Small c: The penis post

You may not want to read this post. It defines TMI. But in the interest of continuing to chronicle the saga of my prostate cancer – for the benefit, I hope, of those who follow – the time has come to write about my penis. Specifically, what it doesn’t do.

Incontinence and impotence are two frightening words for a grown man but they are the side-effects of removing the prostate and its cancer with it. Worth the price, or at least that’s the calculation one makes beforehand: Cancer or erections? Cancer or dry underwear? Cancer loses.

I didn’t know quite what to expect of the incontinence and didn’t hear a clear description (maybe because I feared hearing it). I was dreading puddles on the floor. But it’s nothing like that. It’s a matter of dribs and drabs. I wish I understood the physical explanation of what’s happening but the end result is this: Sometimes, when you expect it (standing, coughing, lifting…) and sometimes when you don’t (that’s the tough part) you feel – in the excellent description of Howard Stern Show producer Gary Dell’Abate – something moving where it shouldn’t. Drib. Next time, you hope you remember to clench your muscles first.

When I left the doctor’s office after my hosectomy, I was outfitted in a gigantic Baby Huey diaper plus a pad – which only heightened my fear – but I quickly realized this wasn’t necessary and downgraded to pads. After much trial and, thank goodness, no error, I found my dream brand. I can’t believe I’ve become a connoisseur of such products but I recommend Poise Ultrathins. [Confidential to the FTC: That is not a paid commercial endorsement). I should also note that nighttime is not a problem at all; no latter-day bedwetting for me. So it’s inconvenient and distracting but as with every step of this process, I have seen that I’m luckier than I thought I’d be.

As for the penis’ other job, well, that’s not going so well. The nurse warned me not to expect anything yet (it has been four weeks since surgery) and so I suppose I shouldn’t be depressed. But it’s hard. Because it’s not.

We men have complicated relationships with our penises, of course. We follow them (that’s why they’re in front). They tell us what we like. They have minds of their own. We anthropomorphize them; some give them names (I don’t; it’s just it). So when I see mine looking like an emaciated, depressed, shrunken old man in a hospital bed, well, it’s hard not to empathize.

The doctor prescribed a quarter of a Viagra pill every night, to prime the pump, apparently. I have a page of standard instructions that suggest taking a whole little blue pill once a week and then to, well, have a go at it. Imagine being a teenager and being told that masturbation is a medical necessity. Doctor’s orders. Sounds like fun, but it’s not. Even when things start working (I hope) they’ll be weird, as a good friend warned me. Today, there’s sensation but there’s no growth and when and if there is liftoff, there’ll still be no semen (the seminal vesicles were taken out with the prostate). This is changed forever.

I’ll spare you further progress reports on these topics. As you can tell from my lame gags about my lame thing, this is about as much transparency as I can bear. I have found my limit.

(The rest of the saga is here.)