This is one of several essays from my private cancer journal. It is not intended as anything than a record of my states of mind as I struggled with the disease and the effects of the treatment.
By Any Other Name...
February 5, 2000
It finally came together.
The "dead end" that I ran into the other day where I was asking myself what woman would be interested in a relationship with a 60 year old impotent man dying of cancer has led me to this.
I don't know the answer to the problem but there are other men out there with the same thing digging into their guts and there are going to be more as the Baby Boomers age.
I did some prowling of the Net yesterday (including books available at amazon.com) and need to do some more but it is obvious that the social, sexual and emotional issues facing men with prostate cancer is not being addressed enough. I have no doubts that I will find sections of books that take it up but are there any by unmarried men with PCa who are struggling with this, men who know in their guts what it is like? I don't think so.
That's when I came up with the idea.
While learning more about this through books, the Web and the mailing lists, I am going to create a web site for men like me. I'll leave it to other sites and texts to deal with the physical side of PCa. I'm going to concentrate on the social, sexual and emotional issues. More than that, I'm going to find how men in this position can find companions and maybe even help those who already have one.
It is not right that we (the group I am part of) lose our social and sexual identities. I know personally what it feels like to have one's masculinity stripped away. It is more than "not being able to get it up." It cuts to the core of a man's identity as a man and I think it is not discussed because it is or has been identified with "getting it up." But it goes much deeper and those of us who are experiencing this know what I mean.
Perhaps women who are diagnosed with breast, ovarian or uterine cancer face the same sexual identity issues. It will be good to find out. Maybe there is something to learn there. But regardless, it will not be the same simply because men and women are different and it is time some men get to speak to the issue on behalf of themselves and their gender.
Here are some words that men fear:
The harsh language of men is laced with references to physical representations of our masculinity:
* Has or doesn't have the balls (to do something, meaning courage)
* Balls of brass (same, isn't phased by it)
* Hit in the balls (by something said, meaning very harsh or harmful)
* Balls to the wall (meaning doing something tough, meeting a challenge)
Regardless of one's moral or sociological view of such language, the fact is that many men identify their manhood or masculinity with their physical sexuality. And in recent years, that sexuality has come under attack. Men are "testosterone-driven animals" who "think with their dumb stick." Such remarks might provoke laughter or even anger but my suspicion is that there are a lot of men with PCa who have undergone surgical or hormonal treatment or face it who take a different view. I did and still do and I've met a few others who share that attitude. I'm guessing there are a lot of us who are no longer "testosterone-driven."
That is why I want to create a web site to address the issue.
I am not interested in being "politically correct" here and insisting that we be "sensitive" to such men in our society and change the male vocabulary. It would be the wimpy way out. It wouldn't be masculine.
Like it or no, crude or not, the language works. We don't need to change the language of men. We just need to change the men.
So in many ways, this enterprise that I want to do - creating this Web site for other men with PCa - is as much for my own recovery as it is to help others similarly situated.
Maybe that's just what men do. (smile)
That's what this one does.
It is my way right now of reclaiming my masculinity.
And right there, as I wrote that, I realized something. Men take command. Men lead. Men decide. Men take control. And all of these characteristics have been under assault in the past decades. We've been told we are supposed to be more understanding, caring and sensitive. We're supposed to share in the leadership.
In other words, we're supposed to cut back on the testosterone.
Well, I've got news for whoever thinks that. I've cut back. Way back. The hormone treatment that I am undergoing for my prostate cancer is also known as "chemical castration." The purpose is to terminate the production of or block the influence of testosterone in my body.
And it sucks big time.
Other men who have it done surgically will tell you the same thing.
To all of those who bitch (and there's a nice politically incorrect word but I am not interested right now in being politically correct, a phrase I hate)... To all of those who bitch about men taking command, tough shit because I just learned something. Taking command ain't got nothing to do with testosterone. It is what men do and the men who need to relearn this are men like me who have had their manhood or their masculinity ripped from them.
I may settle down later but not now. My attitude may even be chastised by men who have moved on past this point, who faced that challenge and dealt with it. Good. I will want to hear from them because there are a lot of us who aren't to that point and maybe - just maybe - to get there we need to over-assert ourselves to regain what was taking from us.
But that is included in the purpose of this site that I want to create. I want to hear from men who have faced the challenge and met it. (I nearly wrote, "men who had the balls" but declined for the moment. It's still too new for me.) I want to hear from men who are struggling with the issue. I want to hear from women who helped their men and even women who couldn't.
Don't get me wrong. I am not being magnanimous. I have my own self-interest in this. I just think that I'm not alone in this and rather than just read or discuss it privately with others until I resolve it for myself, I and some others can gain much more by doing this together. Beside, whatever I find or learn won't work for every guy. But we can learn from each other.
That's what men do.
Because in the end, testosterone really has nothing to do with being a man.
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