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The experience of a prostate cancer patient’s wife

Leigh has been married to Joe for 13 years. They have two daughters aged 11 and 9.

1. Joe’s diagnosis must have come out of the blue. How did you both react?

We were both in shock. Neither of us thought that the diagnosis would be prostate cancer. We just kept thinking that Joe was too young and this was something that happened to older men.

2. How involved were you in the decision-making about treatment?

Initially I did not attend any of Joe’s appointments as we thought it was nothing to worry about. It wasn’t until Joe was diagnosed and then referred to The Prostate Centre that I then attended consultations. I did some research mainly on the internet and spoke to Joe who had carried out his own research and spoken to various organisations. Ultimately it was Joe who made the decision to have the surgery and I agreed that this was the best decision.

3. Who did you turn to for support? Did you decide to be open about Joe’s cancer with your friends and family?

We were very open about Joe’s cancer and all our family and friends knew. We did decide not to tell the children that Joe had cancer because we didn’t want to frighten them with the “cancer” word. There were other reasons behind this and we felt they didn’t need to know. Our family and friends were extremely supportive and I personally would not have made it through this experience without them.

4. What was the worst period for you? Diagnosis? Deciding on treatment options? Surgery? Post surgery?

Diagnosis was the worst periof of the whole experience and I think that’s just the shock of having your worst fears confirmed. The surgery was frightening and by that I mean it was hard to see your normally fit, healthy husband reduced to a frail, weak man. Post surgery was tiring as Joe needed quite a lot of care and support.

5. Sometimes it can be tougher for the partner than the patient – would you agree?

I think this is true to a certain degree. Friends and family obviously focused on Joe and the diagnosis quite rightly. However, you are dealing with the shock too and still trying to keep some normality, especially for the children.

6. How helpful was it for him to have you at home when he was recovering from the operation?

I don’t think Joe would have coped on his own for at least for the first two weeks after he came home. He did have a but of pain at some points and just having someone close by helped him. I took two weeks off work to be at home and I think it really helped Joe.

7. Did any of the after-effects from the surgery particularly affect you?

I think seeing Joe so weak and feeble looking really affected me as I have never seen him in this situation before. It was very upsetting for me and for the children.

8. How do you feel now, a year later?

Even though it’s only been a year it actually feels like a lifetime ago. We have both commented that we sometimes wonder if it really happened. Joe obviously has regular reminders through his 3-monthly blood tests and we both heave a huge sigh of relief when the test result is negative.

9. Do you think anything positive came out of the experience, in terms of your relationship and/or family?

We are definitely closer as a couple and as a family. We have a new motto in our house “Don’t sweat the small stuff” which we all try and live by!

10. What message, if any, do you have for partners of prostate cancer patients going through a similar experience?

Stay positive. Find out as much as you can about prostate cancer before you make any decisions.

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