My husband (or father or grandfather or brother) has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. What can I do to help, and what do I need to know?
The most important action you can take is to give your loved one every bit of support they need. Everyone is frightened when they are first diagnosed and dozens of questions spring to mind almost immediately, such as: What is this prostate cancer? How long have I got to live? How can I be treated? Can I be cured? How is this going to affect my life and that of those around me?… and many more. They won’t always share these questions with you but they will be asking themselves, and you have a role here.
Getting sensible information on these uncertainties is half the battle in coming to terms with the situation, so first of all help your loved one by doing some research on their behalf. The internet is an amazing source of information, and you can find out all sorts of stuff on every aspect of the prostate and cancer.
You can also give the helpline at Macmillan a call – 0808 800 1234 – it’s free and is manned by specialist cancer nurses who can answer all your questions. You can email them, or click here for information from their website. Alternatively you can call the Prostate Cancer Support Federation helpline on 0845 6010766 which is manned by prostate cancer patients.
While all this information gathering is going on you’ll quickly see the sorts of emotional and practical support your loved one needs. Some men will need your close support every step of the way so – for example, you could offer to go with them when they visit their urologist. Others will internalize the situation and want to handle everything themselves, so let them do it, but still talk with them about what they are thinking. In either case, letting them know how much they are loved and valued will be of immense reassurance to them.
Also important is to keep a positive frame of mind. Stay active, and never brood over the problem. Lead as normal a life as you can – then add to it all the enjoyment you can. Think of all those things you always intended to do but never got round to. Look around for new interests and fun things to do. It’s amazing how you can use this setback as an excuse to transform your quality of life.
Above all, look after yourself. Stay healthy and don’t take on more than your share of the emotional burden. After all, it’s only by remaining strong yourself that you can give your loved one the support essential to them.