Four years ago, Cindie Hubiak embarked on the most difficult journey of her life. Actually, it was more like she got drug along to a cold, dark and lonely place where she never wanted to go. The thing is, between here and there she discovered herself. Now, she is helping others find their way too.
It all started with the cancer bomb.
Hubiak’s husband, Steve Frohman, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After the initial shock of the diagnosis and the roller coaster of hospitals and treatment, the Scottsdale, Ariz. couple found themselves teetering on a razor-thin edge of marital ruin.
Hubiak is author of “A Woman’s Guide to Thriving After Prostate Cancer.” (2011, paperback $19.95) The book looks at prostate cancer from a woman’s perspective as the primary caregiver. Hubiak says she wrote the book to heal some deep emotional feelings and to help other women heal themselves and their relationships.
“I struggled in silence for years after Steve’s diagnosis,” she said. “Writing was therapeutic because it caused me to look at myself. I was reacting to Steve’s prostate cancer in some really unhealthy and ugly ways. I don’t want others to struggle,” she said, “so I wanted to share the techniques I learned that has helped me to thrive.”
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in American men, according to the American Cancer Society. There are currently more than two million U.S. men who are living with, or are cancer survivors. This year, 218,000 new cases will be diagnosed. Hubiak says that is a lot of women -- be it wife, partner, co-worker, mother, or daughter -- who are also affected by the disease.
More than ever before, thanks to new therapies, prostate cancer survivors are beating the disease, but they still face significant emotional, psychological and physical challenges.
Experts say most men experience some sexual dysfunction regardless whether the nerves were spared during prostate surgery or the most precise dose planning is used during radiation therapy. Problems may include erectile dysfunction, difficulty reaching orgasm, decreased intensity of orgasm, pain and leaking urine at orgasm.
“We aren’t the ones who have had cancer, but prostate cancer also impacts women from a physical, emotionally, and spiritual perspective as we travel on the journey with our man. After the cancer is treated, the impact continues to affect the man and his significant others in a variety of ways,” she said.
In the wake of prostate cancer, Hubiak said she found herself depressed and angry and that caused her to blame Steve for her pain. “I looked to him to be the problem solver because it was his cancer. As a result, Steve withdrew from the relationship to heal himself.”
The couple went through a downward spiral of withdrawals and attacks, until Hubiak says she and her husband were more like roommates. The intimacy had evaporated along with the closeness they once felt in their relationship. They weren’t talking like they use to, or for that matter, spending time with each other.
“I tried to reconcile that with the fact that I had a husband, that Steve was alive and cancer-free, but that just wasn’t enough,” she said.
Hubiak said coming to terms with the full reality of the disease is a process each person experiences in his or her own way. Women, like men, need to grieve their loss and work to heal mind, body and spirit to find peace so they can reconnect as a couple. “After we accept it’s a whole new world for us now, it is possible to thrive as individuals and as a couple who has survived prostate cancer."
Today she and Steve are sharing their message of hope at Solutions for Intimacy, an organization they founded to help other individuals and couples dealing with similar intimacy issues they faced following prostate cancer. For more information, http://solutionsforintimacy.com
Lynette Summerill, an award-winning writer and scuba enthusiast lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and two canine kids. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in newspapers and magazines around the world.
Cindie Hubiak, A woman’s guide to thriving after prostate cancer; personal interview 10/14/11
American Cancer Society. Prostate Cancer Statistics accessed 14 Oct. 2011 at http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/ProstateCancer/DetailedGuide/prostate-cancer-key-statistics
Prostate Cancer Foundation. Prostate Cancer FAQs. 14 Oct. 2011 http://www.pcf.org/site/c.leJRIROrEpH/b.5800851/k.645A/Prostate_Cancer_FAQs.htm
MD Anderson Cancer Center, Sex and the Male Cancer Patient. 14 Oct. 2011
Reviewed October 18, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith