“You can see I’m a talker,” says Preston Forchion, with a deep laugh that seems to start in the soles of his shoes and reverberate up to the top of his 6’3” frame.
And it’s a good thing he is, because Forchion, a retired bus mechanic for New Jersey Transit from Hammonton, NJ, has something important he wants to talk about, and he wants other men to hear it.
We’re sitting in a diner just off the Atlantic City Expressway, and we’re talking about Forchion’s years of unhappiness caused by erectile dysfunction.
It seems an unusually public place to have the conversation, and although he’s not exactly shouting from the rooftops, he believes it’s important to speak openly about a problem that afflicts more than 33 million men nationwide, and more than half of all men 65 and older.
Forchion himself is in his 70s, but you’d never know it. He looks younger. He remains active, driving buses and limos part time. “Driving is my joy in life,” he says.
One reason for his youthful appearance might be his sense of style. He’s wearing a crisp dark shirt and a plaid sweater vest. He has a full but carefully trimmed gray moustache. There’s a Bluetooth headset hooked over his left ear. The look is topped off by wireframe glasses and a classy gray fedora, with a wispy feather tucked into the band.
And it’s true, he likes talking. Chat with Preston Forchion for just a little while, and you feel like you’ve known him forever. That’s just who he is. “To talk to me,“ he says with a smile, “is to become my friend.”
Still, for a time, this garrulous, outgoing man with the easy smile and the rumbling laugh felt incomplete—not quite the man he wanted to be.
Forchion isn’t quite sure when his erectile dysfunction first began—he had been sexually inactive for a time—but the problem was exacerbated by a bout of prostate cancer several years ago.
“I had radiation,” he says, “39 treatments.” The treatment was effective in curing his cancer—he’s been cancer-free since 2001. But at the same time, radiation-induced nerve damage affected his ability to attain and sustain arousal.
Like many men who experience erectile dysfunction, Forchion tried all of the well-known ED medications. “Cialis, Viagra and Levitra—I had all three,” he recalls. “It helped a little at first, but all of it was temporary. It wasn’t doing anything,” he says.
Even though surviving cancer gave Forchion a lot to be thankful for—and he was—insofar as his sex life was concerned, he says, “I didn’t want it to be over.”
One day, he was visiting his urologist, and he shared his concerns. The urologist directed him to an informational program run by Jay Simhan, MD, Director of Urologic Trauma, Reconstruction and Prosthetics for Einstein Urology and the Einstein Healthcare Network.
“I had been asked to give a talk about prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction at Fox Chase Cancer Center,” says Dr. Simhan. “Mr. Forchion attended that outreach talk.” Forchion must have heard something he liked, Dr. Simhan recalls, “because he called the next day.”
Forchion spent a little time getting to know Dr. Simhan and understand his options, but once he had a grasp of the facts, he scheduled surgery—in his case, an inflatable penile implant. The surgery restored his ability to achieve an erection.
Dr. Simhan, Forchion recalls, made the experience as stress-free as surgery can be. “I really like him (Dr. Simhan), personality-wise,” he says. “He puts you at ease. He lets you know you’re not out there alone.”
The surgery, Dr. Simhan says, restored Forchion’s confidence. “He’s gotten back to a normal way of life.”
Forchion couldn’t agree more—and he is so enthusiastic about the positive change in his life thanks to surgery that he recently joined Dr. Simhan at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery for one of the doctor’s outreach sessions, happily and generously sharing his story. It’s a good bet his openness set a good many minds at ease and offered reason for hope.
“I know that men who have had this problem, they lose their self-esteem,” Forchion says. “When you feel like a man, you stand taller. I told them, 'Fellas … I feel like a man.'”