You may be thinking, “WHAT? She’s not the one with prostate cancer. What kind of support does she need? I’m the one who needs the support.”

That’s what I thought when I was first diagnosed and then treated for prostate cancer. More accurately, I didn’t really think about Cindie and what she might be going through. My focus was on me: confirming the diagnosis, evaluating treatment options, selecting the best alternative, undergoing treatment and the recovery phase. I also wondered if the cancer would be eliminated and how our sex life would be impacted. I did think of Cindie some, but we agreed that it was more important to focus on me. After all, if I didn’t live, I wouldn’t be around to focus on her.

I began to think differently about a year after treatment. One day, Cindie let me know how much she cried while I was undergoing surgery. This conversation led to her sharing the whole range of emotions she experienced after my diagnosis and treatment. She explained that she didn’t want to put an additional burden on me by sharing her feelings at an already stressful time. She didn’t believe I had the additional capacity to also focus on her needs.

Based on my experience, consider the following after the diagnosis and during the treatment/recovery period:

  1. Determine a way you can place some focus on your wife/partner. If you don’t, who will? There’s a lot of support directed at men to help them emotionally and clinically. Much of this support is an integral part of the medical process and easily identified. Not so for women. Make sure she takes care of herself and seeks professional help as necessary. Taking care of her well-being is an important factor in your recovery.
  2. Recognize that both you and your wife/partner are impacted by the cancer diagnosis. You both have needs that must be addressed in your relationship. Mutual, active support of each other builds the intimacy and closeness required in a thriving relationship.
  3. Many women have the tendency to be caregivers, often at their own expense. Assist her in moving from the role of caregiver to more of a care partner. This will give her permission to receive from you and participate in a different way.
  4. Include your wife/partner in the entire process. Ask her help in making key treatment decisions. Share your feelings with her, in addition to asking for and offering support.

By Cindie Hubiak

We’ve all been there. Continually saying “yes” to requests we know we don’t have time for or putting our desires on hold to help others pursue theirs. We over commit ourselves and give up what we enjoy to make others happy.

Too often, women place the needs of loved ones above their own, disrupting an essential life balance. While it may be necessary to temporarily set aside your own needs during one of life’s many challenges, it shouldn’t become the norm. In order to live a thriving life, you must take the time and care to explore your passions and satisfy your own needs.

Taking time to make yourself a priority often enables you to become a stronger support as a mom, wife, partner and friend. You will feel more connected, confident, inspired and joyful. Here are five tips to help you get started:

  • Schedule time for yourself – Set aside time each week or month that is just for you. Be sure your family honors this time and understands you are unavailable. This is your time to do as you wish. Explore a new hobby or simply catch up on some much-needed R&R.
  • Get physical – Whether it’s dancing in the privacy of your room, yoga, jogging or hiking, find an activity that you enjoy and makes you feel good. Physicality increases confidence and improves overall health.
  • Ask so you can receive – Often we try to do it all. Learn to ask for assistance when needed and then graciously receive it! This will help you ease stresses and free up more time in your schedule.
  • Journal – Journaling can help you connect with your inner voice and quiet your mind. It also provides helpful answers and assists in the process of self discovery.
  • Find something you’re passionate about - Many of us spend a lifetime revolved around caring for others. It’s time to focus on you and get inspired. Create a list of projects you’d like to explore. Use your scheduled time to experiment and purse these new opportunities.

 

By Cindie Hubiak

When men undergo treatment for prostate cancer it is quite common for them to withdraw emotionally. In fact, Steve and I began to live more like roommates than lovers. We didn’t connect outside of household responsibilities and conversations about what each other did during the day. This can be true of any relationship regardless of the presence of prostate cancer, though it is more common following the diagnosis and treatment.

Of course this can wreak havoc on one’s self-confidence. I began to feel unattractive and found myself grappling with bouts of anger over our lack of deep, meaningful conversations and the disappearance of our sex life. Over time however, I found ways to communicate my needs and as a result our relationship strengthened and we no longer live like roommates.

Dialoguing About Sex

First and foremost, take care to avoid attacking your man about his lack of interest – keeping in mind this is a natural reaction for men in this situation. I suggest venting to a medical provider, counselor or good friend. Getting your frustrations out of the way will enable you to be more supportive of your man’s recovery.

When you do decide to have the dialogue with your man about sex, but find yourself not knowing what to say to get your needs met, consider using the request format:

  • Set a goal for the conversation.
  • Start with a statement such as, “I want to schedule some time to talk to you about something important to me.”
  • Explain your feelings without placing blame: “I’m feeling unattractive and hurt because I feel undesired sexually. I’m not blaming you, but I want you to ______.”
  • Determine what you require as a woman and ask if he’s willing and able to provide it for you.
  • Negotiate a plan of action that suits both of you.

Ask For, Accept and Give Compliments

Receiving compliments from your man may make a significant difference in your self-confidence and how you feel as a woman. If he agrees to give you sincere compliments, accept them graciously. Let him know how good his compliment makes you feel. Oftentimes we retort with counterproductive responses such as, “You really like this dress? I feel fat in it.” Just respond with a “Thank you!” By reinforcing his positive behavior, you will keep the compliments coming (I realize that sounds a bit like Pavlov’s “conditioned reflex” concept, but it works).

Remember the compliments should go both ways. Try giving him more than you normally do with the understanding he is going through a tough time as well.

Understanding your man’s loss of desire and clearly communicating your needs can save you a lot of pain and frustration. Work together to discover ways he can help you feel desired and provide him guidance. If you’ve experienced this, what approaches have you found to be effective for you and your man?

 

By Cindie Hubiak

When it comes to communicating with a significant other, it can indeed feel like we live on different planets (perhaps even Mars and Venus!). It is true that men and women have different communication styles, but alas, we must learn how to transcend beyond the differences to enjoy a thriving relationship.

Endless communication theories and styles float about, so this may require some experimentation to find what best suits you and your partner. For me and Steve, we discovered what works for us, which I will share in hopes of helping you communicate your requirements and desires.

Make a Statement
In general, for both men and women, we found making a statement before asking a question clarifies why you are asking the question and leaves little room for your partner to make an assumption about your intention. This can be as simple as, “I noticed you rubbing your scar from the prostate surgery. Would you like me to put lotion on the area for you?” Had I not clarified the question with a statement, he might wonder why I made the offer, or may assume I want to be intimate together, potentially causing problems if all I wanted was to help eliminate the itch.

This might sound very simplistic, but may prove very effective in a relationship – personal or professional – to help you receive exactly the information you are seeking. When I make a statement, I get the information I want, not what someone thinks I want.

A Formula for Success
When I want to talk with Steve (or any man) about a particular issue, I first take the time to understand what I want out of this conversation. I then ask when he is available to talk. My next goal is to effectively communicate what I want, which I do by:

  • Talking in short sentences
  • Using open-ended questions (ones that can’t be answered with a yes or no)
  • Making sure my questions are non-judgmental (no blaming or assuming)
  • Asking Steve to repeat his understanding of the conversation
  • Finding out if he will support my request and if he needs anything to do so
  • Letting him know what I gain from his help

This may feel odd at first, but in the long run, this formula will help avoid any miscommunications and your man will be more attune to meeting your needs in other areas of your life.

Miller’s Law
Steve and I follow Miller’s Law in which all judgments about what someone says are suspended so that we may first understand them without putting our own interpretations on their message. In this practice you focus on how what they say might be true rather than thinking it’s dumb, false or unwarranted.

Know What You Want
Lastly, take the time to understand what you truly want out of the conversation. It may end up being completely different than what you originally thought. Journaling or talking with a friend about the issue can help you become clear about your intention.

Whatever method you choose, keep your heart and the lines of communication open – it’s the foundation to a strong relationship. I also encourage you to leave a comment with your communication tips. What have you found to be effective, or ineffective?

By Cindie Hubiak

Valentine’s Day serves as a welcome reminder to reconnect with your partner. To help make this day extra special, I’ve compiled nine tips you can use to revive intimacy and express your love.

  1. Start planning now to eliminate expectations and potential disappointments once Valentine’s Day arrives
  2. Schedule time for intimacy with your partner. Commit to five minutes, two hours or an entire day to spend in a special way. If February 14 isn’t convenient, find a day and time that is.
  3. Agree on a code word to connect you and someone special when you’re with a lot of people. Every time you hear or say your secret word, think of your partner.
  4. Focus on your sense of taste. Observe the flavor, temperature, texture and your expressions. Awareness increases intimacy.
  5. Share one of your dreams with your partner that you never shared before. Intimacy takes courage and practice.
  6. Gaze into the eyes of your partner. Focus on love for a minute, longer if possible, and explore what you experience.
  7. Create a playlist of songs that support intimacy for you and your partner.
  8. Focus on your sense of touch – the feel of your clothing, warm water in the shower, the caress of a loved one. Awareness increases intimacy.
  9. Intimacy is not for sissies! Share your definition of intimacy with your partner. My definition starts with: Into Me See.

For more intimacy tips, check out our Facebook page. We post a new intimacy tip every Friday!

By Steve Frohman

I’ll never forget that night. It was May of 2007, early on a Friday evening at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia. The mood of the group was festive, celebrating the retirement of a business associate.

Prostate Cancer SlideI felt apprehension, as it was still late afternoon in Phoenix. I nervously anticipated a phone call from my urologist with my latest biopsy results. This was my third biopsy over a 15-year period of time. I had a history of an enlarged prostate and high PSA scores, ever since my first PSA test in my mid 40s. When my cell phone vibrated, I quickly stepped into the ballroom foyer to take the call.

Dr. Bans let me know the results of the biopsy were positive, indicating cancer had been found. Although no cancer is good, he explained that my cancer was a less aggressive form. This meant there was time to evaluate and select the best treatment method for my situation. I know he intended this information to be somewhat comforting, and it was in a small way. The fact still remained that I had cancer.

Over the next few weeks and months, I worked closely with Dr. Bans, my wife Cindie and a close friend to put a plan in place. I wanted to further understand and evaluate my situation, select a treatment option and undergo treatment. The treatment I ultimately selected was surgery, and my prostate was removed six months later. I have been cancer free ever since.

Here are six tips to consider if you receive the news of a positive biopsy. While I’m not a medical provider, these ideas have been accumulated from my experience and talking with a number of prostate cancer survivors.

  • Take personal responsibility for your treatment decisions. There is no one course of action that is right for everyone. Every treatment comes with its share of plusses and minuses. Determining what is best for your situation is ultimately your responsibility.
  • Talk with others who have undergone treatment. Some of the most insightful information I received was from those who had been treated for prostate cancer.
  • One second opinion is often not enough. If you evaluate different treatment options, get the opinion of a specialist in each treatment alternative. While physicians pride themselves in making recommendations in the best interests of their patients, they are most familiar with the treatments they offer and are in the best position to address issues concerning those treatments.
  • Select a doctor and treatment facility that has a high volume of patients. You want someone who performs the procedure frequently and specializes in the individual treatment area you select. Ask providers about volumes, their history of results and potential side effects.
  • Anticipate an emotional impact. Be open and share your feelings with others. Let those closest to you understand what you’re going through so they can best support you.
  • Understand the spiritual being within you. Although prostate cancer survival rates are extremely high, I found myself thinking about my own mortality. I gained a fresh perspective on what’s important in life and made some adjustments.

Click to learn more about Steve’s story. We also invite you to leave a comment with your experiences and tips.

By Cindie Hubiak

Each Friday, Steve and I post an Intimacy Tip on our Facebook page, @SolutionsForIntimacy. We practice each of these tips ourselves, wanting to reach new levels of closeness within our relationship.

Our Intimacy Tip last Friday, ‘share one of your dreams with someone close to you that you never shared before,’ challenged me more than any of the other tips.  At first, I found it difficult to find a dream that I hadn’t shared with Steve.

As I contemplated this situation, I discovered that I didn’t know what I really wanted. When I hiked Camelback Mountain the next morning, a desire came to me as I watched the lunar eclipse unfold. A big dream sprouted and quickly grew. I couldn’t envision how it could be attained, and I wasn’t sure if Steve would understand. I was afraid to share it with him. I did, though, because I invited all of you to do so.

Our conversation didn’t go well at first. Later I realized I didn’t use the communication technique described in my book. Just when I think I can talk with Steve like a girlfriend, I’m reminded that he’s not. He’s my husband and requires communication in a different way.

Once I picked up the pieces and started over, I overcame my fear a second time and shared my dream with him again. This time he understood and helped me create a vision of my dream that I know can be achieved.

Intimacy takes courage and practice. Dreaming and fantasizing adds a healthy element to a relationship, especially when shared with someone close. I’m going to practice this tip more frequently, allowing my life to thrive even more.

By Cindie Hubiak

You may have heard of it. You may have even seen it in action in the form of mustaches on men’s faces. I’m talking about Movember, the worldwide movement in which men sport mustaches throughout November to raise awareness for men’s health – more specifically prostate cancer and the other cancers that impact men. The movement started in Melbourne, Australia in the early 2000s as a way to raise funds and awareness for prostate cancer research, and has grown to a global movement, supported by millions.

Known as “Mo Bros,” the men who opt to participate start the month clean-shaven then wear it proudly for 30 days, supported along the way by the women in their lives known as “Mo Sistas.” When I first learned of Movember, I think it was the Mo Sistas that resonated most with me, simply because the support, strength and knowledge from other women became my rock when my husband was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer.

Through my journey I came to realize that I had to heal myself first before I could help my husband heal. The support of other women was an integral part of this process. Whether your man had prostate cancer years ago or it is a recent diagnosis, it’s never too late to learn how to heal yourself. Tapping the knowledge and support of other women, like Mo Sistas, will be one of the most important things you can do. They can prove to be one of your most powerful allies for turning surviving into thriving.

As women, we can assist each other to heal, and as we do, we learn to provide more compassion to ourselves, and thus the men in our lives. Remember, a woman who supports a man through his prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment can proudly wear the title of prostate cancer survivor – whether that’s in the form of a faux mustache or by joining a movement.

By Cindie Hubiak
If you’ve experienced prostate cancer, you likely know all too well the disruptive side effects of the treatment process. Surgery and radiation can have a serious impact on a couple’s sex life and in some cases challenge the longevity of the relationship. For me and Steve that was certainly the case.

A study, recently published in an article by the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, revealed a promising finding however. Researchers discovered that married couples who underwent some form of counseling – either in-person or online – reported improved sexual function and satisfaction with sex.

According to the study, before counseling, only about 12 to 15 percent of men reported having minor erection difficulties, the rest reported more severe difficulties. After counseling, the number of minor difficulties increased to 36 to 44 percent. What’s more, at the one-year mark, men reported scores on the sexual function and satisfaction scale that were on par with healthy men who had not undergone treatment for prostate cancer.

What was perhaps most appealing about this study was both the husband and wife received counseling. This is incredibly important. Women experience their own host of emotions that also impact a couple’s intimacy. Both sides need to heal to achieve the same, or increased, level of intimacy pre-prostate cancer.

Talking About Sex
Everyone holds different beliefs about sex and has varying experiences around it, but one thing is common: we don’t talk about sex easily. Our society doesn’t encourage conversations about it, so we hide our beliefs, feelings, and experiences – never knowing if what we are experiencing is “normal.” Oftentimes this can put more strain on the sexual relationship.

We too had our aversions to discussing this issue with an “outsider” initially. But, for me and Steve it proved to be an invaluable step in our journey to living a thriving life. Our sex life began thriving after counseling. We started looking at sex differently and found many ways to reach sexual fulfillment. Often there is a lot of fear involved after prostate cancer. Talking with experts trained in sex therapy can help a couple’s sex life significantly improve after prostate cancer in the following areas:

  • Opening the lines of communications
  • Understanding sexual energy and how to harness it
  • Deepening intimacy and sexual fulfillment
  • Removing mental, emotional and energy blockages
  • Understanding how sex enhances overall wellbeing

When seeking counseling, be sure to look for someone who is sensitive to your comfort level. It is essential to heal at your pace. We’re hopeful this study will encourage couples to seek assistance from knowledgeable people and start their journey to living a thriving life much sooner.

Have you sought some sort of counseling? Did it help? Please share your insights and suggestions using the comment form below.

By Cindie Hubiak

In A Woman’s Guide to Thriving after Prostate Cancer, I encourage you to interact with me and fellow readers online. Sharing our advice and life lessons will help us all move forward and live thriving lives. Below, I invite you to share your experiences when it comes to communicating your needs.

From The Guide:

Understanding your man’s loss of desire and clearly communicating your needs can save you a lot of pain and frustration. Together, discover ways he can help you feel desired and attractive. Guide him along the way. Get his attention and make a statement before each idea you give him. That way, he knows how much it means to you. To avoid disappointment, be sure to obtain his agreement. Write your ideas for how you want to be treated on small pieces of paper and draw one out each day or week for him.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Notice how my earrings match my outfit.
  • Comment on the color of my nail polish.
  • Plant a lingering kiss on the back of my neck.
  • How ’bout whistling at me when I walk in the room.

If you find yourself supporting a woman in an intimate relationship with a man diagnosed with prostate cancer, use the information provided here as a guide to talk with her about her experience. Offer suggestions and help her find healthy ways to ensure she feels desirable and attractive.

If you support a man through recovery with whom you don’t have an intimate relationship, help him become aware of what his partner may feel. Encourage him to talk about his feelings, letting him know that many men recovering from prostate cancer feel the same way. Delve into the next section for more ways to support him.
How have you communicated your needs? Which ideas did you write down? Please share your insights and suggestions using the comment form below.

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