Not Your Average Caregiver

Maryann’s Story – Part I
The Diagnosis

Maryann isn’t your typical prostate cancer patient’s spouse. 

Unlike most spouses of men diagnosed with prostate cancer, Maryann was very familiar with prostate cancer and she understood all the treatment options that were available.

That is because at the time her husband was diagnosed with localized prostate cancer, she had been running a successful urology practice with him for nearly 25 years.

She knew how important it is to take time in selecting the right treatment option for the patient instead of rushing to do anything too quickly. She knew all the right things to ask and do. That doesn’t mean it made a cancer diagnosis any easier.

“When we got confirmation that he had prostate cancer, I wasn’t all that surprised. We had suspected it because of his rising PSA. But my brain was really bouncing around as all my knowledge of urology of converging,” said Maryann. “Even though I have a better understand of prostate cancer than most, it was all clouded by hearing the words, ‘you have cancer.’”

Maryann had such a uniquely intense perspective because in addition to running the practice with her husband, Dr. Herb Reimenschneider, she is also a nurse and a patient navigator. Her job is to care for people and to help them navigate situations just like this one.  But this one was incredibly personal.

“It felt like a blessing and a curse to be so familiar with prostate cancer. The good news was that I knew that this was a very treatable disease and there were lots of options. But I also knew all the potential risks and sides effects of the treatments having seen them first hand in the patients we treated in our practice. I knew that sometimes men had to give up quality of life for efficacy,” continued Maryann.

She knew that choosing a treatment would be a very personal decision and that it would take time, but she was also very anxious to put it behind them. On the other hand, he was just very anxious to do the right thing for him.

“The fact that we worked in this field for so long, Herb really wasn’t all that panicked. Doctors follow a different path when it comes to their own health,” said MaryAnn.

Maryann explained that she had counseled many patients and spouses that they should take their time in talking to lots of doctors and determining what treatment was best for them. In other words, don’t rush into anything. But when it happened to her husband, she just wanted to do something quickly.

Take Time to Make a Decision

It was almost exactly one year between the diagnosis and when he received treatment for prostate cancer.

During that year, Maryann says that her husband went out and researched every single treatment available. This time as a patient, not as a treating physician. He flew all over the country and met with his colleagues to find the best doctors in each type of treatment.

Like all men, they wanted to find the treatment with the highest chance of a cure, that had the lowest risk of side effects. But this is not as easy as it sounds.

Every man is different and every diagnosis is unique. The good news is that there are lots of treatment options. The bad news is that there are lots of treatment options. “Even as insiders, we found all the treatment options very confusing,” Maryann continued.

“Then we talked about everything. I knew he would not be able to tolerate a long recovery and certain side effects, like incontinence, were just not something that we wanted to deal with at all. It can be so devastating,” Maryann said.

When they had done the research and talked to the experts, Maryann says they sat down as a couple and reviewed all the information together, “This was really helpful and nice. When you make this decision you really need to make it as a couple. I trusted him and knew he had to pick what was right for him.”

“It was hard to wait and get so many different opinions when I really just wanted to treat it and be done with it, but it was the right thing to do. Making this type of decision is very personal and shouldn’t be rushed into,” said Maryann.

Her Advice to Others

Her advice to others, “Take your time. It is your disease. Your desires. Your decision.”

“I have seen way too many people look back and wish they had taken more time to make a decision,” Maryann said. “I also encourage everyone to participate in their own decision-making. So often they see one doctor, and he says you need to do X and they do it, without ever exploring other opinions or options.  I do not recommend that.”

In the end, Herb and Maryann chose to have HIFU with Dr. John Jurige. He was a colleague, a friend and an expert in the minimally invasive therapy that Herb ultimately thought was best for him.

“Once the decision was made, I immediately felt better. About everything. It felt good to have a plan,” said Maryann.

Learn more about Maryann’s story in Part II of her story which goes to detail about Herb’s treatment experience with HIFU. Click here>>

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