Stories that Inspire: Diabetes & Erectile Dysfunction

Author: Bob C., Oklahoma

Bob C. is an engineer living in Oklahoma with his wife. He has grown children and loves being involved in his community. He is 48 years old and was diagnosed with diabetes in 2012 at the age of 38. Bob wanted to share the start of his diagnosis and story, along with the top things he learned along the way about himself and erectile dysfunction.

Bob’s Story

2012 was a very life changing year, full of unexpected events and outcomes- and honestly, things I never thought I would be facing. I was diagnosed in February 2012, and I vividly remember the morning I knew something was off. I had actually been mugged outside of my downtown office, and as I sat at the police station filling out reports and giving statements, this overwhelming need for liquids came over me.

This wasn’t like any thirst I had experienced before, and even with the water the officer brought me; I could not get enough. Nothing quenched my thirst. This went on for weeks before I thought to mention it to my wife, Heather. She asked me what I was experiencing, and I filled her in, but even she was not overly concerned. I had always been healthy, so much, that some would call me a “health nut” regularly. I did make an appointment with my primary doctor just for a check-up, as it had been several years since I had a physical exam or wellness check.

In the week prior to my appointment, I also noticed that I was not urinating as much as usual, but the urgency was still screaming at me. At my appointment, they did a physical, asked lots of questions, and did lots of bloodwork. The doctor mentioned low testosterone, diabetes, or even some more serious medical ailments.

The next morning, the doctor’s office called and alerted me to my bloodwork, which was showing signs of diabetes. After some fasting, more tests, and meeting with a new specialist over the following weeks- I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and instantly began my “new” life. Thankfully, I had a supportive wife and family who were next to me each and every moment I needed them. They also knew enough about me to know that I would need to find my footing, and also were great at giving me space when I needed it.

It is important and vital that patients remember they are in charge of their care and can help with their decision making. It is imperative that patients speak up for themselves when side effects begin to arise- and they will. While the first few years of diabetes can feel like such dark times, it is also a time to really rediscover yourself and all of the things that bring you light in this life.

These are the top things I think were vital to keeping my sanity and continuing to live, while befriending my diabetes.

#1: Focus on the things you can control.

In life, things happen. Most often they are out of our control, and we are merely along for the ride. So, choose to ride positively- taking the good and the bad as it comes. Upon receiving my diagnosis, I avoided the thought, “why me?” because truth is, it happens to SO many people. Every day. At this point, I choose to only put my energy into keeping my levels where they needed to be and LIVING MY LIFE. So many of us diabetic folk tend to center our entire lives around the diabetes and forget to live. I did not want to be that person, and now speak out in support groups and to other diabetic patients about remembering to LIVE. Quality of life is everything and while diabetes does suck, it is only one “blip” in the story of your life. Focus on the things you can control and the things that bring you peace.

#2: You can, and you will find your strength.

Diabetes does require sudden and careful life changes and planning- but it is all doable. For me, learning my medications was a true challenge and finding the right levels and dosages was really frustrating. The psychological barriers were also difficult in restructuring my everyday routines, and some days it was very difficult to pull myself up off of the couch and get moving.

But guess what? I did get up. I had to. Because when I would think about the alternatives of not talking care of my diabetes, I did not want anything to do with those side effects or permanent body changes. I never want to experience loss of body parts, more medications, or putting my “people” through such turmoil. Finding your strength is also about pushing your own personal limits. Do you want to lose your toes or feet? Do you want severe neuropathy? Do you want to take more medications each day? No? Then you will find your strength, your legs, and your will power- and you will get moving.

#3: This Disease & its side effects do not define you.

For me, getting the diabetes in control was not extremely difficult, and it only took me about six months to find a plan of action that worked great. What I did not expect was that six months after leveling out, I began to have all of the standard side effects from diabetes medications. Tingling in my hands and feet, eye issues, GI distress, and the worst of all- erectile dysfunction.

It started idly while in action with my wife. I just… lost the erection mid-act. I was confused, startled, and worried. My wife was ever supportive, offering counseling or any other help I needed. I advised I needed to do some research on my own before involving her, and she allotted me the space I desired. I was embarrassed and I feared these permanent changes would alter my intimacy and marriage. After researching on my own, I reached out to my doctor’s office with my concerns. He immediately responded, offering some prescription options to begin with- which I was not keen on. More medications? Wouldn’t that just mean more side effects and issues? No, thanks.

It was then that I brought my wife back in to the equation, as we has been married for nearly 17 years- and let’s be honest, without her involvement, the “equation” was always off. She had done some research as well, and suggested we try something called “pump therapy.” She had read about this on a sex-positive therapists’ website and learned enough to get me started.

We found a vacuum penis pump off of Amazon, ironically, and found some decent instructions on how to begin this therapy. A few times a week I would pump myself right up, and after a few weeks to my shock and awe- it worked. I got an erection that was hard enough for insertion and lasted for the duration of our escapade. I couldn’t stop smiling, and my wife? Well, she was beaming. I could feel the nervous energy and worry fall off of both of us.

Ten years later, and I still utilize my pumps. I never did take any prescription medications or have surgical interventions.  I have a few different styles now and we use them regularly to help keep me in tip-top working order. I stumbled across Reclaiming Intimacy in 2020 and absolutely LOVED that there was a company designed to deal with just this sort of thing. In reaching out to their experts, I was greeted with kindness, empathy and true compassion for our struggle and story. I’m grateful there is now a place I can direct my friends and new support group members to to find some dignity and be empowered with information.

It was hard at first to not let ED and the gamete of other side effects affect me or define me, but once I had information and knowledge on my side, I was back to defining myself.

#4: Do not take anything in life for granted.

While diabetes seriously changed the way I live my life, it did not take my life from me. I feel like I grew in my own self-care, discovery, and learning to really appreciate every single moment in life. My sudden health issues taught me to never take anything for granted and to in fact, appreciate everything a little bit more. Even those mundane chores and activities- I do them all with a smile now.

#5: Do not fear the unknown.

So often when we feel fear, we run from it in various ways. Find a new path. Route around the challenge. Or some even ignore it all together. When you face something scary or life altering, face it head on. Sure, this might mean you have to immerse yourself in information and knowledge to learn more, but with empowerment comes enlightenment and newly opened doors. If there is one thing that has rung true through the years, it is that there is always a way, even if it’s not the original way you opted for. Let the fear be your guide and learn everything you can from each moment.

We are thankful to Bob for sharing his story and uplifting tips for others. And we agree, Bob- where there is a will, there is always a way!

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