Robert Ginyard, a husband, father, and businessman who lives in the Baltimore area, clearly remembers the day when he learned he had prostate cancer. It was a Monday morning in 2010, and he was at work when he got the telephone call that would change his life forever.

Getting the Diagnosis

"My doctor said prostate cancer isn’t a death sentence, you don’t need to go out and buy black, but all I could hear were the words, 'cancer,' and 'death,'" says Ginyard, who was just 49 when he received the diagnosis.

He admits he felt overwhelmed by the news initially, and found himself going through a mental list of all of the things he needed to do, such as pay the mortgage, make sure his life insurance was in order, and look out for the future of his young family.

He also felt very alone, even though his diagnosis isn’t rare. In fact, there are 233,000 new cases of prostate cancer (and 29,480 deaths caused by it) every year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). ACS also estimates that this disease will affect one out of every seven men.

The Importance of Early Detection

The good news is that many men with prostate cancer do survive—as long as the diagnosis is made at an early stage. In Ginyard’s case, the disease was discovered during his annual exam and it was in plenty of time to treat it.

After reviewing his options with the help of his wife, Ginyard decided to undergo surgery to completely remove the prostate gland, which is located near the bladder and plays a part in the male reproduction system.

Coping With Side Effects

Removing the prostate meant that Ginyard couldn’t have any more children, although he could still have sex. "Although there was a bit of down time initially after the surgery, the surgery I chose (nerve-sparing) allows me to get and maintain an erection. It is important to choose a surgeon who has a lot of experience performing this type of surgery," Ginyard says. Nonetheless, after the surgery he found himself grappling with some unexpected side effects, including changes to his urinary function, sex drive, and mood.

Seeing how Ginyard was struggling to accept these changes, his wife encouraged him to connect with other prostate cancer survivors through an organization called ZERO: The End of Prostate Cancer, thinking that the support might help him to better cope with his feelings. He says now that she was right on the mark: "I instantly felt this brotherhood with the other men who had been through a similar experience," he reveals.

Spreading the Word

Today, Ginyard serves as a spokesperson for ZERO, promoting awareness of the emotional side of a prostate cancer diagnosis and stressing the need for men to have a support system in place to help them through the experience. In his case, he says his wife was instrumental in helping him handle the stress of the situation and ensuring he kept a clear head.

Putting it Into Perspective

Ginyard’s struggles to deal with prostate cancer and the after-effects of treatment are not unique, according to Neal Shore, MD, FACS, Director, CPI, Carolina Urologic Research Center. He points out that a recent study conducted by ZERO found that 64 percent of respondents reported their diagnoses had a moderate to severe impact on their social and emotional wellbeing. As many as 77 percent reported worrying about the future, and a similar number also said they felt better being involved in their treatment plan and decisions. But while the emotions can be overwhelming, Shore says that men don’t need to go it alone.

"What Robert did (in getting his wife involved in his treatment) is pivotal," Shore says. "Women are often better listeners and ask a lot of questions." He says that knowing what to expect, having all the facts to consider, and developing a proactive plan can often be very helpful for men.

What You Can Do

Ginyard and Shore both stress that men should make their own health a priority. "I am a big proponent for prostate cancer testing," Ginyard says. "If you can catch prostate cancer early, there is a great chance for survival." Since prostate cancer often doesn’t cause any symptoms, especially early on, it’s crucial to undergo annual prostate cancer screenings every year, which include a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test (this measures a protein produced by the prostate that is often elevated when cancer is present) and a physical exam of the prostate. The latter can be uncomfortable, but Ginyard points out that a few seconds of discomfort can be a small price to pay to catch prostate cancer at a treatable stage.

Finding the Good in the Bad

Ginyard also wants to tell other men that one of the most surprising things is that having prostate cancer has actually changed his life for the better: "Prostate cancer has helped me to evaluate what is important and what is not, and my family trumps everything else," he says.

He also admits, "I had to learn to love my wife in different ways. Now we have more romance, more talking, more hand holding, and more making love to each other mentally, and not just physically."

To learn more about prostate cancer, read other survivor’s stories, and explore treatment options, visit

Robert Ginyard, ZERO Spokesperson, and Neal Shore, MD, Carolina Urologic Research Center, reviewed this article.


"What is Prostate Cancer?" American Cancer Society. Last updated Sept. 12, 2014. 

"How Many Men Get Prostate Cancer?" American Cancer Society. Last updated Sept. 12, 2014. 

Ginyard, Robert. ZERO Spokesperson. Phone interview Oct. 29, 2014.

Shore, Neal, MD. Phone interview Oct. 29, 2014. 

Zero: The End of Prostate Cancer. Accessed online Oct. 31, 2014.