anthurium flower is a metaphor for sex after prostate cancer

Ahead of the Curve of Erectile Function

I am a pelvic floor physical therapist and have treated many people for sexual dysfunction. That includes men and women of all ages, with all manner of concerns regarding their sexuality.

I enjoy working with men who have undergone treatment to address a prostate cancer diagnosis. This is because they are confronted with a change in their sexual lives and are very open to suggestions in how to maximize their sexual function after fighting cancer.

Less sex than before

But let us go back and explore why this topic is relevant now. I used to work in New Jersey. I think many people who live in this region of the United States are confirmed workaholics. I admit to sharing this addiction to work when I lived there. Moreover, the climate is hard. It isn’t just that it is cold for much of the year, but the skies are grey, often for months at a time.

I treated many people with various diagnoses while I lived in New Jersey, and I found a commonality: most of my patients, both male and female, stopped putting the emphasis on sex in their relationships between the ages of 58-62. It was as though there was this vague and unspoken timeframe where people stopped engaging in sex.

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I don’t know how that timeline was created or why it evolved. Maybe it was overwork, long commute times, grey skies, having grandchildren, or just feeling beaten down by life in the Northeast that caused it. Why were people having less sex in the Northeast, I asked myself? I realized that my sex drive was extremely low. I believed this was normal, because my clients shared this same lack of interest. Maybe this was just part of living in a technologically advanced society, I thought.

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Potentially helpful tools for sex

And then I left New Jersey and moved to the state of Florida. Within a few weeks, I got a new job and was regaled with sexual stories from my clients there. What made this so interesting is that the people with the most interesting stories and experiences were those over 70 years of age. Many were in their 80s.

These people were having all kinds of sex, and they were utilizing the very same products that many men do after treatment for prostate cancer. Yes, I heard stories of penile pumps, cock rings, vibrators, penile implants, and prolonged oral sex when penetration wasn’t possible.

I was stunned by the interest of older adults regarding sex in Florida. Was it the sunshine, not having to work because of pension money, or the fact that the dating pool was lush with those over 70 who were not yet done with living? I didn’t understand it, but I didn’t care. I was thrilled that people were having orgasms. And so were they!

Sex and intimacy when things aren't perfect

Looking back at my clients in New Jersey who’d had prostate cancer treatment, I remember the conversations had about the use of penile pumps, cock rings, and finding alternate modes of intimacy. We were creative in problem-solving, because it was important to me and my clients that they maintained their sexuality.

These discussions resonate in my mind, because there was such trust involved. We were all working towards the same result, which was connecting with a partner intimately, and sharing sex in new ways that hadn’t heretofore been discovered.

I can now say with great conviction that it was my time in New Jersey with men who were in the throes of prostate cancer treatment who taught me and the world how to have sex when things are not perfect. These were the men who disclosed how they require penile pumps to maintain elongation and prevent shortening of the penis. They talked about how injections to create an immediate erection are not as scary as they sound. They told me that they became closer to their partners when they shared how they dislike losing urine instead of semen during climax.

Reinventing sex

Now I can look back on all I have learned from those with prostate cancer in New Jersey. It turns out that the guys who found solutions for sexual problems were actually ahead of the curve. These clients with prostate cancer understood the need to alter their sexual lives in order to preserve good relationships with their partners and themselves. They were forced to change by the circumstance of cancer.

When patients come to me in sunny Florida and ask questions about sex and they have difficulty maintaining an erection, I assess their age. Most of them are well over 75. When they ask me if they should be afraid of using a penile pump or dating someone if they cannot get a full erection, I tell them there is nothing to be afraid of.

I know this is true because I have spent hours with men who have survived prostate cancer. You are the men who were ahead of the curve. You reinvented sex for yourselves and your partners. You showed the rest of us what sex is supposed to be about, connection and release.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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