Just got diagnosed and still numb... The more I read, the more unsure I am on what to do for treatment. I have been given two options - surgery or radiation. Neither one is very appealing but I guess it is what it is...
After meeting with several doctors, I found myself most comfortable with Dr. Tuerk at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton, MA. Dr. Tuerk seems to have the most experience with the robotic assisted surgery and he made me feel at ease with his level of skill in dealing with my particular form of cancer. It was really a toss up between Dr. Tuerk and Dr. McGovern at Mass General whom I was also very comfortable with. However, Dr. McGovern performs normal open surgery (I'm convinced that he is the best in this type of surgery had I decided to choose that method) vs Dr. Tuerk who utilizes the da Vinci Surgical System. After I found a YouTube video of Dr. Tuerk performing the actual surgery, I was convinced that the robotic assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy was the direction that I should take. I found his surgery to be very meticulously performed with careful consideration and precision throughout. I have scheduled my surgery for July 27, 2017, giving me time for a all family vacation leading up to my surgery.
Two days ago, on 7/27/17, I had robotic assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy surgery (nerve preservation technique) performed along with bilateral lymph node dissection. It was performed by Dr. Ingolf Tuerk at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center. My surgery was scheduled for 11:30 am but I had to come in at 9:30 for pre-op prep. Dr. Tuerk came in prior to surgery to go over, once again, what would be happening during surgery and post-surgery. He was very reassuring and confident that we would have a positive outcome. I also met with the anesthesiologist who explained that he would be giving me a sedative for the ride down to the operating room. The last thing I remember is being pushed down the hallway in my bed heading to surgery without any anxiety at all...
The actual surgery lasted about 3 hours with another 2 hours in recovery. I remember waking up in recovery with several doctors and/or nurses around me asking how I felt. I remember being half out of it but when they tried to move me I felt some extreme abdominal pain. They immediately gave me two shots some type of local pain blocker, one on each side of my abdomen, which quickly took all of the pain away. The next thing that I remember is being wheeled up to my room and being moved into my bed with very little (manageable) pain. My wife came in and shortly thereafter the doctor came in and told us that the surgery went extremely well. Dr. Tuerk told us that he felt that everything looked contained to him but, of course, the lab reports would tell us more in another week when they re-stage the prostate cancer based on what they find in the prostate and lymph nodes that he removed. As far as nerve preservation, he felt confident that he saved "most" of the nerves but also cautioned me that there was some scarring present in or at the some of the nerve which made it difficult for him to stretch it away from the prostate. So now it's wait and see...
I was very tired from the surgery and after my wife left all I wanted to do was sleep. However, they place these automatically inflatable things on your legs in order to help prevent blood clots which inflate/deflate repeatedly every 60 seconds which is pretty annoying when you're trying to sleep. The nurses also come in frequently to check on you and take readings so don't expect a lot of "good" sleep the night after surgery if my experience is typical.
At some point when I was brought to my room, I was asked to inhale from a tube in some type of plastic breathing apparatus that measured the amount of inhale. Unfortunately, I either wasn't told or didn't hear that I needed to repeat this breathing exercise 10-12 times per hour so I never did.
When I woke up the next day after surgery, it was all about getting out of bed and walking. I definitely had pain in my abdomen but it wasn't too bad so I was able to walk around as needed. Next I got trained on how to hook up and use the (portable and night) catheters and how to give myself shots in the stomach of some type of blood thinner to further guard against clotting.
I thought everything was going very well and as expected and I was in the process of completing all of my discharge paperwork when I suddenly had excruciating pain in my chest and I felt like I couldn't breath as with every breath the pain worsened. The nurse called the doctors who quickly rushed in. The pain subsided until they wanted to do some tests on me and asked me to lie on the bed. The pain immediately intensified again until I sat up/stood up. It seemed that every time I sat or tried to lay down the pain would start all over again. One of the young residents told me it was just gas that was trapped from the surgery. He also said it could be "skeletal" from the awkward way in which my chest was strapped down during surgery. With my wife now in the room and seeing the extreme pain that I was in with each occurrence, she did not want me discharged until this issue was resolved. The resident called Dr. Tuerk who advised to make sure it was nothing else by having a CAT scan. Long story short, the CAT scans showed nothing unusual and I was told that it was either CO2 gas pain that had settled into my chest or reflective pain from the surgery. Either way, I can tell you that this was the most unexpected and most discouraging (..and painful) part of the entire surgery to date. My wife though I was have a heart attack! It was a rough trip home in the car and I was finally able to get myself into bed without the extreme chest pain.
Day two after the surgery and I FINALLY passed gas (no bowel movement yet though)!! This was a very exciting moment(s) as I have feeling extremely bloated!!! Got to get all that bloat out of me in order to get more comfortable... Let the healing process begin. Seem to be gaining some strength.
It was a great day today, Monday 7/31/17. I had my first post-surgery bowel movement! May not sound exciting to those who haven't gone through this surgery before but, believe me, it will make you very happy! More importantly, I just received a phone call from the doctor who received the final lab reports. The news could not have been better... the cancer was confined to the prostate and all lymph nodes were negative for cancer. He said he'll see me in three months (after I get the catheter removed on Thursday) for follow up!! Hallelujah!!! :)
A week ago Friday (2 weeks post surgery), I suddenly had a bad pain that shot from my groin to my buttocks. I called Dr. Tuerks office and they sent me immediately to the closest hospital emergency room (Newton-Wellesley Hospital) for fear that it may be a blood clot. (By the way, they give anti-blood clot medication that you will have to inject into your abdomen once a day for the first 10 days after surgery. Luckily, my wife did it for me but it really isn't a big deal.) They did an ultrasound and found no clots. The doctor believes that it was caused by delayed inflammation from the surgery that was pressing on a nerve that caused my pain and sensation of numbness in the groin. Although the pain has lessened - its more of an irritation now - the numbness is still there. He said it would likely go away within 2-3 weeks.
As far as continence, I thought I was doing quite well with absolutely no leakage at night and just a bit during the daytime (some days worse and better than others). I did have a set back the other night but I think it may have been that I had a couple drinks so I'll need to be more careful with that going forward. No night issues since... I'm now three weeks out of surgery and feel like I've regained most of my control. Kegels are VERY important to strengthen the muscles that will give you back that control - start those now if you haven't already. The continence thing is very frustrating but I feel like it is just going to take time. It is definitely improving each day!
Ed's e-mail address is: burkharted AT gmail.com (replace "AT" with "@")