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Acknowledging Loss
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Web Exclusive: An Excerpt from "Conquer Prostate Cancer"
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Integrative Medicine: Exercise Scores Against Anxiety
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Web Exclusive: Gaining Ground In Treating Metastatic Colorectal Cancer
June 15, 2010 – Kathy LaTour
Web Exclusive: Standing Up to Cancer
June 16, 2010 – Kathy LaTour
Web Exclusive: Find a Clinical Trial That's Right for You
June 16, 2010
More Therapies Needed for Childhood Cancers
June 14, 2010 – Bunmi Ishola
The Price of Parenthood
June 10, 2010 – Erik Ness
Should I Have My Child Tested?
June 09, 2010 – Charlotte Huff
Teaming Up Against Liver Cancers
June 09, 2010 – Kathy LaTour
What Is Metastatic Cancer?
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Watching, Waiting, & More
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Saying Goodbye to Georgy Girl and a Designing Woman
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The Us TOO International Summit, Symposium & Celebration
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The Rules
June 01, 2010 – Leslie Starsoneck
Pipeline
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Can an Aspirin a Day Keep Breast Cancer Away?
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Bad Block
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Letters From Our Readers
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Message From the Editor
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The Treatment Option You May Be Missing
June 07, 2010 – Laura Beil
Progress That's Worth the Wait
June 05, 2010 – Karen Patterson
Living on the Edge: Some Patients with Metastatic Cancer Live Long and Well
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Acknowledging Loss

 Prostate cancer survivor says acknowledging the loss of his sexuality is the first step toward getting it back.

BY Michael E. Reid
PUBLISHED June 06, 2010

Eight weeks after prostate cancer surgery, I still couldn't get an erection. Before surgery, my doctors said it would take time for sexual functioning to return—but eight weeks?

You don’t understand how difficult it is to not be able to express yourself sexually until it happens. For me it was like waking up after having a limb amputated, but still feeling it. No matter the kind of cancer or treatment, the disease leaves you forever changed. Some aspect of yourself and the way you once functioned must go.

It requires adjustment, a rebuilding of perspective, a reordering of priority, a change in behavior or way of being. It requires a shift—for some, simple and inconsequential, and for others, multilayered and quite challenging. But for all, the process of healing and reintegration requires attention, honor, and grace.

I was expected to go quietly into the night, pop Viagra, and hope that one day things would get better. Yes, I was grateful the tumor was gone. But I was also traumatized and aware of a deep loss. I was now different, changed. It was a loss to my body, a loss of control, a loss of self-image, a blow to my self-esteem, and I had no idea how long it would last.

Doctors want the most positive medical outcome, which is good. But how can we be expected to quickly move on—to grab our catheters and dash out the door as if nothing has happened.

Our culture discourages the full recognition of loss; it devalues grieving. We are expected to look on the bright side, never to sit in the disquiet of loss or wrestle with the reality of our own brokenness.

Without the opportunity to grieve, it’s not possible to heal. We cannot wake up from a pharmacological stupor and pretend that life goes on exactly as it did. We can’t stumble through recovery with our eyes fixed on the possibility of a better tomorrow without somehow acknowledging the agony of today.

We owe it to ourselves to understand the depths of our change and to find ways to honor it. If we don’t, we run the risk of losing much more when we fail to recognize new beginnings or miss the wisdom gained when things fall apart.

I was broken, but no one wanted to talk about it. Friends were dismissive about my fear of impotency and attempted to assure me that my relationship was so secure that my partner and I would quickly rise above the absence of sex.

“In the scheme of things,” they said, “not being able to have sex doesn’t really matter.” That’s easy for them to say.

It took a year for me to return to presurgical functioning. It took patience, faith, creativity, and the love of a partner who reminded me that I was more than my body and that our relationship was more than sex.

I have come to realize that the healing of body, mind, and spirit requires the whole truth. We can’t heal if we diminish the significance of our bodies to ourselves and our partners—or if we diminish the place sexual intimacy has in our lives.

—Michael E. Reid is a two-year prostate cancer survivor who lives in Monterey, California.

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