Author: Ron Kauffman Posted Date: November 14, 1999
I continue to hear almost weekly from many people who have read my previous articles tracking my own experiences from biopsy to post-surgery recovery. For other PC "victors" out there or for those who see themselves as recently notified victims with Prostate Cancer, I can only relate my continuing story of successful surgery and good health, and tell you that you too should plan and expect a similar result.
These days, my energy level, which began to rebuild within a few weeks of surgery, returned to 97% about 6 months after surgery. Probably as good as it can get for a 55 year old who still thinks he's not over 40. In fact, my wife and I took up road cycling with our local bicycle club about a year ago, and now ride almost daily. I can routinely ride 35 to 60 miles with the occasional 100-mile century ride thrown in for good measure.
It still seems to amaze some people to think that I had cancer and now lead a normal life. I guess that's the point. I had PC, and once you have had any form of cancer, it becomes, at some level, a part of your life forever. The choices you have, as any survivor can tell you, is to get on with life and be in control of your destiny, or allow any aspect of the disease to control your life - the latter is a bad choice.
Obviously, I chose the former, to get on with my life. The memory of the horror and shock of being told I had PC, as well as the fear I had of electing and submitting to the radical surgery has long since diminished. I remember it was absolutely NOT a painful surgery, and that there were many funny incidents that occurred in the weeks and months after the surgery. Particularly the catheter during the first 18 days, and then the much anticipated return to a "normal" sex life. My wife, Lisa, and I still laugh about it.
The fears of incontinence were totally unfounded, as it was resolved within a few days of removal of the catheter after the successful surgery. My return to work took about 30 days, and my return to full energy and all physical activities took between 4 and 6 months.
Candidly, the return to normal sexual function took quite a bit longer. Although I had no nerve bundles removed during the surgery, the trauma to the nerves in the area, just as a by-product of the surgery, was enough to create unpredictable occasions of impotence.
To overcome this problem, I worked with my surgeon as a "human guinea pig" willing to try anything to return to those wonderful days of old. I tried everything. From inserting medicines such as Muse into the opening of my penis, to Caver-Ject, a medicine that is self-injected into the side/shaft of the penis, to the well-known pill Viagra. I tried them all.
Of those three "cures", the shots worked best. Viagra also worked, but the Muse failed to assist me at all. Viagra, however, gave me severe headaches. Imagine telling your partner that taking "the pill" and then making love gave you a headache. It's almost comical. But my return to adequate performance without some chemical assistance became a 2 year journey filled with some disappointment, some hilarity, and a great deal of acceptance.
About the end of the second year after surgery, I found that although I could not perform sexually like the 20-year-old stud I always thought I was, my body had recovered sufficiently to no longer require the use of any chemicals or outside substances. For me, not taking or putting anything into my body that it doesn't need is important. So I'm pleased to say that with a loving and willing partner, patience, and persistence, life is and can be quite normal and satisfying.
Life goes on, with all its challenges, excitement, stress, failures and successes. I really choose to keep my experience with cancer as just something that happened to me in the past. Not anything to worry about on a continuing basis. But it's always there, hiding in the dark and dusty corners of my memory. Out of sight, waiting for those rare moments of personal weakness, when it can pop into my stream of conscious thought and force me to deal with it again, questioning, and make me wonder if I'm really cured. Like today.
So, I'm off to see my doctor who facetiously swears he never pronounces anyone "cured," until they've completed their 20th year of visits to his office for clean bills of health. But he's also the same skeptic who was actually emboldened enough to tell me during my last visit 6 months ago, that he's tempted to use the "C" word regarding me. Imagine that, "C" meaning CURED!
There you have it, the Yin and Yang of survivorship. Maybe I can finally put that pesky little wave of doubt to rest for good. We'll see after today's appointment.
Editors Note: Read Ron Kauffman's OncoLink Letter to the Editor and his original OncoLink article, "Personal Experiences of a Prostate Cancer Survivor."