Not Your Average Caregiver – Part II

Part II – A HIFU Spouse’s HIFU Story

Maryann started her story last month on the blog talking about what it was like when her husband, who is also a urologist, Dr. Herb Riemenschneider was diagnosed with prostate cancer. She continues her story here.

Choosing HIFU

“Once we made the decision, I immediately felt a sense of peace,” said Maryann. “I knew we weren’t out of the woods, but I also knew that we had done all we could and that we made an educated decision that we both felt good about.”

In the end, they chose HIFU, which stands for high intensity focused ultrasound, with a device called the Sonablate.

Maryann felt like having the treatment itself was the easy part. “We had a plan and we executed it.” 

At the time of her husband’s HIFU treatment in 2014, it was not yet FDA approved (that came in October 2015) and so Maryann and Herb traveled to the Bahamas with Dr. John Jurige to have the outpatient procedure.

“My biggest anxiety was not around having HIFU, it was actually just normal travel anxiety, like keeping up with passports and the logistics of traveling,” said Maryann. “But once we were there, we actually enjoyed ourselves a lot and our biggest concern on the day of Herb’s HIFU treatment was where we should have dinner afterwards.”

Maryann shared that the day after the procedure she expected to relax with her husband and maybe even check out some sights or sit by the pool, but her husband decided to go back over to the hospital so he could observe more HIFU cases with Dr. Jurige. “He was over there all day and had a great time. He went from doctor to patient and then right back to doctor,” said Maryann.

According to her, it was such a relief when it was all over. “Having him feel as good as he did after HIFU made me feel so good about everything. I had cleared his schedule for a few weeks for him to take his time coming back to work, but he barely took any time off at all. I realize it sounds unrealistic or even unbelievable but that is what it was.”

Back on the Other Side

Now when Maryann talks to men about their treatment options she can talk about HIFU from firsthand experience. She is careful to tell people it’s still about what is right for them personally, but if they are interested in learning more about HIFU, she is happy to tell them what she experienced.

“It is surprising how many people still don’t know about HIFU as a treatment option. When I tell them about it, and then tell them about our HIFU treatment experience they often can’t believe it,” said Maryann. “I always also try to explain that there is no ‘perfect’ treatment for prostate cancer. There is always a risk of failure or reoccurrence.  But with HIFU you still have lots of options for treating a reoccurrence.”

Her Advice to Others as both Spouse and Nurse

“First, I tell people to take a deep breath,” said Maryann.

She goes on to say that the best thing people can do, in her opinion, is to do their own research and certainly don’t ignore the problem.  She also recommends asking about all the treatment options and learn about the risks and benefits of them all.

“Each man needs to figure out what is most important to him. I tell people to do a lot of listening and bring their research to their doctor for discussion. When they are educated and know what is MOST important to them, then things start to come together and it feels right,” said Maryann. “Also, a good doctor will ask, ‘what is most important to you?’ and that will help guide the conversation and ultimately the decision.”

Unfortunately, according to Maryann, there are still some doctors that automatically will schedule surgery and not ask too many questions. “This is just scary. If a doctor does that, I would hope that the patient would find another doctor to get a second option from.”

“Lastly, I tell people to take their time. Too many times I have heard a man say, ‘I wish I had taken more time to make a decision’ and so I try and advise people to not rush anything too quickly,” continued Maryann.

Life After HIFU

Now a days, 5 years after being a HIFU patient, Dr. Riemenschneider and Maryann are starting to think about slowing down so they can spend more time with their grandkids and travel together more without the pressures of running a practice hanging over their heads.

Maryann, Herb and their children

They both feel pretty grateful about choosing HIFU as a treatment for prostate cancer. “It was the right thing for Herb. In fact, we haven’t had very many people who have ever expressed any regret over choosing HIFU.”

Miss Part 1 of Maryann’s story?

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