BY RALPH BLUM
Have you been watching the TV commercials for drugs that combat erectile dysfunction? I don’t know about you but I’ve been conditioned PR wise—only in the wrong direction. I mean, I’ve become like one of Pavlov’s dogs gone bonkers - every time the bell rings, instead of salivating, I tend to piss on the bell-ringer’s leg. It’s gotten to the point where I grab the mute button whenever I hear any one of the brand names, or see a shot of a couple lying in his-and-hers bathtubs on a cliff overlooking the Promised Land. “A question of blood flow,” my keester! Still, in case you’re still in the “Help me get it up” market, let’s review a few of the offerings.
In addition to Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra, I found 12 other erectile dysfunction drugs listed; drugs with names like Staxyn, Yohimbe, Erex and Testomar . . . Compared with the big three, the others received very few, if any, reviews. However, ED commercials are ubiquitous on the Internet. When I last looked, I found over 300 “male enhancement” products on the market, each of them promising “bigger and better erections.” But what if you’re just not interested? What if one’s desire for sex is totally absent?
We know certain things for sure about prostate cancer and one of them is that it is, to various degrees, testosterone driven. Unfortunately, so is sexual desire. So what controls the cancer—a radically diminished testosterone level in the blood, aka TIP, as Mark has christened, it is a part of the formula for staying alive.
Attending Support Groups over the past two decades, I’ve heard a lot of discussion about erections and the absence of same. I’d bet that 96% of the complaints concerning the ED resulting from hormone therapy (and the resulting suspension of intercourse) do not come from our partners. It’s a guy thing. As one woman summed it up at a Support Group at the PCRI Conference last year, “If it’s a choice, believe me, we would rather have you alive than have sex.” So we’re talking ego versus reality.
Yet all is not lost. Some couples, like my old Ojai friends, J and L, have replaced coitus with massage and cuddling and exploring touch, only to find that they actually have greater intimacy. As they have told one another, “I can’t see you too well, and I can’t hear you . . . But it feels really good.”
With all the horror stories, stories of fear and shame, of loss and self doubt, I find it heartening to see the lighter side. So when it comes to a catalogue of all the possible unpleasant side effects of erectile dysfunction drugs—ranging from dizziness and stuffy nose to seizure or sudden decrease or loss of hearing or vision—my favorite warning concerns priapism: “To avoid long term injury, seek immediate medical help for an erection lasting more than four hours.” By all means, call your doctor. In fact, you could make two calls, one toThe Guinness Book of Records!
In Chapter 16 of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, Mark talks about the effects of testosterone reduction and how to minimize its negative impact. While Viagra would permit most men to attain a workable erection, the problem proved to be more basic. When he was conducting a study, Mark found that many men simply “forgot” to take their Viagra. He wrote: “To complete the study I had to resort to phoning them at home to remind them to take their pill.” While helping to preserve their lives, TIP had actually sapped all their interest in sex.
I have ridden the edge for what is now approaching a quarter of a century. I have undergone no invasive treatment. Only hormone blockade. There are no guarantees. Things may change, making treatment advisable at some point in my future. But so far so good. For me my low libido has been a small price to pay to keep my show on the road.