This resource was created for women who have just discovered that their partner has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. We hope it will help you.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
- Do not panic.
- Do not think that he will die tomorrow or the next day.
- Do EDUCATE YOURSELF - research, study, learn, talk to survivors, attend Prostate Cancer Networks.
- Do become an educated, empowered partner by following these suggestions...
Talk to your health care provider
When talking with the physician, what do you need to know?
Make an appointment with the physician and bring along a list of questions to ask. Make your list so you have space to write down the answers to the questions. Here are some suggested questions:
- What is the prostate?
- What does it do?
- What is prostate cancer?
- What are the causes of prostate cancer?
- What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
- How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
- What is a PSA, how is this test performed and what does it indicate?
- What is a DRE, how is this test performed and what does it indicate?
- Do these tests give false positives or false negatives?
- Are there other tests that can be performed?
- How is a dangerous PSA number determined?
- How is a biopsy performed?
- Where is the biopsy performed?
- What other tests should my partner have to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of his body?
- What are the treatment options for my partner, he is in his 40’s (50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s)?
- What is the recovery time for each option?
- What are the side effects of each treatment option that you mentioned?
- How long will the side effects last?
- Are there treatment options for the side effects?
- We have sons, is this disease hereditary?
- Should they be tested for prostate cancer? When?
Should we get a Second Opinion?
Yes, it is always valuable to get a Second Opinion - Remember, physicians are human!
Reading about Prostate Cancer
Here are some suggested readings for women:
- Read this compelling story of couple from Maine sharing their story: A Couple's Journey through Prostate Cancer
- We also recommend Our Journey with Prostate Cancer by Kathie Houchens, an uplifting telling of the experiences of a couple dealing with this disease.
The Prostate – A Guide for Men and the Women Who Love Them by Dr. Patrick Walsh, MD
Men, Women, and Prostate Cancer: A Medical and Psychological Guide for Women and the Men They Love by Barbara Rubin Wainrib, EdD, Sandra Haber, PhD, and Jack Maguire.
What Women and Their Men Need to Know About Prostate Cancer by Irena Madjar and Gail Tingle. Note: This book is available from the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand at no cost.
A Crash Course on Prostate Cancer from One Woman’s Perspective by Lynne Rosenberg - This book tells the story of a registered nurse, the wife of a physician, who faces her own as well as her husband’s issues after the diagnosis of prostate cancer.
Affirming the Darkness by Chuck & Martha Wheeler - An unblinking medical saga, a profound love story, and a journey of faith, this book is a courageous legacy of one remarkable couple. The book tells of their struggle through 8 years of Chuck’s prostate cancer.
In Sickness and Health: A Love Story by Karen Propp - A powerful account by a wife and mother who struggles with the relationship and her own identity.
Men, Women & Prostate Cancer by Wainrib & Haber - A medical and psychological guide for women and the men they love.
Two For One: A Spouse’s Guide to Coping with Prostate Cancer by Alie & Joe Torre - Written by the wife of former New York Yankees Manager and current Dodgers Manager, Alie Torres writes that the disease of prostate cancer is a disease that both fought as a couple and how it brought them closer together. The book deals with her feelings, needs, questions and worries.
Please see other books about Prostate Cancer in our Bibliography - revised in March 2019
Visit online resources - blogs and other websites
- hisprostatecancer.com - a prostate cancer blog for wives and partners
- Visit our MCFPC Resource and Support page for other ideas
- Cancer Connect - "What Every Woman Should Know About Prostate Cancer" by John Leifer
- Scrubbing.in - "4 Things Every Woman Should Know About Prostate Cancer" by Robert Hill
- Prevention - "4 Things All Women Should Know About Prostate Cancer" by Hallie Levine
Join the Prostate Cancer And Intimacy (PCAI) Listserv
PCAI offers open and frank discussion about the problems associated with intimacy and prostate cancer. Click on this link to PCAI, then click on Pcai (left column) and follow directions to sign up. After you have signed up, you should get an email from them to click and confirm that you indeed want to sign up for the list. It will give you directions how you can post to the group. Then you will either get individual emails from people posting to the group or it will come in one long digest each day.
You read the emails and respond to ones that you wish to respond. You can also start a new thread on whatever subject you wish. All of the exchanges are done through email either individual messages or in the digest.
Things the Partner can do with the Patient
- Help to research about the disease
- Attend doctor appointments; take notes when appropriate; Ask questions; give feedback
- Learn to cook foods that support good nutrition, but give him his favorites once in awhile
- Help keep logs of appointments
- Help patient with diet and exercise choices; encourage the exercise
- Rent movies (selecting what your partner’s likes, as well as your own)
- Ask: “What can I do to make you comfortable?”
- Undivided attention without judgment; don’t try to change his mind about his feelings
- Buy him books by favorite authors or go to the library for him
- When he’s in pain, experiencing hot flashes, discomfort, offer your help without judgment.
- Share laughter. Brighten your life.
- Take time and care for yourself.
- Keep a positive attitude.
- If possible, get away with your partner - take short (or long) trips
- What are some of the “fun” things you used to do - do it again for the first time
- Pack a picnic go someplace special
- Read TO your partner
- Invite friends to visit.
Suzanne, a wise woman sums it up beautifully when she says, "Love your man; respect your man; encourage your man and fully live with your man. The gift of love I most appreciate is openness and good communication which is an invitation to join in the dance."
What the Patient can give to his Partner
Yes, the patient can do many things for his partner. I hear some men feeling remorse because they feel they are on the "receiving" end, but are unable to "give" much. Men have submitted some great advice for the year-round affection they can give to their spouses, including:
- Undivided attention; listen to her and honor her thoughts without judgment (sound familiar?)
- Buy her flowers or her favorite bottle of wine
- Enthusiastically take her to a “chick flick.” (Hold her hand and share your popcorn.)
- Pay attention to her - notice her hair-cut, new clothes.
- Say “thank you” for the things she does for you.
- Take her out to lunch or dinner.
- Share jokes or funny e-mails with her.
- Look at photos together; talk about the sweet memories and funny experiences.
- Ask, “what can I do for you?”
- Go for a walk together or enjoy an evening looking at the stars.
- Encourage her to get away – go shopping – visit friends.
- Encourage her to continue with her hobbies.\
- If able – do what you can to help around the house – even little things are appreciated.
- Wipe dishes or empty the dishwasher.
- Keep her informed of financial and legal issues. Does she know where all legal and financial papers
- Have an official will, a Living Will and Power of Attorney.(Note: This may feel uncomfortable, but every couple should have these documents. If a partner is suddenly left alone, she needs to know how to access things. This is a huge gift to give
- These are just a few ways to make everyday a better day at your house. Better yet, ask your partner what they would like.
- Make a list and then – DO IT!
- The easiest and most endearing thing you can do for one another is to say "Thank You" and "I love you."
That even when you think you have no more to give - when a loved one or friend cries out to you - you will find the strength to help.
Image credit: Couple holding hands is licsensed through Creative Commons by Bestpico