but I spent the last 15 years of my dad’s life dealing alternately with his erratic behaviours and a wide range of physical illness that frequently dropped out of those behaviours.
Two things: We all have to learn what it means to take care of ourselves now, at whatever state of health we find ourselves. We also have to be willing to accept the help that comes our way.
See my Movember profile here.
For more info about mental health go to the CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association.)