How little I knew about prostate cancer when I began researching this topic. I had heard of a man or two who had undergone treatment and the short sentences that people used when talking about treatment and side effects. It reminded me of when I was child and I heard whispers of someone’s grandmother having a breast removed due to cancer. How many young women today, remember the days when we didn’t say the word “breast” much less share a story of someone who had lost a breast to cancer. Until recently, prostate cancer has been a little like that.
But, times have changed, and for the better. People are beginning to shun the old taboos and speak openly about what was considered to private to share. Demons are no longer hidden under bed and in closets, but exposed to the light of day, and this is a significant step in defeating them.
I spent several years assisting a breast cancer Dragon Boat team with their training . Every year, after a winter of training, they would compete in the local community races. One year, at our, somewhat “pink” Dragon Boat Races, a blue team appeared. I confess, my first reaction was, “What are they doing here? Dragon Boats belong to breast cancer.” I felt a little invaded and also a little callus.Fast forward a year or two and a friend is standing on stage at a Christmas event, reciting a personal rendition of “The Night Before Christmas” and the joy to be found in the “little blue pill.” I think many people were surprised, myself included, but we heartily applauded his candour. Finally, we have gone from whispering about someone’s secret breast cancer, to being able to share openly the affect that prostate cancer has on the most significant area of human need… sexuality. The phenomina of “Movember” is a perfect example of how much has changed in public thinking. In our Movember DiscoveryGame we asked Tokii members if they thought that men growing mustaches to support prostate cancer awareness was a brilliant idea and 67% of women agreed.
Oddly, while doing my research, I feel a little envy towards the people who have written their stories of how they and their partner have learned to overcome the side affects of prostate cancer treatment. The open communication, tenderness and discovery that they have applied to rebuild a new and successful sexual intimacy with one another, touches my heart. With 67% of Tokii women responding to the question: What best describes our sex life at this time, as a “bonding experience.” To read how couples have faced this monster head on, fought not only the disease, but the damages left in it’s wake and emerged to build a stronger relationship, has partially restored my, somewhat, jaded view of marriage and long-term relationships.
I would be naive to assume that everyone exits prostate cancer rehabilitation with an intact relationship, but I can’t find any studies that indicate the divorce rate is higher for prostate cancer survivors or survivors of other cancers, for that matter. Therefore, I assume that couples affected by PC experience sexual satisfaction in the same way as every other couple does and much depends on their ability to improvise, share and be sensitive towards one another’s needs.
My guess? If you had a good relationship with your partner before the diagnosis, you’ll probably have a good one afterwards. And if you read this with concerns about where you and your partner were before, and are afraid of where you are now, then it’s time to open up. Find help, if necessary, and begin to gently explore what you need and what your life’s partner needs, with all the tenderness that you felt on the day your promised “in sickness and in health.”