By Tim Flood

I was lucky enough to fall in love and start a new relationship soon after my prostate cancer treatment. However, our first sexual encounter was a disaster. I could not achieve an erection. I was distraught. Devastated. Clearly, she really liked sex and I felt that I was not going to be able to meet her desires.

I thought that this was going to be a very brief liaison.

New body, new talk

However, later in the night we started to talk. We have talked ever since.

So, from the beginning, it was clear to me that I needed to be inventive. I needed to find new approaches to sex. My body (and my mind) were different after surgery. I could not rely on my old patterns of behaviour. I could not rely on my penis to become erect. It felt like an emasculation and it was only after we talked, and shared our feelings, and listened, that I had some hope of recovering my sex life.

Now, we talk, before, during and after sex. I compliment my partner a lot, something which I have not done before. She loves to be appreciated but she especially likes it during sex. She loves to be loved. We say “I love you” often during sex.

Exploring the edginess of sexual inventiveness

We describe fantasies. Sometimes, this can be a bit edgy. By their very nature, fantasies can go in any direction. Occasionally I go too far. But this isn’t a problem. It is always possible to rein it in and change the mood, the image, the fantasy. We talk about whether we would want to turn the fantasy into reality. We talk about what is comfortable. We talk about boundaries.

So we talk about what we like, what we fantasise about. We find common interest. We say how good something feels. We ask for what we want – she is better than me at this but it is new to me and I am learning. We are gentle with how we start and then we build it up.

Sex with ED and a new partner

From the beginning, we started to investigate alternatives to erections. We looked into sex toys together. I purchased a strap-on vibrating cock, a cock ring and a penis pump. We alternated using these toys.

I did not have much success with sildenafil (Viagra). It gave me headaches and a stuffy nose and did not always help with erections. Fortunately, over the next few months, my natural erections improved, and we used the sex toys less.

The most important learning for me was to relax. Initially, my erections were soft but just hard enough for penetration if she guided it in. Although this was intensely pleasurable, it was different to what I had been used to.

Shifting my own expectations

I felt less powerful, less potent. This was stressful. And often, I could produce an erection but I could not maintain it, so I became soft inside her. Again this caused me stress. I quickly learnt not to fight this but to stay with my partner. It helps to turn attention from what’s not working towards the fantasy, or using my hands, or encouraging her to self-stimulate or to use the vibrator.

Indeed, anything rather than focusing on my soft cock. The result was that I became more gentle and more focused on her pleasure rather than my (previous) ultimate goal of orgasm. Often, I did not have an orgasm but it felt more like making love and less like fucking.

My cancer has helped me become a better lover

As time has progressed, I am fortunate in that my erections are improving all the time. My cock still responds better to direct stimulation and touch. I cannot rely on my sense of sight to initiate arousal like I used to but it does respond to fantasy especially hearing what she likes.

So my cancer has helped me to be a better lover. It has introduced me to inventiveness and better communication around sex and desire. I should add that I have also, since my diagnosis, been practising a daily GRATITUDE meditation. This focus on gratitude has radically improved my state of mind, my ability to accept and has helped to create a very positive outlook in my life.

It cannot be stressed enough, how each man’s journey with prostate cancer is different. I hope that in sharing some aspects of my journey, you may find a positive approach to yours.

And the cancer is not over

As an update, my PSA is rising rapidly. It looks like I may require salvage radiotherapy. My journey is far from over. I remain deeply grateful to my partner, to the men who have contributed to Mish’s online Zoom support group and, bizarrely, to my cancer.