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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - 46

It could be you....   

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.


How do I tell my pregnant daughter that I have cancer?

I am 61 and about to become a grandfather for the first time. My daughter is due to have her baby at the end of the month. She is our only child, so we have been waiting for this moment for some years.

Five weeks ago I had a routine check-up with my GP and was sent for tests at the hospital to check if I might have prostate cancer. Four days ago I learnt that the results show positive and I have to return to hospital next week to hear about my treatment. I’m told I have a common kind of cancer that could be low-grade, inactive or aggressive at the moment, but it still feels like a death sentence.

It is hard to describe everything that has been crowding into my mind these past days, but I cannot think of how to tell my daughter. We have always been very close; she came to football with me, on fishing trips, spent hours helping in the garden and planted potatoes in the holes I made. We saw her and her husband last week and they were full of how much they were longing for the baby to be born, to see our faces when we meet him or her for the first time.

But how can I tell my daughter? She needs all her strength and attention now on giving birth. And after that, I can’t tell her when she needs time to recover, to get to know her baby, to be the centre of attention for a while.

I am so scared of what will happen to me, of what my wife is having to go through and of upsetting and frightening our daughter.

What am I to do?

Maggi answers

I am so sorry you have had to deal with such news at what should be a joyful time for everyone, but I am struck by how close you sound as a family. This is where you are going to find the strength to get through your treatment, whatever form that will take, and the very tough task of breaking the news to your daughter (I shall call her Sandy).

From what you tell me, I am sure that Sandy is going to be a tower of strength for you and your wife in coming to terms with the cancer diagnosis and what lies ahead.
Of course, you will be in shock at hearing the news of your illness, discovered through a routine general health check like so many men, my own husband included.

Thank goodness you took that vital decision. When we are in shock our minds work overtime in trying to come to terms with the news, make sense of it and think about what to do next.

It is always best to try not to rush into any decision at this stage, but allow yourself to stabilise your emotions a little. When you feel calmer and start to accept the situation, you will be more ready to ask questions of your doctors about what happens next in your treatment schedule.

A lot can change in a few days. Given a calmer outlook and more information, you might feel ready to think about how and when to tell your daughter. It will be very hard, no matter when you chose to say it, but it sounds as though you are a family who can share the emotional ups and downs rather well, so do not be afraid.

Your daughter is a mature woman and although her own emotions will be all over the place at times because of pregnancy, she will be more than ready to comfort and support you. She may want to know where you are if you aren’t visiting her. She could pick up on your mood. If she asks if something is worrying you she will want to know.

You say at the moment it feels like a death sentence. This is understandable, as such news is a shock that we all fear hearing. Prostate cancer treatments are many, varied and highly effective, restoring many men to good health for years. Many men live into old age and die with prostate cancer rather than because of it.

The baby isn’t due until the end of the month, so there will be time to tell your daughter, allowing her to deal with the initial shock, ask questions and start to come to terms with the news before her ‘big event’. Sandy is pregnant, she is not ill. After the baby is born, it could be a little while before she feels back to normal energy and strength, but other than that you have nothing to worry about in telling her.

She will be upset and frightened by your news, but you will be able to help her focus once again on her baby, your grandchild.

General information on prostate cancer

Lots of people think the prostate has something to do with regulating the flow of urine, because if it develops a problem, urination can become painful or difficult. The prostate is actually part of the male reproductive system and secretes prostatic fluid, one of the 5 major fluids that make up semen. It is a small gland, about the size of a golf ball in the adult male, situated between the bladder and the urethra. It will begin to slowly enlarge in middle age, sometimes causing pressure on the urethra and changing the urine flow.

Prostate problems can make the gland enlarged or become inflamed. Some prostate problems are more serious than others. Cancer, being the most serious one, needs to be identified and possibly eliminated as soon as a problem occurs. Around 90% of cases of prostate cancer occur in men over the age of 60. The symptoms of prostate cancer are often similar to less serious conditions.

Typical symptoms are:

  • A frequent need to urinate, especially at night

  • A need to rush to the toilet, so that you may even wet yourself at times

  • Difficulty starting to pee

  • Straining or taking a long time to finish

  • A weak flow

  • A feeling that your bladder has not emptied properly

  • Pain on peeing

  • Pain on ejaculating

  • Pain in the genitals

    I have taken this information from the Prostate Cancer Charity website. It is an extremely easy site to navigate and is full of clear, comprehensive and up-to-date information with links to other sites you may find helpful. Visit the .

    To be put in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, call the Helpline on 0845 300 8383.



You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

To view previous articles in this series - see the Relationship Counselling Index page




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