You know how frightening it was for you to hear that
you have prostate cancer, but in your state of shock you may not realize it is
just as devastating for your partner. Although you are the one with the cancer,
and the one who has to struggle to cope with selecting the best treatment, your
partner is likely experiencing the same emotional distress. The diagnosis
inevitably brings up a whole lot of fear for both of you--fear of what’s
going to happen, the unthinkable fear (but one you can’t avoid thinking about)
that you might die, fear about how sick you will get, fear about what effect
your treatment will have on you, fear of how this will change your life
The most important thing you can do to deal with these
fears and emotions, both yours and your partner’s, is to maintain good
communication. The problem I have seen is that some men react to a diagnosis of
prostate cancer by pretending that everything’s going to be fine. They don’t
want to talk about it. They think asking for help is unmanly, and they want to
protect their partner. And most of all they don’t want to talk about their
feelings and fears. But putting on a brave front and shutting out your
partner is not a good strategy.
I struggled through this experience with my partner,
Jeanne. After almost a quarter
of a century of doing active surveillance my PSA spiked to a troubling level without any obvious medical evidence
as to why. This change in my condition really upset Jeanne. I sought to reduce her fears (and mine) by explaining to her - my belief that my
cancer was no more aggressive, but rather because I of my advancing in age my
immune system was no longer the faithful bulwark
it had been when I was younger. I
told her that as a result I was going to get
treatment--which treatment, and why.
settled on Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). So I took some time explaining my reasons. My decision was the result of two
"benign" characterisrtics of IMRT. First, the beams were very unlikely to
damage to the healthy tissue they traversed, targeting only cancer cells.
Second, the process of apoptosis or cell death, would continue
unassisted, for up to 18 months following termination of the IMRT procedure.
It is vital that you communicate with your partner openly
and honestly. You need to talk about the possible problems that may
occur, about how this disease will affect both of you, how you feel about what
is happening, or not happening, in the bedroom. You need to share with your
partner all the information you have because it can help alleviate fears and
concerns. And whenever possible enlist your partner’s help in gathering
information about prostate cancer treatments and analyzing which treatments may
have the best results.
Make sure your partner understands up front that
although prostate cancer is a major problem it is highly treatable and, in most
cases, not life-threatening. Above all, resist hiding your feelings because you
don’t want to add to your partner’s already heavy burden. It’s one thing to be
positive when you can, but you are not doing any favors to the person you love
by pretending that you are not afraid or not depressed. You are in this
together. Blessed be!