Pramod was only 35 years old when doctors told him he would need a total surgical penectomy. He had advanced stage cancer, and his only chance of treatment was a full removal of the penile shaft, scrotum, and testes. Upon receiving the radical diagnosis, Pramod and his family moved from their native village in the Bahar state to Delhi. Although he was in a state of disbelief, he was grateful to be married and have three healthy, school-aged children. He claimed it made facing the reality of surgery slightly easier, however, it still did not feel like reality.
The penectomy left a large and gruesome wound, but only a small portion was a wound in the traditional sense. The greatest part lay under the surface—it was emotional and psychological. Even once the physical wound had healed, Pramod battled fresh unhealed anger and self-doubt. He was plagued by paranoia, especially regarding his marriage and sexuality.
Most of all, Pramod feared that because he would not be able to sexually satisfy his wife, Savita, she would turn to other men. Suspicion took over their marriage like a malignant cancer. No matter how much she denied his accusations, Pramod was angry and distrusting. His own history of infidelity made him believe she would seek revenge in an extra-marital affair. Savita completely internalized her pain and, using all her will-power, stayed devoted to her husband. She found the grace in her heart to forgive his previous infidelities. Despite the painful stab of each accusation Pramod made, Savita tried to stay a happy wife and happy mother.
CanSupport entered their lives soon after Pramod’s first surgery. Medical care came first, and as the team advised the family on the best medications, hygiene practices, and dressings, they built up professional and personal trust in this intimate situation. With a foundation of trust, the team could ease into a long and comprehensive period of sexual and emotional counselling.
Since Indian culture is very private and male dominated when it comes to intimacy, the team split up so that the male doctor counseled Pramod, and the female doctor, his wife. It was here that Pramod and Savita could finally talk about their needs and concerns. They could reveal highly personal problems that they could not talk about with anyone else in the world, not even friends or family members. They shared thoughts that were considered too shameful and too private. In their separate meetings, CanSupport encouraged Pramod and Savita to seek ways to express their affection. With tender words, hugs, and kisses, they could find new ways to cherish each other’s companionship.
While Pramod has continued to feel bursts of suspicion, they have become far fewer and less frequent. It will require persistent and continued counselling, but both he and Savita feel that their relationship has never been more loving or stable than in the last few years. Recently, CanSupport provided Pramod with a pushcart to sell vegetables, and the couple is moving forward in life with strength and optimism.