Sometimes our scariest choices are really opportunities to break free and soar…
– – –
See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World
– – –
Ask anyone who has cancer and they will tell you that each day is a balancing act between the uncertainty of where the disease may take you next and concern for quality of life. Sometimes you are presented with potential treatment options where the intended outcome is a longer life but at the price of greatly diminished capabilities. Just recently I was faced with such a choice, one that I had been dreading for months. Without these treatments, my oncologist made it soberly clear that I was headed towards Stage 4 prostate cancer. And given that five other members of my immediate family have all succumbed to cancer of one form or the other, this was tantamount to a slow, bone-crushingly painful, death sentence. Yet the prescribed treatment for my condition, essentially a form of chemical castration, I believed would rob me of everything I held dear and depended on as a way of life. Imagine being a sex and relationship expert who is fully impotent and now has zero libido. I couldn’t, but went through with it anyway…
World’s Highest Testosterone Rollercoaster
Despite my full impotence (or more accurately, because of it), my Life Partner and I have an intimate life most fully-functioning couples would kill for if they thought it was even possible (which it is, for everyone). And to the complete mystery of all the doctors, my testosterone levels before my latest treatment were completely off the charts. While there is no research that I or my doctors are aware of accounting for this, my naturally high T-levels may likely be due to the extraordinary intimacy my Partner and I enjoy. Sort of a sexually virtuous cycle where the more deeply we experience emotional and physical intimacy / connection, the more a man’s body generates testosterone. Which of course creates additional drive for more of the same and so on.
So, it is from this perspective that the following chart may make more sense:
These figures represent actual test results from my medical records. The shaded area represents the normal range of testosterone for healthy men of all ages, the blue line, my levels and the red line where most men my age (mid-60’s) would reside. In fact, many men my age struggle with the effects of low testosterone and seek hormone therapy to compensate. However, let me make something very clear here in case you were wondering. I have never used testosterone replacement therapy of any kind. That would be tantamount to a slow, excruciating suicide given that testosterone is the “fuel” for my aggressive prostate cancer.
The other thing worth noting on this chart is the sudden (as in falling off a cliff sudden) drop of my T-levels to near zero in a matter of a few days. Imagine flying in the stratosphere for the last few years only to hit the mother of all air pockets causing you to come crashing down to earth. A drop so fast, furious and complete that you may never fly again.
I have personally witnessed what chemical castration has done to other men with starting T-levels far less than mine. It’s not pretty. In addition to the potential complete elimination of libido, other symptoms include mood swings, hot flashes, weight gain, low energy, depression, cognitive impairment, spontaneous weeping for no apparent reason, loss of muscle mass, lower bone density and so on.
To say that I was not looking forward to experiencing any of these would make a great contender for the Understatement Hall of Fame. So much so I very seriously considered living a much shorter life as a lion rather than suffer a longer one as a lamb.
So, it was with the greatest of trepidation that I relented and received two subdermal injections that would significantly change my quality of life. Except, it didn’t quite turn out that way…
It’s Not the Leap that Kills You
Getting those injections was akin to jumping off a cliff for me. I knew I had to learn how to fly or I was doomed to crash into the rocks below. Keep in mind I had far more than just quality of life issues to contend with. As a thought leader, speaker, and author in the field of advanced human sexuality and relationships, I truly wondered if I would be able to continue my work with any degree of integrity or modicum of enthusiasm. Without a sense of purpose or mission men in particular, regardless of their physical condition, are susceptible to slipping into depression and a pervading sense of hopelessness. Neither of which are the companions you want on the road to cancer recovery.
As it turns out, though still early in this game, it appears that I’m learning to fly under these new conditions. With the help and support of my incredible Life Partner, I find that my energy levels are still quite high, she and I still make love for hours, and our connection has never been deeper. The main impacts I’ve witnessed so far include frequent hot flashes, which only helps me more appreciate the resiliency of post-menopausal women, and greatly reduced urgency in seeking my own sexual release due to significantly lower libido. Other than that, I seem to be the same old me but with a newly humble and appreciative perspective.
Lower Libido Does Not Mean Less Fulfilling Sex
Perhaps the biggest “aha!” during this whole process is that while my need for sexual release has indeed been drastically reduced, my desire to please my Partner has not. This means I can still give her pleasure for as long as she wants and in doing so my own sense of sexual fulfillment is overflowing in the process. And what is even more exciting is that this response (which is not typical for most couples in this situation) directly substantiates everything I’ve been writing and speaking about over the last few years. That true relationship fulfillment comes from unconditional giving in a space of full Presence rather than seeking one’s own pleasure first. This is wonderful news for the millions of couples who are struggling with intimacy in the face of cancer or any of life’s many challenges. All of which means that my sense of purpose and mission is that much more relevant and very much intact.
Another important lesson I was (once again) reminded of is that anticipation of one’s fears is far worse than facing them head on. I almost allowed the “fear of my fear” to avoid the treatment my body needed to survive. I had to take the leap, in the face of not knowing for certain the outcome, before I could really fly again. And now because I did, I believe my Partner and I will fly that much higher and be able to help many more people who struggle with achieving true intimacy.
This story is not over, however. I know life will throw additional challenges my way time and time again. Each time is an invitation to “take a leap” in order to fly higher still. I truly believe that the only chains that hold us back from our full potential as ordinary human beings capable of extraordinary things are the ones we’ve forged ourselves out of fear.
Just know this, though: if we have the power to make them, we have the power to break them. All it takes is a willingness to take the leap so you are free to find and exercise your wings to carry you as high as you want to go, regardless of circumstances.
– – –