Archive for January, 2007

Enough About This Prostate Stuff!

Monday, January 8th, 2007

I need to wrap this medical thing up; I want to get back to my murals today….and more interesting stuff: I need to post a tribute ASAP to the late, great James Brown.

The rules, as I was told, were: no bowel movement, no go home. My wife (who practices medicine) was making noises about getting out of the hospital and going home. The German in me, inclined to follow rules, was arguing against that when I was brought my lunch.

Central to my lunch was a bowl of foul-looking green glop. It was explained to me that this was cream of asparagus soup. It smelled odious; it tasted worse. If I was prone to conspiracy theories I would imagine that this was served to patients that the hospital wanted to vacate the their bed.

Those of you out there who have dined with me know I’m a foodie (I am always on a perpetual nationwide quest to discover the best Mexican food as well as the best barbecue; I am name-checked in the menu of my favorite local BBQ joint, Robin’s. Try their rib tips or their beef ribs).

This was the last straw.

“Okay,” I told my wife. “I’m outta here — BM or no BM. I’ll do it at home. Start the paperwork.”

A couple of hours later, my catheter, pee bag and I were being wheeled down to the parking lot. My wife swung the car around and picked me up. We drove home.

The next day I had a BM. Yay! We celebrated.

About two weeks later I had the staples removed from the long vertical scar that runs from my navel to just above the upper base of my penis. Fairly painless; a bit of uncomfortable tugging as they were clipped and pulled.

For about a month I had what I called a “second mouth”. It was an horizontal open wound (a little more than an inch long) to the right of and a couple inches below my navel. Its initial function was that of a drainage vehicle for any interior infection. Most of the drainage took place while I was still in the hospital. Once out, it was my job to check it and carefully clean it and re-bandage it each day. It recently repaired itself and closed up on its own. The human body is a profound and remarkable organism!

About the catheter: that’s a tube shoved up your penis. Once it’s inside you the doctor inflates a small bubble of air into it to keep it in place. The tube leads down to a plastic bag. That’s where all of your urine goes. I couldn’t feel when I was peeing. Every few hours I’d just notice that my bag had refilled.

When I was told I would have to have this rig I was appalled and a little scared. I thought it would be painful. It sounds like it would be. Not so (for me, anyway). Other than lugging this plastic bag of pee around like an affectionate puppy (which I, of course, emptied into the toilet on a regular basis) and being careful that the tube didn’t catch on anything, the setup was barely noticeable. In fact it was great for watching long movies — I never had to get up!

It came out two weeks after surgery. My wife clipped a piece of the tube, instantly deflating the bubble inside me. I felt a sudden sharp pain and yanked the tube right out of me. That was it. There was no lingering pain or soreness. Easy!

Well, not so easy. I am having to learn how to urinate all over again. During the surgery, two of the three muscle groups that are your body’s urination controls are rendered dysfunctional. That means I’ve had to train the third muscular option to recognize when I have to pee. I also have to build that muscle up so that I can hold my pee. That means (you guessed it) wearing what are euphemistically known as “adjustable underwear” (adult diapers). So, I’m having to deal with that. So far, so good. Although it’s annoying to interrupt my sleep three times each night to get up to go pee, for the past few days I’ve become continent enough (while sleeping, anyway) to recognize the urge to go so that I’ve got dry “adjustable underwear” when I wake up each morning each morning.

I’m still working on the daytime control (and wearing lots of loose clothes). It’s happening, bit by bit with each passing day.

Side Bar – Something Scary but Pertinent:
Once my prostate was removed, it was completely biopsied and analyzed. Before this final biopsy we were under the impression that the cancer was a fairly slow-growing form in just a small part of one of my prostate’s lobes. The final biopsy revealed my cancer to be an extremely ugly and aggressive variety that had spread to both lobes (it luckily had not breached the containing capsule). I was very, very fortunate to have had the surgery when I had had it. If I had procrastinated about the surgery my outcome could have been devastating if not fatal.

The Really Good News:
I was told by my doctor (and by the two huge tomes I read on prostate cancer) not to expect a hard-on or an orgasm for about six months after surgery — and ONLY IF the nerve-sparing part of it was successful.

Well, EXCU-U-U-USE ME! Just sixteen days after surgery….

So there is a “happy ending” to this sordid story, so to speak. And, hopefully, it will serve as a Tale of Hope for other fellas out there that are unlucky enough to end up with this awful disease. I’ve talked to a lot of guys for whom this whole prostate cancer thing has become just a distant blip in the radar of their lives. I think I’m about to join them.

OK — enough about my medical stuff. I gotta get back to work. And listen to and think about Mr. James Brown (who had successful prostate cancer surgery when he was 71!).

Any questions, feel free to ask. If you’ve read this whole thing you probably know you can expect me to be refreshingly (or painfully) honest on the subject.