When you are close to a man with prostate cancer, the diagnosis can affect you just as much as him. As well as affecting how you feel, it may also change your relationship with him as your plans and priorities change. Below, our Specialist Nurse Meg Burgess answers your questions about supporting a man with prostate cancer.
Many partners, family and friends of men with prostate cancer find that learning more about prostate cancer and its treatment is helpful. It can help you support your loved one when they need to make decisions about treatment. Knowing about treatments can also help you both prepare for the time it might take to recover, and for any side effects.
Some men find it helps to have someone with them at their appointment. It’s hard to take everything in, ask questions and make notes all at the same time. Having someone else to remember, take notes and to ask questions can be useful.
Health professionals involved in supporting your loved one may not be able to discuss his diagnosis, treatment or care with you unless he gives them permission. If he is happy for you to know about these things then he needs to let his doctor or nurse know. He can request this for anyone – whether that’s a partner, family member or friend.
Try and talk to the health professionals who are supporting your loved one, if they are happy for you do to this.
You can also find out more about prostate cancer on our website. We have information on diagnosis, treatment and life after prostate cancer. You can also call our Specialist Nurses.
You, your partner or family could go on a course or training day about living with and after cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support, Self Management UK, Penny Brohn Cancer Care, Maggie’s Centres, Carers Trust and Carers UK run courses.
Many men with prostate cancer value being able to talk to those close to them about how they are feeling. It can help get things out in the open and to lift their spirits. But some men prefer to cope on their own, and don’t want to talk about things, or want any outside help. You might find this frustrating or upsetting. But try to remember that he might not see things the same way as you. Even if you think that he needs some practical help or should be talking about his emotions, he might feel that he’s coping fine.
Try to help him think about what he wants, rather than telling him what he should do. You can do this by asking questions or saying what you think and asking for his response. Let him know that you are there for him if he needs anything. Be specific about the kind of support you can offer – practical as well as emotional. You might need to give him space to come to terms with things in his own time or deal with things in his own way.
For some men just having family and friends around is enough. You don’t have to talk about prostate cancer. Just chatting about normal things and doing some everyday activities together might help. Encourage your loved one to see family and friends and to keep up with social activities and hobbies if he feels up to it.
The diagnosis of a loved one can have a big impact on your life, so make sure you look after yourself. This is important for your sake and so that you can support your loved one.
Doing something to help might ease your own feelings of distress and help you feel more in control. But be aware of your limits and recognise that you don’t have to do everything. Could other friends or family help out with some things? Social services and voluntary organisations can also be good sources of support.
Remember, you will be dealing with your own feelings and emotions and will also need time to talk about them. You could try writing down how you are feeling, for example in a diary. Write about something that is worrying you or think about the emotions you are going through. You might find this helps to get things off your chest.
Do something nice for yourself at least once a week. You could have lunch with a friend, visit the library or browse around shops. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you focus on yourself for a short time. You deserve to have a break and shouldn’t feel guilty.