When my husband Mike was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, things looked very bad. For the 20 months between when he was diagnosed and when he died, we didn’t talk about the fact that he was going to die.
At first we didn’t talk about Mike dying because the doctors and nurses didn’t bring it up. The doctor who diagnosed Mike said, “Things are very bad, but some people live for 10 years – you’ve got to think positively.” So we didn’t realise how bad things were initially. And we felt we had to think positively.
It sounds strange but I felt that if I talked about dying, it would make it more real and more likely to happen.
I felt that if I talked about dying, it would make it more real.
Putting on a brave face
Mike himself didn’t want to acknowledge that he was going to die from prostate cancer. I could hear him telling his friends on the phone that he had prostate cancer but was fine. So people would say to me, “Oh, the chemo is going to cure him.” or “He told me he’s going to be okay.”
He’d put on a brave face in front of his friends and family and then be exhausted for days afterwards. He’d tell everyone he’d been feeling fine but then he’d cry out in the night or not be able to get to the toilet in time.
I think at some point Mike did realise how bad things were. But I think talking about dying was too painful for him. He wanted to pretend things were okay and protect his dignity. And I felt I had to do that as well and not tell people how bad things were. It meant I had to cope with a lot by myself.
I think talking about dying was too painful for him.
Not talking about things made it difficult because I still thought that Mike might be able to have treatment. I quietly asked the doctors about different treatments I’d read about. They told me that for Mike, there was treatment that could possibly prolong his life by a short while. But it could affect his quality of life. I wanted Mike to have quality of life – for us, five good weeks were better than five months of sickness.