Awakening Your Sensual-Self Post Prostate Cancer

“Folks frustrated by what life throws at them are often filled with rage and self-pity.”


Recently I got an email from a 58-year-old man who lives in San Diego. His name is Doug and this is what he had to say.

“HI, I need some help. I had my prostate removed due to prostate cancer. I feel I have lost my manhood. I don’t experience erections anymore. My penis is dead. Can you recommend something to help me?”

I don’t think Doug is dying, not actively dying anyhow, but he sure is experiencing a profound sense of loss — the death of his sexuality. Or at least the death of the sexual expression he was accustomed to before his radical cancer treatment.

prostate-cancerAnother truly uncanny thing is that in the same week I heard from Doug, I’ve received distressing email from three other people who were at their wits end because life had dealt them a crushing blow. While each person who wrote to me had a very different presenting problem, all were experiencing a similar “death” to what Doug was experiencing. I heard from a woman in Toronto who is recovering from a radical mastectomy. I heard from a guy in Dallas who had just started a recovery program for his serious meth addiction. A young wife and mother in North Carolina whose husband, and father of her two kids, had returned from Afghanistan an emotional and physical basket case. And now Doug.

It’s astonishing that, despite the dramatic differences in each person’s life story, all of my correspondents reported pretty much same thing. Each felt less than whole, disconnected from their sexuality and devoid of any real intimacy or meaningful sexual outlet. It is so amazing how, despite our unique individual difficulties, there is often a universal response to life’s troubling complexities, particularly as it applies to who we are as sexual beings.

When I wrote back to Doug I wanted to empathize, but also encourage. Regaining a sense of sexual-self after prostate surgery, or any of the other problems I mentioned above, is an arduous, but rewarding task.

Hey Doug, I’m so glad you wrote to me. I’m sorry to hear of the problems you’ve bee having since your surgery, but I think I have a few tips to offer you.

Considering your ebbing self-confidence and zero libido, I suggest that you begin your rehabilitation by connecting with others similarly challenged as you. In your case, that will probably be other men living with and through prostate cancer. More likely than not, they will be a whole lot more sympathetic to your issues and attuned to your predicament than even your closest friends and family. Sometimes, people who have yet to experience a life threatening illness or a disfiguring surgery don’t have a clue about how to interact with those that have. It’s not their fault; it’s just the way things are.

I suggest looking into a support group, if you haven’t done so already. Once you make that connection, you will find, that you are not alone. The other men in the group will be experiencing many of very same things you are. And to my mind, it’s a whole lot easier to face and handle life’s difficulties when surrounded and supported by others. That being said, I want to give you a heads-up about support groups, particularly if you’ve never participated in one before.

Each support group has it’s own personality and dynamic. If the group is not lead by a skillful facilitator it’ll, no doubt, degenerate into a bitch and gripe session. No surprise there, I suppose. Folks frustrated by what life throws at them are often filled with rage and self-pity, a lethal combination. A group like this, you should pardon the pun, will be a death trap. If you find yourself in such a group leave it and look for another. A successful group, on the other hand, will be transformational; it will challenge and motivate as well as support you.

Another caution; beware of the lowest common denominator. If you are in a prostate cancer group, you can be certain that every man in the group has sexual issues he’s dying to talk about. Unfortunately, few if and of these men will be so bold as to admit that. It’s how us guys are conditioned to behave. We can endlessly brag about our sexual exploits, but, God forbid, we ever seriously discuss our sexual issues. I have plenty of experience leading these sorts of groups and I can assure you, I have to drag the sex stuff out of the participants until they get the hang of it, and then I can hardly get them off the topic. If you find yourself in such a group, I hope you will take the lead and help break the ice, so to speak. You’ll do everyone, yourself include, a huge favor.male-erotic-massage-a-guide-to-sex-and-spirit

Next I suggest that you try connecting with people on a sensual level as opposed to a sexual level. For example, I firmly believe in massage as the best way to accomplish this. Think about it. Imagine the good you’ll be able to do for others, as well as yourself with therapeutic touch. And in my book therapeutic touch also includes sensual touch.

Massage will soothe so much more than the jangled nerves and disrupted muscle tissue caused by radical and invasive surgery. It gives the one doing the touch a renewed sense of him/herself as a pleasure giver, which is so very important to us all. When you receive the touch, it will begin to reawaken sensory connections you thought were lost for good. And your libido as well as your erection will surely bloom again. I promise. To keep that erection going once it starts, I encourage you to use a penis ring. And if you don’t know what that is, do an internet search. It’s a brilliant, low-tech solution to erectile dysfunction, which happily doesn’t involve pharmaceuticals.

Now if you feel your massage skills aren’t up to par, why not take a class or workshop in massage. You might want to look to something like the Body Electric School Of Massage. They have load of training options and there are chapters all over the world. In their modality, learning is a hands-on experience. What could be more liberating than that?

If a class is a bit too intimidating at first, you might consider purchasing a book on massage. I have two exceptionally good ones in mind. The first is: Male Erotic Massage: A Guide to Sex and Spirit, by Ray Stubbs, Ph.D. This is a holistic approach to bodywork, including the sexual and the spiritual aspects of Male Erotic Massage. There are over 200 photographs in this volume that reveal both massage techniques and the beauty of the male body embracing the male body. The strength, the joy, the gentleness, the ardor, the tenderness, the equanimity, and the pleasure — they are all included.

Erotic Massage, The Touch of LoveThe second title is: Erotic Massage, The Touch of Love also by Ray Stubbs, Ph.D. This is a more inclusive volume of erotic massage. It describes long, flowing strokes for the whole body, including female and male genitals. By the way, this was the very first massage book to explicitly illustrate genital massage. The techniques described are simple and easy to perform. It’s superbly illustrated, and the text is both tender and playful.

Finally, your gift of massage is the ideal way to connect with another humans, be it a friend, a partner, lover, or even a relative stranger. Your touch can be either seductive or non-seductive, or maybe a little of both. You can count on this purposeful touching to open new doors to what is possible for you now, post surgery. The mistake that many people make at this point is to compare what is going on for them now to what they were used to before their diagnosis and/or surgery. That won’t do. You now have a new normal. Find out what it is; embrace it; and then slowly stretch those boundaries. You’ll discover new pleasures, both subtle and profound, as you give as well as receive touch.

I encourage you to push beyond the isolation I know you are feeling, Doug. Purposeful touching, like massage will change your perceptions about sex, sensuality and intimacy. And like I said, it will, more likely than not, revitalize the arousal phase of your sexual response cycle. I know this can happen. I’ve seen it happen. And now, Doug, it’s your turn to make it happen!

This Man’s Note About His Late Wife

“A guy came into my restaurant alone and sat at a table and only ordered a coke. He looked sad so we thought something weird was going on. However, after he left, we found this note on a napkin with about $3 in change on the table. We all teared up after we read this.”


Who’s gonna tell the kids?

“People’s deepest fears about death and dying often spring straight from a traumatic childhood incident or misshapen belief about the end of life that was passed on to them when they were kids.”

In previous postings I’ve talked about how postponing any thoughtful consideration of our death till it’s too late, can have disastrous consequences for us in terms of preparing for the inevitable. I addressed how our death-denying culture provides precious few opportunities for us to deal healthily with our mortality before it comes crashing in on us.

Why is dealing with death so hard for us? Early childhood messages about death sure don’t help. Think spooks, skeletons, things that go bump in the night, and specter of hell and damnation. From a young age, most of us have had it drilled into our heads that we shouldn’t ask questions or even talk about death because it’s either inappropriate, it’ll bring bad luck, or worse, hasten death.01

How many times, as a child, did a relative, family friend, or even a beloved family pet simply disappear, never to be heard from or spoken of again? Or perhaps you were told that the absent loved one is now in heaven or asleep with the angels, the “D” word being avoided like Aunt Agnes’s infamous tuna surprise? Or maybe, when you were a kid, you were told that someone you knew had died, but that you wouldn’t be able to go to the funeral because that was no place for kids. And how much of the confusion, bewilderment, and unresolved grief from your childhood are you still carrying around with you today? Is it any wonder that, when faced with the prospect of our own death, we often feel like we’ve been ordered to belt out our swan song without ever having an opportunity to learn the tune.

In the first chapter of my book, The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying, I ask my readers to confront head-on the un-golden silence that surrounds the end of life. I invite them to consider the early messages they got about death and dying. I ask; how old were you when you first heard about or witnessed these things? What were the messages you picked up about death and dying from the movies or television? People often report that their deepest fears about death spring straight from a traumatic childhood incident or misshapen belief about the end of life that was passed on to them when they were kids. And, not surprisingly, most people report that they continue to carry these fears with them as adults.

I believe that’s criminal. I also believe that there is a better way to handle this delicate matter with young people than avoiding it, sidestepping it, or perpetuating a misconception. I believe we can break the vicious cycle of our culture’s death phobia by refusing to contaminate another generation with it. It would take a concerted effort, of course, and it would mean that we would have to resolve ourselves of our own fears first, but I believe it’s doable.

A good place to begin this effort is with the stories we read to and tell our children. Stories, both written and recited, become the basis of our children’s understanding of the world. Stories contribute to their language development as well as their critical thinking, and coping skills. Death and grief are particularly thorny subjects to communicate to children, not because our children are incapable of grasping the message, but because we, the adult storytellers, are often unprepared for, or uncomfortable with, the topics ourselves.

To address this problem, I developed a workshop titled: Exploring Death and Grief Through the Medium of the Children’s Story. In this workshop I help adults choose age specific messaging and images for their storytelling. I help them mold the basic concepts about death and bereavement into the arc of their story. And finally, I offer the workshop attendees tips on writing and illustrating their own story with the kids in their life.

By way of example, I share with my audience my latest children’s story, Longfellow And The Deep Hidden Woods. This is the story of Longfellow, the bravest and noblest wiener dog in the world. As my story begins, Longfellow is a puppy learning how to be a good friend to his human companions, old Henry and Henry’s nurse Miss O’weeza Tuffy. By the end of the story, Longfellow has grown old himself, but he is still ready for one final adventure. What happens in between throws a tender light on the difficult truths of loss and longing as well as on our greatest hopes. Curiously enough, all the adults who have read my story say they think it’s actually a book for adults. Maybe so! I can be really subversive like that.

longfellow square smallWriting and illustrating a children’s story with your kids can be an amazing bonding experience for both the adult and the child, but this is especially true when the topics are death and bereavement. It’s a project that will open the door to a life-long appreciation for and the affirmation of life, especially it’s final season. The discussion that will be part of your story-writing project will also help you reshape the coming generation’s perceptions about the end of life. It may also help you rethink the early message you received about death and dying when you were a kid.

My workshop ends with one proviso. I caution the adults in my workshop not to wait until there’s a pressing need for the story writing or telling. I encourage them to start now, before grandpa or the beloved family pet is dead. I suggest that they get a jump on this project right away. Because, if they do, it won’t appear to their kids like they are trying to play catch up when death comes calling. I mean think about it; we don’t hold off teaching young people arithmetic till they get their first job making change at the grocery or the fast food counter, right?

Try to imagine how writing a story about death and grief with your kids or grand kids will change the trajectory of their life in terms of their understanding of this fundamental fact of life. Imagine if someone asks your kids or grand kids, twenty or forty years from now, what their earliest memories about death and dying are. Surely they will think back fondly on the time they spent with you as you helped them understand the marvelous cycle of life.

Will this one exercise inoculate your kids or grand kids from all the culturally induced fears, apprehensions and superstitions that abound in our death-phobic society? Probably not! But as the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Join Us In This Crowd Funding Effort

The Amateur’s Guide is happy to be a cosponsor for a new crowd funding project that deals with death and bereavement.


Longfellow and the Deep Hidden Woods


Every veterinarian, animal clinic, and rescue service should have this book for their clients when a beloved pet dies. Help us give this gift of comfort.


Who’s going to tell the kids?

Children often have difficulty processing the death of a family member or a beloved pet. All too often children are excluded from any meaningful discussion about this important life transition. This oversight leaves kids guessing about the sudden disappearance of the loved one or pet and no way to process their grief. It can also have a devastating effect on a child’s development. So much of the confusion, bewilderment, and unresolved grief from childhood is often carried into adulthood.

We think there’s a better way.01

A good place to begin is with the stories we read with and to our children. Stories become the basis of a child’s understanding of the world. They contribute to their language development as well as their critical thinking, and coping skills. Death and grief are particularly thorny subjects to communicate to children, not because children are incapable of grasping the message, but because we, the adult storytellers, are often unprepared for, or even uncomfortable with, the topics ourselves

Let’s face it; there are precious few children’s books available that tackle the important topics of death and bereavement.

This is where Longfellow And The Deep Hidden Woods comes in.

Longfellow and the Deep Hidden Woods

Dr. Richard Wagner is one of America’s leading experts in the field of death, dying and bereavement. And he is the author of Longfellow And The Deep Hidden Woods.


Longfellow, the bravest and most noble wiener dog in the world, is a puppy at the beginning of the story. He is still learning how to be a good friend to his human companions — old Henry and Henry’s nurse Miss O’weeza Tuffy. By the end of the story, Longfellow has grown old himself, but he is still ready for one final adventure. What happens in between throws a tender light on the difficult truths of loss and longing as well as on our greatest hopes.

Besides the thoughtfully crafted and heartwarming story there is page after page of beautiful and charming illustrations provided by the award-winning Spanish artist, David Cantero.

We believe that Longfellow And The Deep Hidden Woods is the ideal tool for parents and grandparents to help the little ones consider the end of life before that reality comes crashing into their lives.

Veterinarians, animal clinics, and rescue services all need this book!

Veterinarians, and all the wonderfully dedicated people who assist them, are on the frontline in service to animals. Attending sick, elderly, and dying animals is part of the job description of these valiant caregivers.

Now here is a way for you to help these heroes of animal care.

We believe that Longfellow And The Deep Hidden Woods will aid these professionals in the difficult task of preparing their clients, children and adults alike, for the death of their beloved pet.


The Longfellow book will also help the grieving human companions come to grips with the anguish they feel.

Imagine the impact your gift of the Longfellow book will have on all the people who dedicate their lives to the service of animals. And how your gift will ease their burden as they carry the news of an impending or actual death.

Imagine the impact your gift of the Longfellow book will have on someone, or some family, who is left alone to process the grief involved with the death of a beloved pet.

Imagine how your gift of the Longfellow book will help open a discussion about all the seasons of life for those who need it most. And what a bonding experience this will be for both children and adults.

This delightful, uplifting, and life-affirming story will change the lives of so many people, and that will happen because of your generosity. Please join us in getting this wonderful book in the hands of those who deal directly with sick and elder animals and grieving humans.

Thank You!

Thank you in advance for your help. Longfellow thanks you, too!


Click HERE to join the effort!


**We are delighted to announce that all books sent directly to our sponsors will be signed by the author and by Longfellow. The beautiful 24″ X 24″ limited run, full-color posters featuring some of the charming illustrations from the Longfellow book, offered as our gift to sponsors at $500, $1000 and $5000 levels, will also be signed by the author. They are suitable for framing.