I hope someone will eventually read this. And I hope my journey helps someone else.
After my wife passed away from Cancer, I promised my daughter I would have an annual physical every year. Why? She was 11 years old and was afraid that she was going to lose her father also. So every year, for the past 16 years, I've faithfully gone to my Internist for a physical that included the "dreaded" DRE (Digital Rectal Examination).
For years, my PSA was never over 2.0 ng/ml. But this year was different. It had spiked to 4.5 in one year. My Internist decided to treat with antibiotics which lowered the PSA somewhat to 4.05. But after one week it spiked back to 4.3 and the doctor recommended a visit with a Urologist. [This kind of variance is no usually significant because of the inaccuracy of the PSA tests.]
Another DRE. Then a needle biopsy. And three weeks later, a diagnosis of T1C staged Prostate Cancer. The tumor was confined to the left quadrant of the prostate with a Gleason score of 6.
"Shocked" didn't describe my reaction. I'm 56 years old and had no symptoms. But after the shock subsided and I was able to tell my daughter that her Dad had cancer, I began to educate myself in the world of prostate cancer treatment. It was a world I never thought I'd be a part of.
After several weeks of constant research, my decision was to have a robotic laparoscopic prostatectomy and did not consider any other course of action.
I am fortunate to live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where some of the world's best trained Urology Surgeons reside. I had some contacts into the medical community and found Dr. Justin Lee who specializes in this type of nerve-sparring surgery.
My first meeting with Dr. Lee convinced me that I had made the right decision. He has performed over 1,600 of these operations and explained in detail the advantages and disadvantages.
The operation was about two and a half hours. My stay in the hospital was one night. I was walking within four hours after the surgery. I did have lots of gas to expel. Embarrassing but necessary. I have six new incisions in my stomach that are healing nicely.
I was "provided" with a Foley catheter for one week. Not the most pleasant thing I've ever done, but for those that must wear a catheter every day, you have earned your place in heaven.
As of this writing, I am four and a half weeks post-surgery. I have very little incontinence (am only wearing one pad per day) and I've had four erections since the surgery without the necessity of ED enhancements. The erections aren't "nail-pounders", but they are sufficient to please my partner.
My pathology report came back "all clear"; no margin invasion; no metastasis; no lymph node invasion. As I write this, I am cancer free but cautiously awaiting my first PSA score after the surgery.
I write this to all of you that have just started your journey; to those who still believe their diagnosis is surreal. There is hope and there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Keep your head up; your humor intact; and your hope alive. May only good things happen to each of you.
January 2011 - Just an update for those who have just started their journey.....
In December 2010, my PSA was tested for the first time since my surgery. I tested out at <0.01 and doctor announced that I was "cancer free". I remain "cautiously optimistic". There was no metastasis of any kind; no additional lymph nodes were taken during surgery; all the margins of the original tumor were clear.
The incontinence side-effect has dissipated so much I no longer am wearing pads on an every-day basis - in fact I haven't worn any pads since November 2010.
My erections are frequent and on a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being the best), would be a 4. Currently taking 1/4 Cialis every day. It helps but from the frequency of my erections, I may be able to reduce the dosage.
In my opinion, the robotic prostatectomy lasting effects are far less worrisome than I first believed. Ten days after the surgery, I was able to achieve full erection without the help of any medicine, pump, or needles. Two months after the surgery I was off the incontinence pads. My wife and I are enjoying an active sex life again. Life is good.
Good luck and God speed to all those out there that are just starting your journey. Keep your head up (no pun intended), keep you sense of humor, and keep your faith. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
19 Months After Surgery--Life continues to be more precious every day. After three post-surgery head-to-toe exams and blood tests, my PSA is still less than zero (undetectable), the incontinence has virtually disappeared and my sex life is more than "back to normal". I have always been a very active person however my normal exercise program was put on hold for several months after the surgery. I can happily say that I am back to running four miles a day with plenty of floor exercises.
I must send encouragement for anyone to know that normalcy does return after diagnosis and prostate surgery. I did feel apprehension, inadequacy, guilt, and uncertainty. But I came to realize that with patience, hope and laughter, all of that is short-lived.
May 2013 - since my last update I have been to my Urologist twice and both times my PSA is less than zero. My original treatment method was surgery and for me was the best method. The only "after effects" for several months was that my stomach muscles were hard to strengthen. I'm not sure if some of the muscles were severed, but regaining my strength in my stomach area has been difficult. At the beginning, I did experience some slight incontinence and obtaining an erection. Both have totally disappeared. Originally, my Urologist did recommend 10 mg of Cialis. I did experience some considerable back pain and have since stopped taking the medication. I am not currently taking any medications and haven't experienced any problems.
At the end of this month I have another visit with my doctor and don't expect any problems. I would recommend surgery to any person that asks.
June 2014 -- just received my latest PSA score of <0.01. This is the fourth year of "undetectable" scores. My surgery involved using robotic and I could not be happier with the results. Although my Internist does do a customary prostate check each year during my physical, it's good to know that I have been cancer free for four years. I no longer take any medications and haven't experienced any problems and have not seen a Urologist for three years. Yea!!
I have been honored to provide information to several others who are starting their journey. I thank each of you that have asked for guidance. I hope anyone who is starting out will know there is a light at the end of that tunnel. And it's not a train coming at you.
July 2015 -- Five Years undetectable !!! Received the latest PSA score of <0.01 for the fifth year of "undetectable" scores. Based on my fifth year of <0.01, my Internist chose not to do a customary prostate check. I will say that it was somewhat comforting knowing that I really don't need the check any longer, but my Internist has said that he will do the check every other year.
In the last year, there have been at least five individuals who have felt confident enough to seek my opinion. THANK YOU!!! I am always happy to share my story and will be happy to comment on any questions you might have.
Six years undetectable, Baby!!! After the initial diagnosis, I sincerely thought I would not live long enough to get to this point. But my choice to have the diseased prostate removed via the robotic process was the best decision ever. Thank You, Dr. Lee. So far, no long term effects either physically or emotionally.
I can only hope that anyone who reads my story will feel comfortable enough to contact me to talk, listen, seek advice or tell me a joke. I'm here....and hope that I will be for a long time.
Dann's e-mail address is: dannandsylvia AT yahoo.com (replace "AT" with "@")