Sex after Prostate Cancer Surgery – What Can You Expect? Comments by Motivational Speaker and Cancer Survivor Chuck Gallagher

February 23, 2008

Before reading this post…if you have been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer or are a Prostate Cancer survivor, I would appreciate your help.  I am writing a book, from a layman’s perspective, about Prostate Cancer and how to find solutions to improve our lives.  I am conducting interviews during the months of October 2008 through November 2008.  The interviews are confidential and your name will not be revealed.  If you are willing to discuss your experience…please contact me at chuck@chuckgallagher.com.  From there we can set up a time for a phone interview.  Likewise, this disease no only affects the man diagnosed but also his family, so I am interviewing spouses and/or significant others.  Thank you in advance for your help.  Now I hope this article is of some benefit to you.

Let me begin by saying, this is written with the intent to help those men who have dealt with or are dealing with the issues surrounding prostate cancer. I am not a physician. My perspective is my own and born from my personal experience with prostate cancer at a “relatively” young age.

Background: I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 47. There were no warning signs. To all around me I was the picture of health and as far as I was concerned they were right. I had no symptoms. In fact, I felt great.

I went to my family doctor in order to get a prescription for Propecia (a pill to keep your hair from falling out). My hair line was beginning to recede and I wanted to stop its progress. My physician (who in retrospect saved my life) required that I have a blood test before she would prescribe the hair loss drug. As I recall, she said that the drug would artificially lower my PSA and I needed to have it checked first.

Honestly, at the time I didn’t know what a PSA was – the only thing I did know was – I hated needles and the thoughts of giving blood repulsed me. But vanity won and I had the test. Frankly, the rest was history, as the tests revealed an elevated PSA which ultimately lead to the prostate cancer diagnosis.

Treatment Method: While considering many methods, ultimate I selected surgery using the da Vinci method. I could not have been more pleased. The skill of the surgeon from Johns Hopkins and the method used were both outstanding. I highly recommend that men considering surgery consider this method. The recovery time following surgery was substantially reduced and the side effects were non-existent.

Following surgery there were several issues that were of immediate concern:

  1. What was in the pathology report (if that was good then the other issues were important)?
  2. Were the nerve bundles saved around the prostate (if not, no erection)?
  3. How difficult would it be to recover – move, walk, have a bowel movement, etc.?
  4. How long would the catheter stay in and would it cause problems?
  5. What would the reported incontinence be like (really) and would it last a long time?
  6. When could I expect some normalcy in sexual performance?

#1 = great pathology report (whew…that was a relief!)

#2 = nerves were saved; however, the doctor cautioned about expecting too much too soon.

#3 = no great surprise, the hospital got me moving quickly. It was not comfortable, but in the end they were right. Suck it up and get on with it they told me. You’ll appreciate how quickly you’ll recover when you get out of bed and get on with life. They were right. Within three days, I was prepared (moving a bit slowly I might add) to get on a plane and fly back home from Baltimore to North Carolina.

#4 = That was (at the outset) the biggest challenge. While most catheters stay in a week or maybe two, mine was in for three weeks. The physician stated that he wanted to make sure due to my psychology that it healed well, so I got the pleasure (NOT) of an extra week. Frankly, that was annoying and one of the happiest days of my life was when it was removed. Frankly, it was somewhat painful, unpleasant, difficult to keep comfortable, and all around a real pain (both figuratively and literally).

#5 = Considering I took a good six months from diagnosis to surgery, I had time to work with Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises may be beneficial in treating urinary incontinence in both men and women. Having received wise advice from the folks at Johns Hopkins, I was told that men would be wise to exercise those pubococcygenus muscles in advance of surgery so that they have “muscle memory” after surgery. I was told issues with incontinence would be dramatically reduced and they were right. Within 5 – 6 weeks I was 99% continent.

#6 Sexual Function: Candidly, that returned much slower than I expected.

  • Within three weeks of the catheter being removed I wanted to test sexual function. To my pleasant surprise with physical and visual stimulation I was able to achieve a marginal erection and orgasm. I was elated. However, I soon found out that my first experience was not sustainable on a regular basis.
  • Like most men, I was given prescriptions for Viagra and informed about other alternatives.
  • Within three to six months, I found that achieving an erection was difficult and that any mental distraction would prove to be an impairment.
  • Viagra would provide some help, but the side effects were bothersome – especially the flushed feeling I felt in my chest and nasal cavity. Even with Viagra or the other alternatives, I did not feel that the result was successful.
  • By the seventh month I was concerned about the lack of consistence in sexual function. That took it’s toll emotionally. While women may not completely understand, men will get it. We are sexual beings and, while we don’t define ourselves by sex, we certainly understand the important role sexual function has in our lives. Inability to perform can have direct effects in other areas of ones life.
  • I was told there would be no ejaculate. That was true and false. There was no ejaculate as men generally know it. However, I did leak a fair amount of urine. I think the urine leakage surprises and disturbed me more than it did my partner She understood that urine is harmless. I soon learned that I should empty my bladder before sex otherwise, there would generally be urine leak when orgasm was reached.
  • By the ninth month I woke to a nocturnal erection. I must admit I was surprised and elated. However, the natural erection was still missing.
  • There had been no significant change from the sixth month through the tenth month, so I was becoming a bit concerned. I sought help in an unusual way, I sought Hypnotherapy as a possible solution. Wow…now that was worth it.

Hypnotherapy: Perhaps for the skeptics I had just healed enough to experience a change, but when I sought help I had the same results. Not knowing what to expect, I was open to anything that would provide some normalcy. I had come to know that things would never be the same. For one thing, I wasn’t 17 years old any more. I had to know that with age sexual performance will change. Likewise, I knew that without a prostate (the old plumbing if you will) I would never have an ejaculation – although an orgasm is quite normal without ejaculation. In any event, I elected this alternative form of therapy. What did I have to lose?

I went through the process feeling quite relaxed. The female hypnotherapist wasn’t sure that it would be comfortable for a man. Frankly, in my mind, if I got the result I didn’t care who provided the service. The process lasted and hour to and hour and one-half.

Within three days it was time to test the program. To my great surprise, I had an erection with less effort than it took over the prior 10 months and the orgasm was powerful. Since that point, there has been a marked difference in sexual function. Why? I’m not sure I know. I feel that two things converged at the same point. One – I had taken time to heal physically and with practice one can achieve a return to normalcy. Two, I feel the hypnotherapy allowed me to by pass my conscious emotional fears and empower my subconscious to know that I was fine and fully functional (within the physical confines of surgery). Either way…the process worked.

Three Years Later: Sexual function is normal – for a 50 year old prostate cancer survivor.

  1. I understand that sex will never be the same as before. I accept that knowing that I am living as a result of early detection and appropriate treatment.
  2. With the prostate gone, there will not be normal ejaculate during sex. Strange, but as a man I miss that – but I must say, my wife doesn’t.
  3. As time goes on natural erections (unassisted) are possible. They are not as frequent as they used to be, but from time to time I will have a nocturnal erection.
  4. Orgasm is quite natural, with or without ejaculate. However, expect some urine leakage during sex. Especially early on one might want to keep a towel handy.
  5. Libido did not change even right after surgery.

As a motivational speaker, I have become accustom to sharing personal experiences in order to share more universal truths. This entry, however unusual, is not about personal sexual performance, but rather written in order to help other men understand from a first hand perspective what to expect and perhaps to provide hope that sexual performance, so important to most men, can return after experiencing surgery.

If this posting helps or you have comments…PLEASE SHARE!


Prostate Cancer – Tragic Deaths Of Famous Men

January 10, 2008

As a prostate cancer survivor, I often use this blog (my ethics speaker blog) to discuss issues of prostate cancer and what can be done to cure this disease – dreaded by men worldwide. When I arrived home today there was a wonderful magazine on our kitchen counter – LifeExtension – that my wife brought home. She purchased it for other reasons, but what caught my attention was an outstanding article entitled: Merv Griffin’s Tragic Death from Prostate Cancer.

merv-griffin.jpg

In the magazine they publish what they refer to as a short list of Famous Men who died from prostate cancer. While I won’t list them all, here’s some for us to remember and think about:

  • Merv Griffin
  • Dan Fogelberg
  • Bill Bixby
  • Telly Savalas
  • Frank Zappa
  • Earl Woods (Tiger Woods Dad)
  • Bobby Riggs
  • Thomas Witter (Dean-Witter-Reynolds)
  • Johnny Ramone
  • Steve Ross (CEO Time-Warner)

This is truly a short list that I selected – they’re are far to many more to list in this short blog

Portions of the article appear as follows:

Prostate cancer kills 300,000 Americans each year. With proven means of prevention and early detection, death from prostate cancer should be a rarity and not so common.

Merv Griffin was initially treated for prostate cancer back in 1996, but the disease returned with a vengeance to claim his life in 2007. News accounts described Merv’s final days living on feeding tubes and morphine drops, as metastasized prostate cancer cells ravaged his bones, liver and lungs.

It often takes a celebrity death for the public to pay proper attention to a curable disease. If there is any consolation to the ordeal Merv Griffin suffered, it will be that more men will be screened and follow proven preventive strategies to reduce their risk of developing this insidious disease. For example, a recent study published by the National Cancer Institute showed that men slash their risk of prostate cancer by up to 52% by regularly consuming cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and cauliflower).

The article is excellent. Is the content a magic bullet? No. But from a vast amount of research I have conducted (for personal benefit), I know that their findings are well documented and simple “life style” changes can have a huge effect on your risk of contracting prostate or breast cancer.

Having been diagnosed (quite by accident) at 47 with prostate cancer, I know what it feels like to be told – when you think you’re healthy as a horse – that you have cancer. After getting over the shock – I began extensive research as to the treatment that would allow me to avoid what Merv Griffin faced.

Today, based on my routine tests, I am cancer free. However, let me caution my readers – much as I was cautioned not long ago – surgical removal or any other treatment does not mean that cancer can not return. Merv Griffin is a perfect example of what can happen. Hence, for those of us who have been diagnosed and successfully treated for prostate cancer, we cannot reduce or ignore methods for reducing risk or maintaining health.

A copy of the LifeExtension article can be found at this link: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2008/jan2008_awsi_01.htm

Here’s to your health! Comments welcome oh and drop by my web site if your business or association is ever in need of a keynote or motivational speaker http://www.chuckgallagher.com


Prostate Cancer – Stephen Stills, Dan Fogelberg and Treatment Options

December 20, 2007

As a motivational speaker, I often have the opportunity to speaker to groups and share insights that can be life changing. Most presentations originate from personal experience. The one experience I didn’t expect to have at the “young” age of 47 was the experience of being told I had prostate cancer.

“How could that be? I had no symptoms. This is an older man’s disease,” I thought.

Wrong!

stills-acoustic.jpgDan Fogelberg

Dan Fogelberg was diagnosed in his early 50’s and is dead at 56. Stephen Stills is facing surgery on his 63rd birthday for prostate cancer (and because it was detected early has a good chance of survival).

I am fortunate. I was diagnosed early – opted for robotic surgery (the DaVinci Method) and am cancer free at age 50 with no side effects!

I have had the privilege of talking with many people about prostate cancer and various treatments (NOTE: I am not a Doctor – therefore what is written here is for general benefit. Do not rely on the content of this blog as medical advice. It is not!) Just the other day I received an e-mail that I have asked permission to share with those who read. The content is shared below:

Name: brenda gerhard
Media Outlet: The Morning Call, retired
Specific Details: Greetings. Maybe we can get the word out to YOUNG MEN with Dan Fogelberg’s illness and untimely death. My husband was diagnosed 2 years ago at age 52 with aggressive prostate cancer which TWO urologists ignored for three years. They dismissed a common symptom, blood in semen, and did everything but give him a simple test. A company doctor noticed a PSA rise during a routine physical and insisted my husband get a biopsy. He had to bully the urologist into doing it. And then the quack urologist told him he was SHOCKED that the biopsy came out positive.

He had the surgery 2 years ago with negative margins and a very good outcome.

But 2 years later, the cancer returned in the prostate bed. He had a Gleason 8 (aggressive) score.

Two years ago we heard about Loma Linda University Medical Center, which uses proton beam therapy with NO SURGERY AND NO SIDE EFFECTS to effectively cure prostate cancer. We had no first-hand info. and didn’t pay enough attention to this wonderful alternative to surgery. This time around we found out that Loma Linda also does salvage proton treatment (as opposed to regular photon radiation, proton beams are targeted precisely to the cancer cells, sparing the radiation of healthy tissue).
We moved to Loma Linda for two months. Treatments take about an hour Mon.-Fri. My husband JOGGED every day during his treatments.

We met plenty of men, mostly older, who have opted for this treatment. Many were too old for safe surgery.
Get the book by prostate cancer survivor Robert J. Marckini, “You Can Beat Prostate Cancer and You Don’t Need Surgery to Do It,” which chronicles the 15-year history and success rate of proton treatment. There are more centers opening up around the country and it is my and my husband’s mission to make sure that prostate cancer patients at least know of this wonderful alternative to surgery.

I would love to tell you (or anyone else) more about this treatment and its phenomenal success rate. Feel free to e-mail or call me anytime.

Yours in health,
Brenda Gerhard, Coopersburg, Pa.

Brenda…thank you for sharing and for your willingness to help others explore the options available. A good friend of mine used this same treatment and raved on his success. For purposes of clarification, I chose surgery knowing that should the cancer reappear I could use radiation as a backup treatment. Sounds like what your husband did.

I have been told that if radiation is the primary course of treatment at the beginning and then the cancer reappeared, surgery is then not an option. (Again…don’t rely on the content here to be medical advice – consult a medical professional).

Hopefully, the content of these blogs will spur discussion and most importantly motivate men in their early 40’s to get a PSA test. Having a PSA test early does two very important things: (1) gives you a bench mark to gage if there is any reason for concern; and (2) gives a clear early warning sign so that, if you find yourself like me, with prostate cancer, you can seek early treatment and LIVE!

Remember: Every Choice Has A Consequence. Choose to have the test…It Might Just Save Your Life!


Prostate Cancer Claims Dan Fogelberg’s Life – So Long “Leader Of The Band”!

December 18, 2007

Dan Fogelberg

At age 56, Dan Fogleberg, singer of the hits “Leader of the Band” and “Same Old Lang Syne” died at his home in Maine – following an illness with prostate cancer.

“Dan left us this morning at 6 a.m. He fought a brave battle with cancer and died peacefully at home in Maine with his wife Jean at his side,” read a statement posted on the singer’s Website. “His strength, dignity and grace in the face of the daunting challenges of this disease were an inspiration to all who knew him.”

According to e-online, Fogleberg was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2004. An article in e-online states: “At the time of his cancer diagnosis, he was planning a fall tour, which he was subsequently forced to cancel. He later urged others to be tested regularly, writing on his Website, “I promise you, you DON’T want to go through what I’m going through if you can avoid it.”

As a survivor of prostate cancer and having watched my father-in-law die of that dreaded disease, I know the agony that Fogelberg experienced and share his feelings.

At 47, quite by accident, I was disgnosed with prostate cancer. Fortunately, mine was caught in its early stages and hence the prognosis was outstanding. Fogelberg was not so lucky. His cancer was detected in advanced stages at his age of 52. Likely, he had prostate cancer (like myself) at an earlier age – likely his 40’s.

Prostate cancer can go undetected for years before one experiences any signs – and when those signs appear the cancer my have spread to a point that it cannot be contained.

A WARNING TO MEN: In your early 40’s get a simple blood test (PSA test). While this may not be a fail safe it will do two things that might be life saving: (1) it will provide a base line for future tests to be compared against. If you levels remain relatively low you have some comfort in knowing that prostate cancer might not strike you and your family. (2) if, like me, you find that you have elevated levels, you have perhaps the time to determine if you, in fact, have prostate cancer.

As a professional speaker, I have had the opportunity to talk with many men about this dreaded disease and the prospects for recovery. While that is not my speaking topic, it certainly garners attention as most men would like to avoid this at all costs.

To answer the question – what treatment method did I use – I elected to have robotic surgery using the DaVinci system and the outcome was excellent. There have been no lasting side effects and my PSA remains at zero.

Back to Dan Fogelberg – his voice was silky and his music divine. We will miss him but appreciate the musical legacy he leaves behind. As a prostate cancer survivor, I will hear his music differently now – knowing that the leader of the band has died!

Comments about Fogelberg are welcome!