Dec 2013 – 6 Month Update

Having just passed my 6 month anniversary of my Prostate Surgery from earlier in the year thought it best to share where I’m at. My next PSA blood check is schedule for next month – Jan 2014 to make sure the cancer is still gone.

WARNING: Straight talk below so read on at your own risk of being offended.

Two areas of concern for me and I’m sure for any man after having their prostate removed via surgery (Davinci) was regaining total bladder control and full sexual function. All I can say is almost one out of two so far is far from ideal but beats being put 6 feet under by Cancer. 

First the bladder. No one likes to pee on themselves or leak/spot pee at various times of the day in their pants but that’s a reality for men recovering from this type of surgery. I hated it but was reassured by the Doctor after surgery that I was well ahead of most men at the time and that it would eventually stop. Well that was six months ago and now 6 months later I still leak occasionally. Absolutely hate it but have to admit I have improved significantly over that timeframe but it has been extremely slow going. Kegel exercises are the key to strengthening those muscles down there but even with those I still have a ways to go before I hope all the spotting and leaking is totally dried up and gone forever. In the meantime it is a constant daily annoyance and can become very debilitating psychologically in addition to being every present on my mind. 

Now, as far as sexual function for me at this stage it’s a no go. Sad to think but I truly feel and know my penis and all the pleasures it has brought me and my wife over the years will likely never recover. Of course, even without the cancer I wasn’t rewriting any of the sex record books anyway but it would have been nice to have had another go at them, even though prior to going into surgery performance was already declining. Yes, I’m aware of all the pills/devices available but I’m not going to jump through the hoops just yet to get an erection by any means available. I am on the Viagra but it only allows just the hint of an erection but nothing strong enough for penetration. Orgasms occur but only briefly in my mind … not near lasting enough to satisfy a partner. It’s not a body and mind experience any more the way it used to be. The fact a man can’t ejaculate semen after this surgery is another big negative and something that I strangely miss dearly. To top it off I am currently experiencing a little spoken of side affect called “Climacturia”. Disgusting topic so not going into any details here but you can click on the link for info. It doesn’t exactly encourage you to have sex. Doctor did discuss the dry ejaculations but not the possibility of Climacturia and I didn’t dig that deep in my pre surgery research. Wouldn’t have changed my mind I don’t think but something I would have liked to have known about prior and the surgeon never brought it up.

These are the issues I’ve had to live with and deal with daily for the last 6 months after prostate surgery. Hope by sharing these very personal details someone else might benefit from my experience.  Life is good and I’m still going strong and I’m here to attest to that so it not all bad news. I do think sometimes and wonder if I should have done the radiation treatment instead of prostate surgery and kept my prostate intact but I think that’s human nature to think what if. We always wonder if we make the right decisions but the truth is we live with what ever decision we make.

Hoping my blood work next month will continue to show the cancer is still gone. I’ll give another update on my recovery issues above in another 6 months.

-Donnie

Good to Go – Cancer Free

Just got the call from Vanderbilt hospital …. My PSA level was UNDETECTABLE …. which means I’m good to go – no sign of cancer any more … next check up is in 6 months. I can’t begin to express how relieved and happy I am … it’s been a long difficult  5+ months and now the best possible news. Now its checkups every 6 months to make sure it stays gone. Praise God and thanks to everyone that have been keeping me in their thoughts and prayers all these months. This is truly the sweetest of all days.

Donnie

Tomorrow’s Sweetest Day

6 weeks since surgery tomorrow but today was a trip to Vanderbilt Hospital for my long anticipated follow-up and blood work. Doctor said the usual positive things. From all accounts my bladder recovery is ahead of the norm and time will address other issues and concerns he said. He was confident they got all the cancer but held out the possibility there could still be some left behind as there was cancer cells found growing on one of the edges of my prostate. My PSA blood work will answer that question. They drew blood today and I should get a call tomorrow with the results. My two new friends that had the same surgery on the same day as me have both had there blood test completed and both had great results as their PSA levels were undetectable. This is what you want it to be. We are hoping when my results come in we will be 3 for 3 that are cancer free. It has been a long journey since my diagnosis back in February.

Today was sweet but tomorrow will be even sweeter.

5 week update

Tomorrow will mark 5 weeks since Prostate Surgery. My surgery scars are almost gone … just a few small scabs left where they punched 6 holes in me to attach the Da Vinci Robotic machine in order to perform the surgery. This is a vast improvement over the open type surgery of the past and I actually feel like I didn’t even have surgery it has healed so quickly. Inside there’s much more going on as things continue to heal where it counts the most. I continue to do the Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles that directly affect the control of my bladder but total bladder control has not returned yet. This could be a long journey of months maybe even a year before I’ll know if I’ll ever have full control again. This is one of the most frustrating, humiliating and worrisome aspects of having prostate surgery. Leaking some urine occasionally throughout the day is not a fun thing at all and plays on your mind and can wreck havoc on your daily activities and choice of undergarments that must be adjusted to cope. The other area of concern is of course sex. This is another area that takes a heck of a hit to your manhood and will require much adjustment as well to get use to and make allowance for continuing to even enjoy sex any more without some type of aid of which there are many to choose from. Nevertheless suffice to say life will never be the same in this department ever again. With these two issues to deal with it is easy to see now just how different life will be without a prostate as part of my body.

I’m still waiting for some good news regarding all this but my follow-up appointment and PSA blood work won’t be done until the middle of July. I sure hope the news is positive and that they got all the cancer out. Hopefully I’ll find that out soon. One of my other friends that had the same surgery the same day as mine is having his follow-up appointment today. I am anxious to see what the doctor tells him and what his PSA blood work shows.

God – Around Every Turn

Time does pass … although when we are going through difficult ones it appears to stand still. Reached a milestone the other day and I’m now free of my tether (catheter). What a terrible week with that horrible but necessary device, for any Prostate Cancer Surgery patient, to endure. Now that it’s behind me I feel like I have really turned a corner and am hopeful it is all downhill from here. Life being the adventure God planned it to be one never knows. Kind of exciting in a way and scary in the way us humans think. Dr. Smith called and provided my pathology report on my prostate now that it has been extracted and gone over in detail with a microscope by those in the know. He says my cancer was sightly worse than what the biopsy had shown. My Gleason score based on my pre surgery biopsy was 6 (3+3) but this report upgraded that score to a Gleason Score of 7 (3+4). I’ve researched and read until my eyes are bleary what that all really means in the end but I’m no wiser by that analysis. God is in control and where he takes me I will go. From the human perspective he tells me July 15th is when I will get my next blood work done to determine what my PSA levels are. If they are “0” (zero) that the best news and probably means I’m now cancer free … like there is any certainty in such a statement. If it is anything but zero then it’s a sign that there may still be some cancer cells that made there way outside the prostate before they got it out. He did say that they found cancer cells on the edge of part of my prostate which could mean it wasn’t all completely contained within. If that is the case it will mean “salvage” radiation treatment daily for 6-8 weeks and the saga will drag on. Doesn’t sound like fun but I have friends that had similar results, had the post surgery radiation treatment, and has been clean for 10 years or more now. I feel sore down there but good overall and incontinence doesn’t seem to be an issue so far. That was wonderful news in and of itself as that is one of the chief draw back to having surgery that many men experience. The other being sexual disfunction which is a TBD right now for me. More twist and turns to come but I know God is there waiting to catch me around every turn. Not to worry … time for a walk and to just give thanks for this day.

Recovery Begins

Hard to put into words exactly the experience of having prostate surgery and beginning recovery without delving into some areas most people don’t want to hear about. Not even sure I want to write about them. Suffice to say this is not a fun time at all and still a time of great uncertainty and anxiety. Anytime surgery reconstruction in a man happens below the belly button it’s just not a good thing. Everything is affected in one way or another. This is my 3rd day at home and it’s not a pretty sight. I wonder sometimes how would it be possible for me to feel any less helpless and vulnerable. My angel is my wife, Yong, who’s constant attention and love provides all the loving care a partial invalid could ever ask for. I’m walking gingerly a little each day and taking my meds but the only real game changer is TIME. I’ve never been a patient man and patience is exactly what you need to get through something like this. I only have to remind myself that there are far worst things in life and in relative terms this is a cake walk compared to the trials others must face. Nevertheless … being as self-centered as we are nothing seems more important than what’s happening to us at any given moment. I’d like to say each day is gradually getting better but I’m not sure that would be accurate. There are ups and downs each day and I try not to focus to much on any one thing. The mind can still bring me to my knees sometimes and fears still seem to kick in from time to time. My next milestone will be having the catheter removed on June 6th. Follow-up with my surgeon won’t be until July 15th which right now seems like an eternity from today.

Home today

Surgery completed succesfully yesterday and I’m home already after only 1 night in the hospital. Sore but doing pretty good considering what’s taken place in the last 36 hours. Hopefully as the days roll by my body will slowly return back to normal as I regain strength and mobility. Hard for me to take it easy but will have no choice for the next month or so. Thanks to all for thoughts and prayers.

Donnie

Done Deal

Sitting here now in my hospital bed resting with the surgery over earlier in the day. I’m able to walk gingerly but still on a Full Liquid Diet. Doctor says the surgery went just fine and I should be able to go home tomorrow if progress continues. I’m so relieved and thankful to my Lord in heaven for bringing me through and I’m confident I’m going to have a full recovery. Also, so blessed to have the best family and friends any man could possibly ask for.

My heartfelt thanks to all for your support and continued prayers.

Donnie

It’s Almost Time

Well … what was at one time very far off and almost out of my mind because it was so far off is now just around the corner and dominates my every thought. Can’t help but feel anxious about surgery this coming Tuesday but taking comfort in hopes that it will soon be over. Strange that at 62 years old this will be the first time in my life I’ve had surgery for anything. Never liked hospitals and thoughts of Doctors cutting off the wrong limb and removing the wrong organs comes to mind. Or perhaps contracting some mysterious illness from the plethora of bacteria that resides there.

Be still my mind and move my thoughts to happier days to come trusting in a God that loves me and waits patiently for me. May I not disappoint him no matter when we meet.

 

 

PC – April 15′ 2013

I have finally been scheduled for Prostate Cancer Surgery on May 28th 2013 at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville Tennessee. That’s way longer than I want to wait but apparently that’s the next available slot so it will have to do. Hopeful the surgery will be successful in removing my prostate and all the cancer as well as not leaving me with any unwanted side effects. Time will tell … now more waiting.

PC – April 9′ 2013

At long last I got the call from my surgeon at Vanderbilt Hospital today and they have finally heard back from the doctor at John Hopkins Hospital in Maryland. He confirms my biopsy sample is in fact Cancer with a Gleason score of 3 + 3 or 6. He’s evidently a renowned Doctor in this field so looks like I will probably be moving forward with the surgery soon. My surgeon says there’s a 6 week wait to get in for prostate surgery. A shame we lost an entire month with the mix up on my biopsy but he says as long as we get the surgery done within 6 months of the initial diagnosis, which was Feb 1st  it will be fine. Got to get it done. I’m sure everything will be fine. Just taking it one day at a time and trusting God will make it all good in the end.

PC – April 2′ 2013

Another week gone by and still no movement to get my biopsy sent to John Hopkins until today when I had to get involved and call Quest Lab directly myself. No excuse as to why no one had done anything for the last week on this only that they were just today going to be Fedex out. This time I have a tracking number. Patience is trying me. The good thing is I up for it and trusting God to keep me. Will just have to be my own best doctor and stay on my own case myself to make sure things get done.

 

Mar 28′ 2013

Long story but it seems Vanderbilt Pathology Department and Quest labs are having a go at each other at my expense. There was some miss communication and miss handling of my biopsy between the two labs and a lot of finger pointing. Bottom line nothing has been sent to John Hopkins as of this date. Almost 3 weeks wasted waiting. They now think they have it straighten out and once again I’m being told my biopsy will be sent to John Hopkins next week. I think God is teaching me patience. What a mess! I wish someone would get their act together and do their job.

Mar 14th’ 2013

About a month gap here and there’s been some incredible changes in my life. I’ve taken a hard look at my life during the past month and I’ve given up on controlling it myself. I’ve dedicated my life to God and have started to make the hard choices in my life to prune away the bad things I do (yes we all sin). I even examined what I consider the good things in my life (motorcycle riding) that I do way too much of evaluating how it ranked in my life. Bible says in Luke 12:34 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. My hearts been in the wrong place for way too long. I won’t change over night but now the one that can change me and order things in my life correctly is running the show.

After a couple of weeks visiting my daughter, Jessica, and my grandson Travis in South Dakota we headed back home to Tennessee in order to arrive home prior to my surgery consultation coming up on March 8th. My appointment day with the Surgeon at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville had finally arrived. As I sat in the office awaiting for the surgeon to enter the room I was wondering when or how soon I could get it scheduled. My fears were quickly shifting to the hazards of surgery and the after affect it might cause and not so much the cancer as before. I had done extensive research and reading on the subject of Prostate Cancer and felt I knew just about what every possible out come could be. Most were positive but there were also the undesirable ones that do happen to a few men. Of course my crazy mind always gravitates to the negative. 

As he enter the room and sits down we begin our discussion. To my amazement the first thing out of his mouth is that the Pathology Department at Vanderbilt looked at my samples from my biopsy and concluded that it wasn’t cancerous. They saw what the other lab (Quests Lab) saw that they were calling cancer but their conclusion was quite different. It turns out it was a very small percentage of the samples that were in question and they thought if it was cancer it was in the very earliest stages. He said he’s going to forward my biopsy samples to John Hopkins Hospital Pathology department in Maryland and get another opinion. They will make the final determination. I was in disbelief …. How could this be? Of course there is also a sampling error that has to be taken into consideration as well. Even with 12 samples from both sides of my prostate it is still possible they were hitting all around the cancer. Nevertheless this was the most incredible news to me and was very encouraging to know we weren’t going to be rushing into surgery right away. He said it would take about 2 weeks to hear back from John Hopkins and based on what their evaluation was we would either determine to either proceed with surgery or just go into a “watch and wait” and have another biopsy of my prostate done in a few months.

I’m so encouraged by this news and I am still waiting to hear back. Other good news is that if it turns out I do need surgery this surgeon, Joseph Smith at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, has performed over 4,000 prostrate surgeries … I had to ask him twice to make sure I heard him correctly. That’s way more than the majority of surgeons out there so I’ll be in good hands for sure if surgery is needed

Feb 8′ 2013

As with any life threatening trial that enters our life it always comes with a commitment or a recommitment to that which we know in our hearts to be true. As my good friend, Robert, says it’s during these difficult times and trials in our life that we find out if our FAITH is truly genuine. I already knew the answer and I was not happy with it or having to have it proved to me by God in such a profound way. How glorious it would have been if I had God’s love and truth in my heart of my own free will and had been living like it prior. Instead I was ashamed and felt like the biggest underserving hippocrite that ever walked God’s green earth. It became quickly clear to me that I was in lane A in my life and God clearly wanted me in lane B. My life was not ordered right and I knew it must change. Change has never been easy for me and talk was always cheap but now it was time for action. I’ve been praying earnestly and reading the Bible daily and there is a calm that has come over me. My most urgent prayer now is for God’s help in never falling away from him again.

I didn’t make a bunch of promises to God of all the things I would change. I simply put those thoughts of what had to change in my heart daily where God could work with them on his own schedule and I trust him to show me the way to come into his presence that will not be fleeting but permanent. I ask God daily to take this cancer from me and allow me to make the right choices concerning treatment going forward to rid me of it. There will be no more decisions made solely by me in my life … only through prayer will I consider my path clear to proceed and only proceed where he puts in my heart that he wants me to go. I know it won’t be easy but I pray his Will be done and that I can be strong in my faith.

Yong and I have decided to head up to see our daughter, Jessica and our grandson Travis in South Dakota tomorrow. My son-in-law David is gone to training for a couple of months and we wanted to spend time there while we wait to have our first visit with my surgeon on March 8th.