A Veteran’s Battle Against Erectile Dysfunction

Listen to a Veteran’s journey in treating erectile dysfunction told in his own voice…

There’s certainly no shortage of medical information on the subject, and it’s all readily available with the click of a mouse. What I found missing from the available information, was the real-life stories of men who were going through life with this problem. There were very few stories about the impact ED can have on our psyche. Missing were the stories that talked about the harm ED can cause beyond having trouble getting and maintaining an erection. Yes, there is the clinical impact of ED, but there is also a very real, very human impact associated with ED. With that in mind, I’ve decided to share my story. I share it with the hope that it might help others who are lost in a clinical maze of information, to find their way to the help they truly need.”

During that time, I found very few men willing to have an open conversation about the subject. To be honest, I would include myself in that unwilling group as well. That is until now. I have been provided an opportunity to reach a wider audience regarding ED, and I intend to share with whoever will read or listen. Regardless of your circumstance, if you are a man who is experiencing ED, take a moment and read or listen to my story. I’m confident you will find it worth your time. I am a retired senior-leader from the US Armed Forces. I am a highly decorated combat veteran who found myself in harm’s way on more than one occasion. In some circles, some might even call me the stereotypical military badass who was fearless. I have always been proud of that “badge of honor.”

While my initial experience with ED began in the latter stages of my military career, I never spoke up about it. I was mortified at the thought of presenting my problem to a military physician. As a result, I suffered in silence. There was just no way I was going to speak about this to anyone. After all, I was a combat-proven warrior. I was fearless…until now.

As time progressed, and I approached my late 40s, my ability to get an erection during sex was only successful about half of the time. That’s when all sorts of things began to happen, and none of them were good. My partner ridiculed me, saying that “a real man wouldn’t have that problem.” I was humiliated beyond belief, and my self-esteem and self-confidence plummeted. My self-image took a dramatic turn for the worse, and my weight rose significantly. I didn’t really care how I felt or what I looked like. Of course, I rationalized my “issue” to be no big deal. After all, there was no way I was going to put myself in another situation where I was sure to encounter yet another epic fail. I found myself feeling vulnerable, scared, and uncertain…I was shell-shocked.”

Failure in the bedroom, ridicule, low self-esteem. I was amazed at the impact ED was having on my life. The challenging part for me was that ED seemed to be beyond my control. Answers were elusive, and all the rationalization in the world couldn’t conceal what I knew to be true. I was lying to myself.

Feeling inadequate as a man was a big deal. In fact, it was a huge deal! So much so that I finally worked up the nerve to speak with a doctor about “my issue.” I even thought I saw some light at the end of the tunnel when the doctor prescribed ED drugs to stimulate blood flow to my penis. While expensive, I happily paid, thinking this would be a great solution to my problem.

Yea, not so much. These drugs didn’t work for me. So here was yet another epic fail, at least from my perspective. I felt all was lost. I felt as though I was back where I started. I truly began to believe that I was destined to be a confirmed bachelor. I convinced myself that no one would want a relationship with a decorated warrior who could not “wage war” in bed, so to speak.

Instead of going on the offensive, I turned to a defensive posture. I built impenetrable walls and kept everyone at a distance. I made my environment safe and tried to paint a rosy picture of the place I was in. The illusion I built lasted for a good while. My golf handicap was single-digit, I excelled on the job, and I could go anywhere I wanted whenever I wanted. Life was good!

Not so much. In reality, I was depressed, I desperately wanted a caring companion, I wanted to be married, I wanted to have an intimate relationship. Still, I was terrified of what encountering another failure might bring. And so time marched on into my early 50s, as I accepted that the joy of victory could often be fleeting.”

But what now? How could I control the uncontrollable? I didn’t have these answers, but what I did know was that my need for companionship and love was still there. I was a renaissance man, a warrior at heart, and a romantic poet who longed for that special someone to write about. So I began to let my guard down, and hope began to creep back in. Then I met my soulmate. Yep, I said it, and I’m proud of it. For the first time in several years, I allowed someone in. Surprisingly, they understood my search for answers. Their patience only fueled my desire to find another solution that might work.

I also began to see a global change in awareness regarding ED. There were more research materials available. Then it happened. Bingo, I had hit the jackpot. I discovered what had to be the final solution to my problem. The answer was penile injections of a compounded mix of drugs that were pretty much guaranteed to provide you with an erection. In all seriousness, I wasn’t a big fan of sticking an insulin needle into my penis, and I wasn’t a fan of the cost, but I didn’t care. If it worked, I would do it, regardless of the cost. And guess what, they worked! I had never experienced such a firm erection in my life. Even better, they would usually last about 3-4 hours. Not only was my mojo back, I was a bonafide stud! Just think of it, a man who could sustain an erection long after orgasm. The man of any partner’s dreams, right? Life was indeed good…for about a year.

Then I began to notice my erection had a very unusual looking curve. My erections became very
painful, and when erect, my penis was curved about 70 degrees to the left. It was a significant and embarrassing curve! You see, somehow, I had developed Peyronies Disease (PD). I’m sure you’ve probably seen one of the commercials on the subject where a guy is holding a funky looking cucumber or a banana. Yep, I’m sure you’ve got the visual now. Suddenly, all of those fears came creeping back in, and I was terrified of what the road ahead might bring. My mojo was slipping away again, and I was desperate to find yet another answer.”

Yet, I also knew that with the right intel, I could make an informed decision and choose the right battle to fight. Still, I couldn’t help but think that I would rather fly into a hail of bullets during a combat mission than face the obstacles presented by my sexual health shortfalls.

On the surface, the options for overcoming PD can appear daunting. There are essentially three options. First up for consideration is a series of costly injections that are very painful but will typically only provide about a 30 percent correction of PD curvature. These injections weren’t a very inviting solution. I didn’t move on this option because my out-ofpocket expense would be approximately $40,000, and the physical ROI just wasn’t there.

About this time, the urology team I was working with informed me that a new fellowship-trained physician would soon start work. They encouraged me to make an appointment with him to see if he may have other alternatives.

That’s when I met Dr. Akash Kapadia. Dr. Kapadia explained the other two alternatives that I might consider. These were surgical options. One surgery could attempt to remove the plaque and scar tissue causing the curvature. To help in the decision process, Dr. Kapadia scheduled an ultrasound to evaluate my PD further. It was determined that due to the severity of my PD and ED, I wasn’t a good candidate for plaque and scar tissue removal. He provided a pretty honest estimate on erectile dysfunction after this surgery. The other surgical option was to have penile implant surgery. Dr. Kapadia explained the procedure carefully. He even brought in a functional penile implant prosthesis so that I could see how it worked.

Admittedly, I was impressed. Skeptical still, but impressed. I went home armed with awareness and did my own homework. Everything Dr. Kapadia shared with me was on-point. Penile implant surgery does indeed have a high satisfaction rate among the men who choose this option. It is especially helpful in correcting PD curvature. In fact, the correction is significantly better than that achieved with $40,000 out-of-pocket injections. The implant option does, however, leave you permanently unable to have a natural erection.”

I think if men were telling the truth, most would find the idea of major surgery on their “family jewels” to be pretty scary. I surely didn’t see it as a viable option. At least I didn’t initially. But then I thought, why turn back now? I’ve come this far. I didn’t like the idea of a series of extremely expensive injections that might yield minor improvement. Since I wasn’t a good fit for plaque and scar tissue removal, I opted to proceed with the penile implant surgery. I couldn’t help but recall Dr. Kapadia’s words; “you will obtain an erection, and you will be able to maintain that erection for as long as you want.” Now, what guy wouldn’t want that ability. This would put me back into superhero stud status!

Strangely, the idea of penile implant surgery brought me a sense of comfort. So surgery day arrived, and Operation Implant proceeded. I couldn’t believe it was going to be done in an outpatient setting. My surgery was targeted at maximizing PD curvature correction. In other words, I would likely see more girth enhancement as opposed to length. There are several variants of implant products, and there will definitely be a variant that will work for you. Speaking of penile girth and length, another essential factor to understand is that implants are designed to work with your natural penis size. They are not intended to make you bigger. As much as we would probably like that possibility, don’t expect to get an additional four inches added on to your boy. It’s just not physically possible with an implant.

Your physician will cover this aspect in more detail. But do your recon and learn as much as you can before you proceed with the surgery. You should be comfortable in knowing every detail of what to expect. After my surgery, Dr. Kapadia said that I was one of his more challenging cases, but the surgery was a success. Now I know it may sound odd, but I knew Dr. Kapadia would test the implant while I was still under anesthesia. During the functionality test, I asked him to take a picture of my erect penis. I’m so glad I made this request. It gave me the proof I needed to know that it worked. And it did work. In fact, not only did I have a healthy erection, I would assess my curvature correction at about 95%. This was something I could live with.”

I needed to lay low for a bit and take cover, literally. I was sent home with lots of bandages, a surgical drain, and my favorite, a Foley catheter. Yea not so much! Necessary I know, but not comfortable and not easy to sleep with either. I was prescribed meds for pain if needed and encouraged to wear tight-fitting underwear for support. My choice was a jock-strap that was one size smaller than I would typically wear. There was no doubt that my boys were well supported. And yes, I had lots of bruising and some pain and discomfort. I found ice to be my good friend and used it regularly. On the third day after the surgery, I had the surgical drain and Foley catheter removed. That was a very good day!

Once the 2-week mark had passed, I was allowed to begin inflating and deflating the device. I got into a routine of once in the morning and once in the evening. Soon, I felt comfortable with the process. The device was working and working well. Meanwhile, I had a few follow-up appointments with Dr. Kapadia. My recovery was progressing nicely. At approximately 6 weeks after surgery, I received awesome news! The day arrived when I received clearance to have sex. Interestingly enough, that day was Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas to me!

Since it had been a while since my partner and I had had sex, it didn’t take very long for me to achieve orgasm. I was very okay with that. The sensation was the same. It felt like it should, and there was no difference between now and pre-surgery orgasm. Not to mention, my partner enjoyed the experience too. You might say I was like the Energizer Bunny. I just kept going and going. My intent was for her to “cry uncle.” After about an hour or so, she did. We both collapsed in each other’s arms, breathless, smiling, and happy. All was right with the world.”

“He asked me for my honest opinion on the surgery outcomes. As I began to respond, I had to pause. I was getting emotional, and through tear-filled eyes, I thanked him. My mojo was back, my self-confidence was back, the warrior of old was back. I was back! Never again would I have to feel that feeling of inadequacy. Gone was the fear of failure in the bedroom. It is a difficult thing to describe. I had been on a roller coaster of emotions for years. It felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It was liberating. It was an incredible feeling to know that my new steady-state included everything I had always longed for. For this, I will be forever grateful.

Now it’s on to the next chapter of this story: paying it forward. I’m starting with these short stories in the hopes that they will resonate with other men who are experiencing similar circumstances. I’m proud to be collaborating with Dr. Akash Kapadia to advocate on behalf of my fellow man. We are envisioning web postings, podcasts, radio, and other forms of media for our outreach. I’m also pleased to share that I’ll be happy to discuss the implant procedure via phone through connections established by Dr. Kapadia.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should share that Phoenix Jackson isn’t my real name. It’s a pseudonym I chose for privacy reasons. The stories are, however, real. They are mine, and I lived every minute of them. The name I chose does have a special meaning to me. In many circles, the Phoenix symbolizes an emergence from fire, a re-birth, if you will. After my implant surgery, I truly felt this way. That I had risen from the fires of inadequacy and humiliation, that I was in someway reborn, whole again, confident, and self-assured. Jackson was my grandfather’s name. He was a WWII veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and he was my hero. If there was ever a picture taken of perseverance, of tenacity, of an unwillingness to give up, it would look a lot like my grandfather.

During this journey, I often reflected on some simple advice my grandfather passed on to me in my weaker moments. He would say, “can’t never could,” and “won’t never will.” His message was clear, if the actions we take are underpinned with a mindset of I can’t, and I won’t, then that will indeed be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But so too will be actions that are underpinned with a mindset of I can, and I will. Thank you, Granddaddy; those words have helped me through some tough times. Maybe, just maybe, they can benefit others too.”

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