Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Surgery

Well, now that I am feeling almost "normal" I thought I should take a few minutes and review everything that has happened since this past Wednesday. 

Ginny and I drove to Philadelphia on Tuesday afternoon and arrived at our hotel in center city around 7:30.  The hospital is about 3 miles from the hotel we were staying at and Ginny did not feel comfortable driving in the city on her own so after registering at the hotel I drove out to the hospital and parked the car in the hospital's garage.  I spent about a half hour finding my way around the hospital so I wouldn't be lost the next morning getting admitted.  Fortunately it was a very easy subway ride from the hospital to the hotel and I was back in the hotel by 10:00 PM.

I had a relatively restful sleep and we were up at 4:00 AM and on our way to the subway by 5:00 AM.  We arrived at admitting at 5:30 AM and had all of the paperwork done by 6:00 AM.  Things happened rather quickly after that.   Around 6:15 AM I was taken to the prep area where I stripped, donned a hospital garment and placed on a hospital gurney.  I was then wheeled into curtained stall where I was asked a lot of questions.  I would have to tell the staff my name and date of birth at least ten times that morning.  I guess they had too many instances where they took the prostate out of the wrong person and are going overboard to make sure that mistake doesn't happen again.

A nurse came into my stall and informed me that she was going to give me a shave around my belly button.  When she looked at my abdomen she said; "Ooh, I'm going to like working on you"  I said; "what are you talking about"  she said "your not one of those big nasty hairy guys, your shave will be a snap".

After that I was wheeled into the operating room.  The DaVinci machine is pretty impressive.  The surgeon sits at a consul off to the side that looks like the cockpit of the space shuttle.  I was placed on a platform in the middle of the room and all I could see were robotic arms directly above me.  After that it was lights out.

I remember coming to and being very cold and shivering.  I was wheeled into my room where Ginny was waiting and I slept most of that day.  I was given some broth later in the day and remember feeling a bit nauseous.  I had no appetite and was fed intravenously.  I was given pain killers the first day and did not feel any pain at all.  I slept quite comfortably and did manage a short walk that evening. 

When I awoke the next morning I was famished.  I ate a healthy breakfast of scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, a muffin and orange juice.  I was starting to feel almost human.  I was taken off the painkillers that morning and can honestly say that I have never felt any real pain.  Certainly my abdomen is sore and I do sit and stand carefully but I have no problem sleeping.  Dr Lee came to visit in the morning and he told me that the procedure went extremely well.  He said that my prostate showed no visible signs of cancer and that he expected me to have a relatively quick recovery.   I was allowed to take a shower at the hospital that morning and after receiving some instructions on how to deal with the catheter we were discharged from the hospital and on our way home by 10:30 AM on September 22, 2011..

My time at home has been uneventful.  I am regaining my strength every day and have no problem sleeping.  One of my biggest concerns was having my first bowel movements.  They did give me some stool softeners to take and I must say that it turned out to be a non-issue, a piece of cake.  I am walking 2 miles each day with no discomfort but I do tire easily.  My appetite is pretty much back to normal and I can see that the wounds are starting to heal.

I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to getting the catheter removed on Wednesday morning.  While I really haven't had any discomfort from the catheter its just a pain in the ass carrying a bag of piss around with you all the time.  I've been told that it isn't too painful when they remove the catheter.  We'll see!

Well its off for my 2 mile walk and then an afternoon of watching football.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

After the Surgery

Ginny and I made it back to Lancaster around noon today.  I am glad to be home but I can tell that it will be a few days before I really feel like doing much.  I don't have any pain to speak of but I am really tired.  I suppose this is the side effects of the anesthetics and the trauma of the surgery.  My appetite is so so but thank goodness I do not have the nausea I felt the day of the surgery.  I did have a very restful sleep last night and only woke up when the nurse wanted to check my vital signs.

I can see that I am going to need a lot of practice with changing the bag on my catheter.  The first time I did it on my own was at the hospital this morning.  I managed to spray piss all over the bathroom before I got the bag changed.  It is amazing how quickly my bag fills up (about 1 liter).  My urine was pretty pink yesterday but it is a lot clearer today.

I have nothing but positive things to say about Dr Lee and his staff.  I have about seven holes around my abdomen and they plugged them with some pretty amazing super glue.  I don't think they will ever bleed.  My next session with Dr Lee will be in 10 days when they should have the results of the lymph nodes they  removed during the surgery to see if the cancer has spread.  I am saying more than a few prayers that the results are clean.  Dr Lee did say that my prostate looked very healthy and there were no visible signs of the cancer we all know is there. 

I can't tell you how anxious I am to have the catheter removed which should take place next Wednesday in the office of my urologist here in Lancaster, Dr Del Terzo.  Now the healing begins!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Go to the Head of the Class, Gerry Claes!!!

We reported to the Penn Presbyterian Hospital at 5:45 a.m., Gerry went up for surgery at 7:37 a.m. and was taken to his room by 11:00 a.m.  He received HIGH marks from the doctor who reported that the prostate was successfully removed with very little bleeding or nerve involvement.  They really were delighted that he was in such excellent condition and believe that aided the surgery process and his chance for a speedy, efficient recovery.  Clearly, at this point, this is the best possible outcome.  The pathology report will take several days, but we are optimistic that the cancer is contained within the prostate.

Gerry was parched after the surgery and the minute he opened his eyes he was imploring the nurse to give him water.  She cautioned him to only sip slowly.  Not quite able to adhere to her admonition, he experienced a little nausea.  The rest of the day he slept, only waking briefly.  By late afternoon, he walked around the nurses station on two occasions and felt better each time.  The nursing staff is not quite sure what to make of his "Don't help me!  I want to do it myself." comments.  Other than being gaseous and feeling like he did too many setup, he says that he is not in pain. 

Thanks to all who have been so supportive.  It means so much to both of us.

We expect to leave the hospital by midday tomorrow......and then the fun begins!  Managing the catheter will no doubt be the biggest challenge.  That is expected be removed next Tuesday. 

Exhausted but happy to have the surgery completed, I now hope to get more than two hours of sleep tonight.  Stay well everyone!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tomorrow's the Big Day

I am scheduled to have my surgery to remove my prostate tomorrow.  Currently I am scheduled to be the first patient to be operated on by Dr. Lee.  I need to be at the hospital by 5:30 AM to go through admitting and preparation for the surgery.  If everything goes well I should be out of surgery and in recovery before noon.  I will have to spend tomorrow night (9/21/11) in the hospital but should be discharged on Thursday morning.

Ginny and I plan to drive to Philadelphia today and spend the night in a hotel near the hospital.  Ginny will also spend tomorrow night in the hotel and then will drive me home on Thursday.  Ginny plans on posting to this blog tomorrow as soon as I am out of surgery to let everyone know how things went. 

Reflecting on the procedure for tomorrow I really don't have any anxiety about the actual surgery.  Dr Lee has done over 4,000 of these operations and his success rate is extremely high. Also based on everything I have read, I don't anticipate that I will have much pain.  I expect there will be some discomfort and I am sure that I certainly won't be the fastest 66 year old in Pennsylvania for a couple of months but the recovery should be pretty smooth.

My greatest anxiety is about how all of this will change my life style:

Will I have to wear a diaper the rest of my life?
What kind of sex life will I have?
Will they get all of the cancer, my future PSA scores will monitor this.

I am optimistic about all of these things but they still are lurking in the background.

One of the big bummers I had about my prostate was the assumption that I would not be able to donate blood in the future.  I have always been a donor and looked upon it as my civic duty so I was not happy to see an end to my donating.  Fortunately my friend Rob Beeson's wife, Laurie, did some research on this and found that if my tests show no signs of cancer a year after my surgery I will once again be able to donate blood.

Well, I am going out for my last run for at least two months and need to start packing.  I look forward to talking to all of you on the other side.........................Gerry

Monday, September 5, 2011

New Date for My Surgery

This past week I received a call from Dr Lee's office informing me that one of his scheduled operations for September 21st had been postponed and they wanted to know if I would be interested in moving my operation up from the 30th to the 21st.  I of course  said "yes", the sooner I get this cancer out of me the better.  So I am now scheduled for September 21st.

Like everything else in life this is not as easy as just changing the date.  Before Dr Lee will operate on me he needs to have my family doctor, Dr Warren, sign off on my fitness to be operated on.  I also have to have some blood work done that will act as a baseline for my future blood tests.    All of this has to be completed within 30 days of my operation and the paperwork must be in Dr Lee's office two weeks before the operation.  The blood work will not be a problem since I can go down to the health campus and have this done this week.  Getting Dr Warren's sign off is a bit more complicated.  I did have an appointment with Dr Warren on September 9th but this is less than 2 weeks before the scheduled operation.  I could not get my appointment with Dr Warren moved up however Dr Lee's office has agreed to waive the 2 week requirement for Dr Warren's approval. 

Hopefully everything will go as scheduled and I will be back home, sans my prostate, on September 22nd.