With those words my prostate cancer surgeon released me from life with a catheter. I’m grateful that I’m no longer tethered. I was learning to get along with these extras. They provided the necessary bridge to health after the robotic prostatectomy. The doctor gave me an excellent pathology report too. Only twenty percent of my prostate had cancer cells. I’m not sure what all that means in the long term but I’m very grateful for now.
Yesterday I began the next phase of my journey to health post prostate. Following the cystogram and catheter removal I donned my maximum absorbency underwear. Now, I’m on the same page as grandson. I have a temporary continence problem. I began the prescribed Kegel exercises in earnest as my wife drove us home. Our first stop was lunch at Tim Horton’s. I opened the passenger side door and stepped out into the warm afternoon air and then ‘whoosh.’ Oops, I forgot for a split second that I don’t have bladder control. That was my first epiphany. I smiled and shared the discovery with my wife. I’m reminded of the Saturday Night Live skit ‘Oops I Crapped my Pants.’
Once we got home I went for a walk enjoying my new freedom. The days and weeks ahead will have their challenges as I do the Kegel exercises and retrain my bladder muscles. It’s great to be alive and enjoy the rest of summer.
My life has had a lot of ups and downs in the past year. I don’t want to recount them now. A few months ago I learned from expert medical attention that I have prostate cancer. Who isn’t afraid of a cancer diagnosis? But compared to the other tribulations that have occurred in my life in the past sixty-six years it was just one more thing.
Upon learning the diagnosis my wife and I began a series of office visits with different clinicians to determine the best possible course of action. I had three options. One was to do nothing for a year and see what happened. That didn’t seem reasonable. I thought that would be like sitting on a landmine hoping for the best. Another option was radiation and the third was surgical removal of the prostate.
Many relatives and friends stepped forward to share their experience. I’m grateful to all of them. My sister was perhaps the most persistent advocate for surgical removal. Her husband had prostate cancer twenty years ago and opted for surgery. In addition to them I had other friends who had relied on radiation therapy and were almost five years cancer free. I went back and forth and prayed on it along with my wife. After a thorough examination of all possibilities and counsel with my wife and the medical teams I decided to pursue the surgical route.
In the days and weeks leading up to my procedure I did a lot of thinking . I went on a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi with a group of United States military veterans. I spent a lot of time in prayer there and in the quiet places I love closer to home. A few days before my surgery while attending an evening program at Mount Irenaeus an entire congregation prayed for me. A Franciscan priest told me he would offer his mass on the day of surgery for my intention. A former minister put me on his prayer list. Fellow prostate cancer survivors and their families reached out and slowly with their help and encouragement I moved forward. Faith is not the absence of fear. It is continuing to move forward in spite of that fear. Faith is walking through fear and trusting that things will work out.
The countdown ended the afternoon I arrived for my surgery. I was admitted to the hospital, prepped and put in one of those little hospital gowns we all know and love. I was surrounded by my family. My son left work early to be there along with my wife and daughter. The professional staff of the hospital got me ready and came an hour early to take me to the operating room. I remember the anesthetist putting something over my nose and then … I woke up hours later in my hospital room. While I was asleep a team of highly skilled doctors and nurses performed a robotic prostatectomy. I am grateful that such people surround me.
It’s now nine days hence and while I still have a catheter for the time being I am returning to health and wholeness. I have been surrounded by love and care. I have received phone calls, text messages and personal visits. My wife has been a private duty nurse who has had to modify our home to accommodate me. Each day is a new adventure. I have returned to writing again. Yesterday I was able to attend the weekly meeting of the Opensource.com moderators. Later I ventured out with a friend to a meeting twenty miles from home. I got a text message from the mother of one of my Python coding classes. She let me know that she and her son were keeping me in their thoughts and prayers. I am surrounded by love and at times it has been overwhelming. I am very grateful to everyone who has given something of themselves. This has been the good journey. In its own unique way it has been a pilgrimage which has led to some new understandings of life.