A diagnosis of prostate cancer is only the beginning of a turbulent time for you and your spouse. Many men feel that a diagnosis could mean death, or having to live with the side effects of prostate cancer treatments. The most prevalent side effects are impotence and incontinence, and it is not uncommon for men to feel that both the disease and the treatment are robbing them of their masculinity. All men will respond to a diagnosis differently. Some may reach to family, friends, and colleagues as they search for support and information. Some men will want to keep their diagnoses between themselves and their spouses, or possibly a few close friends or relatives. Some men may fall into depression and are not able to make decisions about their treatment. Some will bury themselves in prostate cancer research to try to find the treatment that is best for them. Some men are most worried about whether they will be able to maintain their sexual potency. Know that your spouse, whatever his reaction to his diagnosis may be, needs your support right now.
A diagnosis of any life-threatening disease puts a strain on a relationship. Some couples may divorce or separate. Others stay together and forge a powerful bond that was not present before the diagnosis. The coming treatments will test your relationship, but provide the opportunity for a deep emotional attachment. Men who are undergoing prostate cancer treatment may need to travel across the country to receive the treatment that is best for them. Men often need to rely on their spouses for finding information, making decisions, and visiting doctors. Most importantly, men will rely on their spouses for love and support. Do not underestimate your spouses need for physical and intimate contact. Cancer cannot be spread through touch, but many cancer patients will experience physical and emotional isolation. Do not be afraid to initiate contact. Some men need contact with their spouses more than ever but are afraid to initiate intimacy. You know your spouse; follow your instincts in offering him the support he needs.
There are also prostate cancer support groups available and many of these groups are for spouses or couples. Do not underestimate the support and information you can receive from the men and their spouses who have gone through or who are going through the same situation as you and your spouse. Speak with your spouse’s doctor. Perhaps your spouse’s doctor can put you in touch with men who have undergone a prostate cancer treatment your spouse is considering. Knowledge of the disease and knowledge of the many ways to combat the disease are key in defeating cancer. Finally, do not be afraid to reach out to medical or counseling professionals, spiritual advisors, friends or family. The journey through prostate cancer will put the same emotional strain on you as your spouse. Taking care of your needs as well will help you both as your begin the search for the right prostate cancer treatment.