Countdown to the operation

After the information I was given by phone reported in the last two posts, I had a meeting with my consultant on the 21st July. The additional tumours detected by the MRI scan and following targeted biopsies show a significant volume of more aggressive cancer that is pressing against the prostate surface and there is some evidence that cancer may have begun to poke through into the surrounding tissue. Active surveillance is no longer an option and, for reasons described in earlier posts, surgery seems to best choice as it leaves radiotherapy as a possible plan B. If the tests of the surrounding tissue that will be removed along with the prostate are all clear radiotherapy may not be needed but will be used as a backup if cancer cells are found outside the prostate. I have opted for the surgery. I was told that the provisional date for the operation is Wednesday 24th August but might be earlier as they have begun to do weekend surgery to help clear a back log of operations.

After this meeting Julia and I were invited to a seminar on the 4th August with other men due to have the operation over the next few weeks to meet with the surgeons, radiologists and physios to have the operation explained in more detail, what the side effects are and how these are treated. Mr Singh, who will be my surgeon, was very enthusiastic about the semi-robotic procedure that the BRI are now very experienced with and the much better rates of recovery obtained. We were shown one of the arms that are inserted through a small 2 cm incision with the surgical implements and how they worked to get round corners and into the restricted areas that in the past have made prostate removal such a tricky business. The operation involves 5 small ‘keyhole’ incisions for the surgical instruments and the camera. A slightly larger incision is necessary for the removal of the prostate. They will be taking some additional tissue from around the prostate where the tumour is poking through and tests will show whether any cancer cells have leaked out. If so I will need 4 weeks of radiotherapy in due course when I have recovered sufficiently from the operation but all being well this won’t be necessary. However, I’m not optimistic about this and so far my intuition to fear the worst has proven to be correct. I hope I’m wrong this time. On the whole the seminar was positive. A patient who had the operation a couple of months before spoke about his experience and I found this to be encouraging. He had a Gleason score of 9, so a higher risk than my score of 7. He is currently waiting to see if he will need radiotherapy but has had little problem with incontinence. The other highlight of the seminar was the talk about Viagra and the vacuum pump and there use to try and rehabilitate erections. These can take up to a year to return and for some men it never does. I depends on how easy it was to get erections before the operation and how much nerve damage is sustained. The Viagra and pump are to help keep the blood vessels in the penis fully functional so that all is well if and when the nerves get their act together sometime in the future. The pump produces an erection that deflates as soon as the pump lets in air again but apparently it can be sustained for a while with the use of a rubber ring that acts like a tourniquet. This looks quite painful so I don’t think I’ll bother! The combination of the Viagra (3 to 7 a week for 10 days or so I think) and the daily use of the vacuum pump is just to keep things ticking over and to prevent your member withering on the vine,so to speak. The other rather disconcerting aspect of the operation is the necessity to self-administer injections into the fat of your tummy with a blood thinning agent. I think this is for about 10 days and is to minimise the development of possibly life threatening blood clots. Our man said he had no trouble with these and the needles used were about as thin as you can get. We’ll see.

Anyway, I have just learnt that my operation is now confirmed for Sunday 21st August, three days time, and I will be going into Ward 14 of the Bradford Royal Infirmary 2.00pm Saturday afternoon.

Update: Saturday 20th August, 12.00. Just been told there won’t be a bed ready for me at 2.00 pm and so I’ve been asked to come in for 6.00 pm. It’s still OK to eat as usual before then as they will be ‘starving me on the ward’.

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