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? 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.
Learn the Facts About 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 challenges.
Prostate cancer can cause the prostate to enlarge, which can press on the urethra, resulting in changes in bladder habits. Some men may experience more urgency and may need to visit the restroom more frequently.
Prostate cancer and treatment may also affect your partner’s libido. Certain types of prostate cancer treatment can also affect testosterone levels, which may decrease sex drive and, in some cases, cause erectile dysfunction. The stress and anxiety surrounding a prostate cancer diagnosis can also cause your partner to lose interest in sexual activity, at least for a period of time. 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 struggle with mental health. Research suggests that approximately 1 in 6 men with prostate cancer 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 for men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer is greater than 99%.
Get Involved With His Treatment
If possible, participate in the decision-making process. Together with the medical team, you’ll explore the options based on your partner’s 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 medical appointments and treatments. He may be overwhelmed with new medical terms, advice, and questions. Having both of you present can help make sure you don’t miss any details. You might be able to share additional information 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
Prostate cancer is an all-consuming diagnosis, and your partner probably has a lot on their mind: choosing the right treatment plan, juggling a full schedule of medical appointments, carrying the reality of their cancer diagnosis in their day-to-day life. Your partner needs your support and understanding, but they may also need some space to process their thoughts and emotions.
If he needs space, give it to him. He may not want to talk about his cancer diagnosis and treatment – that’s OK. Just let him know you’re there if he needs to talk and consider these other acts of service to show your support:
- Help him stick to his regular routine to take his mind off his cancer diagnosis and 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 promote a nutrient-rich diet and support weight maintenance throughout treatment.
- Choose an aisle seat for him when booking a flight or event so that he can quickly go to the restroom.
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. Facing such a diagnosis also serves as a reminder of how valuable time with loved ones can be. So, make the most of it. Walk a little further on your evening stroll, enjoy another movie night on the couch, and appreciate the time spent with family and friends.
Take Care of Yourself
Don’t forget that you also need some time for yourself to process your emotions, recharge, and prevent caregiver fatigue. You may feel like you need to stay strong for your partner, but you’re human and deserve support, too. Try these tips 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, and ask the healthcare team/nurse for recommendations at the oncologist’s office.
Know that you and your partner are not alone. About one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, but the survival rate is high. Every prostate cancer journey is unique, and there may be bumps and obstacles along the way. But despite prostate cancer, both you and your partner can go on to live fulfilling lives together.