GETTING BACK IN THE GAME
Impotency, PCa and The Single Man
[Webmaster introduction: In March 2000, "Tom" made a post to a list that impressed me for his candor. It evolved into an exchange of emails with him talking about an issue seldom discussed: the impotent single man who is seeking a relationship and how he finally succeeded.]
I would like to suggest, based on some of the past posts, that there is a need to better define in a post what that person means when they use the term [impotent], and what is meant by people who are responding.
I am permanently impotent. I am unable to achieve a natural erection no matter how great the stimulation, and there is no possibility that at some time down the road the nerves will be healed.
Some of you are temporarily impotent. Although you may not be able to achieve a natural erection at this time, there is some possibility that you are needing help during the period when natural erection cannot be obtained -- and should you be taking some action to help the natural erection occur?
Some of you have not had surgery yet, and are concerned about becoming impotent.
For the male and his partner it is really important to determine which problem you are facing, recognize specific male/specific female responses, and then work together to develop a workable solution that is satisfactory to both.
I did not become permanently impotent overnight. During the ten years, I believe that I have gone through every stage, and felt every emotion, other than the worry of becoming impotent, because, like all of us, it never occurred to my wife or myself that this would ever happen. And if you are interested, I would like to share my feelings as a male, (things which I now realize contributed to the tenseness of the situation), reactions by my spouse (some of which she thought would be positive words for me, and I told her they helped, but they didn't), and resolutions which we came up with.
I can't get it up, can't keep it up. I'm losing my manhood!
My wife and I finally reached a point where we could rationally talk about the initial onset of my impotence. I think that she was surprised to learn that I had been going through emotional hell because I recognized that I was having some difficulty, and I didn't want her to know it, so I compensated in ways which she totally misread. One thing I remember is cutting down on frequency of sex, hoping I would be able to perform better if I performed less often. She was aware of the reduction, and her own self esteem took a beating because she felt that I no longer was finding her desirable. This was probably about the time that I gathered up every bit of courage to casually mention the problem to my family doctor, who assured me that it was all in my head, and just relax and it would all be better. Then he took my wife aside and suggested that she might try to lose some weight!
[Webmaster note: Impressed by such candor, I wrote him to share problems and asked if I could use what he wrote at Phoenix5. This was his reply.]
I would be honored to have you use my post on your Website. Would appreciate if you would change identifying info, though. Would like to leave the content of the post as is at this point, although feel free to take some license with the verbiage if you need to.
First, let me also confess that I have been lurking on this group for some time, and have been looking for an excuse to make a couple of points. Your statement was just what I needed to leap in. I knew where the quote had come from, but thought it would water down the points I was trying to make if I were "sensitive enough" to acknowledge it. And besides, if that's where you really were, I hoped to get enough of a rise from you to share some of my own experience. So even though that's not where your story ends, I'll at least tell you where I am.
I am 65 years old. As my post indicates, about 10 years ago I began to experience major impotence. I went through a lot of emotional turmoil, uncertainty, and negative feelings which were really helped when I finally got up enough courage to broach the subject to my family doctor -- who clapped me on the shoulder and told me that I was worrying too much, it was all in my head! It took a lot of effort to finally find a Urologist who was an expert in treating impotence, gave me a shot one Friday afternoon, and my wife and I spent the next 24 hours in bed!
My wife of nearly 43 years died of cancer in April 1998. As I began to come back to the world of the living I suddenly realized the same concerns that were being mentioned in the post to which you responded. Here I was single, with a strong need for female intimacy, (what the hell, I was horny), surrounded by women (I had moved to a very active retirement community where the ratio is 10 women to 1 man), and how was I going to get back in the game? After nearly 45 years, I had even forgotten the initial steps toward dating, and if sex was in the offing I had nothing to offer. All those self-doubts came back.
Then I decided to take a chance. The results the first time sent me into a brief tailspin. The lady was definitely turned off, not turned on, but finally I met a great lady, who not only was willing to listen, but enjoys all the same physical passion that I do. Just one month into the -- at that point -- passionate relationship, I was exploring the pros and cons of a penile implant, when the doctor discovered my PCa. I was devastated. The lady and I had been responding to each other like a couple of teenagers in the back seat of a 1949 Ford convertible, and I hadn't had so much sex for years.
Anyway, as you well know, it is an ongoing story. I think back to all the fears and uncertainty of losing my ability to sustain an erection, then I think of how I felt to know that I had prostate cancer, so soon after losing my wife to cancer, and just when I was beginning to have a terrific social and sexual calendar, and my heart goes out to these guys who are dealing with both issues at the same time. Hopefully I can share some of my views!
[Webmaster note: I wrote "Tom" to ask if he could give me more of his chronology, as I had become a bit lost. This was his reply, calling it, " - and now, page 2."]
Guess that was Paul Harvey's line, not mine.
Anyway, my Chronology. My wife died in April 1998 and I moved to a retirement community outside of Tampa, FL around August 1998. Within the first year, I became somewhat involved with a woman a couple of years younger than I and divorced. She was coming on to me, and I didn't know how to handle it. Viagra did not work for me, and I was afraid to make the moves, because without using a pump, or injections, I certainly could not perform. Finally I decided on an approach. Over dinner one night I told her that I was physically attracted to her, however I had a physical problem and felt that it would be unfair to her not to know that I was impotent. The look on her face was enough. I knew that it wouldn't work, and although she tried to sound interested, she backed out of my life fast. Needless to say, I hit fresh depths for a few months.
Last September I met and was immediately attracted to another woman who had also been widowed in 1998 after 40+ years. She is vivacious, attractive and a lot of fun. We had dated for about a month, when I decided to be upfront with her. This time I had given a lot more thought to what, when and how I wanted to approach it. I found that she was receptive, we began a more intimate relationship a few days later, and I made an appointment (About mid-November) with a Urologist to explore Trimix or possibly an implant. The Doctor did a DRE as part of my initial examination. He found something suspicious, and did a biopsy, which showed an early malignancy. I went for a 2nd opinion, which confirmed the diagnosis.
All I could think of was the one month or so of this beautifully intense physical relationship was, is that all I would have? My doctor is considered to be a top authority on treatment of PCa but I also found that he listens to his patients. I told him what had happened to me during the past couple of years, and explained the brief but passionate relationship I had found. Since my Gleason was moderate, no symptoms, and PSA about 2.6 he concurred with a Watchful Waiting approach for six months to give me a chance to enjoy this fantastic relationship for a while longer. I just had a PSA and am awaiting the result. By June a decision will be made following another PSA and biopsy. In the meantime, my SO and I are enjoying a passion that I never would have expected anyone in their 60's could ever experience. I have given her the chance to back out of the relationship at any time, since there will be some rocky road ahead. Right now she says she is totally satisfied, and we are living life to its fullest -- at least until the end of June.
So, Robert, when are you going to dive into that passionate experience? One day, one month, one year, who knows but it sure as hell beats feeling sorry for myself.
[Webmaster note: The same day, he made another post.]
As I recall, the question related to how a single man, with PCa, potentially impotent, could get back in to a relationship and when did you tell a person you might be interested in. There had been a response, which suggested that early, was not a good idea, really needed to have a long-term relationship first. I disagree with that response based on my personal experience.
Just to give you some background, as I said, I am 65. I have been impotent for about 10 years. In April 1998, my wife of over 40 years died. I began to realize that I really missed the physical intimacy, but, I found myself single, out of the dating game for many years, and really unsure how I could handle the situation, since I could not achieve an erection except with the use of a vacuum pump or injections. (Viagra does not work for me.)
In my opinion, it was very unfair for me to lead a woman on, and I think this is the point you were trying to make.
I decided that as early as possible, I would be upfront with any woman that I was interested in. I felt it was more honest to tell her before either of us had invested a lot of time in establishing a relationship.
The first question I had to face was how long before I told her? I decided that it was not necessary to actually be in a physical relationship, in my way of thinking, since I was divulging something that I didn't necessarily want shared with others, it could be done at whatever point I felt that I could trust the woman's discretion.
I have used the approach twice.
The first time it came to a serious test, I dated a woman I'll call Mary. She was 60, and I asked her out for dinner, then to a couple of dances. During that "getting to know each other" period, I told her about my wife's death, and she told me about her divorce of 20 years before. I shared some little personal stories, and then she shared that she had been in a relationship for about 17 years after the divorce. There were a couple of little confidences shared by each of us, and I decided the time was right. (We had not even exchanged a kiss, at this point)
We had gotten into a fairly serious conversation, and I told her that there was something we needed to discuss. I told her that I wanted our friendship based on total honesty, and asked if I could count on her discretion. (By this time I definitely had her attention) I told her that, although this might be a long way down the road, I was physically attracted to her, and although I knew it was early in our relationship, I felt it important that she be aware of my medical condition at this point so that she would not be surprised or disappointed at some future time. I then told her that I could not get an erection, that this was caused by a medical problem (my ED was caused by a trauma to the penis), and would not mean that I was not responding to her. Somewhere in our conversation I told her that whether or not she wanted to continue the relationship was her decision.
The outcome: Mary said she wanted to continue our relationship, but in a relatively short time I realized, and she agreed, that she could not cope with the impotence. I went into a tailspin--really had some doubts as to whether or not I had been right in using this early approach.
Then I met Jane. I decided to try it one more time. Jane is my age. She had been married for over 40 years and her husband had died about the same time as my wife. We had gone out for dinner a couple of times, and really enjoyed each other's company. I quickly felt comfortable with her, and basically approached the subject exactly as I had with Mary. She definitely was not threatened by my bringing up the subject, and I actually felt the content of the conversation was much easier to control. Jane asked questions, and responded sympathetically, Again, I indicated that continuing the relationship, or where we went with the relationship was her decision.
The outcome. About a month after we had met, Jane and I became sexually intimate. I think the knowledge of what I couldn't do, may have precipitated her interest in moving more quickly into a sexual relationship. She has kidded me by saying that she was curious to see what I could do with what little I had--and she soon found out that it was more than satisfactory!
We had been together only three weeks when a trip to the urologist to explore an implant resulted instead in the doctor finding that I had prostate cancer. I kept none of this back, and again gave Jane the chance to drop out and look elsewhere (I sure as hell did not see myself as much of a prize with both problems). I am now in WW, PSA staying low, another biopsy in June. Jane says that no way is she letting go of the best lover she has ever had. She makes me feel wonderful!
By the way, Mary remains a friend. She has shared with me that my problem was mirrored in the breakup of the long-term relationship, and she is happy for Jane and me. I believe that she has maintained the confidentiality of what I shared with her.
Just some thoughts about the approach. It was definitely not too early. We had not initiated any intimacy, but by encouraging some exchange of personal information obviously were talking on an adult level. I felt fairly comfortable that what I would share would be taken seriously. By emphasizing that I respected her, and was taking her into my confidence only because I didn't want to mislead her, I found her responsive and intellectually curious. She asked quite a few questions. I honestly believe that the fact that we had not experienced any intimacy at that point made it more of an intellectual discussion, and it was actually easier to share the medical mechanics, and less threatening to discuss than it would have been if we had been doing some heavy petting and she found that I was not getting an erection. Both of the women said on several occasions that they appreciated my honesty in being so up front with them on a subject, which they recognized as being painful for me to discuss. And very frankly, once we had discussed my sexuality on an intellectual basis, it was easy to quickly move to the physical phase without any awkwardness. The limp noodle didn't have any false expectations! Not only do I think that this approach is most fair to both parties, but I think it helps to establish an honest, open relationship, and best of all, it worked for me!
[Webmaster note: I wrote "Tom" to ask what he meant by going into a "tailspin" because it sounded similar to what I had experienced. This was his reply.]
You asked what I meant by "I went into a tailspin--really had some doubts as to whether or not I had been right in using this early approach."
Remember that I had lost my wife to cancer in the not too distant past. She and I had gone through some difficult times and emotional turmoil before we both finally became comfortable with my impotence, and we had had nearly 30 years of a very sexual marriage to give some reason for continuing to try.
The night Mary and I realized that a sexual relationship could not develop, I think the easiest thing to do was to thank her for being honest and to maintain my composure for the rest of the evening. When I took her home, that night we kissed -- as friends- knowing that it would never be anything else. Intellectually I could tell myself that I had no reason to be angry or hurt. But I had a nagging fear because I had taken a chance, and exposed a very vulnerable side of myself that I had never discussed with anyone except my wife. God forbid that I talk about my inability to perform in the bedroom with any of my male friends --after all you keep up the pretense that it is raring to go at the drop of a panty, even if it droops like a lily, right? Mary and I did not immediately cut off the relationship, and we continued to dance, etc., for a while, and gradually stopped seeing each other.
Thank God for this group in this medium where I can forget the macho bluster, and answer honestly. The night Mary gave me the decision I got home and fell to pieces. Nobody was there, and I finally totally let loose. I sobbed like a baby. I was used to getting that choked up feeling in my throat, but struggling to hold back any sign of tears. No way I could hold back that night.
All of the fear that I had felt of never being able to have a sexual relationship again I believed to have been reinforced my Mary's answer. Again, I felt I had lost my manhood, and I went through a spell of self-recrimination, despair, depression and this went on for a long time.
One day, finally, I looked at the Mary situation in fragments, instead of in it's final result --I wrote down from our first visit what I had done, and what had been the result of that action. For example, she was the first person I dared to ask out--a major step after my wife's death. We had gone to my first dance in many years and had a blast; I enjoyed her companionship during that time. All of these things fell in the Wins column. Now I could separate my upfront disclosure. I had actually told somebody else that I couldn't get an erection without medical means. Mary had listened, she obviously had made an effort to understand, and wasn't this what I had wanted? An upfront decision without going through weeks of despair over when do I tell her, or can I hide it in some way?
That's when I realized that although her answer was no, the process had worked and I had managed to avoid getting both of us into a situation where "failure" would show up at an "emotional moment" and would have been misinterpreted.
I honestly believe if Jane had responded in the same way, I would made some adjustments to how I said it, but have tried again--and I say that because I feel so strongly after going through my wife's death, and now knowing that I have PCa, that life is too damn short to waste over regrets or chasing avenues that will never materialize.
All written during March, 2000
Edited only for typos
[Images are for illustration only and do not represent those involved.]
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