Today is The Man’s 3 monthly check up with the Oncologist. As a direct result, I have to say shit’s been a bit weird around here lately.
You see, there is something they don’t tell you about cancer when they give you a diagnosis. Sure, they tell you all about the tumour, the treatment, the percentages of this that and the next thing (Cancer is apparently a real numbers game). But what they DON’T tell you is that cancer is not just a disease of the body. It’s a disease of the psyche too. After all, being faced with one’s mortality is not an easy cross to bear, especially at the age of 34.
Even in the case of those fortunate enough to be given the coveted rubber stamp of “remission”, the lingering fear of relapse is forever in mind.
I think the medical profession largely overlook this fact, especially when it comes to men.
Not once during the course of The Man’s testicular cancer (TC) diagnosis, surgery, treatment and consequent follow up has he ever been offered any form of counselling or psychological support. I find it particularly staggering given the facts that we know about men, serious illness and mental health.
Things we know:
- Men aged 35-44 have the highest rates of depression.
- Men are less likely to access mental health support services.
- Feelings of shock, anger, grief, loss and sadness are common with an unexpected serious life event and can put you greater risk of developing depression and anxiety.
- Approx a quarter of TC sufferers experience depression and/or anxiety.
- TC sufferers report loss of a testicle having adverse effects on psychological wellbeing, relationships, self image, sexual function and work life.
Small wonder then that sometimes living with The Man can be a little heavy!
Of course, we are extremely fortunate that his cancer was detected early and more intensive treatment wasn’t required. Perhaps that’s why these services have not been offered? Maybe it’s reasonable to expect The Man to just “go home and get better” (yes a doctor really did say that to him!) Perhaps it is because we went private and you are supposed to source these services yourself?
The fact is it really isn’t good enough. Organisations like Beyond Blue and Blue September do amazing work to bring attention to men’s health issues and reduce stigma around seeking treatment, both for physical and mental health issues. Mainstream medical services need to lift their game and get on board.
In any case, I do what I can to support my husband and on the whole, he has coped with his ordeal extraordinarily well. However, it extremely frustrating both as a wife, carer and informed health consumer, that more support has not been offered to help us on our Man Cancer journey.
Fingers crossed for a good report today!!
1. ABS,4326.0, National Stuvey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, 2007
2 & 3. Beyond Blue Men, Serious Health Events and Chronic Illness, http://www.beyondblue.org.au/resources/for-me/men/what-causes-anxiety-and-depression-in-men/serious-health-events-and-chronic-illness
4 & 5. The University of Sydney Psycho-Oncology Co-Operative Research Group (POCOG), Testicular Cancer and Quality of Life, http://www.pocog.org.au/content.aspx?page=Testicular cancer