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

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