‘A post-prostate poke: Recovery and sex after my prostate removal’

Mar 10, 2021
Navigating what happens to one's sex life after prostate surgery can be a thorny issue, but this community member found there was plenty to laugh about too... Source: Getty Images

For the man, “I would if I could.”

For the woman, “I wish he would, if only he could.”

The doctor sat behind a beautiful handcrafted and lovingly restored early colonial oak desk. Despite the news I felt he might have for me, the thought foremost in my mind was, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tidier desktop!” Seriously. I knew, but only realised later, it was a form of defence mechanism, thinking inanities rather than why I was in his office in the first place.

The doctor was particularly noteworthy with an especially loud, jolly disposition. In looks and in tone he reminded me more than a little of the Anglo-Scottish actor, star of the Doctor comedies, James Robertson Justice. Standing a smidgeon above me, at 6’2”, and possessed of reddish brown hair with neatly trimmed beard and moustache, I wondered if he cultivated the look. At the very same time, I hoped beyond hope he hadn’t actually been transferred from St Swithin’s!

It was 29 years ago, early afternoon. The doctor had been in surgery since 6:30am. He smiled at me, his best bedside manner evident — perhaps the easiest way to discuss awkward news — and spoke to me of potential problems following removal of my prostate. He explained possible causes, actual effects and likely after-issues in perfectly phrased terms, including the one I most feared: I may have some level of erectile dysfunction. This can vary from mild and short-term, all the way through to a permanent inability to ‘get it up’. (My term, not his!)

Funniest thing, at that moment, I lost all interest in his magnificent desk and how neat it was, even how much he reminded me of a great actor! I was nearing 52 years of age. My wife and I enjoyed a loving and active 32-year sexual relationship and here was James Robertson Justice telling me it could be all over. Finito … Finished … F***ed!

All right, I’ve tried to keep it reasonably light up to this point but will get serious — a bit — for a while. Prostatectomy, or excision of the prostate gland, may have the effect of damaging nerves and blood vessels necessary for gaining an erection. This does not necessarily lead to loss of libido or to long-term erectile dysfunction. In fact, it is not uncommon for the penis to remain dormant for a couple of weeks after surgery but for it to ‘come good’ in time. It does not lead to an inevitable end of penile erection and penetration. Not always …

Apart from anything else, the urologist can recommend a number of aids, including inserts, vacuum pumps, rings and even, should all else fail, a saline pump device that inflates a couple of tubes surgically inserted into the penis to provide an artificial erection.

End of serious.

As one of the small percentage in the enduring limpet category (limp ‘it’ if you can follow my smart-arse brother-in-law’s humour) I had the saline pump device installed. Part of the foreplay was for my wife to squeeze a delicate part of my anatomy, thus triggering the pump to inflate a stimulatory device for her benefit. It was never really successful and, to be brutally honest, proved a total cock-up. Indeed, if that was post-prostate sex, it had knobs on. (Well, in a way it did, didn’t it?!) Back to my doctor, who found I’d developed a painful swelling (!) and infection because of the device. Oh dear, surgical removal.

I had the most delightful wife, entirely understanding and, thankfully, more than a little adventurous. We discussed what’s, which’s and wherefores before taking the bold step of visiting a sex shop. Oh God, what a lark that proved to be. We had some idea — or so we thought — what was available in such places but were only kidding ourselves. We knew nothing! The style, type and variety of aids is mind-boggling, from vibrators, strap-on dildos, penises, vulvas, all the way up to full-sized, ‘life-like’ dolls! Because each of us was possessed of a perverted sense of humour, we had a ball, giggling ourselves to tears.

There are many ways and means to a different but mutually satisfying sex life, even without the capacity for penile penetration. I am not about to embark upon it chapter and verse. I’ll leave that to your nice, healthy imaginations, decent lot that I know you to be. You wouldn’t subscribe to Starts at 60 otherwise. Now would you?

This is not a clinical article.

Men, please: If you have, or believe you have, prostate problems, make an early appointment to see your GP. That is essential. As with most things to do with health, the tests and procedures are impersonal and frequently intrusive. There is no need of embarrassment. Believe me, they ain’t gunna see nothin’ they ain’t seen before!

A worthy contact, as well as your GP is the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.

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Have you had trouble with your prostate? Are you worried about erectile dysfunction as you get older?

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