Joe Carabetta was 42 when he was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer in 1999. His doctors did a screening at a regular physical, followed by a biopsy, which showed cancer.

“It’s everyone’s disease,” says his wife, Anna Carabetta. “You have to be supportive of the patient going through it because physically they’re feeling it and mentally you’re feeling it.”

Treatment

Carabetta was 29 at the time of her husband’s diagnosis. After the shock wore off, she gained composure and did lots of research.

The couple visited many top doctors and hospitals. Joe Carabetta had radical surgery – the removal of the prostate gland. Doctors did a “nerve sparing” technique which gives the man normal sexual function after surgery

“He was so young and we’d just started our family,” says his wife. “My oldest was seven, my youngest was two.”

Their future was uncertain.

“My initial thought was he’d not going to make it and I would be a single mom,” says Carabetta.

The couple wasn’t done having kids so doctors encouraged them to freeze sperm before the surgery. They later had their fifth child, a daughter, by in vitro fertilization.

Family affair

Joe Carabetta goes to the doctor every three months. Since his initial surgery, he’s had three recurrences of prostate cancer. One time he had 45 radiation therapy treatments. Then three years ago, he had robotic surgery to eradicate affected lymph nodes, followed by 24 more radiation treatments.

“Don’t close your mind to the disease. Don’t be afraid. Fight it.”

His father, who’s still living, had prostate cancer in his 70’s. His sons, who are in their 20’s, will need screenings too.

Stigma

“Please don’t feel sorry for me.” That’s what Carabetta told a woman she met while volunteering for ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer, an organization committed to the first generation of men free from prostate cancer.

Carabetta says both men and women don’t talk about prostate cancer enough and she wants that to change.

“Don’t close your mind to the disease,” she says noting stigma can go away the more people talk it. “Don’t be afraid. Fight it.”