Prostate Cancer, Part Two: Surgery and Its Side Effects

Oct 1st, 2008 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

When, almost a year ago now, it was determined that I had prostate cancer, Gleason Scale 9, there was but one option in dealing with it. Because of a collision of favorable circumstances, quick action was available. For that, I have to thank my spouse, our daughter and son in law, our former son in law, my primary physician, a personal friend who is my urologist, and an imminently qualified oncologist.

And, that, of course is just part of the team. As one discovers in the face of life threatening diseases, one is surrounded by a whole cloud of supporters, family and friends. That is the very beginning of healing in itself.

Since confession is good for the soul, I admit to my own naivete in thinking that the surgery and recovery would be the proverbial piece of cake. It was not. A radical prostatectomy is not for sissies. It may be for the ignorant or naive as in my case, for not knowing I went into it with my eyes wide shut. Only after did I realize I wouldn’t be up and about in a couple of weeks. It stretched into a longer period than I had anticipated.

So, when choosing surgery, one certainly needs to be more astute than I was before proceeding. That is the fault of no one other than myself. I have had the good fortune of very few major dealings with the surgical knife. My few experiences were always of relatively brief duration, fairly painless and more of a vacation than a recovery period.

And, I must declare, surgery as an option is not for everyone. I chose it because it was my bottom line option. When reading up on prostate cancer, one finds, early on, that ‘watchful waiting’ is an option. In the highest percentage of men with prostate cancer, the cancer is slow growing and often non life threatening. Thus other options are available.

Many friends and colleagues, whom I know and have discussed our fraternal experience with prostate cancer, chose other methods. One long term friend said every man with whom he had visited declared their choice and solution for dealing with it was the best for them. I can’t argue with that.

What I know is that having chosen any other treatment, I would be headed toward, (to quote my oncologist) “death in my early 70′s and a miserable one at that.” Those odds were very unappealing.

So, I went with surgery. Today’s PSA report reveals no sign of cancer at all, whatsoever, anywhere in my body. That is reason enough to feel very good about my choice.

But, what about side effects? With a testosterone count in the low 20′s, there surely are some. I have had a recurring problem with hot flashes (MEN O PAUSE, I call it). They are very real and I am now very sympathetic with women who have gone through their own experiences. I continue to have some incontinence, but it has improved slowly and I am not too proud to buy and wear pads. Finally, if one defines sex as intercourse, then the loss of that is also a side effect and a lost art. However, discovering the variety of ways to express love to ones spouse is a delicious adventure. Experiences with a decline in physical stamina and energy can also be expected. For my part, I have learned the need to pace myself accordingly.

My physicians keep close tabs on my situation, I am taking a medication to deal with the hot flashes, my strength and energy level are returning, my attitude about life remains good and, for a Type A, I have mellowed considerably.

What I can say to anyone facing the prospect of surgery for prostate cancer, following the biopsy, identify the urology oncologist with whom you have great confidence in his/her ability and availability. My surgery was done in the Phoenix area, where I underwent recovery as well. It worked well for us. I watched a lot of movies, slept a lot, and with the aid of a walker took daily walks in the neighborhood.

At the end of the experience, making plans to travel home (Texas), we chose to make it an adventure and return by train because of my need for proximity to a bathroom. We had our private room, with bath, all our meals and the delight of watching the world stream by. We rested and slept well and arrived home refreshed.

So, my counsel, to those who are dealing with prostate cancer is: face it, deal with it and move on! Like me, I hope all cancer survivors have a lot of living yet to do.



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