Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the removal of my cancerous prostate, and I'm not sure if I should celebrate it with a special cake or a good cry.
The operation itself went well enough. The doctor opened me up with some sort of robot, but then compensated me with some really good pain medication. True, I also awakened with a catheter installed (which turned out not to be as pleasant a thing as I had been led to believe). But after the catheter came out in a couple of weeks, it was time to get to work on the side effects of the operation.
The first of these was that my bladder leaked like a sieve and I had to wear an adult diaper. "Without a prostate you will have to learn to hold your bladder like a woman" said the urologist. "But most women manage it and you will learn how to also." And he was right.
The second of these side effects involved the utility of something I shall call "Charley" to protect his real identity. Charley could no longer perform certain duties related to his matrimonial function. "Will he ever come back to life again?" I asked the urologist. "Well, I carefully performed a "nerve sparing" operation to preserve all functionality. So the answer is, maybe."
Charley would need rehabilitation. The doctor started with an array of common enhancement pills, but in doses so large that it caused the eyes of middle aged friends of mine who were using the same drugs recreationally to start from their heads. The drugs had no effect, other than many unwanted side effects. Next, I was presented with a humiliating pump-like device that I was to use in conjunction with certain manual exercises that are frowned upon by the Catholic Church. But sin as I might, this didn't help either.
As the months rolled by, I was offered a box of home syringes that I could inject directly into Charley in order to get his attention. I'm afraid that I passed on these, despite the countless number of souls I could have rescued from Purgatory if I had used them. Nothing works. And as we come upon the first year anniversary, I know that the next discussion will be about permanent implants that would change Charley into some sort of balloon animal.
So Charley seems to be in a permanent coma. This has been more than just a little physical inconvenience in my marriage as you can imagine. But I never dreamed that this sort of thing would also pose a spiritual problem.
Being impotent has kept within me a sort of undefinable anger that began when I read the pathologist's report. The report began with describing the weight, color, and overall condition of my prostate gland and the "two attached seminal vesicles". I found the idea of my seminal vesicles lying on some stranger's table to be very disturbing. As time went on and my attempts at a humiliating recovery failed over and over again, I became depressed. I blamed God.
It's not like I was some sort of athlete before the operation or that I was constantly checking all the women out. But with the loss of Charley there have been other changes to my sexuality. I don't see or feel things like I used to. The way the world and my physical place in it has changed. And I wasn't even aware before that I had this now missing self image.
My anger and frustration has seriously eroded my prayer life, again in ways that I never would have expected. Six months ago, when I had a heart attack (yes, when it rains it pours) and I was being rushed by ambulance to the hospital I was quite lucid, but even though I knew that I might be dying, I could not pray at all.
Am I just making a big thing out of nothing? What I suspect is that this isn't about some sort of broken concept of my manliness on my part, but that my impotence is my first personal, concrete experience of death, and this is what I am having trouble facing. In our over sexualized society, having Charley fall asleep is an entirely different thing from, say, losing an arm. But the fact is, I feel as though I have begun to die, and I am having trouble keeping my faith robust enough to deal with it.