This is part one of a three-part article about how prostate cancer and its treatment affects women and couples.
If you’re a baby boomer or senior, you’re probably aware that prostate cancer—the most widespread non-skin male cancer—is not only a man’s problem. It also has an impact on wives and partners on several levels.
Men’s prostate problems often become the concern of women, as they tend to be the family’s caregivers and gatekeepers. A recent survey suggests that women are the ones to push their husbands and other men in their lives to go to the doctor. This may be particularly true for prostate cancer exams or treatment. And prostate cancer may lead to impotence, affecting couples.
Prostate Cancer's Impact on the Spouse
My wife, Yvonne, was incredibly affected by my prostate cancer after it was confirmed in January, 2007. I had a biopsy Gleason score of 6—a moderately aggressive cancer. As with 80 percent of the nearly 200,000 men diagnosed in 2009 with prostate cancers in the United States, my cancer was localized and did not go beyond the prostate itself. Still, we realized this was a life-altering event for both of us.
I was a bit surprised, but not startled, when I learned I had prostate cancer. If anything, I felt a bit relieved that now I knew the reason for the discomfort I had experienced during previous months. Yvonne, though, was shocked.
That night, we hugged as she cried on my shoulder. Like many other cancer patients, I found myself consoling her, although I felt I was the one in trouble. Sobbing, she recalled the 30 years of our married life when I, as a congregational rabbi, had visited and counseled many people with cancer. “But, in all those years I never even contemplated that ‘the big C’ would invade our own household,” she said.