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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.