I had been avoiding checking my PSA because I thought there was no family history of prostate cancer and that PSA scores were ambiguous. However, in August 2004 my older brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer and I decided I should check up.
I was tested in September 2004 and was surprised and disappointed that my PSA; was 10.9 ng/ml. As this was my first PSA I decided to check again in a few months. My second score was 10.0 ng/ml, so I thought I should proceed to a biopsy. It took three months to get an appointment with my preferred urologist and had a biopsy towards the end of February 2005.
The biopsy result was that 2 of the 8 samples were positve in both the left and right middle of the prostate. The gleason score was 3+3=6 and the urologist thought the stage would be T1 or T2. My prostate was enlarged but was not creating urinating problems.
The urologist was keen to discuss issues with both me and my wife and we appreciated his skill and willingness to cover all matters of importance from both of our perspectives. Prior to this appointment my wife and I attended a session where my urologist was the speaker, and we were able to view a video of him performing a radical prostatectomy using newly acquired da Vinci robotic equipment. I was most impressed with the operation even though there were still incontinence and impotence issues.
I had a bone scan that indicated no spread of the cancer and decided to go ahead with the operation. The earliest date was June 16 2005.
On April 20 I saw an incontinence physiotherapist and was given very good training in pelvic floor exercises. She emphasised not just doing the squeezing, but pairing it with a variety of actions (eg coughing, sneezing, getting out of a chair, walking, playing tennis etc.) so that thinking and acting became automatic.
Although I realised that the operation is one of percentages, I had complete confidence in Dr Peter Sutherland. I think I was about the 60th person on whom he had used the robot.
The operation on June 16 was successful and met all the expectations I had from my reading - very little blood loss, bearable pain afterwards, 2 days in hospital, 6 days with a catheter, no medication needed after leaving hospital. When the catheter was removed, I experienced little leakage, wore a pad for confidence for 2 months and then no incontinence.
I gradually increased my activity at home for the first 2 weeks after the operation, then increased going out over the next few weeks and was back playing tennis after 5 weeks. Two months after the operation - apart from having an erection - life was back to normal and I was amazed!
I do miss having an erection at this stage, but it is not the end of sexual activity. Three weeks after the operation I was surprised that I could enjoy an orgasm with all the usual sensations even though there was no erection and no ejaculation. We are happy to continue with our new sexual activities and may gradually use Cialis over the next year. My operation did include bilateral nerve sparing, so I remain optimistic that an erection will return in the future.
My first PSA test after the operation was on July 28 with a score of 0.05 ng/ml. which is acceptable. My second PSA was on October 26 and the score was 0.03 ng/ml. At this stage I feel life is on track and prostate cancer is not a central part of it.
I have written my experience because I found it useful to read individuals' experiences alongside research statistics. So thanks to all who have contributed to this site.
I am very thankful that my life post-op is excellent. All aspects of my life - except for having an erection - are as good, if not better, than before the operation.
On the stats side, I have had PSA tests in March and October 2006, with both scores undetectable. So I hope this will continue. My next one is April 2007.
Regarding having no erection, I need to emphasise that for both my wife and myself, this has not been a significant change. Even though we were sexually quite active with intercourse before the operation, we have been able to replace this with other forms of sexual and sensual intimacies. In fact our current situation is at least as satisfying as before the op - maybe better! Supporting this is a continually growing and strengthening relationship, which does amaze us a little at our age.
My urologist, who is very open and supportive, has given me a good supply of Levitra and Cialis to see if any change occurs with this aid. At this stage the positive effect is small given what I've said above. My urologist has also suggested having penile injections for a "kickstart", but again the benefit doesn't seem worth the effort given our adjustment to life without full erections. Of course it still may happen, but it is not a major issue.
Another addition to my life is doing some voluntary work at the Cancer Care Centre at Unley, South Australia. The centre provides complementary support and I enjoy keeping up to date with reading on various health issues. I also attend a Men's Support Group run by the centre. I find sharing with other men, who have a variety of cancers, both humbling and inspiring.
I feel fortunate to be able to report on such a positive time in my life.
Time has flown since my last report. I think that is because life is so good.
All of the points in my January 2007 update still apply. All of my PSA tests have been "undetectable" and my health is excellent. I am not pursuing any new ways to attempt to regain an erection - mostly because our sexual life is mutually satisfying without penetration - and I don't feel any less of a man! I continue to contribute my time to the Cancer Care Centre by assisting with the counselling and the running of a men's support group.
I became a grandparent for the first time 6 months ago and I am delighted to be in good shape to share in this new life.
I had my yearly PSA check in early August, 2009 and the result is still "undetectable", so I am very pleased.
My life in the past year has continued with the same enthusiasm and activities as reported in my last update.
One new activity for my wife and myself was being volunteers for a project by Bettina Arndt concerning sexual negotiation. This involved keeping diaries about how we negotiated our sexual activity in our post operation situation. We found this activity to be beneficial to our relationship and our sex life. People may read about the experiences of many couples in Bettina Arndt's book "The Sex Diaries".
I continue to feel very fortunate that the cancer has been removed and that life continues as rich as ever.
I am very pleased to report that my life continues free from cancer and full of activity. My wife and I are grateful that we have the chance to continue living a rich and energetic time together and with friends.
Bettina Arndt's second book, "What Men Want In Bed", has been published and some of our diary responses have been included. This has been a very valuable experience - writing and sharing our experiences of redeveloping our sexual lives together.
I still see my surgeon once a year - in August - and talk about my new life. And to get the result of an undetectable PSA. Life is wonderful.
Life over the past year has continued to be a positive experience. Looking after 2 grandchildren for two days a week tests my fitness. Fortunately I still have no incontinence issues even with lots of activity. Our sex life also remains quite active even though I get no effective erection. Orgasms are still quite powerful. I see my specialist in August each year to check on my PSA; which continues to be undetectable.
I feel lucky to have had such a successful procedure and a partner who was prepared to be constructive about our relationship and sexual activity.
Just a brief update to say that the past year has continued along similarly to the previous year. Life continues to be full and rewarding and there has been no change in my condition. So all is going well. Catch up in another year! Ken Hancock
Apart from no erection, my life continues to be "normal" in all ways. I continue to be active with regular tennis, lawn bowls, pilates and walking and experience no incontinence. With an understanding wife, we both continue to enjoy a pleasurable sexual life and shared intimacy. I no longer see my specialist and feel that prostate cancer is merely part of my history. This gives me a clear mind for thinking about any health issues. I'm very pleased with the choice and decision I made nine years ago. Ken Hancock
The only change in my life during the past year perhaps was because I was being too active - I ruptured my Achilles November 2014. So that is the end of tennis, but all other activities described above continue, now that I have healed and strengthened my Achilles. I have had no negative changes in the past year as a result of the prostate operation over 10 years ago and I am full of gratitude!
My life continues to be full and active. I did need a hip replacement 9 months ago - too much tennis! However recovery has been quick and successful and has only improved the quality of my life. It is now over 10 years since my prostatectomy and I remain very pleased with that choice of long ago. I have a very understanding wife and as I have said before it is certainly possible to have a pleasurable sexual life for both people even without an erection. So I am looking forward to the next 10 years!
I can only be thankful and marvel at the way my life continues to be cancer free, as active as ever, enabling me to lead a full, pleasurable and satisfying life. I continue to have absolutely no problems with incontinence and normal urine flow is excellent. I have no erection but, with an understanding and cooperative wife, share a mutually satisfying intimate and sexual life. We traveled overseas this year with no physical issues at all.
I can only reiterate that the process I chose and the recovery and quality of life since then has been excellent and I am very grateful.
Ken's e-mail address is: joelieh AT ozemail.com.au (replace "AT" with "@")