Intimacy After Prostate Cancer

Q&A with Prostate Cancer Survivor, Robert

Life is full of learning – especially when it comes to expressing love. That was the case for Robert, a Baltimore-based entrepreneur, prostate cancer survivor and advocate, who says he and his wife found a new level of intimacy during his prostate cancer journey. Diagnosed at age 48, Robert underwent prostate cancer surgery, followed by radiation and hormone therapy. Like other men who undergo this type of therapy, Robert struggled with impotence while undergoing treatment. Today, he speaks with men and their families about what it means to tackle life after prostate cancer, including forming deep intimacy with their partners in truly meaningful ways by tapping into both physical and emotional fulfillment.

Question #1:
How big of a concern is sexual health for men diagnosed with prostate cancer?

One of the first things men think of when they are diagnosed is impotence, and they focus on that fear and how it will change their sexual function. For me, personally, it was more about treating the cancer first and then dealing with the side effects. But as a man and husband, sexual dysfunction was definitely a concern for me as well.

Question #2:
What role did your wife play in your treatment journey?

My wife was my rock. There were many times during conversations with my doctor when I thought I was focused and handling it but later realized being hung up on the diagnosis clouded my judgment. As a result, I missed certain cues. My wife was able to be an objective partner in making sure that the right questions were asked and answered.

Question #3:
How did intimacy change after prostate cancer treatment?

Because of the sexual side effects during treatment, even though for me they were short-term, I had to learn to love my wife in a more holistic way. That was by tuning into what intimacy involved at its core. I asked my wife what she valued in the most intimate moments of our relationship and found that it’s not just about the physical fulfillment but emotional as well.

Question #4:
What steps did you find helpful in reaching that level of intimacy?

My wife and I made efforts to have more honest conversations and simply enjoy our time together. By putting these things on the front burner of our relationship, we were able to grow our intimacy and bring new meaning to everything we did together, however simple it was, like holding hands or taking walks. 

Question #5:
How did your relationship with your doctor impact your understanding and managing of sexual side effects?

I consider myself lucky that I have such a strong relationship with my doctor. The nature of our relationship led me to feel comfortable about asking questions about my treatment approach and side effects. My healthcare team also played a large role in my treatment experience by being supportive and accessible from the very beginning stages to celebrating each of my successes and milestones.

Question #6:
What advice would you offer to men with prostate cancer?

The best advice I could offer would be to recognize that they are the owners of their experience – and that you should focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. Ask questions. Discuss emotions. Find the beauty of the mind. Creating memories through emotionally intimate experiences holds great value. Also, don’t be afraid to be open with your doctor and ask questions that matter to both you and your loved ones.

This article was developed in collaboration with ZERO. For more information about sexual health in your prostate cancer journey, talk to your doctor and visit ZERO.