When we are diagnosed with prostate cancer, especially with recurrent prostate cancer, we shoulder the emotional burden of telling our loved ones. This burden comes at the very same moment that we too are managing our own emotional response to the news.
When diagnosed, we face an uphill emotional battle. At the exact time we are forced to deal with our own fears and vulnerabilities we are also forced to navigate the vulnerabilities of loved ones and friends as they react to the news.
Many of us perceive ourselves, and so do our families, as pillars of strength, having no weakness. We are expected not to have emotions or fears, so our prostate cancer diagnosis presents a real paradox in our life. We must face the challenge of determining how to ask for help, acknowledge our true feelings and fears and also be supportive to our own loved ones. For many of us this is an entire new life experience.
Recently, I been having conversations with fellow advanced prostate cancer survivors about how they had informed their families and friends about their diagnosis. Many men told me that informing their family of the diagnosis as their most difficult task of their life. Most reported that they strategically manage the way family members were told in order to protect their loved ones and to provide comfort and reassurance, despite the implications of the diagnosis held for their own emotional and physical health.
Many survivors have also told me they did receive support from their immediate family, especially from their spouse, but that many of their male children also expressed great emotional concern about the genetic implications of the diagnosis for themselves. They became so caught up in their own concerns they were unable to respond to their father’s emotional response.
Some men have shared with me that they have not told their families. They expressed concern about the emotional impact the news would have on their adult children!
The general public’s response is often not supportive. Many of us are told, “Not to worry, you will be OK.” We also are told that “prostate cancer is not dangerous, all men get it. It is slow growing you will die from something else.” Often, our peers and community don’t respond, are not supportive and belittle our true emotional feelings. The general community often discounts us and our feelings.
Joel T Nowak MA, MSW