From the Wife’s Perspective

"Man Sitting — Back View" (1964) Wayne ThiebaudLeonard Lopate on WNYC FM (93.9), just interviewed a gifted writer, Dana Jennings, who has been speaking — through columns/blog in The New York Times — with alarming frankness about the effects on his life of prostate cancer treatment protocols. Much of what he said yesterday (January 28th, around 1:30 PM) struck me as familiar and moving, almost a mirror image of what I’m trying to do with my book, How We Survived Prostate Cancer — a mirror in the sense of everything reversed. His story is the patient’s, while mine is the partner’s.

As someone who came to write a book about prostate cancer from the wife’s perspective, I first went looking for something to read that would get Dean and me through the treatment crisis; not finding that story, I wrote it. Jennings seems to have begun writing about prostate cancer for much the same reason.

He spoke of wives and caregivers who respond to his blogs; this is the flip side of the crisis that underlies prostate cancer treatment protocols. Partners can and do feel lonely, frightened, and overwhelmed, especially if the man in question, the patient, is — as my husband was at first — reluctant to share his own terror. Since then, he has become my partner in the writing of my book, so cancer, as with Dana Jennings, has been transformative for us as well.

It pleases me that what has sometimes been called “the good cancer” (there is no such thing) can be seen now as something much more complex, for which men — and women — are often completely unprepared. Mr. Jennings’ voice is helping men to speak without embarrassment, and I am relieved and grateful.

I hope women can learn to speak honestly on these issues too.

Image: Man Sitting — Back View (1964) Wayne Thiebaud

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