Mention prostate cancer to a man and generally the first thought that comes into his head is his tackle. Not cancer or death but what is it going to do with his tackle. I get it, I really do. Overnight I had gone from, as the French would say, ‘Le Magnifique’ to the post surgery and depressing ‘Minuscule et idiot’. Or in keeping to our title theme I had gone from the majestic, powerful command centre they call Thunderbird One to a broken version of the silly, stubby aquatic little Thunderbird Four.
Hello Erectile Dysfunction.
Erectile Dysfunction or ED as it’s politically and gently referred to is not as straight forward as it may seem, funnily enough, when it comes to prostate cancer. Like most things our old friend prostate cancer has to put its own spin on it all. That’s just in case the suffering is not enough and I really needed to be kept on my toes. As ‘interesting’ as a journey as it has been, I realise just how fortunate I have been to have had both of my nerves saved. I do not take that for granted and that fact kept me sane and more importantly patient.
I have not tackled this topic, in detail as yet, because there was not much to say. I could talk all day about what I hoped would happen but the reality could have been very different. It was kind of black and white. I left hospital and after removing the catheter, other than leaking very well the King did absolutely nothing.
It was a brick. A tiny brick at that.
He never moved – voluntary or involuntary. He had no sensitivity. You could have wired him to the mains socket and I’m pretty sure nothing would have happened. It’s only recently that I have spoken to a couple of men who had prostate cancer and radical surgery, they too went through the same roadmap. Just the timings and sequence of events were different.
The early days were the hardest and darkest. Patience, I would say to myself, well more like try and convince myself. Some days it worked and some days it really didn’t. It was also incredible lonely. I had no one to talk to about this. I didn’t want to talk to a stranger over the phone on some helpline telling me it will get better and I didn’t find anything in print about the personal journey. The few people I knew at PCUK had either not had the operation or had had radiotherapy and hormone treatment, so they were not going to be much use in this matter.
It only started to change, very very slowly, at about the three/four month stage. Nine months on and I can add a lot more colour to it.
When people ask me how I am there are three main groups.
- How are you? In a genuine, caring holistic sense.
- How are you? ‘I wonder if I can invite him around to my house and will he be able to sit on our new cream fabric couch?
- How are you? “You hanging your shirt from it again yet brudda?”
I like a) and c), one is caring and the other is to the point – I am not going to soil your flipping couch. Only two men have asked me about c) but it was never something I would not answer to anyone.
It’s not a simple ‘Yes I can get the King up’ or ‘No he won’t move’. It has not been a case of one day a switch turned on and all was well. Instead it has been a frustratingly long journey that still has some way to go but I have now well past the half way point and have reached some important milestones. I have quoted that I’m nearly there or it’s at 60/70% but there is actually more to it than that. In fact, not medically minded, there are four parts to this tasty, charming nugget. They are; strength, size, speed to deployment (SD) – notice how I left out the ‘T’ (you got it or need more time?) and sensitivity. Before prostate cancer these elements didn’t exist as separate entities as they were one and I never gave any one of them a single thought.
It went as follows, the chicken did a dance, when football wasn’t on the TV or you were just plain thirsty, the rug rats are finally asleep and boom Marvin starts singing from the speakers and there is about to be a very lucky chicken in the room.
The first shocker was the size of the King, directly after the catheter was removed. Or more correctly his version of ‘Wheres Wally’ or maybe even ‘Where the heck is it Wally’. Forget hanging shirts from it, it just about resembled the stubby button on a child’s chest of drawers.
I remember reading early on that because the prostate is removed that the King would be a little shorter as it contracted into the newly created empty space, where the prostate used to be. With that as a formula I had to ask did they also remove my bowel, stomach and throw in a couple of ribs going spare as well as this tiny thing was a proper p*** take. Sometimes I could laugh but generally I would quickly put it to the back of my mind and swiftly move on.
The pump not only served as physiotherapy but it definitely doubles as a plastic cheerleader, reminding me of what I had before and hopefully could attain again. Encased in a vacuum plastic tube that not only kicks your dream back to the curb again. When you press that button, breaking the vacuum, it makes sure you get the message by pulling your hair and punching you in the chops before running off pointing and laughing. That child’s balloon that you didn’t tie properly and it died flying around the room – without any of the fun.
Imagine turning up at the drawbridge of Castle Winterfell (Game of Thrones for the uninitiated) with an enormous, menacing battering ram. You come over the hill with your ugly, hungry and blood thirsty army, surrounding the masses of horses dragging it along. It is scary, it’s noisy and it’s impressive. This is going to cause some damage. The enemy are terrified, they are practically defeated already. How about then after a couple of flaming caldrons of burning oil have been thrown on it, the enemy realise that the silly weak thing is made of chocolate.
That would be a good way to describe the King looking for trouble. Just with no strength.
Eventually after a couple of months the King started to seem menacing again – initially like your granny trying to look tough, carefully and very, very slowly slapping a great fat dirty wrench in her hand at the rate of one slap every two minutes and then complaining it’s too heavy, she needs to pee and then she is going to lie down. Size, but no strength. Yep that’s prostate cancer alright. You could not write a more tragic and pathetic story if you tried.
Size and strength would normally go hand in hand, but the strength part had certainly been playing catch up. The rocket is sitting there at the launch pad ready to do and then puff,
“Houston the wind has knocked the silly thing over! Oh well let’s get the cranes in and eventually drop it back in place and try again.”
The pump provides both size and strength with the use of a retaining ring (posh word for what the peasants call a cock ring). Only two very small problems with that. The King is then only strong and full above the ring and as weak as anything below it. The best way to describe the effect is like having the King on a hinge, without the sturdy doorframe. Then of course as no nerves are engaged it has no feeling. It’s basically a prosthetic.
I always thought that the nerves around the prostrate, controlled the hydraulics and the sensitivity. After my interview with Dr Simon (still to come in this blog) I found out that the nerves that provide sensitivity and feeling are totally different to the nerves that surround the prostate and provide the hydraulics. The hospital prescribed taking Sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra) once a week to help with the rehabilitation of the King. Dr Simon mentioned that when he was being treated there was evidence that instead of taking a single high dose of Sildenafil like I was, if you took more regular lower doses this was shown to speed up nerve damage and promote nerve growth. That got me thinking. Then when Richard (39) mentioned that he had left the hospital with a fat months supply of twenty eight of the said contraband compared to my paltry, sad pack of eight.
Let me repeat that, a pack of eight and see you in two months.
What did they misread my age on my medical records for a biblical five hundred and in danger of immediate cardiac failure?.
Convinced, I then set about amateurishly cutting my tablets in half so I could take it twice a week. Look we are not talking ‘Breaking Bad’ here just a bit of ingenuity. Now three months down the line I am happy to report that I have almost full feeling again. This is the only one of the four terrible four conditions that practically happened overnight. It really was like moving from a monochrome TV one to the latest 4K OLED version.
The Tesla Model S hits 60 mph in 2.4 seconds, there is no production car that can match it. Like most men I could comfortably compare myself to one of these, under the right circumstances in regards to getting ready for action. The Ford Model T, which ended production in 1939, hits 0-60 in – well its top speed was only 45 mph so it never got there unless it was going downhill. I am that Model T waiting to metamorphosise back into the Model S. They will both get from A to B but one does it a lot slicker and much quicker than the other. Another way of putting it would be to say all Tyra and Angelina had to do was turn up in the room, prior to the surgery, and we could have a party. Now they would also have to do a lot of talking to me, then to themselves, perform a pretty decent lap dance and probably chuck in another friend.
Going back to where I am now, I can say each of the four areas are around the 80% mark. Still a little way to go but in a much happier position than those dark early months. There is always worse.
I am one of the fortunate ones. Something I have to keep telling myself.
If all those nuggets were not enough when the four are all put together, the new sexual experience is again very, very different.
Thank you prostate cancer, you’re always got one or two more up your sleeve.
The normal male orgasm has three parts to it, each with a very different sensation. There is the build up sensation which leads to the point of no return, the point of no return when you are struggling to hold back the big boys and finally sending the big boys out on their merry way into the wide world with a,
- Cavemen type growl and a ‘Yee haw’ [American]
- Oui, oui, oui [French]
- Splendid, jolly good show chaps [British]
The growing sensation that leads to the point of no return, after PC, can in fact be more intense and may continue to get more intense with time.
Hopefully – flipping heck give me something back here at least !
Erm, then that’s it! Poof!
Or as the bouncer on the club door turns on the lights and grabs you roughly by the collar and says “Why you still here, the party has finished. Out!”
In the medical world it’s technically called a dry orgasm. With the prostate removed you have no big boys to hold back and there will be no Formula One type podium champagne sensations or celebrations. I can also think of much better alternative methods of birth control.
With all this of course I have to remember that the alternative could have been having nothing at all or all of my nerves but in a box six feet under.
The gift that just keeps on giving.
Thunderbirds are go. Just a little quieter and definitely very different.
One thought on “44. Explaining Rocket Science 101 to my unwanted and uninvited cousin Ed”
Very candid and timely ‘man’ talk, fix up, no nonsense blog, that really exposes the realities around a killer of many men. Love your pithiness around a subject that defines many a male masculinity.