Faces of Prostate Cancer
Although it is a male disease, the effects of prostate cancer can adversely affect the women in their lives. As a result, loving wives, daughters, and mothers alike are often left with feelings of powerlessness in responding to the situation.
Kara Deschenes, 31, knew this feeling intimately after learning of her husband’s shocking diagnosis of prostate cancer at the young age of 38. As the primary caretaker of the Deschenes home, she quickly had to refocus her priorities to keep her family above water.
“I think women are naturally nurturing and motherly that we want to just take the pain away,” said Kara, a middle school literacy specialist in Florida. “In the case of Dave’s cancer, there was absolutely nothing I could do. The one thing I could do was to give him peace from my side and lend my support.”
Dave’s diagnosis was initially brought to the Deschenes’ attention the month of his 38th birthday during a routine physical. Because his father had prostate cancer, Dave’s odds for having it were doubled. His doctor wanted to check his PSA level to begin a baseline for future check-ups.
When the results returned a PSA level of 8.1, there was reason for concern. A biopsy one month later confirmed that Dave indeed had prostate cancer in four of six quadrants sampled from his prostate.
“Immediately I began crying when we found out the results from the biopsy – it was devastating,” recalls Kara. “Before the test results came back, Dave didn’t want to think prostate cancer was even a possibility. But after hearing the news he was very angry and wanted to know why this was happening to him.”
Already upset with his diagnosis, Dave felt frustration with his wife’s tears. He was hoping she would be able keep things together. From then on, Kara sought to find a different way to deal with her worries in an effort to ease her husband’s anxiety.
“I knew at that moment he was just speaking out of fear and anger,” said Kara. “His frustrations also said to me that I needed to put my own feelings on hold. I wanted to be there to support him and not burden him with my own grief.”
It is important for caregivers of individuals being treated for cancer to remember not to neglect themselves and also find time out of the day to take stock of their own feelings. Finding pleasant things to do, if only for a few moments, can help the mind recharge and lift one’s spirit. It is also recommended that caregivers give have an outlet for their own feelings by using such avenues as exercise, support groups, or connecting with friends and family.
For Kara, running a few times a week became that much needed outlet for relieving the stress. She leaned on her mother and friends for advice and as a way to voice her concerns.
“Having that support system was really important to help balance my own emotions since all of those feelings were foreign to me,” said Kara.
In 2007, Dave elected to have a laparoscopic robotic prostatectomy to remove his prostate. The road to recovery was long and rough for the couple. Kara particularly remembers how unpleasant the first few weeks were for Dave when he had a catheter.
During this time Kara would invite friends and family over for company and to cheer up her husband. The couple also took walks together, discussing their feelings with one another.
Today, fully recovered from the surgery, Dave experiences none of the side effects associated with a prostatectomy. And since recovery, Dave has become a passionate triathlete - completing two half Ironman triathlons.
In retrospect Kara credits prostate cancer as giving the couple a true life wake-up call. Conceding such an awakening usually occurs later in life, Kara declares the two now have a new lease on life.
“When you go through a situation that could take away the person you love, you take a step back and think what am I doing with my life,” commented Kara. “It really makes you think about what is important--that’s what prostate cancer did for the both of us. He and I now have an outlook that it’s just so important to enjoy life each day.”
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