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Prostate Cancer
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Support for Spouses of Prostate Cancer Patients

A diagnosis of prostate cancer is only the beginning of a turbulent time for you and your spouse. Many men feel that a diagnosis means either death or life with the side effects of prostate cancer treatment. 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 a life-threatening disease can put a strain on a relationship. In a perfect world, couples would grow stronger and closer, but in a truly perfect world, no one would develop any type of cancer. Some couples may divorce or separate. Others stay together and forge a powerful bond that was not present before the diagnosis. The coming treatments may test the strength of your relationship, or they may provide the opportunity for a deep emotional attachment. There are men undergoing prostate cancer treatment who may need to travel across the country to receive the treatment that is best for them. Some spouses accompany these men, but others remain at home. Some men rely on their spouses to help gather information, make decisions, and visit doctors. Others prefer to make these decisions alone. Remember that for some men love and support will be not only valuable gifts but neccesities.

Do not underestimate your spouse's 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. At the same time, however, be in tune with your own needs. If you are choosing to stay at his side as you two embark on your journey, you need to eat, sleep, and have contact with loved ones and friends. To take care of another, you must first take care of yourself.

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 the prostate cancer treatment your spouse is considering. Knowledge of the disease and 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, and 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 you begin the search for the right prostate cancer treatment.


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