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After Prostate Cancer Surgery and ED: Foreplay as "Coreplay"

Posted May 28 2010 12:00am
It’s been a little over three years since my prostate cancer surgery and the ED that came in its wake. Being a cancer survivor for this duration has added more than a little perspective as to where I’ve been and where I’m heading.

Little did I know before, let alone during the first few weeks after the prostatectomy (surgical removal of my cancerous prostate), that I would write a book about conquering this disease.  Until I put pen to paper, - or finger to keyboard, I didn’t have an inkling that to cope with all this I’d eventually develop a holistic approach that integrates medicine, faith, love and sex.

Frankly, given the nerve-sparing that my skilled urologist had all but promised and then delivered, I was a bit surprised that I ended up with long-term ED and a reduced libido, in part induced by previous hormonal treatment. But I realized that I was no different than the majority of patients who end up experiencing such side effects after surgery or various forms of radiotherapy.

How did my wife and I “take” to ED and virtually no sexual desire, after some 34 years of a sexually functional marriage?  Looking back I’d say we were initially quite upset and more than a bit “down.” Instinctively I began to draw further away from her, given new self-doubts about my manhood. Like some of the men I profiled in my book, I mourned for what I had lost: an innate sexual capacity for mutual pleasuring.

In time though I realized how counterproductive it was to be apprehensive about what I wanted most: not less, but greater intimacy with the love of my life. In the absence of spontaneous intercourse we intuitively developed a sensate-focused approach.  That evolved in the course of a year, but it finally happened.

Focusing on all the senses, especially touch and sight, leads to more extensive touching, kissing and cuddling. Placing far less emphasis on intercourse and much greater focus on “whole body sex” helps amplify a couple’s physical-emotional-spiritual connection. I was in fact pleasantly surprised that sensuality could make up for most of the “shortfall” I experienced due to post-op impotence. If that worked for me, it can work for other prostate cancer survivors too and even for most men who don’t have ED.

Rather than “having sex”, “make love”! The result of this reframing is that you’ll feel less pressured to perform sexually. Instead you’ll experience increased intimacy more often in every way.

Beyond this, view your most intimate relationships as sacred, the way we have since the day we got married under a bridal canopy in September 1972.  How? By “stroking” each other psychologically and providing reassurance and support in all matters. Reach out to each other more often to meet your spouse’s or partner’s needs. It will make all the difference to both of you.

It’s important to realize, - as I’ve noted in my book, Conquer Prostate Cancer, that “Being affectionate from day to day, in every the best kind of foreplay.” If you think about it, this applies regardless of the constraints imposed by prostate cancer and whatever may follow.  

A man and his partner have good reason to regret how prostate cancer disrupts their lives individually and as a couple. But we’re better off when foreplay becomes “coreplay”. Perhaps that’s what Shakespeare meant when declaring, “The play’s the thing!”  Realizing this can make you feel like a new man.





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