"HE WAS ABLE TO OPEN UP AND TALK"
[This is in response to an exchange with a woman about problems she was having talking with her PCa husband. They then took a trip and she wrote me on June 4, 2000, telling me what happened. - Robert Young]
We don't get to spend much time with our wonderful friends
and when we do see them, we try to take advantage of every moment we have
together. So I didn't know if [my husband] and I would get enough time alone
for talks, but we managed some.
First, let me describe the setting. our friends just built their dream house in the desert on the outskirts of [the city]. It's a beautiful adobe structure, snuggled into a
grove of cacti, with tons of other desert plants and animals. When
we get our film developed, I'll send you one of my favorite view from
their patio, which is where [my husband] and I finally had the best talk we've had
in ages. But I'll get to that a bit later.
The first thing to celebrate was a miracle that visited us on our first
night there. After a great dinner and non-stop talking for hours, we
were settled in bed, with sounds of desert critters serenading through the
screen door. He reached for me in that way, and I thought, "But he
didn't take any Viagra." I figured okay, just go with it and play
around like we have done before. Lo and behold, he sustained an erection
sufficient for the whole shebang. Still not as strong as before, but
plenty good for both of us. First time since his RP that we managed to go all
the way without any assistance. (Nine months out, and sooner than either of
us expected.) We were both so pleased, we would have done a moonlit desert
dance if we hadn't been warned about stinging scorpions. And this was
after he took tons of Sudafed that morning, which he always has takes when
he flies, due to chronic ear problems. Even before the RP, whenever he
would fly - usually to visit his family - we would have to
wait a day for the Sudafed to leave his system.
It felt like this did so much for his confidence. And here I was,
so afraid for him to keep trying and failing. The last couple of months,
it felt like he was avoiding sex, I figured because of the fear of
And this is what was bothering me so much - I though he should be more
willing to try other things beyond the Viagra, thinking it would help
the confidence factor. I was reading so much on the PCAI about how happy
men and their partners were with the injections, and even their VEDs. But
he has steadfastly refused to try either.
Our last morning there, I got up early to sit on the patio and listen
to the magical morning sounds of the desert critters. Incredible bird
sounds, bunnies running by, roadrunners drawn to puddles of water in
He got up and joined me, and after a little chit chat, I took a deep breath, slipped my hand into his, and said, "Honey, I have this problem, and I need your help
to figure it out." He was a bit surprised, but since he's an incredibly
low-key and patient person, he just waited for me to continue.
I went on to describe how confused I was about how much to talk about the
PCa, and asked him if I brought it up too much, or was forcing him to
think about it when he'd rather not.
He said that he didn't feel I talked about it too much. "It's part of our lives now," he said. "It's not like it's going to go away if we don't talk about it." He also said he knew I was interested in researching medical information, that I was good at it,
and he appreciated my sharing the information with him. He made it clear
that I'm doing fine, and that he doesn't want me to do anything differently.
I asked him if he thought about the PCa a lot, and how he felt about it
at this point. He said it never really leaves his mind for long, and that
every so often he'll feel a pain somewhere in his body and wonder if
it's a PCa metastasis. But the overwhelming thing he has realized is to live
his life now, not to wait to do the things he wants to do. He said, "I may
not live as long as my father," who is 80. "I don't want to put things off
for later, since there may not be a later for us." He didn't say this in a
particularly fatalistic way, but more in recognition that if he has 10
years left to live, he wants to live his life to the fullest in those
years, not wait and plan for later.
We didn't really have the opportunity to talk about the sexual stuff,
since on our first glorious night, I didn't want to ruin the moment by
intellectualizing, analyzing, or suggesting things. And it didn't seem
appropriate to bring it up during the more general conversation on the
patio that last morning. I didn't want it to seem like a test, or a
survey, and since the conversation we had went so well, I didn't want to push
it. But I do feel like it will be easier to bring it up now that I've
untangled my mind a bit.
So your advice worked, Robert. First of all, you were right on the
money: my anxiety, confusion and depression were my problems, not his. And by
presenting my feelings that way, he was able to open up and talk about
his. Maybe it helped that I wasn't asking him to do anything he didn't want
to do, or talk about things he didn't want to get into. Perhaps beginning
the conversation by expressing my fears and asking for his help allowed him
to help me, to "fix" things. He is a man who is definitely a fixer, who
is happiest when he can help me solve a problem.
A very close male friend, a man who worked with us for 10 years and
knows us both well, once gave me some advice about men that I have never
forgotten. Your last letters to me reinforced this insight. Our friend
explained to me that, whether biological or environmental, men are
trained to fix things. If they know they can't offer a solution to a problem,
they don't want to talk about it.
This was a real breakthrough for me in
understanding men, since at that time I was getting frustrated because
[my husband] didn't want to continue a particular conversation. [Our friend] told me
that he thought [my husband] was avoiding that conversation because there was
nothing he could do about the issues I was addressing. And I was being the
typical female, just wanting to talk - not looking for solutions, but
simply finding solace in the act of talking, of processing my feelings
I owe you so much, Robert. I can't find words to express my gratitude
for the time you've spent helping me get through this last rough patch -
and helping so many other folks (especially the women) on PCAI at the same
time. Please don't hesitate to ask me for help, whether for your
Website, or anything else.
Time to get back to work. (Sorry, I thought this would be a shorter letter.
Guess brevity is not my nature.)
[In the interim, I posted more on the subject to the PCAI list. To read that one, click here. - RVY]