A closer look at the unique experiences of loved ones paving the way forward with and for the men in their lives.
© JANSSEN BIOTECH, INC. 2020
Family members form the foundation of caregiving in the United States. In fact, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, more than 30 million Americans provide unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older.1 For the loved ones of men with prostate cancer, the journey is every bit as unique (and fraught with ups and downs) as it is for the patient. Their approach to supporting him following diagnosis can differ from person to person, resulting in varying levels of emotional priorities, challenges, and involvement. While some caregivers may become resigned or overwhelmed under the weight of diagnosis, others may become a true source of strength for their loved one and an advocate for greater health awareness.
Below, 2 caregivers, Ian and Brenda, share how they found ways to not only help their loved one navigate his prostate cancer journey, but also chart their own path forward alongside him.
Being a voice for prostate health
When faced with a loved one’s prostate cancer journey, the caregiver’s commitment is not only to the patient’s health but can often extend to his or her own health and that of others who may be affected by this disease.
Ian, a Boston-based security worker and son of a prostate cancer survivor, remembers the news of his father’s diagnosis hitting his family hard. They had little prior knowledge about the disease, what the treatment process entailed, or how it was going to affect the family. As Ian gathered more information through speaking openly with his father’s healthcare team and through his own vigorous research, he became increasingly aware of his own prostate health – something he could not ignore as a man in his late 40s.
“Seeing what my father was going through and speaking with other men with prostate cancer, I realized that I couldn’t put off getting my PSA tested any longer,” recalls Ian. It was then that he became an advocate for his own prostate health, as well as for other men, including his younger brother. He encouraged them to get tested and, more importantly, to not be afraid to ask questions.
“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to prostate cancer, and if you can take action early, I encourage other men to do just that.”
Son of a prostate
For caregivers like Ian, information is a source of empowerment that helps them manage their loved one’s journey the best way they can. “Compared to when my father was diagnosed, there’s now more information out there. But there’s still room for men to share their experience more openly and for the public to be more aware about this all too prevalent cancer – and I’m hopeful that we’ll get there.”
Providing Steadfast Strength and Support
A man’s prostate cancer experience is perhaps most closely intertwined with that of his spouse or partner (see related article on intimacy after diagnosis). Their strength as caregivers is expressed in the way they actively help manage the disease, and how they are present emotionally and mentally for their loved one during this difficult time. This can sometimes mean simply being a sounding board along the way.
Brenda, a Boston native and wife of a prostate cancer survivor, learned that the best support she could give her husband after diagnosis was allowing him to process it on his own terms. “Even though it was hard for me, I wanted to make sure to give him the time and freedom he needed to make the best treatment decision for himself,” she recalls.
As a clinical coordinator and mother of 5 children, the instincts of a caregiver came naturally to her. And through it all, a sense of quiet acceptance allowed her to look forward without being overwhelmed by the weight of cancer. “It just became part of life and something we had to work through together,” says Brenda.
As much as she was resolute in her support, she also recognized that for the areas where she could not provide for him, support groups played an important role.
“Being part of a community of men with similar experiences helped my husband talk about his own experience and not feel devastated by the cancer – I felt a great sense of relief knowing that he found that much-needed connection that I could not give him.”
Wife of a prostate
When prostate cancer hits home, family caregivers like Ian and Brenda often find themselves down an unknown path of their own. Whether it’s through open activism or quiet resolve, their love becomes the map that guides their combined prostate cancer journey.
Click here for information and tips to help caregivers navigate the prostate cancer road together.
This article was developed in collaboration with PHEN. For more information and resources, please go to Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN).