Grace Period is a novel about living with prostate cancer by Gerald Haslam. Although fiction, the author does indeed have prostate cancer. Though the details of his protagonist's life don't match his own, Haslam gives solid medical information about treatments for the disease, and what it's like to go through daily life living with this cancer.
Grace Period's progagonist falls in love with a breast cancer survivor, and many of the highlights of this engrossing novel deal with the relationship between Marty and Miranda. Although the book's plot does not revolve around sex, Haslam treats his characters' sexual relationship with directness and sensitivity. Marty uses a pump because he cannot get "natural" erections, and his doctor encourages him to explore alternatives: "Guys tend to overestimate hard-ons. You've got a tongue, toes, fingers, and ingenuity."
Marty learns that he can have "dry orgasms": "It hadn't felt quite as good as the old fuild ejaculation -- or at least I didn't think it had -- but it sure felt better than anything else I could think of."
"Once you're in the cancer world, everything's iffy," Miranda tells Marty. "Live for the moment, since that may be all you have."
That sounds like good advice whether we're living "in the cancer world" or not. It's up to us to make the most of the cards life deals us. Near the end of the book, Marty grins and tells Miranda, "I'm standing here wearing a damp diaper; I haven't had a natural erection in years; my body is drooping and my face is sagging; I'm driving the wrong way on one-way streets. And I'm a happy guy."
Many thanks to Gerald Haslam for a novel full of truths, centered around a relationship that touched me deeply.
Update: I just heard from Gerald Haslam, who wants to contribute this to our discussion:
Thanks for your kind words about "Grace Period."
Like Marty in the novel, I think that making love as long as one can and as well as one can represents life refusing give in to death or infirmity.
There is no proper age for it, there is only the desire, the need, the ability (along with, one hopes, a little creativity). Although my own life is rather different than his, my cancer isn't and neither is my attitude or my good fortune at enjoying the comfort of a loving relationship. I'm delighted to learn that you do, too.
All the best, Gerry