Pratyusha (Prostate cancer): “Give as much love as we can.”

Cancer caregiver's story

Losing my husband to prostate cancer

October 2017 was both the happiest and saddest month of my life. It was the month my daughter was born, but it was also the month my 33-year-old husband was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. 

His silent symptoms had actually begun a couple months ago, but we didn’t realise anything. When I was about 7 months pregnant, he developed a cold and cough that wouldn’t really go away. We went to the doctor who said that it was a throat infection and prescribed basic antibiotics. After that, he was fine for a few days, but then the cold came back. By this time, along with the cold, he’d developed some difficulty waking because of pain in his groin area. He didn’t tell me anything because I was nine months pregnant at the time. Just a few days before our daughter was born, he’d gone to get some tests and scans, and that’s when he was told that what he had was most likely prostate cancer. Again, he didn’t tell me anything until our daughter was born on 25th October. He waited for me to recover from the delivery and then told me everything. I was shattered; it was just a cold that wouldn’t go away. How could it lead to cancer? I thought. Despite all my sadness, there was obviously no time to waste. My husband underwent a surgery to remove his right testes. This was followed by several rounds of chemotherapy.

His chemotherapy days were not smooth, but he’d still put up a brave front. He even went to gathering of cancer patients and spoke about his experience. I remember him going up on stage and telling everyone “Cancer has chosen the wrong person.” But despite his courage and bravery, things weren’t looking up for him. After the first few cycles of chemo, he had severe headaches. Scans revealed that his cancer had metastized to his brain. Doctors suggested he undergo Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). He tried this line of treatment as well. For a while, this worked — until it didn’t.

My husband’s last days were spent in an ICU; he had a brain stroke and had to be put on a ventilator. I remember him coming off the ventilator for a few days, he told me, “Pratyusha, don’t cry, I’ll be fine.” But somewhere I knew that he wasn’t going to make it. My husband passed away 2 days after our daughter’s first birthday. 

If there’s anything I have learned in these past couple of years, it’s that love is so essential to the process of caregiving. There were days I was frustrated but what I felt was not important because I knew that my husband was probably feeling way worse. That’s why I think we must give as much love as we can to the people who are sick. The rest we must leave to god. 

Pratyusha Khandelwal now lives with her 2-year-old daughter in Mumbai. Her mother takes care of her baby daughter while she is at work.