Bob and Karen, Weathering It Together
ProstateCancer.net advocate, Bob Tierno and his wife, Karen sat down to have an honest conversation about how prostate cancer changed their life together.
What was your first thought when you found out Bob had prostate cancer?
My first thought after Bob told me that he had an elevated PSA and that he had to see his urologist was “no big deal”. It’s not like he has breast cancer. Every woman I know including myself goes in for a yearly breast exam. So this must be the male equivalent. Boy, was I wrong! After the biopsy which resulted in the words “we’ve found cancer” everything changed.
We set out to get “smart” knowing that a smart patient is an annoyance to the doctor. After reading the book How to Survive Prostate Cancer, by Dr. Patrick Walsh cover to cover three times we peppered the urologist with dozens of questions. I assumed the role of advocate, great note taker, and life leveler. We were given all of the treatment options for early detected T1C prostate cancer and referrals to a radiologist and surgeon (cryotherapy and DaVinci® Robotic Surgery). Off to USMD Prostate Cancer Center in Arlington, Texas.
We met with Dr. Rich Bevan-Thomas who was experienced in cryotherapy, Bob’s first choice. He spoke truthfully about both cryotherapy and surgery, debunked the need for hormone therapy in Bob’s case, and advised that before making a decision, he always ordered an MRI. The MRI with dye confirmed the presence of cancer worse than the biopsy. After a long discussion, we decided on robotic surgery. Wow, what a whirlwind from May until August preparing for a major change in Bob’s life. I would be at his side every step of the way.
How has prostate cancer changed your relationship?
Married couples probably remember their vows “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health”. Well, Bob’s diagnosis of prostate cancer brings out the sobering thought of life without my partner. Not a pleasant thought. I mean who is going to roll the garbage cans to the curb?
As I lay awake at night wondering what all of the hoo-ha was about, I realized Bob was truly afraid and would cling to this world by his fingertips. As a normal male, he wasn’t used to following doctor’s orders. I pondered my response to myself and vowed to help my husband in any way possible and to be non-judgemental.
Our relationship has grown stronger knowing whom and what I would lose. The appreciation for life (and laughter) has grown exponentially, as has my appreciation for this “treasure” of a husband.
What has been the biggest challenge to overcome as partners?
In a blink of an eye, my life changed when I slipped on the stairs at the hospital. I suffered several injuries --- a shattered elbow, concussion, shoulder, wrist, hand, and bruising. Uh-Oh! Bob’s now the caregiver not a normal role for a man. He had a clear mind, was on his feet, albeit dragging a catheter bag but he threw himself into the breach. He did everything from helping me shower, dress, put on my earrings, cook, do the laundry, shopping, and became my UBER driver. You get the idea. A reversal of roles in full gear.
Hopefully, most of you will never have to go through this experience but know it is possible to deepen your appreciation and love for each other. We even laugh daily about this absurd situation. This was not the best way to accomplish these ideals, nor to find out my partner was really there for me. It worked for us. May you never have to experience it!
If you are a partner or spouse supporting someone living with prostate cancer and would like to share your story, you can by going to ProstateCancer.net's share your story submission page. Tell us how you support your partner through diagnosis and treatment and what advice you would give to others facing prostate cancer.
How much do you worry about prostate cancer coming back after treatment?