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Prostate Cancer

How it affects others

Men often received great support from family, friends and from members of support groups (also see 'Support groups'). However, when men spoke to people outside the family about their prostate cancer they were sometimes met with a mixed reaction. Sometimes other people could not understand why men with cancer looked 'normal', expecting them to look ill. Being open about the diagnosis could make it easier for other people to discuss it, although one man recalled how his drinking friends had not let him discuss it seriously. Although some men said that people had not reacted differently because they had cancer, others said that people still found it very hard to raise the subject.
 

Explains that he had terrific support from good friends alongside his family.

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Age at interview: 56
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 55
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We had an amazing amount of support from friends and family, that was an enormous bonus and I suppose on the sinister side and what worries you when you go off to hospital you worry like blazes about who's left at home whether it's your wife, whether it's your parents, whether it's your children or whatever, whoever you've left at home is your worry and I was incredibly heartened with the amount of support they got and you did feel that if this doesn't go the right way at last they've got plenty of support.

From friends and?

From friends and family yeah really terrifically good friends really came up, really came up trumps and that was very, very heartening.

 

Comments that some people are still very negative but support from others can be brilliant.

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Age at interview: 65
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 63
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You sometimes find there is a strange attitude in that direction and again you find that some people say 'How are you?' you know, wondering how your cancer is, and it's almost you know 'You do look well,' and it's almost the sort of big surprise as to 'Oh you're still with us,' you know (laughs), you look at it and you think oh dear there's a bit of an attitude problem here. So you get mixed reactions from people, brilliant reaction from my fellow jazz enthusiast who gave me so much support and said 'Well look my treatment was this and I'm 15 years on now,' that was brilliant news. And I've found one or two other people since, because I will talk about it, and you find then other people have been through the same thing. And their support is brilliant.

 
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Describes how some found it surprising that he looked normal

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Age at interview: 63
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 62
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And how has people's reaction been to you?

Well they were quite surprised because I was fine, I was doing everything that I'd always done. I remember I play bowls and I was on the bowling green in a match one day and I just happened, it came up and I happened to tell somebody and he couldn't believe it (laughs). 'You can't be, you look normal,' well of course I look normal.

How do you feel when people react like that to you?

Well faintly amused I suppose, yes.

So it didn't change any relationships within the family?

No, no, no in no way.

 

Considers that people do not treat him differently after his openness about the cancer.

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Age at interview: 71
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 68
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But I make no secret to anybody that I've got prostate cancer which makes it much easier for everyone because if you don't they always know, I mean the grapevine gets around that you've got it and then you find that they're being extra cautious in talking to you. No I make no secret of the fact that I have got prostate cancer, I wish I hadn't but I have so there we are. People don't treat me any differently, I just say to them in the various societies 'Well I'm not going to be lumping these tables and things about'. I don't mind taking one in but I'm not going to lift them on my own any more because that does certainly bring about this strain and it takes me a few days then of taking Anadins or something to get rid of it. But it's not serious, no it's not serious.

 

Explains that he finds it difficult to talk about cancer as it is seen as a taboo subject.

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Age at interview: 59
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 59
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I don't know if being diagnosed with cancer anywhere in the body is something that people regularly talk about because cancer is a horror word and once you enter into that particular world people seem to clam up. You mention cancer and people don't react very well to it they just clam up and don't talk about it. I think prostate cancer is probably even more sensitive because it's that area which is personal, private and it's the area that you don't generally talk about. So having diagnosed with prostate cancer I found it very difficult initially to talk about it. 

But it is still one of those subjects that people find is taboo, you don't speak about it and I would hope that in the future with so much work going into cancers of various forms, so many societies, and so many places are now, you know, are bringing it to the fore, that it will generally be spoken about and then it will be far easier to approach curing it. 

One man had a particularly bad experience because some of his friends feared that cancer was infectious. Some men preferred to keep the subject of their illness largely to themselves, only telling selected friends. It was also suggested that men in general avoid discussing problems connected with their reproductive organs due to embarrassment or due to worry about their macho image.
 

Describes the extremely negative and uneducated reactions he has had from some people.

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Age at interview: 61
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 61
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I think it's the lack of education because if somebody has got cancer people are led to believe that you can turn round, if you touch somebody you're going to catch it. So if they are over the other side of the road and they're shouting to you there's no possibility of them catching you.

What makes you think that?

Well because it happened with us with two very good friends. We always went out once a month as a foursome, we used my car, they'd sit in the car and off we'd go, we'd sit at the table in the pub, have a meal. And once they knew I had this, it was a case of 'Well we're going out for a meal on so and so night we'll meet you down at the hotel,' and this, this is when you find out who your friends are.

So you think the friends didn't want to be in the same car with you?

No, no. [they didn't]

That must've made you feel bad.

It's terrible. Now, as I say it's sorted out, it sorts out who your friends are and who your friends are not you know and don't be afraid to talk about it. If somebody is going to know about it let them know about it from you and not from somebody else. Because the occasion happened where a local businesswoman, when she saw me she was put under the impression that I had 3 months to live and you can, this is true now, I only told 2 people initially and it went around the village, 'Poor old so and so he's got 3 months to live,' and we've known her over 30 years, she was crying on my shoulder you know. And it's not sympathy we want, it's just understanding.

 
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Explains that he has not experienced a sympathetic response from friends.

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Age at interview: 83
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 81
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Have you got friends who you can talk to, tell about the prostate cancer?

Oh they, like if you go, say sometime for a pint, they only take it, make it dirty.

What do they say?

They turn it into dirty things.

Do they. Why do you think they do that?

That's men yes.

Men, what do they, do they, I mean can you explain that, it's important I'm interested in how people react.

'Well what have you been up to?'

They say 'What have you been up to?' oh no. How does that make you feel, they make a joke of it?

Yes.

 

Considers that men should try to be more open about problems.

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Age at interview: 61
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 61
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I think a lot of men get embarrassed to talk to others and they still think they're the macho man and if they're in a crowd of men they're not going to be saying 'Oh well I've got problems,' and brag about it, if that's, you know if that's the word to describe it. I think men, they don't want to know because it's against their nature, they just keep going and going without complaining. Whereas women, if we took a leaf out of their books and went [to the doctor], I think that would be one of the best cures or at least one of the best step forwards that you could get where illness in the male is concerned.

 
Last reviewed July 2017.
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