Alan's Prostate Cancer -

Alan finds out he has cancer -
On July 28, 2004 I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. This was found during a routine rectal exam shortly before a Vasectomy Reversal surgery. My PSA score had been 1.99 in the last 6 months, so this was quite unexpected. The biopsy came back with a Gleason score of 7 (low end to the aggressive type of cancer). The urologist I was seeing was a Reversal specialist and had performed Prostatectomy before but I decided to go see Dr. See, the top Prostate Cancer surgeon in Wisconsin. I wasn't totally impressed with Dr. See, so I researched and found that John Hopkins University was one of the top Prostate Cancer institutes in America. I read the book "Surviving Prostate Cancer" by Dr. Patrick Walsh. He is the doctor who pioneered the Radical Prostatectomy procedure. I spoke with him briefly and decided to pursue the Laproscopic Prostatectomy due to the much shorter recovery time. Every doctor recommended surgery as a first effort to getting rid of the cancer - verses Radiation, Cryo, etc. All the other treatments could be attempted if the surgery didn't work. Also, with surgery, actually removing the prostate allows the doctor and pathologist to determine the true extent of the cancer in the body. Kathy and I decided that I could have the Lap surgery performed in Wisconsin, but why not go to the top hospital instead. We had to wait at least 8 weeks after the initial biopsy to have surgery, but when I met with Dr. Christian Pavlovich at John Hopkins, we found out that his schedule was booked until the end of October. Since we had no idea how good or bad the cancer was, we felt that taking a little time for ourselves was the right thing to do. That gave us time for a week long vacation in Las Vegas and an extended weekend vacation in Door County, Wisconsin. Both were definitely fun and relaxing considering the circumstances.

So, Baltimore here we go!!
Saturday Oct. 23 Kathy and I left Milwaukee by car for the trip to Baltimore, Maryland. We drove out of the way to go to Shipshewana, Indiana (an antique Mecca for many). We stayed at a comfortable Holiday Inn Express Saturday night east of Pittsburg, PA. Sunday we had a 4 hour drive into Baltimore. We had decided to stay at an Extended Stay America in Baltimore at the BWI airport hotel district. It wasn't the best hotel in town, but definitely not the worst.
I had prep for the surgery on Sunday (not a pleasant situation, but not as bad as the first time I had to do this). I won't go into the details! Surgery was scheduled for Monday October 25th at 11:45 am. Due to delays at the hospital I didn't get into surgery until 2:00 pm. I woke up the first time after surgery around 7:00 pm that night. Of course I was somewhat nauseous. I finally woke up around 1:00 am Tuesday morning feeling pretty good. Around 6:00 am Tuesday morning I had extreme pain. Apparently the catheter was plugged and urine was backing up in my bladder. Shortly after a shot of morphine, the blockage broke loose, but I still had intense shakes for an hour.
I was up and walking by 2:00 pm Tuesday with the tower of bags and tubes. I had wonderful liquid food Tuesday morning and at lunch. Tuesday evening the nurse noticed my liquid supper and asked me if I was hungry (obviously). She yanked my tray away and brought me a real meal (as real as hospital food can be). After I had just finished the Doctor showed up and asked why I wasn't still on the liquid diet. I just shrugged my shoulders and smiled. He looked at me and said that I wasn't supposed to have any solids for at least 1 more day. Later the nurse told me that doctors are cautious by nature and that I was doing well. The nurses had had to empty the Foley bag a dozen times that day and anyone who went through that much liquid needed more solids. Mom and Kathy came early Wednesday morning. Mom went to mail a card when she slipped on a wet floor, fell and pulled the hamstring in her leg. I think she had more pain than me that trip (Sorry Mom!!).
Wednesday morning at 6:00 am, on my rounds on the floor, I dropped off 2 bags of candy at the nurses station. I had noticed an empty Halloween pumpkin jar the day before. All day long I had extra nice treatment from everyone on the floor. Moral of the story - take candy to the hospital staff and you will get better treatment.
I got out of the hospital Wednesday evening after Kathy took Mom to the airport. Thursday I laid around the hotel room most of the day, except for when Kathy made me get up and walk around. There wasn't too much to do in the area and I didn't feel like going out.
Friday, I woke up in a feisty mode and talked Kathy into going to Washington DC for part of the day. We drove the 35 miles to the capital, rode around a little and then decided to walk around the Smithsonian Institute. We first had lunch then we started touring the Museum of Natural History in the dinosaur area. After 20 minutes or so, I noticed the catheter was leaking really bad and had wet my pants (embarrassing to say the least). So, we had to leave to go home. I decided it was time to start wearing the diapers (Depends). Not a pleasant situation, but definitely less embarrassing. Saturday, armed with extra diapers, we headed back to D.C. to try the Smithsonian again. This time we got through the Museum of American History and back through the Museum of Natural History before the leaking became too bad to deal with in the diapers. We finally drove around D.C. a little to see a few more sites before driving home. Sunday, I decided was a relaxation day, so we stayed around the hotel. Monday, we took a long trip North along the west coast of the Chesapeake Bay, the around the end and back down the east coast of the Chesapeake Bay. Of course it was an antique trip! We purchased a neat and cheap little end table for $20, plus a coupe of smalls and a Christmas present or two (sorry, can't divulge until after Christmas). We drove across the Bay Bridge at Annapolis and drove around looking for a Seafood restaurant. The place we found was only okay. Tuesday we went to the store to walk around and ended up driving around looking for a restaurant. After an hour or so, we found Kaufman's Restaurant in Gambrills, Maryland. This was by far the best restaurant with the best seafood place we ate at while in Maryland. If you are ever in the Baltimore area and want great seafood, this is the place to go.
Wednesday we took another trip over to the east side of Chesapeake Bay to an antique auction in Crumpton, Maryland. The place was fun, but the prices were too high for me. We took a side trip to Dover, Delaware toward the Atlantic Ocean, but never made it to the beach. On the way back, on back roads a little lost, we found an antique store (house) in the middle of no where. We stopped and both noticed a huge copper kettle on a stand without a price tag. Thinking it was probably way over-priced I almost didn't ask the price. As we were leaving, I finally asked the price. The little old lady called her partner and then told us it was $75. I though about it but decided there wasn't room for it in the car. We got in the car to leave when I told Kathy what a great deal it was. She told me if it was so good, that I should buy the kettle. That was all I needed for me to buy the kettle. We got the kettle and stand in the car and headed back to Baltimore. On the way back, we stopped at several places to try to find a car roof rack, but were unsuccessful. I finally purchased canoe holders, straps and bungee cords.
Wednesday evening we started packing our bags for the next day. Of course, with the extra antique end table, copper kettle and stand, plus the other miscellaneous purchases I was somewhat concerned that there was not enough room in the Taurus. With a huge rain storm approaching, packing the car was a priority. Needless to say, we didn't start packing the car until Thursday morning just before the storm hit. We got everything including the kettle and stand in the car (with room for at least an extra 20-30 atoms in the back seat area).
Thursday morning (after we checked out of the hotel) I was scheduled for a "Cystogram" to check to make sure that the surgery to reattach the Urethra tube to the Bladder was not leaking. I went in and endured a filling of my bladder for the first time in 10 days (definitely an uncomfortable situation). Everything went well, so then I had to endure another bladder fill, removal of the catheter and a voiding of the bladder. That went reasonable well, so then it was only the final consultation with the Doctor. This was to review the pathology report and then basically a list of do's and don'ts. The doctor did comment on the fact that my recovery seemed extremely fast (although most of his patients are typically in their 60's). We found out that the reason the pathology report was taking so long was due to a piece of tissue that possibly came from "outside" the Prostate that did have cancer. The doctor had discussed with Pathologists about the piece of tissue and determined that it was probably a wedge of tissue from the Prostate that was not removed when the prostate was removed, then subsequently removed later during the final inspection at the end of the surgery. We also found out that the cancer was a lot more invasive in the prostate than originally estimated with the cancer all over the prostate. But the cancer was totally confined to the prostate. All 6 of the lymph nodes taken out during surgery were Cancer-Free. So, according to the doctor I am Cancer-Free. I will still be having "PSA" tests every 3 months for the next year to make sure. There is a 5-10% chance that all the cancer was not totally removed, but that the is the risk of life.
We left Baltimore in a hard rain, Thursday afternoon. It was a wet miserable trip that afternoon. Especially in my diapers. I leaked non-stop until the next morning. We drove late and finally stopped in Cleveland, Ohio at a nice Hampton Inn. (Way better than the Extended Stay).
Friday morning turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. I finally stopped the constant leaking and had to fight Kathy to allow me to drive (I wasn't supposed to drive for another week or so). But my persuasive abilities prevailed and we left around 9:00 am. The drive was nice and relaxing. Of course we stopped at a couple of antique malls on the way. When we got to Chicago the traffic came to a crawl, but after perseverance we finally got to Wisconsin around 5:00 pm. We stopped at Kathy's mother's house to pick up Kenai the Wonder Dog. She definitely missed us as much as we missed her! Kathy stayed at her mom's to get Trauma the Demon Cat, but they couldn't find her. So, Kathy's mother brought Kathy home. The next day Kathy and Dianne found Trauma and she finally got to come home.
Saturday was a rest day for me. My reclining love seat and my big screen TV missed me so I had to pay them a lot of attention. Sunday I made Chili (both white and red - from the recipe pages) and then had friends over to see my surgery scars and the diapers I was wearing. Amazing how easy it is to entertain folks in Wisconsin.
So, that's the story of Alan's Prostate Cancer and the "Laparoscopic Prostatectomy". I didn't fill in all the gory details, just enough to make the story more interesting. Note - the previous portion of the story was written 2 weeks after the surgery.

Alan's "Tales of Incontinence" -
December 2004 - I started taking Kathy's new "Cymbalta" medicine for "Peripheral Neuropathic Pain" and as a side line for incontinence. This has finally started to make a difference. It's truly not fun to pee every time you stand up. I have gone from 6-8 diapers a day down to 1-3 depending on my activities.
  April 2005 - I finally got out of diapers around the 5 month mark. Dr. Pavlovich predicted it would take 6 months before most incontinence problems would go away and up to 1 year for all problems to disappear. So far, I am ahead of schedule. There is still one other semi-major problem not previously mentioned. If you are interested in the complete story, please feel free to contact me via phone or email for all the "gory" details.
  October 2012 - Well it's been 8 years. I still occassionaly drip when I cough or laugh, but thankfully no more diapers (at least for now).

Post-op PSA tests -
3 month PSA test result = 0.01
4.5 month PSA test result = 0.02
7 month PSA test result = 0.07
1.5 year PSA test result = 0.1
8 year PSA test result = 0.1

It is extremely important to have yearly PSA tests (if you are male). My PSA was only 1.9 shortly before I found out that I had cancer. The cancer was only found during a routine "finger" exam. Please note, that just because your PSA levels are not over the 4.0 level, doesn't mean you don't have cancer. Prostate is typically a very slow growing cancer (5-10 years) before PSA levels become elevated. Not all prostate cancers result in higher elevated PSA levels.
The prostate gland creates most of the PSA in the body, but not all. So, a small amount is typical. Variations in the micro-amounts is typically due to lab inconsistencies. I have recently found out that the accuracy of the PSA test is around 0.1, so all the values below 0.1 are okay. So, please subject yourself to these uncomfortable exams!!!