I wrote an article about Peyronie’s and sent it to a national broadsheet. They liked it, were very positive, saying they’d run it soon. And then sat on it for months. The piece never got published.
|this is a crooked spire|
I have my theories.It’s actually almost a moral tale, but not the one we’re supposed to tell.
They put me on pills. I tried one lot and then another kind. I only remember the second one, and its name was Finasteride. A lot of people with PD find the name Finasteride makes their tummy sink. They claim that taking this drug caused their condition. I heard rumours of class action law suits against the drug manufacturer.Finasteride was first developed as a treatment for an enlarged prostate. It was also discovered to help with male hair loss. With Finasteride, there is a suppression of di-hyrdro-terstosterone (DHT), a hormone which causes hair follicles to go dormant and eventually die. Thus, by suppressing DHT, the lifespan of hair follicles is improved and can encourage hair growth. However, it would seem that tampering with one hormone may impact on other hormones, and this is why some men on Finateride experience water retention, weight gain and erectile dysfunction.
|this is a leaning tower|
I stopped taking Finasteride after a few months. Not because of any of the above, but because it had no impact on the frequency of nocturnal trips to the toilet. A while after I got PD, I found an old box pills in the bathroom cabinet. On a whim, I read the disclaimer leaflet for side effects. The warning list covered just about all medical eventualities, including a reduction in the hardness of erections by 10 to 15 per cent.
I read this and a light bulb went off in my head. Those dim, vague, elusive half thoughts we have, but don’t follow. This was one of those half thoughts. For months with Vela we’d been having sex, and I’d been going my usual hell for leather, while not paying attention to the half formed apprehension, near buried and out of view in the distant background gloaming of my brain, that maybe I wasn’t as hard as usual. Those big fun nights, the too much fun with coke nights, when you can go on and on and on, like Roxy Music, Both Ends Burning… they didn’t seem like such a good idea now.
That’s what did it then, I decided.
But, what do I know? It’s all a bit vague really. Was it really the sauce?
Historically, inquiries into the cause of PD has been pretty patchy. On the Bent Nail blog, the author paraphrases Italian research which performed a case-control study of 134 men with PD and 134 male controls. The study found that some men appear to have a genetic predisposition for the illness. It also discovered that men who had undergone invasive procedures on the penis (for example urethral catheterization or a cystoscopy) had a 16-fold increased risk of Peyronie’s.
Sixteen-fold! I read this, and read it again, out loud, and gasped almost with a painful flashback to the memory of my own cystoscopy. Was that it then? The source, the cause, my own smoking gun finally?
A cystoscopy is a medical procedure used to examine the inside of the bladder using a cystoscope, which is a thin, fibre-optic tube that has a light and a camera at one end. The cystoscope is inserted into the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) and moved up into the bladder.
I had a cystoscopy during the period I was on Finasteride. I remember feeling anxious and tense at the hospital waiting for the procedure to begin. After all, who wants a probe up there? Don’t answer.
Often the thought of bad things to come is the worst part of it. But actually, in this instance, the cystoscopy was the worst part. They said I could watch on the TV screen as the camera explored my bladder. I turned my head away. It hurt. But also, it really made me want to urinate. Urgently! I was convinced I was going to piss all over the camera. And then I realised it was actually the probe making me feel like this and that I wasn’t going to wet myself after all.
When it was over, the nurse who’d seemed friendly and kind before the procedure, now seemed distant. She had elaborate nails and hair. I wondered if she thought I should have been more brave, and not looked away.
I hobbled out the hospital and into the park. It was early spring and sunny. A family of ducks crossed my path in a neat line. They looked funny and I took a photo for the Annoying Son (he actually wasn’t that annoying back then). The first few hundred metres walking home really hurt.
Calling the cancer charity was probably what got me Peyronie’s. If I could go back in time and return to that morning, I’d be sure to pass over the cancer ad and get straight on with work. I’d definitely skip the Finasteride pills, and the cystoscopy, and probably still have my old penis.
‘It’s most likely that Peyronie’s Disease is a pathologic reaction to common micro-trauma of the penile vasculature… Men [without the genetic predisposition] may develop small scars or non-significant plaques, men [who do have the genetic predisposition] develop plaques and pathologic scarring.’
And the future? ‘Long-term patient satisfaction after surgical correction of penile curvature… can be poor.’
It is the second time in my adult life I’ve had a doctor urge me to masturbate. (The first occasion is another story entirely.) I was raised a Catholic, and we all know the dim view the Church takes of the spilling of seed. So I like it when a doctor says do it, go on, be like Onan, do it, and then do it again.
|a portable power generator from CumminsOnan|
A week after the op on my crooked stick, I went back to work. Riding the bike was not an option, and for several weeks in the lead up to Christmas, I took the train, staring out at the city’s increasingly ruined skyscape.