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Helping Your Man With Prostate Cancer

CBN - Jul, 11 2007


MIAMI - When prostate cancer strikes, it's devastating news for a man. But the husband isn't the only one who is affected.

Wives also pay a price for prostate cancer. 

But for some women, the disease not only brought them closer to God, it also brought them closer to their husbands.

Miami couple Carlos and Ana Maria Diaz have the kind of life you read about in magazines: a beautiful home on the water, boat trips to the Bahamas, and a deep love for each other.

But earlier this year, the 59-year-old Carlos - who's always been the picture of health - was told that he had prostate cancer.

Carlos said, "It was a shock, never had any sort of cancer. I was sure that I was not going to have it."

"I believe that everything in life happens for a reason and it's God's," Ana Maria said. "And it was part of His plan, and we just needed to go along with it the best that we knew how."

What made it somewhat easier for the couple was that Carlos' older brother Paco had just had prostate cancer surgery in February and was recovering quite well.

In fact, the 60-year-old Paco was back on his bike with his wife Margarita just six weeks after surgery.

But when he was first diagnosed, the always-healthy Paco was devastated.

"And it was like they hit me with a 2-by-4 in the head," he said.

Margarita Diaz said, "The first thing you think of is, is he going to die? Is there a time limit here? What's the procedure? So I wondered about that, and also I worried about just our general relationship as husband and wife."

The side-effects of prostate cancer almost always include the inability to control one's bladder and impotence. Recovery times range from one month to sometimes more than a year.

Paco says his recovery is going well. He has total control over his bladder now, but he's still waiting for sexual function to return.

"I'm very at peace with what I am going through," he said. "We've been married for 25 years. Would I like to be sexually active? Yes. Would I like to be sexually active today? Yes. But if I'm not sexually active for another 6 months or a year, that's ok with me -- that's fine."

Margarita says that the experience has drawn her closer to her husband - and to God.

"I've always been a person of faith," she said, "Sometimes you're closer, like in all relationships. This was a time when I became very close."

Both Carlos and Paco decided to have a fairly new state-of-the-art surgery called laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, a minimally invasive procedure that dramatically cuts down on the amount of bleeding and pain that the man endures.

Miami surgeon Dr. Arnon Krongrad, who helped pioneer the procedure, performed the surgeries. He says women need to understand how prostate cancer affects a man, not just physically - but psychologically.

"It doesn't matter who the man is - he can be a high-powered attorney, he can be in charge of 10,000 people. The simple fact is that prostate cancer scares the man, first and foremost," Krongrad said. "It's a potential threat to his life. But prostate cancer - contrasted with many other cancers - can affect a man in a way that threatens what he sees as his manhood."

Krongrad says that women play a critical role in helping collect information about prostate cancer, looking at what treatment options and studies show - even keeping men alive.

He said, "We know that men with prostate cancer who are married live longer than men who have prostate cancer who are not married. What we don't fully understand is what the woman brings to the table. Perhaps that can explain a phenomenon like that."

Another critical role women play is providing emotional support. Newlyweds Fred and Nancy Ross, who have a home near Niagara Falls, also dealt with prostate cancer.

The 68-year-old dentist had had the laparoscopic prostate cancer surgery before he started dating Nancy and was fully recovered. Still, breaking the news to her was not easy.

Fred was reluctant to tell her because, he said, "it could possibly be a turn-off that this is a person who has cancer. A person who has cancer could affect lifestyle, could affect the level of intimacy. Maybe I was afraid that I wouldn't get the right answer."

But fortunately, Fred got the answer he was looking for.

Nancy said, "I think that Fred and I were lucky enough to meet at a time in our lives where it wasn't a huge issue, as far as I was concerned. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Fred."

Krongrad says that women play a crucial role not only in supporting the man emotionally, but also in urging their mates to get their prostate checked with a psa test, especially if he's over 50.

A PSA test measures prostate-specific antigen. PSA is produced by the cells of the prostate. The concentration of PSA in the blood provides an estimate of the risk of having prostate cancer.

Dr. Krongrad said, "Early detection is a key to effective management; women often bring that information. For example, a woman might often say, "Honey, it's time to get your PSA checked."

Carlos, who just had his surgery in April, says he's feeling great but is still waiting for full recovery.

"The most important thing is that God has given me a second chance in lif,e and I appreciate my wife more, my kids more," he said.

And while the loss of physical intimacy has been an adjustment, Anna Maria says it's also been a blessing in disguise.

She said, "I feel that our relationship has gone to another level that we never experienced before, because he's never been through anything like this before. and uh, it's sweet, that's the best word I can think of. It's like a whole different way of living our life. It puts perspective on other things other than just the physical, like there's more to it than just that."

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