Looking back nine years of living without a prostate, I think one of the most difficult and socially isolating time was feeling seriously depressed AFTER receiving the news my cancer was fully contained within my prostate and I was cancer free.
Friends and family were celebrating, while I was wondering if having my prostate removed was the worst decision I’d ever made in my life.
I hated the first three months post surgery losing urinary control, and living in diapers. After diapers, I spent fifteen months needing a pad.
Nine years later if my bladder is full, and I bend, lift, laugh, or sneeze I’ll still leak.
The loss of ejaculation was an unpleasant surprise. I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy having sex ever again. The intensity of orgasms was so diminished I wasn’t sure whether I had one. This sense of loss and disappointment caused me to avoid sex, like the plague. Unfortunately, not only sex, I gave up all forms of affection because they all led me back to the painful emotions associated with grief and loss.
After double nerve sparing surgery my surgeon was confident I’d regain my erectile functioning. I never did. The four years I spent coping with erectile dysfunction were probably the worst four years of my life. This took a huge toll on my marriage. To save our relationship we needed to go into counseling. I’m delighted I was willing to trust a surgeon to perform a penile implant. At age 67 my sex life has never been better!
One unpleasant reminder of prostate surgery is climaturia.
Climacturia, also called orgasm-associated incontinence, occurs when a man leaks urine as he has an orgasm. It is a common side effect of radical prostatectomy. If it's so common, why is it that No one ever discussed this humiliating side effect of prostate surgery.
Thankfully, with the use of both a mattress protector AND towels we've adjusted to this life-long issue.
My message to all men who find themselves depressed after prostate surgery is:
•Expect to be depressed.
•Expect zero understanding from your healthy friends and family
•Don’t think you’re man enough to get through your depression alone.
•GET HELP-Form a team to help you cope.
•IF on-line help is used expect to get some bad advice and/or come in contact with trolls.
•Good and useful on-line advice is also available. You’ll need to discern the difference.
• Faith has an important role in your coping and living with cancer,
•At some point in your journey, you may experience a faith crisis where you question or doubt God’s goodness, love, or His plan for your life.
•Do not attempt to resolve your faith crisis alone. Find a spiritually mature person who can listen to your doubts and questions, without judging you
•If you lose your erectile abilities EXPECT that you will have doubts about your manhood. You may withdraw from your physically and/or emotionally. You may go as far as avoiding ALL forms of physical affection.
•You may get angry and/or defensive when your partner tries to discuss this issue.
•It’s possible you’ll be convinced you partner is better off without you, so consciously or unconsciously, you’ll act in ways to destroy you relationship.
*i know it’s embarrassing, but find ways to talk about erectile dysfunction and discover new ways to enjoy sex together. If you’re unable to do this, GET HELP.
•Many folks diagnosed with cancer suffer from PTSD. You may have difficulty sleeping, withdraw from people, become highly irritable, spend hours of your day thinking about or fearful about your diagnosis of cancer. You may develop a fear about on-going treatment, tests, or going to a doctor’s office. It’s highly unlikely PTSD will go away on its own or that you’ll get over it by yourself. If you think you or your partner have PTSD, GET HELP.
•As a cancer survivor, your life will NEVER be the same. It’s now divided into your pre and post cancer phases of life.
•There are many losses that need to be grieved. Allow yourself time to feel sadness and process your many losses.
•Based on the decisions and choices you make, your post cancer life will be markedly better or worse than your pre cancer life.
•I believe the difference between those whose lives get better isn’t about your diagnosis and/or treatment outcome. It’s whether you formed a team composed of professionals and/or folks further along in their journey of SUCCESSFULLY coping with prostate cancer.
•Nine years of cancer survivorship, four years of coping with erectile dysfunction, and five years with a penile implant, I can say God is good, and my life is good!
Rick Redner & his wife Brenda Redner authored two award winning books, both available on Amazon. They are:
I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where’s Yours?
Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Erectile Dysfunction & Penile Implants