The day after I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, my wife Charlotte, summed it up this way: “It’s about the worse disease a man can get.”
“No,” I said, correcting her without missing a beat. “It’s not about the worst disease a man can get. It is the worst disease a man can get.”
You’ll have to forgive me. I wasn’t being a jerk. I was just being a guy.
Face it, men are different. This goes a lot deeper than what you learned in health class. We think differently. We react differently, and we deal with difficult situations differently.
The good news is that, while we are different, we’re not hopeless. If someone you love has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, don’t give up. With knowledge and understanding, you can help him beat the disease and build an even stronger relationship.
Here are the four things every woman should know:
1. He Doesn’t Know Nearly As Much As You Think
Just because he’s a guy doesn’t mean he knows anything about his prostate. Blame it on gender, education or genetics, but women are much more dialed in to their bodies. Men? Not so much.
Before they’re diagnosed, most can’t tell you where their prostate’s located, what it does or why they need it. You can do a lot just by helping your partner become the best informed prostate cancer patient possible.
Go with him to the bookstore, the library, or help him search online. Ask friends if they know anyone else experiencing prostate cancer and talk with them. Join a prostate cancer support group like the American Cancer Society’s Man to Man organization. There are local chapters in most cities and they’re a vault of valuable information.
2. He’ll Fight the Disease and You Along With It
You’re in for a few arguments. My first instinct was to adopt a John Wayne, me-against-the-world attitude, but my wife countered by nurturing a team spirit. Ultimately, we became a dedicated force navigating our way through the prostate cancer maze.
Don’t think your partner will welcome your help with open arms. He won’t. You can achieve success by allowing him to get used to each new situation before he’s forced to accept something else. Take small steps. Let him negotiate the pace but work together to find the best treatment, care, doctors and advice.
3. He’ll be depressed
At some time during his journey, your partner will be depressed. It hits many men immediately after diagnosis. Others hold out until recovery begins and they encounter incontinence, or side effects like erectile dysfunction (impotence).
What can you do? Celebrate small victories — a good lab report, improved appetite, more energy — anything positive. Encourage your partner to have a guys’ night out once in a while. A little male bonding can help boost morale and make him feel more like himself. Above all, be patient. As recovery progresses, so does the attitude.
4. He’ll Heal Faster With an Attitude of Gratitude
How do you survive an illness that damages both the body and the ego?
My wife had a lot to do with my recovery. Her greatest contribution was accepting me for what I was – not mourning what I wasn’t. She was my biggest advocate, encouraging me to learn about my illness and helping me manage the side effects of depression and sexual dysfunction.
Survival was the most important thing to her because it meant a second chance. The other “issues” could be resolved over time. Her unconditional love allowed me to concentrate on the heavy lifting of recovery.
I began my prostate cancer journey with zero knowledge of the disease, a John Wayne attitude and depression. I came out the other side a survivor. A survivor with a renewed appreciation for good health, good friends and a great wife.
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.