No, not all men affected by prostate cancer are straight and no, my wife will not be picking me up after treatment.

I just read an entry from Nick Wright on the Prostate Cancer UK blog entitled “Life after prostate cancer – it’s about more than surviving”, which, for me, was very inspiring. I liked the piece. I even clicked on “Like”. I’d recommend anybody interested in prostate cancer read it. But, there’s always a “but”.

I have often been inspired and encouraged by things I’ve read and heard over the last two years since first having the word “cancer” mentioned to me by my GP. On almost every occasion that inspiration has soon dissipated when the realisation dawns that, once again, what’s being spoken or written about is done without any thought that people like me might be affected by this disease.

The assumption always made is that a man with prostate cancer (a) must have a partner and (b) that partner must be a wife. Why?

Nick Wright’s piece was no exception. For example “The wives of the men on the programme played a key part in its success. And it soon became clear that they were having a tough time too”.

Nick, if you are reading this, my male partner of 30 years is having a hard time. He’s supported me all the way and is having to cope with the big changes in our life himself. He would also benefit from the great support you mention (and it is great support by the sounds of it). Language can be very inclusive and positive. It can also be very exclusive and negative.

As advised in the last paragraph of Nick’s blog entry, I did contact Prostate Cancer UK a few months back to see if there were any plans to start some sort of a support group in the London region for gay and bisexual men affected by prostate cancer. The reply amounted to “there’s no demand”. Apparently, there is demand in Birmingham where Prostate Cancer UK were recently looking for a support worker for a group it was setting up there.

I’m no expert on demographics, but I reckon it’d be a fair bet to say the London region has a larger population of gay and bisexual men than Birmingham and that it would follow that there’d be a larger number of us likely to be affected by prostate cancer in London than in Birmingham. Of course, it’s possible the person at PCUK who responded to my enquiry didn’t have a clue and genuinely thought London doesn’t have a large gay population. A bit like the old days when it was believed you’d only find a “homosexual” if there was a theatre in the town. For info, London has lots of theatres.

Luckily not everyone at PCUK is so totally unaware and unworldly. The organisation has recently published some excellent information for people like me – http://prostatecanceruk.org/information/living-with-prostate-cancer/gay-and-bisexual-men , so there is hope.

It has also provided some help to at least one of the other two groups that have started in the UK in the last year, in addition to the one mentioned in Birmingham. A year ago there were no groups in this country for gay and bisexual men affected by prostate cancer, today there are three – the other two being in Manchester (Out With Prostate Cancer) and Greenwich in South-East London (Metro Walnut).

Our NHS still has a long way to go, too, when it comes to understanding that not all men with prostate cancer are straight. I’ve met some people in the NHS who have been instantly supportive when finding out I’m not straight. Unfortunately they’re still a minority. One Consultant genuinely wanted to know how prostate cancer was different (not worse) for a man who isn’t straight and was very interested when I explained. He is one of the people who is now attempting to start a support network in a region very near London for gay and bisexual men affected by all forms of cancer. At the other end of the spectrum I’ve had to repeatedly explain and repeat several times to the same people that “no, my wife will not be picking me up after treatment, my male partner will”. Assumptions being made are bad enough but when the same people insist on referring to my non existent wife it becomes very trying.

I didn’t used to bang the gay drum, well not as loudly anyway, but when you’re affected by something as major as cancer you tend to ask yourself why you’re still putting up with being ignored and excluded by organisations that are supposed to treat us all fairly and with dignity and respect. Having asked myself I decided I would no longer just out up with it. That’s one reason why I’ve written this.

Information on the three groups that currently exist in the UK for gay and bisexual men affected by prostate cancer can be found at the end of Prostate Cancer UK’s Prostate facts for gay and bisexual men.

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7 thoughts on “No, not all men affected by prostate cancer are straight and no, my wife will not be picking me up after treatment.

  1. I am a Homoeopath, Homoeopathic practitioners treat the person who is sat in front of them -it makes no difference what their gender or sexual preferences are……it is the person who is important….It is about who you are NOT what you are…..Please investigate Homoeopathy and its treatments, the only negative is the people who are ignorant of it and its value. Pat

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    • Hi Pat,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’d never dismiss Homeopathy, but I wonder how it could be applied to any sort of cancer?

      I can sort of see how it might help relieve some of the many side effects of both the disease and its treatments (which vary depending on the cancer) but I don’t know if there are any proven homeopathic treatments. Are there?

      I daresay you, as a Homeopath, do treat the whole person.
      “Regular” medical professionals probably aim to do similar – by that I mean they don’t consciously differentiate and disadvantage a patient due to the patient’s sexuality. However, not to take the patient’s sexuality into account is part of the problem, whether it’s a Homeopath or a “regular” medic doing it.

      Certainly, with prostate cancer, the patient’s sexuality should (in my opinion) be a consideration due to the way the disease and the treatments affect the patient.

      To put it bluntly, most straight men would not end up being the receptive partner during penetrative sex, whereas many (not all) gay men might. Consequently the procititis caused by, say, radiotherapy is likely to have a greater impact on a gay man than a straight one. There are other ways that gay and bisexual men are affected differently.

      I hope that if you do have a gay man with prostate cancer come to you for help that you would take his sexuality into account. This is one area where it is very relevant.

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      • Thank you for your reply….
        Because of the -ve press that Homoeopathy receives from some areas of the medical (&non medical) profession I do have to be careful what I say. The first thing to say is the male anatomy is no different whatever sexual preferences are….it doesn’t change….. The second thing I will say is that I call Homoeopathy a complimentary medicine -NOT an ‘Alternative medicine’ and as a Nurse of 30 years + I believe that there is no reason whatsoever that conventional medicine and Homoeopathy could not be combined for the good of the person who is suffering from whatever ailment they are diagnosed with.
        As to how homoeopathy can help a person who is diagnosed with Prostate cancer, (or any other ailment) believe me it can in many ways……I will not and can not be specific; however I can say that mainly because the person is looked at as ‘an individual being’ – who in the case we are generally discussing happens to have Cancer of the prostate – dealing with every person as an individual whole being, every Physical, Mental, and Emotional aspect of their life, taking up to 2 hours for the first consultation alone, giving time to be listened too, not being put on the ‘treadmill of fear’…I have also done work in a hospice -I am aware what people have been through in the process of diagnosis…..it is not always pleasant, and many are frightened to ask questions,many don’t know what to questions to ask … being unaware that their are actually choices ….and it would be much better if there was an informed choice to be made……..as you will be aware the statistics state that many more men die WITH prostate cancer than FROM it….
        Homoeopathy can work alongside any conventional treatment for cancers.. If in doubt please try it for yourself.. make your own decision…in the meantime please have a look at the work of Rene Caisse and Essiac – http://www.essiacinfo.org/ it makes a very interesting read…..Thank you for listening, Pat

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  2. Pingback: Prostate Cancer UK | Living with prostate cancer as a gay or bisexual man

  3. Hi Jim

    I’d actually love to do a follow up blog with you and also the Metro Walnut group to talk about what gay and bisexual men think about prostate cancer services they receive are like and to also talk about how support is building but there’s still a long way to go. If that’s something you’d be interested in taking part in please pop me an email at nicholas.wright@prostatecanceruk.org and we can sort out when would be a good time for us to chat.

    Thanks
    Nick

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  4. Dear Jim

    I am indeed reading! Thank you for your response to my article and I am touched you found it inspiring. I would like to apologise if I did cause you or anybody reading any offence. When writing the article, it was specifically about the group in question and in this instance all of these men identified how important this programme was for their wives (their words), which is why I mentioned those words in particular. We absolutely provide services for all men – if they have a partner not a wife, a male partner or no partner, and I completely agree we should be inclusive in our language. In this instance I just wanted to make sure I used their words.

    I’m really sorry to hear your partner is struggling and I wanted to get in touch to tell you how we’re here to support you and your partner, and also how we’re supporting other gay and bisexual men. I’m glad you mentioned support groups and the Metro Walnut group, as we are funding this group. It was set up for gay and bisexual men in London and the South East to explore and determine support needs in terms of a prostate cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. The group is initially a pilot and once the outcomes are known (around the summer of this year) the plan is for the Metro Centre to work on a proposal for a longer term intervention for gay and bisexual men. It’s hoped that the group will continue as an independent support group once the funding comes to the end. There’s a bit more blurb about it here https://www.metrocentreonline.org/news-and-events/news/detail/?news=92

    Out with Prostate Cancer also got in touch recently about an article for our Progress magazine around the development of support for gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer, which as you mentioned has grown from no groups to three in a year. So we are making sure we work with these groups, not only to promote their great work but also ensure gay and bisexual men don’t feel like they receive a second class service.

    One of our mantras is that men deserve better and we mean that for any man, regardless of their sexuality. I know myself or any of our team would love to chat more about the work we do. And our Specialist Nurses are always here for you too.

    I hope to hear from you and thanks again for your feedback. I do really appreciate it as it’s always good to know people are reading!

    Kind regards
    Nick

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    • Hi Nick,

      Thanks for your great reply! And thanks also for reading my blog. I agree, it’s nice to know someone is reading and I’m not just ranting to myself.

      I know that Prostate Cancer UK, like the NHS, Is trying to provide services to all men equally and fairly. As organisations they are doing their best. Trouble is that what is intended to happen doesn’t always happen. I daresay some of the people I’ve come into contact with have been on training courses and diversity awareness programmes but they still assume when the patient / client is sitting in front of them. Things have got better but there’s still a long way to go.

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