After 10 years of not seeing a doctor, feeling like I was in great shape for a man my age, an excruciating headache forced me to seek medical attention. The headache, as it turns out, has been one of the biggest blessings in my life.
The headache was caused by a "large lobulated cystic lesion" in my right sphenoid sinus cavity and has since been surgically removed. However, along the way to diagnosing the source of my headache, I was also given a complete physical examination - including my first PSA test at the age of 62.
My first PSA score was 15 - the subsequent re-test was 13.1 and that led to a biopsy which revealed 13 of the 14 core samples to be positive for cancer. The diagnosis, based upon the biopsy results, came on Halloween Day - Oct. 30, 2008. I was immediately referred to a Urological Surgeon at the Veteran's Hospital in West Los Angeles for a consultation.
I started reading everything I could find that pertained to the treatment of prostate cancer - acquiring as much knowledge as I possibly could in order to make the best decision regarding how I would proceed. This website was especially helpful!
I elected to have an "open radical retro-pubic prostatectomy" and, as of this writing, it would appear that I made the correct choice.
The surgery was performed 6 days ago - Dec. 3, 2008 - and I am still wearing a Foley catheter. I met with my surgeon yesterday and my JP (Jackson/Pratt) drainage tube was removed. The pathology report indicated that although a small section of Grade 5 cancer was detected (most were Grade 3), it was still contained within the prostate gland and that the lymph nodes which were harvested during the surgery were all negative for cancer. A bone scan prior to the surgery revealed no metastasis, either.
Whew! It appears that all of the cancer was removed during the surgery and now, aside from having my catheter removed in 4 days, I will await my first post-surgical PSA test in 6 weeks.
Despite the fear and doubt that preceded the surgery, I can now say that I am glad I elected to have the open surgery and, with the vision of 20/20 hindsight and the post-surgical pathology report, it would appear that any delay may have proven to be quite costly.
Had I not had the headache my cancer would have gone undetected, for there were no symptoms. Hence, I regard that horrific headache as one of the biggest blessings in my life. I will add more to my story as I progress through the recovery.
At eight weeks post surgery I just received the results from my first PSA test - 0.03 - Yay!
Opting for the open radical procedure was a stressful decision. Hindsight being 20/20, in light of the post-op biopsy results of my prostate gland (I had a section of grade 5 cancer), I feel comfortable that I made the right choice. My margins were good and there was no metastasis. Bone scan was clear as were the lymph nodes.
These last two months have had their ups and downs. I was only in the hospital for two days - in on Wednesday and out on Friday. The abdominal pain was only severe for a few days, and then only when I was moving about. I wore a Foley catheter for the first 10 days and, save for some minor irritation, that was not so bad.
The JP (Jackson - Pratt) drainage tube came out a few days before the catheter and the only real complication I experienced was a continued drainage of serous fluid toward the top and through my incision. A small seroma developed and had to be lanced at about 4 weeks post-op. That has since healed nicely.
Although I was expecting some degree of incontinence nothing could have prepared me for the reality of not being able to control myself. I remember the first day after my cath was removed - taking a shower, drying off and squirting. The harder I tried to control it the more I seemed to lose control. I felt like crying. It was psychologically devastating!
The first 4 weeks required that I wear a diaper even though I wasn't completely incontinent. It just gave me a greater sense of security. There was never a point, save for the first 3 or 4 days, where I wasn't going out and interacting with people. Even if it was just to walk to a local sandwich shop for lunch. That includes while I was wearing the catheter - I would simply use the smaller 'sports bag,' as I called it.
Now, at two months post-op, I wear a pad during the day when I'm out in public and nothing at night. My incontinence is almost virtually non-existent. I am very pleased and happy about that!
My Urologist had prescribed a vacuum pump to stimulate blood flow to my penis and to also stretch the urethra, which was severed and re-attached during the surgery. It could just be my imagination but I attribute the rapid regaining of continence to the use of this device. In addition, of course, to Kegel exercises.
The nerves that are responsible for erections were not spared during my surgery. I was told in advance that they would not be - spared, that is. I have no problem with that. I was, after all, trying to save my life and not my ego. The vacuum system that was prescribed allows me to pump up and then clamp-off (for lack of a better term) via an elastic band. By doing this I can maintain a full erection for up to 30 minutes before having to remove the band. It proves to be quite adequate for penetration, although I will admit that there is a considerable loss of sensitivity. Then, there is also the psychological aspect regarding the retrograde ejaculation - The orgasm is still a wonderful feeling, just different.
All in all I am very pleased with the progress I am making, especially this soon after such an invasive procedure. I am healing quite nicely and making adjustments daily. With today's PSA results I am encouraged that I will enjoy quite a few more days north of the grass. And, while the diagnosis of prostate cancer can be quite frightening - not to mention the confusion as to what might be the best treatment, I am very grateful that I chose the open surgery and attended to it as soon as it was diagnosed.
Onward and Upward!
At 6 months post-op my PSA remains low and I am fully continent. I have been dealing with a number of other non related physical difficulties in the past few months and the prostate cancer, or thoughts thereof, have really taken a back seat--which I guess is a blessing?
I had my MUSE trial yesterday where I was instructed on how to use the urethral suppository. MUSE (alprostadil) is a medicated pellet that is placed in the urinary opening using a disposable plastic applicator and is used to treat erectile dysfunction.
The trial involved a rather low dose and was designed primarily to be instructive--also to see how well the medication is tolerated. There was some burning in the urethra--not too bad--as well as some aching. I was told that the burning usually occurs during the first few administrations and generally subsides with continued use. For the aching I was given some lidocaine jelly to apply to the applicator in future usage. I was told that would eliminate the aching--we'll see?
Hopefully the dose (500mcg) I was prescribed will achieve a better result than the one yesterday during the low-dose trial?
So, that's basically where I am today with my prostate cancer--continuing to monitor PSA's and working to find a viable treatment to overcome the loss of erectile function...which, I should hasten to add, is really of little concern in the broader scheme of things. Like I said, I am dealing with other non related issues upon which I place a far greater priority. I feel blessed that my prostate cancer was detected and dealt with--that I have fully regained continence--and now I will attempt to hurdle the new obstacles that have been placed before me.
Onward and upward!
At 9 months post-op my PSA remains low -- currently .02 as of last week. It has gone as high as .05 since my surgery, so this latest result is a tremendous relief for me.
I am pleased to say that I am 99.9% continent with only an occasional drop of slippage, usually late in the evening when I am tired.
My urologist and I continue to explore a pharmacological way to overcome my post surgical erectile dysfunction.
Previously, I had mentioned the 500mcg. of Alprostadil (MUSE), a urethral suppository. That dose was insufficient to produce an erection suitable for intercourse. I am now trying the same medication in the 1000mcg. strength. I have only used it once (last night) and it did seemed to work somewhat better -- however it was still not completely satisfactory.
Having just met with my urological team last week, I was told the next step would be the Alprostadil injectable -- an injection administered into the side of the penis.
However, since I am in the Veterans Administration healthcare system, I will have to continue using the current dose of the urethral suppository for the next 3 months in order to satisfy their pharmaceutical protocol prior to being prescribed the injectable version of this medication.
No worries -- I can wait.
Other than the concerns that I have described above, thoughts of my PC seems to be fading rapidly as other physical afflictions move to the forefront. I am scheduled for my second lumbar epidural on October 2 -- which is to, hopefully, alleviate the pain in my lower back.
I have osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) that has caused a deterioration of the disks in my lower back (L4, L5, S1). I had the first injection (epidural) on May 1st of this year and I only realized 5 days of moderate relief. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this next injection will achieve a greater, longer lasting result which will serve to temporarily forestall the inevitable spinal fusion that has my orthopedic surgeon salivating over the prospect of doing.
The above condition is not related to my Prostate Cancer but rather to the ongoing journey of life. It serves as a good reminder that I should not worry too much about my problems today, as there will always be another problem -- oftentimes bigger -- that will be lurking around that next corner.
I have learned to define these problems and immediately get into the solution. That is what I did with my PC, this is what I am doing with my back problem.
The journey continues -- Onward and Upward!
It has been several months since I have updated my progress, post surgery, so here goes...
Since my last entry I have hit the milestone of one year -- that was in December '09 -- and I am currently in the neighborhood of 17 months out from my open prostate surgery.
My PSA levels continue to be negligible (0.02) and the once gigantic specter of fear and apprehension has now comfortably assumed the role of a fading memory. Aside from my 6 month PSA tests I rarely give thought to having had PC. Perhaps that is because I never attached to the diagnosis of cancer, but rather immediately sought to remedy the condition. My attitude has always been; define the problem and then get into the solution.
Since my last entry here on YANA I have had two other surgeries. One somewhat expected and one completely unexpected.
In November of last year ('09) I awoke to a horrific pain in my right side that resulted in the removal of my gallbladder. Which, as it turns out, was full of stones and had gangrened inside of me. That was very much unexpected as I had never experienced any prior discomfort from said organ.
The 2nd surgery was more or less anticipated as I had indicated in my last entry, re: the difficulty with my lumbar spine.
Three lumbar epidurals did not resolve my deteriorating condition and it was necessary to undergo a one-level, posterior fusion of L4, L5 w/instrumentation. That operation was performed 7 weeks ago on Feb. 19th and I am currently engaged in the recovery and rehabilitation from that procedure.
With a total of four significant surgeries under my belt in the last 18 months, not to mention the countless x-rays, MRI's, CT scans, bone scan and biopsy, I feel somewhat qualified to observe that life is a wonderful gift and that it is incumbent upon me to live each moment in the moment and not to worry too much about the problem I might be facing today -- there will be a bigger one to take its place tomorrow. (This seems to be recurring theme in my writing)
The journey continues -- onward and upward!
In December of last year I celebrated my two year post surgical anniversary. At that time my PSA reading remained low ~ 0.03. My surgeon met briefly with me to discuss any concerns and told me that he was pleased with my progress and would see me again in six months.
I remain completely impotent and it seems as though I have also developed a condition known as 'climacturia' -- incontinence during orgasm. Despite these problems I am extremely happy just to be alive today! In fact, I rarely even think about my prostate cancer or its consequences anymore. Recovering from having my lumbar spine fused 14 months has taken center-stage. And in that regard I am doing quite nicely, I am pleased to say!
The journey continues -- onward and upward!!
I am now 65 and 3 years post op with a current PSA of 0.01 - it doesn't get much better than that!
I am so grateful that your site, YANA, was here when I needed it the most!!
Happy New Year, Terry!
I am now 4 years post operative and my PSA score remain negligible @ 0.02.
Cheers, my friend!
Ron Cooper Age 62 @ diagnosis
Well, yesterday was Halloween and it was on Halloween day exactly 5 years ago that my urologist gave me the results of my biopsy. I had tested positive for prostate cancer. A diagnosis that no man ever wants to hear.
As my earlier entries indicate, I immediately jumped into the solution. Which, for me, was an open radical prostatectomy. And now here I am 5 full years later from that fateful day of diagnosis. My real 5 year anniversary will be on December 3rd, for that is the day that the cancer was removed from my body. But Halloween is the day that I will always remember as the day my life changed forever.
Many things have changed in the last 5 years. Pam and I are no longer together. Although we do maintain a very close, loving friendship. For that I am very grateful, as I am also grateful for the years that we did spend together.
As my previous entries also indicate, I have had other surgeries from which I am recovering and also adjusting to. One of those operations was to fuse my lumbar spine, L4/L5. And, now, I am again looking at the possibility of yet another surgery to remedy the degenerative disc disease in my lower back.
"Old age is not for sissies!"
I am grateful for every ache and pain that I have today! And, I will gladly take the aches and pains over the alternative. My PSA's remain negligible @ 0.02 and, save for my erectile dysfunction and climacturia, I seldom even think about my bout with prostate cancer. It was just another bump in the road of life...
Onward and upward, my friends ~ The journey continues!
Cheers, and Happy Holidays!
Well, December 3rd has rolled around once again. And this year, 2014, marks 6 years since I had my surgery. Where has the time gone! (He said, with an exclamation mark).
Things are fairly static in my life today. Save for my annual urology appointments I give very little thought to my prostate cancer. Bigger fish to fry, I guess? My lumbar spinal stenosis has taken center stage once again and the chronic/acute sciatic pain has severely limited my mobility. I have also been suffering with dental issues that I cannot remedy for lack of funds. Sad that a veteran living in these United States must contemplate leaving the Country and going to Mexico in order to find affordable dental care. But that's precisely the course of action that I currently find myself contemplating.
So, as you can see, my life as a senior citizen is pretty much normal for the times we now live in. All in all my life is good. Aside from my ailments, which are really nothing more than the inevitable consequence of growing old, I have no real problems. I have sufficient income to keep a roof over my head and my belly full. With a little left over to purchase an occasional trinket to validate my existence. I spend a lot of time on that famous auction site that starts with the letter "e." I collect knives and flashlights and participate in several online forums that are inhabited with like minded individuals.
Like I said. I only occasionally glance at my prostate cancer in the rearview mirror. The open surgery I had 6 years ago removed the cancerous tissue from my body and altered the road the I was travelling. My life was changed in ways that I could never have imagined. Some good. Some bad. But, ultimately, I still have Life. That's all that really matters. Only the road has changed. Not the destination.
Onward and Upward ~ The Journey continues...
Well, it's New Years Eve 2015 and another year has come and gone. In about 10 minutes Pacific Standard Time it will be 2016 and, with a little luck, I will turn 70 in July of this year. It will be the first year for us Baby Boomers, as we are called. And guys like myself, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will all become septagenarians this year.
I am now 7 years post surgery and my life is really pretty normal. I still struggle with chronic lower back pain from a severe spinal stenosis, as well as other little aches and pains associated with my age and the life I have lived. But, quite frankly, I really never think about having had prostate cancer anymore. It was just another speed bump on this long road of life. Life does go on!
That's about it for this year. Another one in the history books. Onward and Upward!
Well, like the saying goes, "Time flies when you're having fun!"
It would appear that another year has rolled around since my last update. And I am happy to report that, save for the ED and the Climacturia, my PSA level is staying low and that the prostate cancer has remained of very little concern. Of course, I do have other issues that keep me occupied with aches and pains.
Having entered into my 7th decade on planet earth this past July, I have grown to accept that aches and pains are par for the course when you're a septuagenarian. My lower back and the spinal stenosis therein is daily reminder of my age. And, I have been dealing with that by taking rather lengthy daily walks at a local arboretum and botanical garden which I am fortunate to live a very short distance from and I am also a member of the arboretum foundation. I also enjoy plant and wildlife photography as a hobby and incorporate that passion into my strolls as I prowl through the flora and fauna of the 127 acre botanical garden. It provides a wonderful distraction for my ache du jour.
As of this past December I remain 8 years cancer free post open radical prostate surgery. I am so blessed that I had the lesion in my head that prompted me to seek medical attention. As I indicated many entries ago, I was 62 when I had my first PSA test that led to the discovery of prostate cancer. Had I not had those headaches that were totally unrelated to my PC I would have never known and would no doubt not be here now.
I feel very lucky and blessed to be alive today. There really is life after cancer! I would urge anyone who stumbles upon my story to be encouraged that your diagnosis is not the end, it's merely a new beginning!
As always ~ Onward and Upward!
Ron's e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org