When my husband came home from the doctor with the news that he needed a biopsy to rule out prostate cancer, I was instantly worried. Not about the test coming back positive, rather about him becoming a basket case, obsessed with fear that he might have cancer. I couldn’t wait until he got the happy call and we could return to our normal lives.
I even minimized his concerns, “People get biopsies all the time and they usually come back negative. Besides, only old guys get prostate cancer.”
Turned out, I was wrong.
Not only was the biopsy incredibly painful (in fact, more so than any treatment to follow), the results were not the negative ones I had so confidently predicted.
When the doctor uttered the “c” word, I was in more shock than my husband. He had already accepted his fate. I, on the other hand, was dumbfounded and even suspicious, like the time my dentist told me I needed a crown right after he boasted about purchasing a new boat.
The doctor described the different types and stages of prostate cancers and how it’s not just one cancerous tumor, but actually a cluster of tumors. He went over treatment options and emphasized that prostate cancer was unusual in that it could essentially be “cured” by removing the prostate gland entirely with surgery.
I turned to my husband, expecting to see a shared look of relief, but there was none. Apparently, after the word, “cancer,” he had completely tuned out.
I understood that learning one has cancer is shocking news, but with this cancer and his particular case, it was totally treatable. Sure, the prostate gland, located just north of the penis, is in a pretty sensitive area and the surgery would result in some pain, but my husband was in good shape and would likely heal quickly, I figured.
What I wasn’t grasping at the time was just how fond men are of their penises. The very thought of something sharp coming close to it or the idea that something might interfere in any way with the way it functions, is to most men, terrifying.
But I didn’t get that then. I honestly believed that all he needed was a day or two to realize that this cloud had a great silver lining. Yes, he had cancer, but he would be fine. I was sure that my positive approach could eventually snap him out of it.
As he started to drive out of the parking structure I could tell he was looking for the exit. “It’s over there,” I said.
“Really? Are you sure?” he barked. “Because you were pretty sure my test would be negative and look how that turned out!”
Okay, clearly he needed more time.
After breaking the news to friends and family, my husband realized he was not alone. Everyone seemed to have a a relative who recently had prostate cancer. My dad had had it. His dad had had it. John Kerry, Joe Torre and Robert DeNiro had it. Fortunately, all the stories ended well.
We quickly became prostate cancer experts. I assumed that the more we knew and the more stories he heard with positive outcomes, my husband’s fears would be assuaged. I wouldn’t allow him to dwell on the negatives or worry. If he did, I’d quickly swoop in with an uplifting stat like that the fifteen year survival rate can be as high as 92%.