Saturday, May 20, 2006

Prostate Cancer - Two Weeks Post Op

It's been a little over two weeks since I had surgery. This past Wednesday I had the catheter and staples removed. The staples were interesting. There were 22 of them extending from my pubic bone to my navel. They looked like a little stainless steel ladder climbing up my stomach.

As it turns out, the cancer was confined to just my prostate. It hadn't spread anywhere beyond. And, the best was when the surgeon got to the nerve sparing part. He said that the nerves and blood vessels just lifted right off of the prostate, all in one piece. As a result, I have no incontinence issues. I am so fortunate that, of all the scenarios of what could have been, mine turned out to be the most simplest, routine, of all.

When the nurse practitioner removed the staples and pulled the catheter out, I told her that I had full feeling of my bladder function. I could tell she didn't believe me but I didn't care. It was interesting to me to just know it for myself. When she explained the exercises I am to do to build up the muscles regarding continence I told her that I had been doing them as a part of my martial arts training for years.

The exercises are similiar to what women do, Kegel exercises they're called. The idea is to tighten the muscles in your bottom, as if you have gas and don't want to let it out, or as if you have to pee but are trying to hold it in. I did those in martial arts to simulate turning to stone at the moment of impact. The idea was to move fluidly and then, at the instant of striking the opponent, to harden the body, from head to toe. We used to call it tightening the sphincter muscle and would practice it regularly.

In addition, I spent time isolating various muscles in my body so that I could tighten only those I needed to, in order to keep the rest of myself loose. When I do stretching I practice isolating and stretching different muscles at different times. As a result, I'm pretty much in tune with my body.

Nevertheless, when it came time to have the catheter taken out I found it was nothing compared to having had the drains removed from my stomach while in the hospital. I thought my guts were being sucked out of my body when the drains were pulled out. The two lines were each about four inches long but it felt like they went on forever. Talk about a memorable moment.

Anyway, I've been out of the hospital for nine days now and am getting stronger every day. Bit by bit. I take a walk and then sleep for an hour. The second day out of the hospital I took a shower, shaved, got all dried off and put my robe on, feeling good. Then I layed down and slept for the rest of the morning. Now, 7 days later, I can walk for almost an hour - and then sleep for an hour and lay around for two more.

I knew going in that I would be tired after any kind of physical activity (like taking a shower) but somehow I thought that in between I would feel fine. Actually, I pretty much just feel tired all the time. I'm not taking the pain medication and I understand it takes about a month for all of the anesthesia to work its way out of my body so I guess that's a part of it. Plus, the nature of the surgery just shuts the body down to focus on healing. I know that when I take walks I move pretty slowly and without much energy.

The other day I walked over to the car repair place and got Julie's car. She had a tire checked for a slow leak. I'm not supposed to drive but did anyway. I won't try that again until I feel much better. I was so tired that my reflexes were very slow. I was lucky that nothing out of the ordinary happened.

Anyway, I'm grateful that the cancer was very much in the early stages, that the diagnosis was made when it was, that the surgeon was as skilled as he was, and that everything turned out as it did. I pretty much think of it as having dodged the bullet that might have been. The surgeon didn't have his charts with him when he approved the nurse practitioner to remove the cathether and staples, but he did tell me that I have a 95% chance that I will be cancer free in ten years. I'll take that.

I'm also grateful that I have such a good support system. One of my sisters came up to be with me. I got out of the hospital on a Thursday night and she came up on Sunday and stayed through Thursday. She helped out a great deal just by being here. Julie didn't have to carry the full burden and I could focus on healing. The dog got walked, meals were made and the load was shared. On the day I had to go get the catheter and staples removed, a friend of Julie's drove my sister and I to the hospital. I was very lucky to have had all that available to me. I tell you, having a good support system is extremely important to recovery.

I have also been humbled by the cards, emails and phone calls that I have been receiving during my recovery. Knowing that there are people who care makes all the difference in the world.

I couldn't ask for more as I continue on the road to recovery.


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