The plot twist would be too obvious, too ironic for a novel or a movie.
The back story: Jeffrey, the graphic designer for John & Yoko and other rock ‘n’ roll superstars, turned high-end arty pornographer, and a man blessed or cursed with a supercharged sex drive, falls in love in a fancy whorehouse in 1980 with Laura, an equally hypersexual hooker/lingerie model. Laura is the kind of wild girl men think they would be if they were a beautiful girl.
Laura meets Jeffrey and they go on a three-and-a-half-year rampage of celebrity encounters, BDSM explorations, drugs and more sex.
(Almost three decades later, Laura and I collaborate – first with the help of my friend, the literary giant Norman Mailer, and then after his passing with assistance from pop culture historian Legs McNeil – and write a memoir about our life on the wild side, the just published Laura Meets Jeffrey: Both Sides of an Erotic Memoir.)
The ironic twist: Fifteen years after Laura and I part, in 1998 when I am 51, I am diagnosed with prostate cancer, and a Russian roulette pistol is pointed at my sexuality and also at my life. I go from horny warrior to prostate cancer patient.
My PSA test results could also indicate prostatitis instead of cancer, which could be explained by how much competitive cross-country horseback riding I did at that time. Further examination revealed I had symptoms for prostatitis and was given medicine, stopped riding, took several hot baths every day as ordered and prayed a lot.
My PSA went down but not enough. I had a biopsy and discovered I had prostatitis and prostate cancer and because of my young age and the grading of my cancer, the call was for surgery with the unpleasant name “radical prostatectomy.”
My first bullet-dodge came because, God bless him, Dr. Patrick Walsh from Johns Hopkins refined nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy surgery in 1982. This allowed men to have a complete removal of the prostate and still get erections. Before that, every prostatectomy left every man completely impotent.
Using Dr. Walsh’s methods, Dr. Alan Wein at The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) was able to save both my nerves that control erection.
About two weeks after the operation when I was having the staples and stitches taken out, I asked Dr. Wein when I would be able to start making love with my wife again and he told me that if all went well my ability to get an erection would come back in a few months and even though I would no longer ejaculate, I would have orgasms.
Dr. Wein then told me something that turned my world upside down and brought me closer than ever to believing somebody up there likes me. He said that even before my ability to perform the basic business returned, I could have a climax. I didn’t believe him.
I thought the primary procreative and/or fun male sex act sequence was that: (1) men got excited, (2) became erect, (3) had one form or another of physical stimulation, (4) ejaculated and (5) had an orgasm. He told me I was wrong. He said men could have an orgasm with just the excitement and the friction and that if I didn’t believe him I should go home, and by myself or with the help of my choice of assistant, take a test drive. I chose my wife and to my amazement, Eureka! He was right! I had a climax! Without an erection!
That you could skip (2), (3) and (4) was mind-blowing. But think about it. If you’re a guy and you have the choice of getting erections, ejaculating or having an orgasm and you can only have one of the three, which would you choose? I have never been more at one with the universe than at the end of that first test drive.
After a few months of recuperation from the surgery Mr. Willy worked just fine, especially with the occasional leg up from Viagra, which with perfect timing, had just been approved by the FDA 60 days before I needed it.
My cancer returned when I was 55. I was told the next step would be what is called, with even less charm, “salvage radiation.” I was told that 100 percent of the men who had this treatment were left impotent. No erection, no ejaculation and no orgasms.
Naturally I was upset. I drove home thinking my next few orgasms would be my last. The oncologist at HUP, knowing that it was impractical for me to drive two hours each way every day for 35 days for a ten-minute treatment suggested I see his star resident, Dr. Phillip Vigneri, who was running the radiation oncology department at Scared Heart Hospital in Allentown, PA, less than half an hour from my ranch.
A fluke intervened for bullet-dodge number two. Sacred Heart had just got IMRT, a new fangled radiation oncology machine with a new high tech digital imaging approach. I was among the first men in the world treated with it for salvage radiation after a failed radical prostatectomy.
Right before my first treatment, Dr. Vigneri, smiling like the Cheshire Cat, handed me a white paper just published by Nomis, the machine’s manufacturer. He told me to read the abstract at the beginning. It said a side benefit of IMRT, an unintended but welcome consequence, was that this new treatment did not necessarily make men impotent. “Hallelujah!”
Another unintended consequence is that post radiation, I am experiencing the strongest orgasms of my life. It wasn’t always like that. In the two years after the radiation, I went through a period of a few years when they were often horrible, if orgasms can be horrible. Some were B or B-minus but many were D-minus, like, “was that it?’
Then something strange happened. I suspect my muscles down there went through some weirdness during radiation that took several years to marinate. My urologist says he’s only heard of something similar happening a few times before and that I am a fortunate outlier. Either my orgasms have moved into the blockbuster category for some unknown, medical or miraculous reason, or I’m experiencing one of the kindest pathological self-delusional disorders ever discovered. Either way I win.
These new museum-quality post-prostate cancer orgasms are wider and deeper and last longer than my pre-cancerian climaxes. I think they are somewhat like the orgasms women have, or at least the way women have described their orgasms to me. I have no idea why this good fortune has befallen me. Whatever the reason, it makes tolerating other indignities of having had prostate cancer easier. Cancer left me a booby prize.
I still have some ED but Viagra works most of the time. I’m 65 now so I’d be slowing down even without prostate cancer. Sometimes if I do a Viagra at night, I’ll get a second, shall we say, urge with accompanied physical abilities, in the middle of the night or the next morning, which I call the buy-one-get-one-free effect.
The other gift available to all prostate cancer patients endowed with some grace and understanding is recognising that your partner’s needs can be satisfied with more than just that one specific type of interaction. Cancer gave me an awareness of the value of foreplay and gentleness and romance that my hormones didn’t give me the time to appreciate when I was younger and unwounded. If you are a heterosexual guy you can experience the joy of lesbian sex.
None of this will matter if my next blood test comes back positive. If my cancer ever comes back doctors will recommend a drug called Lupron to lower my testosterone level.
Testosterone is the male hormone that makes me a man. It’s also the stuff that nourishes prostate cancer. Lupron takes testosterone away and slows down and sometimes stops prostate cancer long enough so you can get real old and die of something else. The side effects of this life-saving drug include a form of male menopause: hot flashes, loss of muscle mass, weight gain, tender and much fuller breasts, shrunken testicles and – tada! –complete impotence without orgasms.
On Lupron, when I look at Victoria Secret ads, instead of fantasizing about sleeping with one of the models, I’ll wonder how I’d look in the bra.
I don’t want to become a woman. It’s not like I’ll get the chance to be a hot cheerleader or a foxy MILF, which might be interesting. I’ll go straight to old, fat and dumpy.
With Lupron, I’ll never get another erection. And with this impotence comes a complete loss of libido, for which, I suppose, I can be thankful. Imagine the opposite: You’re hornier and nothing works.
The choice is whether to slow down the grim reaper by turning myself into a fat menopausal capon or to live a shorter time as the me I’ve come to know and love.
There are three options other than Lupron. (1) I can have my testicles surgically removed, which I have been advised by my oncologist is the wiser choice. It’s what he would do in the same circumstance because even though it leaves men unfunctioning, there are less intense side effects. (2) I can choose not to take Lupron, live a few more years as myself while praying for a new miracle magic bullet drug, and die a not so slow but very agonizing death. (3) Or I can be me for while, pray for a new miracle magic bullet drug and if it doesn’t show up, use a real bullet.
Doctors say the third occurrence of any cancer means medicine has failed you. There’s always hope for a miracle or a new miracle drug, but odds are you’re gonna die from that cancer. All they can do is give you treatments, like Lupron or chemo to slow it down and then give you pain killers at the end.
October 2012 will mark 10 years of remission. So far so good. Ten years is said to be a significant milestone toward continued remission but once you’ve had the second bout of prostate cancer you can never consider yourself cured. I don’t know what choice I’ll make if I ever have to make one, but I sure don’t want to be a capon.
All this heavy stuff has nothing to do with the book Laura and I wrote. I just want to get this helpful and hopeful information out there to the 220,000 men who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year.
Give me a moment to lighten up and plug our new book. Laura Meets Jeffrey tells the true rock ‘n’ roll, sex and drugs story of one of the horniest couples who ever lived. This was 30 years ago, during sexual liberation’s free-love primetime, before AIDS crashed the party. Visit our website: LauraMeetsJeffrey.com, or buy our eBook wherever eBooks are sold, or our print versions on Amazon.
Having lived that life with Laura, and my good fortune with women since then, is what I think about for solace when faced with the horror of the negative or lethal effects of cancer.
No matter what happens, at least I didn’t miss anything.