If you are recovering from the various treatments for prostate cancer or if a -- let me put it in doctorese -- Radical Retropubic Prostatectomy and the ever-popular Pelvic Lymph Node Dissection along with hormone and radiation therapy is in your future or past, read on.
I'm hoping my story will benefit those who're beginning the prostate cancer recovery process, such as it is, and that what I've learned during a year of fighting this ugly, miserable disease will ease their journey.
Until October 2010 cancer always happened to the "other guy"; I was sympathetic to his plight and then went about my business... until I became one of those "other guys" and in 2010 joined the ranks of the estimated 217,730 men with prostate cancer. I definitely did not want to be one of the predicted 32,050 deaths but there they were, the numbers about my cancer, straight from the American Cancer Society.
And in the Hey-Here's-Some-Background-Stuff-About-Prostate-Cancer department, prostate cancer information is everywhere on the Internet. Bing or Google "prostate cancer" and you get 52.4 million results. Big numbers for a Big Deal, and cancer is always a Big Deal.
My urologist broke the news to my wife and me after I'd donated a pint or two of blood and had undergone a biopsy -- more about that later- - with the words nobody wants to hear: "You have cancer."
The world in which I'd lived for 66 years, my comfortable universe, rippled and I suddenly slipped into that alternate universe of folks who have cancer, leaving the other cancer-free dimension behind. That's how it felt for me when the diagnosis reared its ugly head. Cancer. I have it. Damn!
My brother-in-law and I have explored this rather unique feeling -- he's in remission from a serious form of cancer -- and I wasn't surprised that he feels the same way. He's been fighting his battle longer than I have, but we agree that our viewpoint about life has changed and that now we're separated from everyone else in a subtle way, because there is an element in our lives that could remove the uncertainty about how long we'll live.
Now that I was in the realm of prostate cancer, I did my due diligence and explored a few of those millions of Internet references and found that this particular cancer of the prostate -- the gland in the male reproductive system situated below the bladder and in front of the rectum -- is common in old guys, fellows 65 and older and that, much to my chagrin, was me.
Old? 66 isn't old! But it's old enough to have prostate cancer.
Did I have symptoms of the disease? Frequent urination, many journeys to the john in the middle of the night, having a hard time getting the old stream going, bloody urine, and last but by no means least, did relieving myself cause pain? Nope, none of that, no overt symptoms indicating my prostate was in betrayal mode.
My urologist is terrific but like many of our physician friends, despite her concerns about yrs. trly. and my malaise and how I felt about it, the vagaries of the treatments and their effect on me weren't completely relayed to me.
Doctors, at least those I've dealt with, usually evince concern about how their patients feel, but let's face it, we're the ones being treated and what's commonplace to a doctor isn't necessarily known to us. Therefore, explanations, warnings and advice from the doctors that could make this ordeal more bearable are often forgotten. No condemnation here, just saying that information gaps between doctor and patient happen.
There I was, sans important information during recuperation, which means I had to invent, test and implement my own strategies to create a smoother recovery. Entrepreneurial instincts surface to make life easier via innovation and recovery from prostate cancer treatments needs knowledge, nuance and applying the tricks of the recovery trade.
Of course, these are my experiences only; I'm not dispensing medical advice, and no doctors had a hand in this, although during surgery their hands were in me. But that's another story.
Here, I'll relate my adventures with The Claw, the Hanger, KY, Mr. Foley's Bag, the New Universe, Radiation Guns, Hormones, Getting Out and About With my Engineer's Friend, the Fun of Sleeping with a Neoprene Tube, the Thrill of Bladder Spasms, and perhaps the most memorable occurrence of all: being catheterized for three weeks.
My odyssey down the Prostate Cancer Highway began with the type of complete physical which includes many popular activities, including: pee-in-a-cup, X-Rays, bone scans, MRI, CAT scan, peering into my ears-nose-throat, the Icy Stethoscope Patdown here and there on my torso, and complete blood analysis. The final results indicated all was good, I was in tip-top shape... except for my PSA -- Prostate Specific Antigen -- which was high enough for my doctor to schedule a consult with an urologist who recommended a biopsy.
I'll get to that thrill-packed adventure in bending over and experiencing what alien abductees have described as "being probed," but hearing "biopsy" didn't sit well with me because a biopsy usually presages bad news and that hard times were on the way.
They were indeed coming, and they would last nearly a year.
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