Kristie L. Kahl
According to the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, nearly four million men live with prostate cancer in the United States – a number that is expected to increase to almost 4.2 million by 2024. While a prostate cancer diagnosis can have a variety of effects on these men, it is their partners who also take part in this journey as the unsung heroes.
In the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s first annual TRUE Love Campaign, actress Kristen Bell helped to select two women – Wendy Dyer and Lynsi Piar – to honor as caregivers of men with prostate cancer.
“I believe the greatest gift you can give is to help someone up when they fall, whether that be physically or emotionally,” Bell said in an interview with CURE
. “All of the brave people who sent in their stories have committed to that creed and I believe that deserves light and attention.”
In her submission, Dyer, of Jonesport, Maine, talked about her more than 10-year prostate cancer journey with her husband, Bill.
“My husband taught me valuable lessons about love and how love can carry one through even the darkest of times,” she wrote. “He showed me how to love myself and how to love life even when it throws a few curve balls at you. He modeled how to love unconditionally and how to find common ground with others instead of focusing on our differences.”
As a result, her advice to others is to focus on love. “We often seem to be focused on our differences rather than on the things that we share in common,” Dyer wrote. “Love is often missing from the equation in our interactions with others in this modern day that we live in. Perhaps if we all got back to focusing on love instead of our opinions, the world would be a better place and our lives would have more meaning. I believe in love because I have seen firsthand just how powerful that love can be.”
In her submission, Piar, of Millersburg, Ohio, shared her parent’s prostate cancer story – where both roles seemed to reverse throughout their journey.
“I’m writing about my dad who has stage 4 prostate cancer, but who has also become the most amazing caregiver for my mother who has suffered a stroke since my dad’s diagnosis, changing my dad from patient to caregiver in a blink of an eye.”
While choosing among hundreds of submissions, Bell noted that it was more than just the winners’ depictions of love that grabbed her attention most.
“Every submission offered a unique and special perspective on what it means to unconditionally give. It was very hard to choose,” she said. “But, in both of these particular stories, I was struck by their candor and honesty. Yes, they are stories of love, but they are also very real depictions of what it means to stand next to someone in a time of need. It's not always pretty. In fact, almost never. And both of these caregivers were open and vulnerable in sharing the full picture of their experience, which I admire and appreciate.”
In addition to the winners, an honorable mention was awarded to Warren Starks, from Casselberry, Florida, who shared how his pregnant daughter – who traveled across multiple states – cared for him during his journey. In his submission, he highlighted how she used laughter as a form of medicine to help him recover.
The winners received a “caregiver package” curated by Bell. The TRUE grand-prize winners’ packages included a $300 Amazon gift card, a spa gift basket, a snugly blanket, a board game and “This bar saves lives” bars. The runner-up packages included a $150 restaurant gift card, and a snugly blanket and board game as well.
Her Own Experience
Bell, who is married to actor Dax Shepard, has seen the true love of a caregiver firsthand – her father-in-law is currently dying of the disease.
“I have watched my beautiful mother-in-law tirelessly care for him at every stage, no matter how difficult. She has managed to remain unwavering in her positivity – despite a terminal diagnosis,” Bell said. “Knowing all of this will soon come to an end, she has maintained steadfast and confident that maximizing these few remaining months together is worth every moment of the hardship.”
For the men going through their own prostate cancer journey, Bell has one piece of advice: Love is a two-way street. “Allowing others to take care of you doesn't make you weak. Quite the opposite, in fact. Sometimes the strongest (and hardest) thing you can do in life is to let yourself receive help. Let those around you who you've shown love, give you love in return.”
And for caregivers, Bell says that caregivers need to remember that self-care is equally as important as taking care of your loved one. “Put your oxygen mask on first, so you can adequately assist others.”
The TRUE Love Campaign is set to return on Feb. 1, 2019. To read the winning stories and to learn more about the campaign, visit: https://www.pcf.org/true/