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A Phoenix5 First-Person Story


by "Sharon"

(This is also found at the first-person stories menu.)

  [Webmaster note: This is an email response from a woman. Names has been changed.]

Thursday, April 13, 2000


Yes, I did know of your web site plans, and when you first informed the list about it, I was tempted to reply with this topic. Now you know why I didn't - it was all those emotional couple down path, in fog issues that made me wonder if it could be true that I, as a 61 year old woman (albeit slender and 'looking younger') could in fact be so un-sexy that I didn't deserve the 'compliment' of a husband's erection. That's just an example of how convoluted this issue can become, and how it can create so much baggage that adds to the difficulties.

Although "Steve" is no longer 'leaking', I think we can both imagine the extra problem created for the man who is still doing so, even if only minimally. Aubrey and others have mentioned that this happens with sexual excitement and/or orgasm, even if it never happens otherwise! When he was leaking during the first months, it didn't bother me but it sure bothered him! and the uneasiness alone would have prevented an erection; many men seem to forget that things like nervousness, distractions etc. often affected them in 'the old days', and there's no reason to expect it to be different now.

Yes, I had thought that perhaps you were coming off of CHT [combined hormone therapy] and were impatiently waiting for libido return. I'm curious...isn't it expected that the hormone therapy will automatically eliminate a libido? If so, then I think what will save you and your girlfriend is your concern and your willingness to think about the issue. Talking freely about your feelings and about hers, making sure that your expressions of affection are sincere, rather than being attempts to merely keep her happy - those are important. One woman said that when she felt her husband was 'faking it', she felt no less rejected than she was when he ignored her; she'd rather have just the verbal and physical hugs if they seemed sincere.

Many of the men who have had the surgery know that they will never again have a spontaneous erection, anymore than they'll ever ejaculate again. That's worth mourning, by BOTH of them, and it's o.k.; what's not o.k. is for either one to pretend they don't care. I know we were all (I hope) warned that after PCa treatment, our sex life would be different; I don't think any of us realized what that really meant, and we may have thought we'd be different.

I don't suppose I ever feared that "Steve" didn't love me anymore, but I did feel that he loved me 'like a 90-year-old lady'; I even got mad (and mean) once and said that if I'd wanted a good roommate, I wouldn't have chosen him; I wanted a husband. I didn't know why we had to be plunged into advanced old age just because of the RP.

One of the sources of big trouble with all this is the time it takes to go from one phase to another. For awhile, we're all focused on the life threat of cancer; if we're really lucky, that threat begins to ease a bit after a couple of good PSA's. That step alone can take a year, and a lot of hurt can accumulate in a year for both man and woman. The need for any follow-up treatments just extends that time.

I think we are lucky. It only took 18 months to get to a tolerable stage, and another month to mend the problems created by those months, not by the cancer. It's certainly understandable if some relationships can't survive the struggle. It's especially saddens me when I think of the poor couples who don't win the battle against the cancer - these emotional issues could ruin the final couple of years of their life! The possibility that your site might help them in the future is as much a part of the potential value as helping couples who want to ease the stress of this inevitably stressful time.

The things I've learned on these lists tell me that men on HT have an additional problem to add - the various effects of that therapy - lower energy, emotional fragility, the development of breasts. The demoralizing effects of all that can only be imagined by anyone who hasn't been there! Feeling aroused and not knowing 'what to do with it' can only add to the torture - sexual frustration, which is tough enough, is only the beginning. It would be quite rational for a person to use a 'pain avoidance' technique of some sort!

It's possible that if a man, instead of a woman, brought this subject back to the list, there might be a response. You'd be doing everyone a service if you decide to try it...with no archives on PCAI, many men and women are doomed to miss out on the limited help from old discussions.

You've introduced a subject that I've been discussing with several women and a couple of men, but our messages have been private because the initial response to the topic was a bit too touchy, I think, for the list. I first raised the issue some 6-8 months ago, and others have raised it since; I went private after I was somewhat 'slammed' by a man who suggested that because I was 60, my interest in sex must be feigned; the next person who raised the issue was told that the novelty of a new, younger wife would solve the man's problem and perhaps his wife was overweight.

The conclusions that have been the concensus of opinion in these private exchanges have primarily involved the demoralizing and emasculating aspect of erectile dysfunction and its effect on a man's libido. Some men are more bothered than others, and quite often the women have been especially bothered by the man's apparent emotional withdrawal from all forms of intimacy.

My husband's and my experience is pretty typical of the situations that have ultimately resolved, so I'll tell you our story. He had surgery in 8/98, 1 nerve 'spared'. Of course he was impotent afterwards, but his libido seemed fairly normal and he was even able to get a slight response from Viagra, 'tho only after an orgasm. As months went on, his libido vanished, much to his distress and confusion. I felt that he had withdrawn from me and our 38 year marriage began to deteriorate because of the emotional non-intimacy, not because of my sexual frustration. We'd tried the vacuum device and hated it, Viagra didn't help, so last July we started with the injections. They worked beautifully, but Caverject caused the famous 'ache'. It was hard for either of us to have a pleasureable anticipation of a sexual event when we both knew that the result would be hours of pain! So his libido stayed so low that his interest in injections was minimal, and my hurt at his emotional withdrawal was such that I wasn't sure I even wanted sex with him. That's when I was corresponding with others.

Then in December '99, we finally got the tri-mix and re-discovered the joy of erections without pain. After a few weeks, he was able to contemplate sex with 1) confidence that he would have an erection and 2) no fear of pain. The result was the rapid return of his libido, and we now feel that this is a situation that we could accept as permanent, if it should be. Of course we're still hoping, but within a few more months, the 'normal recovery period' of 2 years will have ended. That first-ever threat to our marriage is certainly gone!

It all makes sense to us. Human beings have a well-developed instinct for avoiding pain, and a lack of libido is a good way to avoid the disappointment of an inability to have a good sexual experience.

The fact that you have been on CHT just multiplies all the aspects of this; there's a physical, chemical, reason for your lack of libido, in addition to an emotional reason. It's my understanding that your body will need a few months, at least, of no-CHT to resume 'normal'. In the meantime, you'd be well advised to use one of the erection aids, even if it's only 'for exercise' just to keep the penis healthy and ready. If you can find that one of them also gives you that confidence that so affected "Steve," you probably vastly improve prospects for full return of life-as-you-knew-it.

This is a long response to your question, and I hope you get some from men who've had an experience that more closely matches yours. It does seem to me that men are more willing to discuss their ED than their lack of libido, and I even wonder if some of these men are even denying it to themselves. I'll never know.


written April 13, 2000

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This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not replace or amend professional medical advice. Unless otherwise stated and credited, the content of Phoenix5 (P5) is by and the opinion of and copyright © 2000 Robert Vaughn Young. All Rights Reserved. P5 is at <>. P5's policy regarding privacy and right to reprint are at <>.