The co-authors of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, blog alternate posts weekly. We invite you to post your comments.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

For the Sake of Our Partners


I'm not usually a fan of statistics, but I was pleased to discover that although the American Cancer Society estimates in 2015, there will be approximately 220,800 new cases of prostate cancer in the U.S., more than 2.9 million men who have been diagnosed with the disease at some point are still alive today. So if your partner is one of the 220,800, take heart: In most cases, prostate cancer is not nearly as scary as it sounds.

However, when you first heard the diagnosis, "prostate cancer,"  you no doubt experienced a tidal wave of emotions. And at the same time you were trying to get a handle on your own fears, you wanted to support and try to reassure your partner. It's a tough act to balance, and it's only too easy to contain or ignore your own feelings and needs.

Often it seems that men are more intimidated than women about health problems, and when you are first given the bad news, you may find it is up to you to ask the pointed questions in the doctor's office, while your partner sits there in apparent--usually temporary-- shock. Also men are conditioned not to talk about their fears and anxieties, and you may fall into the trap of struggling to remain upbeat while hiding your own fears from him.

It's natural for both of you to fear how the cancer could change your lives, how it might affect your relationship, especially your intimate relationship. Your partner is likely to be fearful that a treatment that might be his best chance of eradicating the cancer would also have the highest chance of leaving him impotent.  Although most men don't subscribe to the idea that they are exclusively the products of their hormones, the degree to which sexual function returns--or fails to return--after prostate cancer treatment, is a matter of serious concern to them all.

So while it's helpful to be as positive as you can, it's equally important to talk openly about intimacy issues. Perhaps point out that sex isn't just about erections. And let him know that your main concern is his survival, and that what both of you need now is emotional closeness.

Let your partner know that you need to help him in any way you can--that helping him will make you feel better. One way you can do this is by learning everything you can about prostate cancer and the various treatments, so that you can discuss them knowledgably with him as he decides his best treatment option.  Hopefully, his best option will be Active Surveillance. If not, you can help by driving him to treatments, picking up his medications at the pharmacy, and by keeping track of all his test results, X-rays and medical records--so that if he wants to get a second opinion (and he should!), he will have a folder with everything he needs to take with him.
Having said all that, it is vital that you don't neglect your own health or give up your own life and center everything around your partner and the cancer. Take time out from thinking and talking about the disease and enjoy activities you have always liked doing together. Remember: the statistics are on your side, so don't let your lives be held hostage to prostate cancer!


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