In January 2010 I wanted to go to Boy Scout winter camp with my 11 year old son. The boy scouts required that I have a physical. The physical found a ridge on my prostate. The doctor recommended that I get a biopsy to check it out. I was worried, but believed it was nothing because I have had no symptoms with flow or blood; everything worked fine. The test they use is a PSA test; it came back with a score of 1, very low in my opinion. Again I thought there is not way I could have cancer; I am only in my 40's. And, if I did, it is something you can live your life with. I was wrong. In late February I had a prostate biopsy; this was a series of around 12 needle pulls from the prostate. Then they send it to the pathology department for examination. I was sore for a few days after that, but everything seemed fine.
In early March 2010 I was in a parent/teacher conference, talking to one of my son's teacher when the cell phone rang. It was the doctor about my biopsy. I excused myself from the teacher and apologized saying that I needed to take this call because I am finding out if I have cancer. She understood. I went in the hallway to listen to Doctor Parker Eberwein from the Urology clinic at Region's Hospital. He asked if this was a good time to call; of course, I said yes. He told me that they did find cancer on the left side in 4 of the biopsy pulls. I was in shock and disbelief; I never thought I would have cancer; it was not what I wanted to hear. He made an appointment with me to discuss my options. I went back to my son's teacher and said yes, I have cancer. She gave me a hug and we ended the parent teacher conference. I went in the hallway to wait for my wife who was meeting me at school for the conferences. She came down the school hallway and I said I wanted a hug. My wife did not know I had received the call about biopsy results. I told her I have cancer. How is this possible? We both were in disbelief. We finished the parent teacher conferences maintaining our control until we got home. We did not know how to tell our son, who grandma was watching at home. We decided to wait until we knew more.
In March my wife and I met with Dr. Parker Eberwein, We found out my cancer was classified as T2 Gleason sore of 3+3 = 6 . This did not mean much to us, but this is a way to describe the cancer. We found out also that there are options for treatment . One is to do nothing, however, in my case, following that option, I would not be around to see my son graduate from high school because the cancer I have is more aggressive than most prostate cancers. Other options were to freeze or treat it by surgery or radiation. I asked him what he would do if he was in my situation, he said that was a fair question, but the decision was mine. He told me about surgery options and set up an appointment with the radiology department to see their options.
After the appointments with Dr. Eberwein and the radiology unit, I decided it was best for me to have the Da Vinci Robotic Prostatectomy surgery. It is a personal choice, and it should be up to the person who has the cancer to decide what is best for them. There is no right or wrong answer, it is what you feel is best for you, what you trust and have comfort with. You have control over this, unlike the lack of control you have about getting the cancer. In making the decision that you need to find peace with the procedure and the doctor performing the procedure you choose. I also asked for nerve sparing surgery, this is needed if you want to restore function to your male parts, but there are options if the nerves cannot be spared.
After the biopsy you have to wait 6 weeks before the surgery so the prostate can heal. A week or so before the surgery is scheduled, you see your regular doctor for a physical to see if you are able to have the surgery. This is blood work and a heart test ( EKG). The reports are sent with you to the surgery. The day before the surgery you are directed to purge your system.
The day of the surgery was March 31, 2010. My wife and I went into the pre operating room to have me change to hospital robe, get an IV in my hand, vitals, and have the team introduce themselves to me and my wife. The last person I remember was the person who administered some drug. I said good bye to my wife and did not remember anything until I woke up in recovery. I was shaved full chest and below. I had a catheter in. My teeth hurt from the breathing tube. I am alive, I made it through . There were 5 or 6 small stitches on my chest. There was a drainage tube on my top left side. The largest stitch was above my belly button. Then there was a row of 4 small stitches from hip to hip.
Once I woke up, they sent me to the hospital room for a few days to heal and walk, to clean the catheter and later learn how to drain the catheter. It must stay in for a week or so for your body to heal where the prostate was cut out. The doctor came everyday to update me and find out if I had any questions. I asked if the cancer was gone. He puts his hands up to his eyes like mini microscopes and said I do not have magic cancer seeing eyes, we will wait for the pathology report, but it looks good from the surgery. He was able to spare the nerves on one side but not both because the cancer was on the nerve area on one side. To me this means my chances of normal male functioning were greatly reduced, but time will tell. It is better to spare both sides of the nerve bundles that rest next to the prostate.
I went home to rest with the catheter in. I emptied it and toted "the jump rope" as I called it for a week, cleaning with alcohol wipes before and after emptying. One week later it came out and them I needed diapers because I would go all over everything. Before the removal of the catheter they fill your bladder with fluid to test if you can go on your own.
Once the catheter was pulled, I went all over the table, all over the floor, on my wife who was helping to get me off the table and stand up to go home. The assistant was grabbing a container to collect it so I would stop going on the floor. There was water everywhere. The assistant said "Well I can see going will not be a problem". She made me laugh and I went again in a different location on the floor. By the end of it, I think I had covered most of the floor before the Nurse came in and recommended I put a diaper on.
In retrospect, after all of this, I see life as short and precious. I want people I know to know that I love them and appreciate all the kind words, support and prayers that they have given during this time of trial and recovery. I focus on that the cancer is gone and not on the current issues I am having. Otherwise I break down and cry, which is what I have been doing a lot. Having cancer has shocked me, hurt me, and torn me apart. I will heal with time.
I hope this will help others who are going through this procedure so they may be aware of what to expect or at least appreciate what I went through in a few short months. It seems like there is so much getting me to ready for surgery. The shock of finding out, worrying, trying to figure out what to do. Afterwards once the catheter comes out, then what ?? It seems like you are lost, what do I do now. What do I need to face ? Is it done??
After being sad for the loss and glad for the success of the surgery, then the focus was on –what do I do now ? Incontinence and ED are the issues then, but seem to be masked by the fact that you wait for the 3 month PSA test so you know if it was all worth it. Is the cancer really gone? Am I OK? The happiest day was the 3 month checkup and finding the yes, the cancer is gone. It was relief; all that I went through was worth it. The 6 month and on are very routine. The incontinence cured itself overtime. I take ED medication to maintain blood flow, however they had little effect. EDEX penile injections were given at my 6 month appointment because the Vacuum device was not solving the problem and the ED medications had little reaction. I was told it takes time. My nerves were only spared on one side, so I have little hope of full recovery. It is better to spare the nerves on both sides. I am ok with what has happened. I am OK with what I have done. I had surgery again for an inflatable penile implant placed in me, this has taken care of the issues I had. I feel like a man again, complete and healthy and alive. I gained weight over the years, but did bariatric surgery to lose the weight, I am skinny now, feeling better and healthy. The main goal is to appreciate what I have and not to worry about what I can not change. I focus on the fact that the cancer is gone and that I am alive. Life is very precious.
All is working well and feeling fine. Living with the issues (bladder is ok, sometimes leaks) and after the penile implant , it works fine. No problems, in control. PSA is 0 after more than 5 years. Got cancer at 49 years old. I am 56 now. Glad I am alive, I got to see my son graduate from High School. He is going to college this year. Married 32 years to a great woman. Glad I got a physical and they found the cancer by then.
David's e-mail address is: d-zopf AT umn.edu (replace "AT" with "@")