I never imagined that my husband would be diagnosed with prostate cancer three months after his 49th birthday. But when we found out that his PSA was 13 ng/mL, and that he was scheduled for a biopsy, I began to think that maybe prostate cancer wasn’t just an “older man’s disease.”
Once the diagnosis was confirmed, a thousand thoughts ran through my mind: Would my husband die? Would he be incontinent after surgery? Would we never be able to make love again? (Thank God, the answer was no to all three.)
Because of his age, we decided on a radical prostatectomy. I won’t tell you that it was easy. But we were grateful when the surgeon said he got all the cancer, and was able to preserve both nerve bundles (if both bundles were removed, he would have been permanently impotent).
Several years later, we got a call from his urologist that many couples fear. My husband’s annual PSA test was 0.3 ng/mL. The test was repeated with the same result, which meant there was cancer somewhere in his body. Fortunately the doctors felt that there was only a small amount of slow-growing cancer in the area where the prostate gland had been. It was now the radiation oncologist’s turn to “clean things up.”
First, my husband had six months of hormone shots (hot flashes have been added to our list of shared life experiences), followed by eight weeks of radiation five days a week. Though he was tired at the end, he pretty much sailed through radiation without any major complications.
Today we live one day at a time and celebrate every small success. Like the fact that my husband’s 22-month follow-up PSA test was <0.01 ng/mL —undetectable.
As a result of our experience, I've started an information and support website, hisprostatecancer.com, that is specifically for wives and partners of men with prostate cancer. The side effects of prostate cancer (such as impotence) are difficult for couples of any age, but they are particularly devastating for younger couples. The mission of hisprostatecancer is to help wives and partners cope with the problems that can arise after prostate cancer treatment, empower them with knowledge, and help them know they are not alone.
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