Prostate Cancer: A Love Story (Part 2)
In Part 1, Guy recalled getting diagnosed with prostate cancer and the process of making treatment decisions. Read Part 2 below.
Trying to maintain sexual health
With ADT as part of my treatment, I planned to follow the same regimen of producing frequent erections that urologists suggest for post-surgery patients. Without testosterone or libido, I envisioned this as being a passionless, academic exercise I'd need to grind through for 6 to 7 months to maintain sexual health.
I've heard both gay and straight men who are sexually active while on ADT say that being intimate with one's partner is important, as the partner's libido and support provides the needed drive.
I didn't feel I could ask Julie to be involved as she had suffered a stroke earlier in the year between PSA checks. I knew she was very focused on the scary process of her brain trying to rewire. Much had changed. A loving touch on her back or arm now triggered a full body flinch, the touch of my hands was "too hot".
She was fortunate not to have visible external limitations, but that did not make things any easier for her. I felt she had enough to deal with.
I felt lonely, then I became scared, and then angry that I would be facing treatment without support. I went to our cancer support group's social worker to blow off steam. She questioned whether I'd asked Julie how she felt about dealing with cancer. I had not. Big mistake. I had not given Julie the chance to decide her part in our living with cancer.
Opening up to each other
When I asked Julie what she thought about dealing with cancer, we began an incredible conversation. And then another. We both shared personal experiences and feelings we had not shared in our more-than 43 years of dating, living together, and marriage. We shared how we each had viewed our marriage and intimacy.
Julie assured me she would be there for me, and she was. Julie gave more than I'd ever dared ask for. Julie at age 73 and I at age 74 focused on each other and each other's needs almost like young lovers.
We explored Julie's new perception of touch. We stumbled through the learning curve of intimacy while I was castrate and without libido. We had some laughs since arousal without testosterone is very much a mental thing and can disappear instantly at the least distraction.
We knew what to expect, so it was never the disaster it might be for non castrate men. We could enjoy the closeness of the moment. We learned that extended foreplay is a good thing.
Exploring our new intimacy
And it has gone on from there as we explore this new intimacy. We are now 10 months out from the Lupron experience, and I seem to be going through a puberty as testosterone returns. Hopefully the quarterly PSA checks will tell us that we are leaving the cancer behind as well.
Prostate cancer has changed much in our lives; for the better in some ways. We are fortunate. No one who has been touched by a stroke or cancer moves on without some physical, psychological, or emotional damage, but we both have the comfort of loving support.
Have you gone to a pelvic floor physical therapist?