Posted 2/15/2020 2:35 PM (GMT -6)
5 years ago tomorrow, my wife and I drove down to St. Louis from Effingham, IL, checked into a hotel, and got some rest before a big day on the 17th.
That morning, we drove to the main location of Barnes-Jewish hospital in downtown St. Louis, found our way into one of the parking garages, and started the long walk to the surgery center. At this point, a few things still stick in my mind.
As we were walking through the corridors near one of the cafeterias, I heard a voice calling my name from behind us. As I turned around, I saw a nurse I knew from Effingham--she had worked for one of the local surgeons, and had apparently moved to St. Louis. She asked what we were doing there, and she made an encouraging comment about my surgeon, and told my wife if she had time, she'd swing by the waiting room later.
We got to the surgery center, and after a short wait, were ushered into the surgical prep area, got parked in a curtained cubicle with a gurney, and got settled with the paperwork, wristband, and IV. The visits began--anesthesiologist and his resident, surgeon and his fellow, resident(s), interns, etc. A harried nurse popped in and said they were running slow because their computer system crashed and they were having to hand chart everything.
Finally, about 12 noon, an NP from anesthesiology came in, and told me they would be putting me under right there, and that I'd wake up in PACU. And so, that was that. Next thing I knew, I was somewhere else, with bandages all over my belly. The nurse came in and told me everything was fine, that my surgery went fine. My wife came in with my glasses (that helped). After a while, I got moved to a room for the night.
The night was ok. Not a lot of pain. Sometime during the night, the nurse came in with some lidocaine gel for the catheter irritation, and later on came in with some pain med that she gave me IV push. THAT put me to sleep for a few hours.
Next day, in the afternoon, they told me I was released. The nurse visited to go through the care and feeding of the catheter, they gave me a bottle of percoset tabs to take home--and we were on our way.
The next week was spent in the recliner--with regular walks to the kitchen and back. It was extremely cold, and we had a couple of decent snows. Someone showed up with a backhoe and cleared the driveway. One day I put on the leg bag, and my wife drove me up to a big-box store and I pushed a cart around for a little while--and went home for a nap.
I went back to work after 3 weeks--too early. I worked a couple of days, then took a few more days off. A week or two after the catheter pull, I had a surprise in the night--yes, the little guy woke up. I was on the big pads for a few weeks after the catheter pull, then moved to the thin shields around the clock. Within a month or two, I was dry at night, and gradually gave up on the shields.
What's the point? What's the lesson?
For me, the lesson of it all is that I did my research, I made my decision, knowing (as well as any of us know) that I would do my best to accept whatever the outcome was. My Dad had died of advanced PC 11 years before, so I knew what the downside was. Based on his experience, I knew I wanted a proven treatment with a good track record with the best team I could find.
At that time, SBRT was just coming on line for PC in that area, so it really wasn't a viable option. The 40-50 treatment EBRT didn't feel viable either because of the distances involved. So, I chose surgery. I'm glad I did. I've had a great outcome with no significant side effects.
The biggest point, for me, and for the rest of you, is that this is a long haul situation. Even for intermediate risk, it's a lifetime commitment. Not just the periodic exams, blood tests, etc. But the life situation is there. The mind plays tricks--"It's been 5 years, sure, but remember X? HIS came back after 9 years" In my case it goes like this: "You've had 2 cancer diagnoses--2006 was Melanoma (2 lesions, IA and IB), and then PC (G3+4) in 2014. What's next? Maybe next time you won't be so lucky".
So what's the answer? Live life as well as possible. Do things you enjoy--stay as healthy as possible--pass on what you know. Listen to the new guys and encourage them. Help out when you can. Be of service to my church, my community, the world.