The effects of prostate cancer on your relationship

Liesbeth’s* (66) husband got prostate cancer and was treated for it. Together they must now live with the consequences of this disease. What does that do to your relationship if it is no longer possible to be intimate, how do you stay connected? “We don’t want to give up our sex life and aren’t saying goodbye to it just yet.”

”I met my husband Han* four years ago through a dating site. From the first phone call there was a clear connection between us. We had a lot in common together and I remember how he spoke and how pleasantly he asked me questions. It turned out to be a very long phone call that could have gone on much longer if I wasn’t about to start training.”

The phone call leads to more conversations, and those conversations lead to a relationship. Things go so well between them that they decide to move in together. Liesbeth sells her house and together they build a new house.

While they are madly in love and making plans for the new house, something evil grows in Hans’ body. “In August 2020, Han had a blood test related to the medication he is taking for another condition. He had no complaints, but the blood test showed that the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) in his blood was significantly elevated. This indicated that there was something wrong with the prostate.”

Diagnosis of prostate cancer

“Further tests were done. It could have been inflammation or something benign, but it was prostate cancer. We were both defeated. What are we facing? Will He die? Shoot right through us. We didn’t know what the sequel would be like yet, so we picked up everyday stuff again I just had to work.

Then there was some time in the hospital. All kinds of tests and measurements were used to determine how serious the prostate cancer was. So we chose to surgically remove the prostate. It was still exciting in corona times because operations were postponed due to Covid-19. Fortunately, the operation could be performed quite quickly. Since the operation, Han has been monitored. PSA should no longer be detectable in his blood. It is checked every three months. The first check was in the same month that we got the key to our new house. And what good news: the PSA was immense. What a relief. In the report that was made during the operation, it was stated that there might be cancer cells left in the operated area, so we had prepared for different news.

But the relief is unfortunately short-lived. “During the checks afterwards, the PSA was found to have risen again, which means there is still something. It is too small to treat now, but at some point in the future it will probably require radiation. So we’re not done yet.” “Besides, Han will have to deal with even more physical setbacks. In addition to a long-term progressive chronic disease, another acute problem arises. This is separate from prostate cancer. “After treatment, Han is now physically better, but mentally he is not doing so well.”

Something is definitely changing in your relationship

Consequences of prostate cancer

“He faces more and more restrictions. Sexually, he is unable to get anything done. He struggles with that a lot. He thinks he’s failing me. I think you sell someone short if you do it intentionally, Han doesn’t. I see his fight. He is depressed.

His desire to make love to me is there, but he can’t. As a result, he seeks much less rapprochement. He also suffers from incontinence, something that lasts longer in some men after the prostate is removed. When he sneezes or exerts himself, he sometimes loses urine. He has no control over that. Urine can also flow during sex. I don’t mind, but he’s ashamed of it.

The hardest thing for me is watching him fight like this. I can say I don’t feel wronged, but I can’t take his feeling away from him. For my own part, I would like it if we could have intercourse with each other, but I do not agree if it is not there. I miss making love together, I’ve been thinking about that more often in recent weeks, because in When Han was struggling with another acute health problem, neither of us dared to have sex. I don’t feel less of a woman now that I can’t have sex with Han anymore. I was without a man for years and then I had to deal with it too. There are other ways to have sex, like satisfying yourself, but having sex together is what I like best.”

Sexuality after prostate cancer surgery

The hardest part is watching him struggle like this

“Our desire for sex is not less great because of our age, but we have been through a lot and are therefore better able to handle adversity. It is very important and nice if you can have sex with each other, but it is not the most important thing. There is so much more important in a relationship. Basically we are good. Together we look at possibilities. Soon we will talk to a sexologist again to think about other medicines, or maybe there are other solutions that we don’t know yet. We don’t want to give up our sex life yet and don’t say goodbye to it yet.

My work as a nurse makes it easy for me to talk about sexuality. I don’t feel taboo about it. Still, I don’t discuss very intimate things with everyone. Not because of a taboo, but because it is part of us. It is very important that you keep talking about it together. If you have become incontinent as a result of prostate cancer, or if sex is no longer possible, I advise you to seek help. Because there are. More is possible than people sometimes think. Consider a pelvic floor physiotherapist to gain more control over your bladder or a sexologist to think with you in case of sexual problems. Peer contact can also help.

I would like to give this tip to partners of men with prostate cancer to participate in all conversations with healthcare professionals as much as possible. Then you can also explain your side of the matter and ask questions. And if you feel that you need help yourself, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Because something is definitely changing in your relationship.

How do we keep in touch? Besides talking together, we can turn to each other with our grief for what is no longer there. It also helps to do things together. We both love music and last week we planned two trips. But it’s also in the little things. Like cooking for each other or making the house cozy. In addition, humor is very important in our relationship, even on difficult topics. If the humor degenerates into cynicism or sarcasm, then it’s time to talk a little more deeply with each other.

Future after prostate cancer

For the future, I am convinced that prostate cancer can be treated well with radiation. I have even heard that there is a 100% chance of a cure. In the sexual area, I hope that there will be opportunities that allow us both to enjoy it. I also hope that Han comes out of his darkness and becomes more mobile.

Fortunately, we can still talk to each other as comfortably as we did the very first time we spoke on the phone. In that sense, it has also deepened our relationship.”

In November, it’s Movember, an annual event that, among other things, aims to raise awareness of prostate cancer.

For more information about prostate cancer, visit Prostaatkankerstichting.nl. They are there for men with prostate cancer and their loved ones.

*names in this article have been changed for privacy.

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