How to Cope - Caregiver Weathering the Storm Together

How I Coped with My Husband’s Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

storm on the oceanNothing prepared my husband and me for the diagnosis. Cancer, or rather, prostate cancer. You know, the “Big P.C.” After two heart attacks, followed by quadruple bypass surgery, and a mini-stroke, I found myself constantly waiting for the next shoe to fall. However, I was still very much caught off guard when it actually happened.

As you can imagine, this diagnosis hit my husband, Ronnie, hard. Seeing how it affected him caused me to question why these health issues kept happening to such a wonderful man. Making me want to scream at the top of my lungs. Throw something! Then, just like that, my fury lost much of its steam. 

Ronnie was only 44 years old when he had his first heart attack. For the past 27 years of our 46 years together, this intensely quiet man had battled one health episode after another, stoically. I pledged that we would get through this one the same way we had gotten through all his other health challenges. After all, this is what love looks like.

Thus began our prostate cancer journey. As we were both employed at Emory University before retiring, our first stop was Emory’s Urology Department. Where blood tests, biopsies, and CT scans followed. Oh my!
I pledged that we would get through this one the same way we had gotten through all his other health challenges. After all, this is what love looks like.Ronnie’s PSA results (a test to measure the prostate-specific antigen protein in the blood) indicated consultation with a radiology oncologist was warranted. So, with an oncology team, we charted a course of treatment.

Due to Ronnie’s other health issues, the team decided to treat his prostate cancer with radiation therapy only. After going over the several types of radiation treatment, we felt radiation administered in short bursts for fifteen minutes, five days a week, was the best approach.

Throughout the eight weeks of treatment, I learned that coping with cancer affects not only the person diagnosed but also everyone who loves them. Besides the physical side effects, there was also the emotional toll it took on all involved.

My coping mechanism was keeping a running list in my head of all the things I was grateful for. One might call it my “How to Cope with Prostate Cancer” list. 

First, I was grateful that we had excellent health insurance. Second, I was grateful that owning my own business meant my schedule was flexible. Third, I was grateful my husband was retired. The fatigue resulting from his radiation therapy would have been difficult had he still been working. 

Finally, I was especially grateful for the camaraderie of the other cancer survivors and their family members. Married, without children, and not having family in the area, any time I’d waited in the family waiting room of a hospital, I’d felt like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole – frightened and alone. But that wasn’t the case here.

With radiation five days a week, we saw the same faces daily. Chatting with a few of them, I learned a little about each one, and they got to know a little about me. Like the lady who shared that she had to drive 75 miles each way, alone, for treatment. A few days later, she shared that she had discovered a housing program just for people who had to travel a long way for treatment. This made me grateful there was an excellent cancer center not far from our home. 

Sitting in the waiting room, I learned other things too. First, cancer does not discriminate by age, as proven by the number of young children awaiting treatment. Cancer does not discriminate by gender, race, or class, as people of various nationalities, gender, and income brackets waited alongside me. Nor does cancer care whether you are politically aware, or even politically correct. 

When Ronnie rang the bell to signal his treatment had ended, my mind touched on that place inside me where fear constantly lived. As I await the next health crisis, I have faith that we will weather that one also. After all, we are both retired military veterans – warriors. Warriors fight. They also win.


Carol GeeCarol Gee, a retired university administrator, is author of a series of humorous “girlfriend” books. Her most recent is Random Notes (About Life, “Stuff” And Finally Learning to Exhale). To learn more about Carol, visit her blog, Venus Notes, at VenusChronicles.net.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2020.