Seven years after my robotic prostate surgery, I'm still coping with climacturia, which is defined as leaking urine during an orgasm. I leak substantial amounts of urine before and during my orgasms.
Using the restroom prior to engaging in sex lessens the volume of urine but won't prevent leaks.
Recently, my wife and I had a spontaneous sexual encounter — as spontaneous as you can be when it's necessary to pump up your implant to get an erection.
I neglected to put a towel on our mattress. By the time we were finished, our sheet and blanket were soaked with urine.
Our afterglow consisted of taking the sheet and blanket off the bed, heading downstairs, and placing both items into the washing machine. It was not the afterglow I'd anticipated.
For me, it was an anti-afterglow experience. I was so angry that in my mind's eye, I was shaking my fist toward the heavens shouting: "I HATE CANCER!"
I'm aware that many folks coping with devastating and debilitating effects of cancer would gladly change places with me, but that isn't a productive way to understand the suffering of other people.
A tendency to compare our suffering to the suffering of others often reduces our capacity for empathy. The act of comparing turns our focus inward to our own suffering, rather than outward to understand the suffering of another person.
Our comparison leaves us feeling either blessed or cursed.
I prefer to think about the points of commonality we share as cancer survivors. The majority of us live with a host of unwanted changes we hate because of treating our cancer.
I needed to take the time to process my anger, my frustration and my hatred for all the things cancer has taken away from me and my marriage.
In this phase, it's important to allow yourself to experience the intensity of all your emotions.
The danger in this phase involves getting stuck here. It's an unhealthy place to unpack your bags and decide consciously or by default to live here for the rest of your life. Anger and bitterness leak into every relationship. It's as toxic as cancer.
If you are a person of faith, ask yourself a second question: "What is it that God would have me learn about me, about Him, and our relationship with each other?" I highly recommend reading "Don't Waste Your Cancer," by John Piper.
As a clinician, I was taught that anger is a secondary emotion fueled by another emotion. I needed to dig deeper to find the fuel. The results of my dig surprised me.
My fuel was a profound sense of sadness about all the unwanted changes that my wife and I have endured since my diagnosis of prostate cancer.
At the beginning of our journey, we both were overwhelmed by the losses and our reactions to those losses. We were overwhelmed by our negativity. The frequency and intensity of our fighting threatened our marriage. We went into counseling.
Jim Henman, a therapist in Modesto, California, taught us that we live our lives with moments of "got it, got it ... ain't got it ... ."
That describes the state of my acceptance of my cancer-related losses. The anti-glow in my bedroom brought me to a place where "I ain't got it."
The "ain't got it" is a signal I need to speak to myself and my wife in kind, graceful, loving, non-judging, respectful ways. Once you learn to speak to yourself in this manner, you have the ability to speak to others when they experience an "ain't got it."
All of us need skills coping with loss, since the journey of cancer survivorship begins and ends with loss. The first loss is huge. Your relationships with healthy friends and family shift.
This is inevitable because you've exited the world composed of healthy folks and entered into a world they won't understand.
You've entered a war zone, where the enemy is cancer. Your world is composed of doctors' appointments, hospitalizations, various forms of treatment and unpleasant side effects.
I came across a poster that reflected this reality. It read: "Cancer turns family into strangers and strangers into family." Turning strangers into family is a process that requires intent, effort and taking risks.
I've discovered the path forward to accepting my new cancer-related normal involves me joining a community of cancer survivors who can help me grieve my cancer-related losses.
I've also learned that my acceptance of my losses involves a "got it, got it ... ain't got it" process.
Note: This article appeared in Prostate Cancer News Today
Rick Redner and his wife Brenda Redner wrote two award winning books. The first:
provides men and couples with information and support before, during and after prostate surgery.
Their second book was written for couples living with!erectile dysfunction. After living with erectile dysfunction for four years, Rick chose penile implant surgery. The couple share how implant surgery changed their lives and relationship.
The title of their book is: