Prostate Cancer: A Woman’s Perspective

Jun 12th, 2009 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

This is the ‘other’ Dr Elrod, filling in for Jerry today.  I’ve been wanting to share some thoughts and experiences and I guess this is the most available opportunity.  So here goes!

The first disclaimer is that, as a woman who is in her senior citizen years, my perspective is that of observer, albeit in my case, a very loving observer.  My husband was diagnosed with very aggressive prostate cancer 18 months ago.  He is 70; I am 65.  I’ve had some experiences in the past 18 months that I hope will be helpful to other senior women, wives, significant others and observers of men with prostate cancer.

  • We women don’t walk in shoes of men who have prostate cancer, and we cannot know how it feels and how it affects them.  Don’t judge.  And don’t be critical of their responses, even when you want to choke them.
  • Honor his choices.  If the diagnosis is highly aggressive cancer, as it was in my husband’s case, honor his choice to live even when it means losing some dignity (incontinence) and some virility (sexual response).  I’ve discovered how fortunate I am that he is still alive in spite of the minor inconveniences.  We still wake up side by side in bed every morning, and I am so grateful for that first moment every morning!  And he knows he sleeps with his forever-wife!  It’s an emotional high for both of us.
  • Honor his choice.  If the diagnosis is a lower level of aggression in cancer cells, support his choice to have less invasive and life-changing treatment, treatment that may take several months or years, but that may be highly successful given the sophisticated research that now gives men opportunity for long life, successful treatment and little impact on day to day living.  Be grateful you can live life with him to the fullest every day!
  • Recognize the assault Cancer has on his dignity.  Men in our senior generation were taught as little boys to be in charge, to be the ‘man’ of the household and to take care of family.  His dignity is impaired when he realizes he can no longer do all that he thought was always required of him.  (PS, it never was required, but he never figured that out!)  And now he knows he cannot fulfill that role any longer.  He’s hurting emotionally and it’s up to us to find the salve for those wounds.  He will never recover from that pain, and we need to help him find a way to live with it.  True compassion is the only avenue available to us at this point.  Honor his pain and hold his hand on the road to dealing with it.
  • When he is diagnosed with prostate cancer, if you love him, you experience the diagnosis with him.  You are the wife-of-the-guy-with-prostate-cancer.  Your WOTGWPC diagnosis calls upon you to maintain your priorities and good physical and mental health, while supporting him in the potentially deadly track he’s on.  As a caregiver, you must take care of yourself, give yourself opportunity for relaxing and enjoying life as an individual.  And, if you love him, you will always want to be with him to provide love and support and reassurance that your commitment is forever.  It’s a tightrope sometimes.  You will need support from friends and family, especially those women who always understand.  And your personal integrity and passion for living an honest life will keep you in a supportive and loving relationship with him, no matter the outcome.
  • Oh, and did I mention? … be grateful that you awaken every morning with him beside you. 

…Dr Sharon Shaw Elrod

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