Samuel Mahaffy learned that without testosterone can be rich, and intimacy comes in many forms.
Our country home on three beautiful acres has been pretty void in both male energy and testosterone over the past years. I grieve the loss of male energy more than I do the loss of testosterone.
My relationships with good men and the women I love deepened through my journey with male hormone deprivation therapy. It all started with my hormone treatment for advanced prostate cancer which wiped out all my testosterone. The good news in that—I am today alive, happy and healthy! But, it all kind of snowballed from there as far as the loss of male energy.
My son grew up, went to graduate school, started a successful career and is married to a wonderful partner. He has become an extraordinary man in this world. While I miss him, I am so proud of him and so happy for him.
Our adopted son from Ghana, who lived with our family while attending college, is gone too. Like my son, he brought beautiful and loving energy to our home. He now has his own family and his own tech company. Both my grown son and our adopted son from Africa model the kindness, gentleness and wisdom that I hope our twin daughters will find in a partner one day.
The loss of male energy extended to the menagerie of animals that find a home on our small farm. Our rooster–named Season–was exiled to our place from the city because he crowed too much and violated city ordinances. With all the guys gone from our home, he was pretty decent company. He trailed me and my wheelbarrow around the garden, diving in to grab worms uncovered by my digging. Season sadly disappeared one day—probably snatched by one of the coyotes in our neighborhood.
That leaves me as the lone male in a household of amazing women. There are lots of jokes about the lack of gender balance in our home. The protective male role in our family has not been an issue. My partner and twin daughters all earned their black belts in Tae Kwon Do so no worries there! Despite my best efforts to encourage their self-reliance in the ‘fix-it’ area, I still find myself disproportionately called on to stop running toilets, repair leaking faucets, replace light bulbs, check the oil in the car, carry out the compost and other sundry tasks that I often wonder how we manage to delegate on the basis of gender.
Life remained rich despite the loss of male energy in our home and all my testosterone disappearing. Still, I needed my ‘fix’ of male energy. My relationships with good men deepened through my journey with male hormone deprivation. There is my younger brother—now 60—who managed to set aside his global travels to stop global warming and the spread of chemical weapons—to walk every step with me on my journey of recovery from cancer. My son still calls me every Monday afternoon—my former chemo day—now just to check in and connect and see how I am doing.
There is a pastor friend who hugs me so hard my bones hurt. He will be coming over with his chain saw to cut down some dead trees for me. A retired college professor, who I had only known for a few months when I started chemo treatment, met regularly with me through my cancer journey. Beyond emotional support, he generously offered to help me with medical expenses if I needed that. Another man, who is a retired doctor, came over to install an entire drip irrigation system in our vegetable gardens. He reasoned that “Samuel shouldn’t have to drag hoses around the yard.” His own battle with Parkinson’s disease was not a barrier to his reaching out to generously help me.
Relationships with loving women in my home, caring men in my extended circle and a sense of community made the loss of testosterone a small matter. Indeed, being alive, as a man and as a cancer survivor, in the middle of such loving relationships made life rich.
The incessant TV commercials for testosterone enhancement garner a good share of exasperated eye-rolling in our household. No worries here about “an erection lasting more than four hours.” Testosterone levels do not define either masculinity or our ability to have intimate relationships. Life can be rich without any testosterone at all. Testosterone enhancement is surely not the ‘fix’ for lack of intimacy that it is presented to be.
So, what do I still miss in terms of male energy in my home? I confess that I am jealous when I happen to hear the rooster crow on the farm next to ours. There is not much that makes me jealous. Still, I miss the sound of Season crowing in our yard. Growing up in Eritrea, East Africa I woke every morning at sunrise to the first sound of a rooster crowing. Somehow, a rooster crowing is a better marker of the turning cycles of daily life than an alarm clock will ever be.
I adore the beautiful women in my family circle. I stand in amazement of their unfolding as human beings. I treasure staying connected to my grown son. There is nothing I would trade for the circle of men friends who know how to ‘journey with’ no matter how rough the road. Testosterone or no testosterone, I am blessed. Grace has been given to me. I can take or leave the hormone. It is the intimacy of relationships that keeps me alive and my life rich.