“My name is Andy Barham, back in 2012, at the tender age of 51, I was diagnosed with Prostate cancer. “
ED – a patient’s perspective
My name is Andy Barham, back in 2012, at the tender age of 51, I was diagnosed with Prostate cancer.
I opted for a Radical Prostatectomy, where my prostate was completely removed. The operation was done robotically and, unfortunately, the robot was not quite as precise as I had been led to believe it would be! The resulting nerve damage meant that I was unable to gain a natural erection.
Over the course of the next three years I tried pretty much everything the doctors, consultants and specialists threw at me. Viagra and Cialis were utterly ineffectual and just gave me awful joint pains. Muse was highly unamusing, basically shoving a lollipop stick down your penis to deposit a small pill. It was painful, decidedly inconvenient and ultimately ineffective once again.
Viridal was the only thing I tried which had the ‘desired’ effect, some semblance of an erection. However, sticking a needle in to the base of your penis a few minutes before you wished to get romantic was never going to be the ideal solution.
I did try the vacuum pump, albeit reluctantly. To me it was the sort of thing you’d go and buy from a sex shop. It also had very limited and short-lasting results. I wish now that it had been introduced to me as a simple piece of exercise equipment, at the earliest stage of my ED journey.
Had I been aware of the benefits of keeping my penis in peak form, rather than watching it shrivel and wither with each passing month and year, I may well have been in better shape now.
At this point I want to say just how much I hate the phrase ‘Erectile Dysfunction’. It is as bad as saying a blind person has ‘Optical Dysfunction’ or someone who is deaf has ‘Auditory Dysfunction’. The description trivialises the depth and extent of the condition. It doesn’t recognise the serious mental aspects, nor the knock-on effects on relationships. It fails to express that you feel less of a man as a consequence!
With the catalogue of failures mounting up I felt myself drifting into an ever-deepening depression, it was harder and harder to keep the mask of normality in place both at work and at home. Family, friends and colleagues were beginning to realise that all was not well. It took all the courage I could muster to seek help. The medications and subsequent counselling were excellent, giving me the strength to at least keep the mask in place and the black dog at bay.
More through desperation than any realistic hope of finding a solution, I began to trawl through Google in search of alternatives. Very firmly stuck in the ‘LAST RESORT’ section was the penile implant. I read loads of articles and looked at some very off-putting imagery. There was very little advice you could call positive and nothing that was remotely encouraging. Thankfully this seems to be gradually changing in recent months.
I genuinely felt I was out of options, I could not foresee a future where, when the amorous intentions surfaced, I had to disappear into the toilet to prepare a syringe and administer a little prick to my ….
So, what did I have to lose?
I was fully aware that there was no going back after such an implant operation, as the erectile tissue would largely be removed. Luckily, I have a very understanding and supportive wife. I recommend, if at all possible, you get a similar partner to help you through this nightmare. Jointly we agreed this was the best course of action, with the most likelihood of success.
In October 2015 I finally had the operation, having spent a good few months persuading my consultant (at first gently, then less so, finally quite forcefully!). I won’t lie, it’s a tad uncomfortable post-op. In the few weeks following the procedure I will admit to expressing regret in having it done, but that does pass. Once all the bandages are off and the internal scarring has healed, and you’ve mastered the art of inflation and deflation, it’s all good.
I can genuinely say it was the best decision I could have made in the circumstances. My sex life it relatively normal, now that a few inobtrusive squeezes provides a reasonable and sustainable erection. My depression is virtually non-existent, now that I feel whole again.
There are improvements which could be made, and I hope these will be ironed out when I am up for a ‘re-fit’ in five years or so. The scrotum is pretty crowded with a third testicle present. The pump bulb could be a little easier to squeeze. The deflation valve could be a little easier to find. The reservoir could be a little larger to account for the gradual penis enlargement over time. But hey, I’m not moaning.
So, if you are faced with anything even remotely similar to my experiences, please feel free to get in touch. I made the decision very early on in this process to be 100% honest and open. The subject matter is certainly difficult to discuss with anyone, family, friends, work colleagues. In a strange way, it can be easier to talk about with a stranger, particularly one who has trodden the path and can empathise with your struggles.
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