When your partner has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, many thoughts may run through your mind. Will he be OK? How do I best support him? If he undergoes treatment, how soon can he get back to regular activities? And, are there changes we should make to our diet and lifestyle?
Given these many questions, you’ll want to find answers on how best to support your partner, both emotionally and physically. Here are a few tips to help you support your loved one after the diagnosis of prostate cancer.
Get the Facts on Living With Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed among men in the United States. Prostate cancer is highly treatable, especially when discovered at an early stage. Therefore, most men will live for many years after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Depending on where your partner is in the journey, he may experience some physical, mental, and emotional effects.
Prostate cancer can cause the prostate to enlarge, which will press on the urethra, causing changes in bladder habits for some men. Some men may experience more urgency and may need to visit the restroom more frequently.
Prostate cancer treatment may affect his libido and in some cases cause erectile dysfunction. But there’s also the chance that treatment can have an impact on his psyche making him less likely to engage in intimacy. Depending on the treatment and medication used, fertility problems can also surface. Partners can offer support by being patient, sensitive and understanding.
Men living with prostate cancer may also experience depression or anxiety. In fact, as many as 1 in 6 prostate cancer patients may experience depression before or after treatment. Monitor the emotional state of your partner and keep an eye out for symptoms of depression.Be prepared to discuss options with him and his medical team.
There’s good news though, the 5-year survival rate from prostate cancer is very high, at 99%.
Get Involved With His Treatment
If at all possible, participate in the decision-making process. With the medical team, you’ll explore the options based on his prostate cancer stage. For men with early-stage, slow-growing prostate cancer, “active surveillance” is often a reasonable option. When active treatment is needed, it might involve different types of surgery (some more or less invasive than others), radiation therapy, or hormonal therapy.
You might offer to accompany him to doctors’ appointments and treatments. He’ll be inundated with new medical terms, advice, and questions. Having both of you present can help make sure you don’t miss anything. You might be able to share additional details with the doctor in case your partner doesn’t particularly like to discuss his health. Having you by his side may also mean one less time he has to recall or discuss the disease, which can be challenging at times.
More Ways to Show Support
From diagnosis to treatment decisions to living with prostate cancer, your partner will need your time and attention but also your support and understanding. This may also mean space – to sort his feelings and get back to normal.
If he needs space, give it to him. He may not want to talk about his cancer diagnosis and treatment. And that’s OK. Recognize that he could have feelings that range from denial and anger to overwhelm, anxiety, and helplessness and let him know you’re there when he needs you.
To help him cope, you might:
- Help him stick to his regular routine, so he’s not consumed with thoughts of his treatment.
- Encourage him to do the things he enjoys, such as getting back to work, spending time with family, or playing a round of golf with friends.
- Prepare healthy foods that he likes to help keep him at a healthy weight.
- Choose an aisle seat for him when booking a flight or show so that he can quickly go to the bathroom.
Believe it or not, this experience may even strengthen your relationship. You may see your partner in more vulnerable and intimate ways as he heals. And facing such a diagnosis also reminds us just how valuable our time together can be. So, make the most of it. Walk a little further, enjoy another movie night on the couch, or time with family and friends.
Take Care of Yourself
We didn’t want to finish without reminding you that the caregiver also needs attention. Don’t forget that you’re living with prostate cancer, too. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Try these ways to stay well and energized.
- Practice good self-care and stress management by keeping up with regular physical activity, meditating, eating healthy meals, or relaxing in a long bath.
- Reach out to other family and friends for support or a cheerful conversation.
- Connect with other caregivers. Join a support group that you attend alone. Ask the healthcare team/nurse for recommendations at the oncologist’s office.
Know that you’re not alone. There are more men living with prostate cancer than you might think. One man in nine will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, and every prostate cancer story is unique.
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