Health – ‘My husband died of prostate cancer’
The lack of symptoms in the early stages of this cancer means it can remain undiscovered until it’s too late. Zamokuhle Khanyile shares how she watched helplessly as her spouse succumbed to the disease.
It is with a very heavy heart that I share witnessing the diagnosis of my husband’s prostrate cancer and his swift death in the space of just ten days.
As a wife, it was an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody, just as he shared with me in his last week that “I wouldn’t wish this disease on anyone.”
Something really important to remember, though, is that he lived well before the ten nightmarish days while actively battling the pain. At the same time he still encouraged black men and their families to be proactive in battling the cancer and to live life to the fullest.
He said the best days of his life were those same ten days. He’d probably exclude the last two but until then, his days were mostly good. He always focused on what he could do rather than the losses, especially being robbed of having more family time.
The cancer was very aggressive and had spread throughout his liver and other organs quite rapidly over seven days and had been hormone-resistant for what seemed like a really long time too.
He must’ve known what was going on well before it became evident.
He often dismissed my concerns about him seeming over-tired, yet he wouldn’t go to the doctor. After all, he has never been a man who got sick. Or maybe he hid it from us just so he could appear like the strong man I always referred to him as. The cancer cells had spread to his bones about two years prior to the diagnosis and he experienced pain, but he kept working, lived his best life and even hiked frequently. Until the day I got that frantic call from him...
I was on the road. When I recognised his caller ID I thought of ignoring it because he’d been calling the whole day. But something inside me told me I should pick up. I heard painful groaning that would rip any wife’s heart into a thousand pieces if they heard their husband cry out like that. I pulled over. “Buya, ngiyak’cela, ngiyafa.” (Come back please, I’m dying). At first I thought he was just fooling around. But I could feel the pain in his voice. I immediately made a U-turn and sped home. It was worse than what I had imagined. He was lying on the floor in an awkward position. I’d never seen my husband cry, not even when his father passed away. When the doctor told us he had stage IV prostate cancer, it was like a slap from God himself. “Mrs Khanyile, there’s nothing we can do for your husband,” the doctor said to me. I already had a feeling, I just did not want to believe it. At some point he decided to stop treating the pain and it just got worse.
Ultimately, he opted to voluntarily stop eating and drinking, and from there, through sessions of extreme agitation and some horrible breakthrough pain, he started to slowly, intermittently, fade away.
I have to state clearly that physician-assisted suicide would have been a more humane option for all of us. It would’ve been a blessing. It also would have allowed our sixyear-old son to not have to implore: “Can’t God just take him away now?” And then he was gone …
Why couldn’t I push him more (to see a doctor)? I mean, the numbers are there for all to see. One in six men will have prostate cancer in their lifetime.
He didn’t get tested because he didn’t think anything was wrong. The problem is, prostate cancer warning signs are subtle (difficulty urinating, dribbling or excessive urinating at night). In fact, it typically doesn’t have any symptoms, which is why screening and testing are so important and that’s why it’s considered a silent killer.
For some black men, including my husband, there’s a reluctance to be screened because of how they view themselves. Some of the treatment for prostate cancer will impact sexual function, so men avoid treatment.
So he traded off dealing with the disease versus feeling like a man.
Once he gave up hope, it was ‘game over’. He decided to stop treating the pain shortly thereafter