Prostate Cancer - My Prostate Cancer and I
The See Through Man
Aggressive Prostate Cancer
“Aggressive prostate cancer.”
The specialist who said those three words, was on the other side of his rather neat and tidy desk.
I looked behind me, hoping that someone else had walked into his office and he was addressing them. No such luck. Bugger.
A few months earlier I went for my yearly check-up and tests. One of which is the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen).
Don’t worry folks, this will not get technical!
I had started this because my father had done so. He had a bad reading but because of his then age of being in his early 70s they decided to do radiation therapy. They told him he would die of something else, and did. At 79 he had a massive stroke.
I was 50 when he was diagnosed and decided to have a PSA base line done each year.
At 59 it read as 3.7. A little high. So another test 3 months later, this was June 2010. It was 3.6. Then a choice, another test in 3 months or a biopsy.
“Biopsy”, I said. The way the interest rates were going up, I couldn’t take a chance with my usual luck.
So off to the specialist. The first rough test, for want of a better, term was the old glove on the hand routine and with this finger, ladies and gentleman, and certainly nothing up the sleeve this time…..well,you get the idea.
The specialist felt a hard lump. It was inside the prostate. I was lucky. If it was on the outside, well, much harder to get it all as it was easier for a little cell to escape. I guess I had the good news cancer.
A prostate is about the size of a walnut, and I guess the tumor was the size of a pea. I felt the size of, well, nothing.
So bone density and cat scans were lined up and over the ensuring month or so, I dutifully attended. See the accompanying happy snaps.
Knife, Cut and Slice Room
I felt like Arnie In Total Recall, going into these intimidating machines with all the bells and whistles. But this was no fantasy or sci-fi, this was real.
While waiting on results I did begin to wonder would they find anything else? A natural worry. I told them if they found any diamond, gold, silver or oil deposits they were mine.
They almost laughed but not quite.
I did get to see my whole skeleton in an x-ray and all I can say is cremation for me. But much later for that. Much, much later as a matter of fact. Though I did think it was the best picture of me I’d ever seen.
Hence my visit to the specialist for the real results and his three little words.
It was the first time the “aggressive” word was used. This was serious, very serious.
If I had been in a Medical Benefits Fund I would be covered for hospital and so on. The op was going to be about 8,000 bucks ( so other men who had had the op informed me of their covered situation).
I would have the specialist who had done a few thousand of these operations in a private hospital.
However, I was going the public hospital system under Australia’s Medicare. It was going to cost me nothing. Go figure.
Oh, I would have the specialist’s registrar (specialist in training) who had performed the operation that many times you only needed the fingers on one hand to count them all. The specialist couldn’t guarantee the same results as if he was going to do it. This was indeed encouraging.
As I left his office, I saw my life flash before my eyes. That didn’t take long, I thought.
The operation was postponed once.
Three weeks later, I waited in the dark of the early morning for my sister to arrive to take me to the hospital. That was the WORST time. Just standing there waiting, knowing I would be under the knife within a few hours.
My sister arrived. My 20 something niece was with her. I looked around in the early light of the morning at my home, and got in the car.
I fronted the public hospital with my sister and niece in tow. It was just after 7am as we slinked about the spooky corridors, expecting to find zombies dragging their feet, but no such excitement as we found the waiting room. I went in.
Soon I was in the docking bay, sans clothes and covered by a gown. Others were lined up on the portable beds. A nurse said about one patient that she wasn’t the right patient according to the admission sheet. Another said the list had changed. Someone else piped in and said this was dangerous. I said to the startled patient that this was very encouraging. I don’t why she looked at me the way she did.
I meant the antithesis and his team. He gave all the things that could go wrong with blood transfusions… You’re telling me now??????
I then met the young Chinese doctor who was to perform the operation. Then I knew I was in safe hands. There are people who are born for these jobs. He was one of them. Don’t ask me how I knew, I just did.
I was wheeled into pre-surgery. The antithesis was there with his team. It was 7.30am.
“Don’t worry, Alan, we’ll put you out before you go into surgery”
I looked at him. “Fine whenever you’re ready.”
“Alan, you have had the operation. It is now 1.30 (pm).”
“Huh??” To me I had never closed my eyes. Somewhere between “into surgery” and “Fine” I’d had the op!
But I felt so lucid! Wide awake! Not groggy at all. Then, as others had warned me, I waited for the pain to hit from the op. It never did. I was and am extremely lucky on that score.
“Alan, there was very little bleeding and what blood we had to use was your own.” Now there’s 100% proof. I wish was 100% scotch whiskey proof.
After about an hour or so in recovery, off they trolled me to the Ward.
I was hoping it would be the woman’s breast implant adjustment ward but unfortunately it was a men’s ward. Well, you never know your luck in a big city, and surely they must need adjusting. Anyway, I digress….
The 4 Bed Ward
Trolled off to the 4 bed ward, I seemed to be incredibly awake and had all sorts of tubes attached to me. I waited for the pain to hit.
My sister and niece who bought me to the hospital earlier that morning came back to visit me. We all had a laugh and a talk, then off they went.
The breathing tube was a pure joy, hearing this bloody sound of oxygen being sent up my nostrils throughout the night and into the next day.
I was also attached to a bottle of something or other (I’m the patient, not the doctor) that was replaced every time it emptied.
But the greatest happiness was the catheter...boy, ain’t they fun. Attached to my poor little best friend as though they expected to sink in as far as they could go and strike water, well, they did.
And it all went into what I called a luggage bag. It seemed the size of one. I won’t bother with the description of what was inside it, but believe me, it was better in there than in me…
So there I am in my bed looking at my other fellow ward inmates.
Young guy across the room, old bloke next to him, an Asian middle aged guy next to me.
It turned out I was the only one there through natural illness.
First the young guy who had been there for weeks. He was from the country and a rodeo rider. Bucked from a bull which then decided to stomp all over him. Amazingly no broken bones, but a pretty bashed up kidney and that was the problem. Just not functioning properly.
The old guy next to him had been operated on several times for hardening of the arteries. Every time they operated, they found another one that needed doing, so they’d whip him back in after he recovered (sort of) after the current operation. He had hardening of the arteries because he smoked for 50 years! Glad I never took up smoking. More on him later.
Finally the Asian next to me (Korean). Well, this guy was just a nut. It turned out he had done his temper in his home shower a few weeks before and managed to cut his middle toe on his right foot by kicking the shower screen door. He didn’t do anything about it. He ended up in hospital and they removed that toe! Ouch! Which just goes to prove, don’t do your temper in the shower and smash the glass door with your foot!
I laid awake all that first night. The Korean guy got up in the middle of the night, detached himself from all his tubes and staggered to the toilet like a zombie. Boy, didn’t he get into trouble from the nurses, and he still had his foul temper.
But he got a blast from me in the morning about 6am, when he turned on his radio full bore. I told him he was a hospital and you just don’t do that! He let loose on me, I did not back down and gave him, shall we say, a strong talking to. He relented and for the rest of the stay he became quite sociable.
So why didn’t I sleep at all during the night? Suddenly it occurred to me, I was out in a deep sleep for 6 hours or so. Ah, ok, that was it. I still waited for the pain to hit.
I managed to take some photos of my operation area. The bandage covering the slice and the tube to take the excess fluid from inside around the wound, out. See the happy snaps.
The Area of Operation
Seeing the Light of Day
How can people sleep on hospital beds? I should have taken a track suit to wear. My back on the hospital bed developed an itchy rash (I only had on their gown) which I really didn’t do anything about till I got home a few days later. So if you go into hospital, just make sure you have clothing to be comfortable in, despite all the tubes, etc. I think I had pajamas but for some reason, not on.
Relatives came to visit, and a few phone calls from friends.
Meanwhile I found out the stories of the other guys as told above..
While talking to the 50 year smoking guy, he asked my age. I said 60. He wouldn’t believe me. I said well I am. No, can’t be! Why I asked. He said he was 63…
That I found hard to believe because he looked well into his 70s!!! I guess that’s what smoking does. I think I was more surprised than he because he thought I was in my late 40s. Gee, did I like this guy!!
Anyway he went home the next day. He was replaced by another former 50 years of smoking guy who was definitely in his 70s. His story was more gruesome.
They were amputating his toes!!! Some had been done previously elsewhere, but more had to be done. They did it after a couple of hours of him coming in. Then still later after they carted him back, he got out of bed and there was blood everywhere.
The three of us were absolutely horrified. But the staff managed to get him under control.
I did my toilet training in the middle of the night so as not to embarrass anyone, however nothing ever happened. But I tried, damn it, I tried.
Four days after the operation I was well enough to go home.
They try to get you out of hospital as quick as possible because the easiest place to pick up germs is, well, the hospital.
My sister came to get me and as I gingerly went down the corridor, managed to bleed everywhere, so back to the ward I went. Sat still for a while and tried again. This time I succeeded.
There was one thing I hadn’t thought of which they still had to tell me.
Did they get ALL the cancer, or did a cell escape?
Before and a Little After
The Final Hopeful Recovery But....
Home. There’s no place like home, no place like home….. I was definitely over the rainbow.
But let’s face it, there is no place like home.
Psychologically it helps you to recover. Being in that familiar surrounding.
As I settled in that first hour or so, my sister and I waited for a lady friend who came to help out for a couple of days as I adjusted to my new life. Any man who has had the prostate removed will know what I’m talking about.
Sure there’s rehabilitation groups and exercises but I decided the best way was the lone way for me.
Even though your body will recover the fun functions, you are never the same.
Yet woman have it worse than men in parts that could go wrong.
So here I was at home and still with my constant companion, the catheter. No longer tied to a suitcase but a large plastic container. What did they think I was going to do? Deflate?
I had been home a couple of hours, chatting with my friend at the dining table, when the phone rang.
It was the young Chinese registrar who had operated on me.
“We have the results of the tests we did and you will be pleased to know you are free of cancer. No cells escaped into your body.”
With all that had gone on, I had not thought at all about this possibility.
There upon, I instantly burst into tears. I could barely speak.
No person, be it man or woman, could not react any other way when told they are free of cancer. They had got it all.
I thought I was tough over this, but I just cracked.
For once, my eyes were giving out more water than what was going into the catheter bag.
I composed myself and thanked the doctor very much. I rang the rest of my family to tell them I was cancer free, but I ended up emotional all the time when I said I was cancer free.
The following day I began to notice my right ankle, lower leg area was aching.
I had taken care in hospital to move as much as possible, after all, I didn’t want to get deep vein thrombosis.
I was concerned and mentioned it to my family doctor when he called in to check on me the next day. A scheduled nurse also called in to help to change the bandage and check the wound. A lot of men have trouble of healing of the wound, but I was lucky.
Doc said see how it goes over the next day or so. He would check each day that first week home.
I took comparison photos of my legs. Hmmm….. see the happy snaps….
The Case of the Swollen Lower Right Leg
Don't Wait, Insist on Checking
My friend who had helped for a couple of days, had to return home, but I was pretty mobile by then despite the dull ache in the leg.
Then when Doc and the nurse turned up for the 4th day running, I said there is something wrong. I wanted it checked out.
So another friend took me to an X Ray place and I had an ultra-sound done on the swollen leg.
I had a deep vein thrombosis.
Sure enough straight back to my doctor who immediately gave me an injection of warfarin.
So for the next 3 months I received daily injections from the constant visiting nurses. The deep veined thrombosis went.
But, ah, let’s get back to the catheter. Well it was difficult to sleep at night with a hose hanging out of the bed.
We won’t go into the nitty gritty details, suffice to say, that it was there for 3 weeks. Oh, brother, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy… actually I would. See more of my happy snaps….
The Dreaded Catheter Tube
The Day of Reckoning Removal - the Catheter Is History
Came the day for it’s removal.
Like all things, it wasn’t going to be easy. The nurse, as hard as she tried, could not pull it out. Remember the catheter not only drained but it help hold the two areas of the uinary track together that had been cut to remove the walnut size prostate. They also had removed one of 2 nerves that led to the little fella that helps him be the life of the party.
The nurse, concerned something was going wrong because I was practicing my yells while she yanked, made a phone call for back up. Fortunately, NO SWAT team arrived.
They told her just to continue, it would come out. Very comforting
She gave another go and I said if anyone looked through the window, they may think something peculiar or exciting was going on, depending on your taste, like we see on the internet.
One spectacular yank from her and a yell from me, and I was free, FREE, FREE…
Talk about letting the water out of the dam, or Old Faithful erupting, man, despite the leg, I made it to the loo. I could have put out a forest fire.
I felt free and happy as Leslie Nielsen when he went to the loo in The Naked Gun singing at the top of his voice with his mic accidentally left on and the function guests could hear him.
So the routine settled and I would and did, overcome any obstacle that was placed in my way.
Beat it all. Prostate cancer, deep vein thrombosis, a little leaking down below.
But the idea of this article is to give women an idea that they should encourage their man, and I encourage any man, over the age of 40 to get the PSA test on a yearly basis, especially if there is a history in the family.
Above all don’t be afraid to be checked out, because the alternative is not really good.
Yet I was not overweight. I’m tall, slim, have a good diet.
A retired doctor friend said to me, that I was not the type to get prostate cancer.
I replied I didn’t know cancer was choosey.
This all happened in 2010.
Thank you for reading... and good health....
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