By Jeannie and Pratap Mehta
Looking back after ten years on how prostate cancer affected our marriage, the big picture emerges. We have been together nearly 60 years, and the cancer, treatment and recovery were challenges for each of us individually, as a couple and in our wider relationships.
Here are some of our memories of how prostate cancer knocked us off our loving path and how we got back on track. The bonsai trees in our backyard are a metaphor for our lives interrupted, and how we adapted to and accommodated what life presents to us, as best we can.
Jeannie writes – how prostate cancer affected me and our marriage
Last time I wrote “cancer can change a sensitive and loving man through fear and pride, into a selfish version of himself,” and Mish asked how we recovered from that. How did Pratap return to his usual sensitive and loving nature after his 2010 radical prostatectomy? I am grasping at remembered scenes and situations from ten years ago now.
He did not lose his basic loving sensitivity really, but he was obviously very stressed by the operation. What I felt was selfish was his decision not to share the news of having prostate cancer.
I was expected and wanted to support Pratap but he didn’t realise that I needed some emotional support too. Not sharing this news meant somehow I felt less of a friend towards my close friends, one of whom herself was dealing with ovarian cancer treatment options.
Dancer pose: I am still dancing , even at seventy seven
Self care as a partner
Attending to my own mental health at that time, I found great help in a book by Albert Ellis PhD, an American psychologist and psychotherapist. His book A Guide to Rational Living was recommended to me by a counsellor when I was buckling under the burden of Pratap’s cancer and other family issues. I recommend it! I still go back and consult it from time to time.
Throughout this difficult time, I kept a journal to write down all the emotional rubbish I was dealing with at the time. That helped enormously. So I would definitely encourage anyone going through a trauma like this to to keep a journal.
In the midst, as a thread through this, were yoga and meditation. These provided for me a sanctuary of peace, rest and grounding. The maelstrom of life was intense at that time. Without yoga and meditation, I would have buckled.
Empathy for men facing cancer, incontinence, ED and death
Prostate cancer affects marriage. It was a difficult time for me but even more so for Pratap. I understood why he wanted to keep it all secret then. It seemed he was struggling with the whole notion of being male questioned, if he had erectile dysfunction (ED) and the social ignominy of incontinence.
The question of facing death also hovered. A close friend and neighbour, Peter, committed suicide after his diagnosis as he feared the pain and outcome. All these aspects fed in to the mix of emotional turmoil, under the radar, as it were.