Dear Readers - Whenever any of you choose to share your own experience, surmounting a personal or relationship problem, the information and encouragement to others is powerful. Here's one such letter:
Reader - "I'm a male, 58, who had prostrate surgery several years ago. I could relate and empathize with the gentleman who had problems with his feelings about his manhood after his surgery (July 28 column).
"Let me describe what happens: First, you have an information interview about the surgery and the effects afterwards. I have always enjoyed making love and it seemed to me so did your writer. They tell you that the surgeons do "nerve saving technology" so that you may achieve erections after the prostrate is removed.
"They tell you everyone is different in the recovery process, but generally, if you had great erections before, you'll have good ones afterwards. If you had good ones before, you'll have so-so ones afterwards, etc.
"It can take some years for the nerves to function properly again and often it does take medication to help achieve an erection. The one thing they don't tell you is that your penis will be smaller, because, when the prostate's removed, they sew up the opposite ends and that draws the penis into the body somewhat. That inch or so can have a big effect on your psyche.
"I've talked with other men who've had the surgery and found it to be a common concern. As well, when you're used to being able to get an erection easily, it feels far less than manly when you can't.
"The advice his doctor gave and the advice you gave were excellent. The more he attempts to get an erection, the better it'll become. It's like any other muscle. It needs to be used and exercised and things will improve.
"And I thought your comment about a mature woman not being shocked by the use of medication was perfect. It'll take some time to get over the trauma but it will get better, once he starts getting back in the saddle, so to speak.
Been There, Better Now
My older sister, late-20s, was diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder a year ago and prescribed anti-anxiety medication by the family doctor. But she's not talked to a specialist about it. I'm shocked by her weight gain and irrational behaviour.
She got engaged and my parents say every wedding discussion turns into an argument, so she stays mostly at her fiancé's place. It's a mess! The kitchen hasn't been cleaned for days. She's drinking alcohol and smoking pot. She makes no effort with her hair or looks any more.
I feel I should say something about her weight, but I'm not sure how to approach her.
Get more informed about her diagnosis, so you can be helpful beyond focusing on what bothers you, more than whatever's most significant.
Tell her you want to be part of her "well-being" team, and suggest you both see a specialist together. There, you can ask about the effects of medication (weight gain?), and also inquire if any substances interfere with the benefits of the meds (alcohol? Pot?).
Tell your parents to back off the wedding plans. If her requests sound irrational, and they're paying, they can say they can't afford that, or give her a controlled sum of money. You can help her make more realistic choices if you establish trust between you two, and also get her fiancé onside.
Reader - "I've broken away from a long-time single friend. I'm married; she's single. In one of her previous relationships, she moved away and kept no contact whatsoever with friends. She was so blinded by the relationship that she didn't see nor care. She lost two friends over this. When she returned, alone, she said she was so sorry, and to tell her if she acted this way again.
"It did happen. Every visit to her apartment, the new man was there, so no more "girl time." She only wanted to go out on group dates, never just with me.
"Some people in relationships lose themselves and their friendships. She's over 50 and still distancing her friends when she's in a relationship.
"I fear she'll end up alone."
No. 3 Lost
She's the insecure one, while you're lucky to have the comfort of a long relationship. Stay in touch, periodically.
Tip of the day:
When prostate surgery is necessary, be prepared and positive about the process of recovery.