Prostate Cancer Affects Women, Too
Learning How to Thrive after the Man You Love Is Diagnosed
by Cindie Hubiak
Our society considers prostate cancer solely a man’s disease. It’s not. Prostate cancer can affect women physically, emotionally, and spiritually. To complicate matters further, many men don’t want anyone to know about their diagnosis and treatment. This vow of silence reduces potential resources for women, pushing the topic under a rug, causing many of us to feel suffocated and isolated.
That’s how it was for me five years ago when the man in my life had his prostate removed after a diagnosis of cancer. I couldn’t find resources to assist me with my experience, especially since he asked me to keep his cancer confidential. Most of the information I found addressed the medical aspects of prostate cancer for men. I found a few resources directed at the couples’ experience, but nothing addressed my situation.
Thus, I embarked on a personal journey to find solutions. Before this, I felt depressed, my relationship was in trouble, and I lived life just surviving. What I learned on my journey helped me begin to thrive. And I want to share those lessons with you, to help you gain more passion and joy in your life, and to help you thrive after prostate cancer.
Take this opportunity to learn everything you can about prostate cancer, about yourself, and about your partner.
1 Banish Fear with Knowledge
Take this opportunity to learn everything you can about prostate cancer, about yourself, and about your partner. Invest in counseling, read, and take classes. Find solutions that work for your life and your specific situation.
2 Live in the Moment
Focusing on my breathing keeps me from revisiting the past and worrying about the future. Neither of these activities results in a good use of my time. Too often after the diagnosis, I found myself angry about how prostate cancer had changed my life. I lived in fear of what the future might bring, which caused me to use my energy in ways that served neither me nor my partner. When I brought myself into the present, I found ways to cope with life.
3 Grieve Your Losses
Any time something changes, loss occurs. When there’s loss, there’s a need to grieve. Learn about the five common stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Find ways to cope with your own grief. And learn how to assist your man while he is grieving so you both can heal completely.
4 Devote Time to Intimacy
This means intimacy with yourself and with your partner. I like to define intimacy as “into me see.” The better I know myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually, the more intimate I can be with others. Have the sex talk with your partner, telling him what you enjoy about sex. Begin to look at sex in a whole new way – expand your definition beyond sexual intercourse. Make sure to schedule time for physical intimacy. Spontaneity is great, but it often doesn’t happen in our busy world, especially after prostate cancer. With these practices, I found sex to be much more fulfilling after prostate cancer than it was before.
5 Dream, Believe, and
Describe the life of your dreams on paper, to a friend, or to your partner. Be clear on what brings you happiness. Truly believe you can achieve your dreams, and watch them unfold one at a time. When I tell people that prostate cancer affected my life in wondrous ways, it takes a bit of explaining for them to understand. My experience with prostate cancer gave me an opportunity to get to know myself better and change what didn’t work for me. Rather than focusing on how to fix my partner and our relationship, I placed my attention on the only thing in my control: me. Today, I don’t live just to survive. I live a thriving life despite my experience with prostate cancer – or maybe because of it. I believe you can, too.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Cindie Hubiak is the author of A Woman’s Guide to Thriving after Prostate Cancer. In her book, she guides women (and men) to do more than just survive cancer. Learn more at SolutionsForIntimacy.com.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2012.