Stirling's story

Stirling knew when he had surgery to remove his cancerousMalignant, a tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. prostate glandAn organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. that he faced a risk of erectile dysfunctionInability to maintain a penile erection for sexual intercourse..

Erectile dysfunction is a complicationA condition that is linked to, or is a consequence of, another disease or procedure. affects up to 60 per cent of men after prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. surgery. The risk is so high because the nerves and bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. vessels that control erections lie close to the prostate and can easily be damaged during the operation. In addition, most men experience some loss of libidoSexual drive. along with prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. or its treatment.

After Sterling's operation, he found it difficult to get a full erectionThe enlarged, rigid state of the penis during sexual arousal., and he and his wife Susie faced a struggle to reignite their love life. 'Sex is very important to me and to think that I was unable to have sex was a dreadful thought,' Sterling remembers. 'Fortunately, my wife Susie was very understanding, but after several months of waiting for things to improve, we decided to get help.'

It could have been the beginning of a very nasty marital situation, but we've always been great at communicating. So we were able to reassure each other and face the problem together

Their doctor prescribed a drug that helps erectile dysfunctionInability to maintain a penile erection for sexual intercourse. by temporarily increasing bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. flow to the penis - but it didn't work, much to Stirling's despair. At the same time, and like so many other women, his wife Susie began to think that she was in some part to blame.

'No matter how much Stirling said he fancied me, I was thinking that perhaps I wasn't sexy or adventurous enough for him,' she says. 'Sex has always been an important part of our relationship, and we didn't want to give it up. Like most women I can climax without penetration, but Stirling was only getting a semi-solid erectionThe enlarged, rigid state of the penis during sexual arousal., which wasn't hard enough or lasting long enough for penetrative sex. He missed it and I did, too.'

If one method of curing erectile dysfunctionInability to maintain a penile erection for sexual intercourse. doesn't work, there are plenty of other things to try

'It could have been the beginning of a very nasty marital situation, but we've always been great at communicating. So we were able to reassure each other and face the problem together.'

As Stirling, 77, and Susie, 55, found out, if one method of curing erectile dysfunctionInability to maintain a penile erection for sexual intercourse. doesn't work, there are plenty of other things to try. Their doctor prescribed an alternative drug, which did enable Stirling to get a decent erectionThe enlarged, rigid state of the penis during sexual arousal.. 'But I had to take the pill at least one hour before having sex, which rather destroyed the spontaneity of it all,' says Stirling.

They were offered another drug in the form of a capsule that is inserted directly into the urethra but, as Susie says, 'we never had the guts to try it'. Finally they had success with one of a new generation of drugs for erectile dysfunctionInability to maintain a penile erection for sexual intercourse.. 'Stirling pops a pill and in ten minutes has a good erectionThe enlarged, rigid state of the penis during sexual arousal.. Sometimes he can have sex without it, but mostly he needs a little help, which is fine. Now our sex life is completely back on track.

'Erectile dysfunction is nothing to be embarrassed about. Our advice is to keep on talking to each other and your doctor. Don't give up and decide your sex life has gone for good. There are so many different techniques and cures out there that the chances are excellent that one will work for you.'

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