Who Will Provide?
Recently I and another post prostatectomy volunteer met (virtually of course) with about a dozen men who were about to undergo surgery. During our virtual chats we typically cover a wide range of topics, along with some personal insights.
Talking about what to expect
It starts with what you might expect from the time you walk in the door of a hospital, to the various concerns over the surgery, the catheter, and pain, to what to expect during recovery. Typically questions at this point focus on how much activity will be allowed and thoughts on not straining stomach muscles, etc.
We also cover what to expect as far as urine control and offer thoughts on regaining sexual performance. As with all things in life, we do not offer medical advice, rather only a discussion of the many possibilities that may occur. Given we are all individuals, we explain recovery will be different for everyone.
One of the more puzzling topics occurs we cover is the need for ongoing post-surgery PSA testing. This segment typically generates the most questions, because following surgery men no longer have a prostate. So "why test" is the question of the day. Several of us in the support group have experienced recurrence and spend a few minutes noting that up to 30% of men can see their cancer return after surgery.1
Questions about interacting during COVID
When the presentation ended, it was time for questions. Much to my surprise, the group was strangely silent. Finally, one man asked if his wife could visit him in the hospital. Due to COVID concerns, he learned that at best he might see a visitor for 30 minutes depending on the timing of surgery. After that the floodgate opened.
Almost all the questions focused on how partners and patients could interact – from admission to surgery and check-out the following day. I have been doing these sessions for 7 years, and for the first time no one asked a single medical question.
Putting the pieces together
When I speak at a conference or any venue, I often ask men what they consider their main responsibility as a husband or father. Without much hesitation, the answer is always to be a provider and to support and protect their family. A show of hands typically reveals that, with few exceptions, most men believe they are in good health and as such do not need to go in for an annual physical.
I briefly mention that prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men, and that the warning signs such as pain and more are generally only detected in the later or advanced stages of the disease when it is more difficult to treat. At this point, the general silence in the room is hard to miss as the men slowly begin to put the pieces together.
Providing for family and loved ones
So where am I going with these two observations? First, I believe that deep-down most men understand their role in the family, and that they have a responsibility to their partner and children. Second, being a member of the male set, I know that as men we are often so distracted in our daily lives that it is not until we face a crisis head-on do we realize that people love us and depend on us for many roles we play in their lives.
For the pre-op men in my recent meeting, the reality of upcoming surgery helped them focus on the value and power of their family relationships almost to the exclusion of wanting to know details about their upcoming surgery.
Here is a question. Just how long will it take you before you decide to take charge of your personal health?
Simply put ... If you are not here to provide for your loved ones, who will?
Have you made personal connections through your journey with prostate cancer?