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This is one of several essays from my private cancer journal. It is not intended as anything than a record of my states of mind as I struggled with the disease and the effects of the treatment.



The Companions of PCa Men

man and woman hands clasped March 14, 2000

When I had the idea for a Web site about prostate cancer, it was based on the idea of "men helping men."

I thought that I could get the experiences of men who have faced the personal, emotional and sexual issues and archive them on the site and other men could come to the site in private and learn what others had gone through.

I had completely omitted their companions (wives, girlfriends, lovers) and I think my oversight - call it "blindness," if you will - reflects a common problem with PCa men.

In collecting material for the Web site, I have started to seriously read some what people are writing (mainly on the lists where there is spontaneity) and I am discovering (1) more women are writing about their situation than men. If fact, some women even say that they are posting their feelings without the knowledge of the husband, who won't talk about it. Men, meanwhile, are the technicians. They don't dig into their feelings and emotions about the cancer or the effect on the relationship.

(2) The woman's situation is different than the man's. She is more the silent sufferer, carrying the burden of both.

(3) The woman's situation is basically being ignored, which is exactly what I did when I started this site idea. My concentration was on the men. After all, WE have the cancer.

I thought of an analogy to alcoholics. The problem of the alcoholic is alcohol. The problem of the companion is the alcoholic. The alcoholic who fights his problem has his attention on himself. The companion has her attention on him and herself or the problem the alcoholic is causing in the relationship. The alcoholic may know of the problem but he feels that the "solution" is with his problem, the alcohol or let's say some drug that he is taking to combat the alcohol that is creating side effects. The companion feels the "solution" is the attitude of the alcoholic.

I watched an interesting movie the other night with Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia. I forget the name, something like "The Man Who Loved a Woman." Ryan was an alcoholic mother. Garcia was the father. She went to rehab and some AA-type support group. He went to a support group for those who were dealing with alcoholics. It was a well made movie and watching the dynamics of the two pointed out the differences. She was trying to get HER life together. He was trying to get THEIR marriage together. She left him, sending him to the support group to deal with it.

They are completely different dynamics and I don't think they are dissimilar to what is found in prostate cancer. That is why when I started the idea of this Web site, I omitted the companions. It never crossed my mind that Caren might write something for the site or that I might include material from companions about their role in the battle or how they see it. My view was that the problem being created by the PCa (the impotency) was analogous to the problem created by the alcohol.

Someone could get outraged at that remark, even though I don't say "similar" or even "same as." It is only an analogy and it is made only to show the plight of the companion.

Someone on the PCAI list said prostate cancer is a "couple's disease" and I think that is a good characterization. They are more than "support" for the man. They are more than someone who cares. They could be someone who has their own level of suffering and they have to be included in the overall approach to the emotional and sexual problems created by prostate cancer.

For example, a woman said on PCAI that companions could feel guilt because they are suffering yet who are they to complain when it is the man who is dying? One can only speculate how many companions feel like that but my guess is most. That is why they need their own level of support and need to be included in the PCa equation.

I wonder what the women of PCa men are really thinking? It would be interesting to find out.

RVY


[Since this essay, I added a section for companions to Phoenix5. You can access that menu by clicking here. It can also be accessed off the Main Menu.]

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This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not replace or amend professional medical advice. Unless otherwise stated and credited, the content of Phoenix5 (P5) is by and the opinion of and copyright © 2000 Robert Vaughn Young. All Rights Reserved. P5 is at <http://www.phoenix5.org>. P5's policy regarding privacy and right to reprint are at <www.phoenix5.org/infopolicy>.