The Month of the Doctor

After my biopsy, my wife and I went to Maui for ten days with some friends. We had a perfect holiday, and I forgot about all my troubles and just enjoyed the sun, surf and great friends.

Then, after the diagnosis and before the actual surgery, we went away again, this time to visit her sister and her husband in Palm Springs. (I know, tough winter.) My sister-in-law has some health issues herself, so being with them was very helpful for me as we had some talks about “things.” I got her perspective, and decided that I’d do my best to be as realistic and brave as she was in dealing with this. She was and is an inspiration to me.

Time was starting to catch up with me. In no time at all it was April, or as I call it “the month of the doctor.” I had a doctor’s visit about once every week – which of course meant a few rums later that day. This was turning out to not be too bad after all!

I told my friends I had prostate cancer and that I’d be having surgery at the end of the month. It seemed that I was at peace with the whole process.

It was about this time that I started making jokes about being incontinent. There are a million of them, and I guess it was my way of dealing with the stress of the impending surgery. I thought they were hilarious, but then I’ve always thought my jokes were hilarious. My buddy “Beep” certainly did his best to add to the fun with jokes of his own.

My wife and I had a meeting with my surgeon about three weeks prior to the surgery date. This was to get acquainted and to see if we had any questions. The nurse navigators had done their job, because there really wasn’t a lot to ask about, but I appreciated the meeting because I got to meet the man who was going to have such a profound effect on my life. I felt reassured and comfortable with the surgeon and what was now coming at me like a freight train.

The following week was the pre-op physical with my family doctor, where we went through my entire medical history and put to paper the number of operations I’ve had in my life and the meds I take. When I counted up the surgeries, I realized I’ve had a few – never anything serious, but a ton of them nonetheless. He checked my heart rate and my blood pressure, which was through the roof the first time we measured it. After he basically told me to knock it off and relax, it went back to normal. He kindly offered to do a manual rectal exam “for old time’s sake,” and laughed his head off at his “clever” joke. I declined.

A week later it was time to go to the hospital for their pre-operative check and information session. This took three hours and involved getting blood taken and an ECG to see if my heart was in good shape. Call it ‘white coat syndrome’ or whatever you like, but again, my blood pressure was higher than usual for me. The technician took it a second time a few minutes later, and I was back to normal. Then we had two meetings, the first with a physiotherapist and the second with a nurse.

The physiotherapist talked about the male anatomy, showing us where everything is and what would happen. She used a model that was cut in half vertically. I kind of snickered at one point during her explanation, and then had to explain to her that what I thought was funny was the piece of the male anatomy she was using to lift and turn the model. It was just a handle to her, but precious real estate to me! She was great. She talked about the exercises I needed to do, the length of stay in hospital (three nights), and basically everything I needed to know to prepare me for the experience ahead and the recovery afterward.

After the physiotherapist, we met with a nurse to discuss the more practical aspects of pre-surgery, the day of and the time afterward. We learned about the two types of catheter I’d be using, how to care for them, what would happen after the operation in terms of pain control and all those types of things. She told me I had to lay low for up to six weeks after the surgery and that I needed to get pads or diapers to help with incontinence.

We went over the meds I take and how to care for the wounds I’d have. There would be five incisions in my lower abdomen, and they’d need some care, but not a lot. She talked about when it would be time to take the catheter out – whether I should get someone to do it or do it myself. She talked about the morning of the surgery, what I could and couldn’t do, and gave us a special kit of antibacterial towels to use the morning of the surgery to wash my body off and get rid of as much bacteria as possible. She told me the surgery would be up to four hours long and that it is considered to be major abdominal surgery even though it was going to be done by scope and not a large incision.

When she told me about making sure I drank plenty of clear fluids to keep hydrated prior to the day of surgery, I asked her to define clear liquids and asked if white rum and 7Up counted. She agreed right away, but unfortunately we were both kidding. She told me I may look like Mr. Pumpkin Head when I came out of recovery. You’re in a head-down position during the surgery, and some people swell up quite a bit.

So now I had all the knowledge my poor old bean could hold about the operation, the hospital stay, the recovery and pretty well everything I could expect to happen for up to a year. I had a lot more information, but also a feeling of being in control and having a clear understanding of the journey ahead.

About Murray Hill

A retired tech and gadget writer with weekly columns appearing in some of Canada's largest newspapers and on for over twenty years. His love of gadgets and tech is only surpassed by his love of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Manchester United.

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