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Patients speak about prostate cancer and laparoscopic radical prostatectomy

Tom Nelson, Anchorage, Alaska

I'm a city planner in Anchorage, Alaska who at the age of 51 was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was discovered through a routine blood test as part of an annual physical exam (elevated PSA prostate specific antigen of 8), which led to a having a prostate biopsy by a local urologist confirming the cancer (Gleason Score 6).

Much like you, I went through a period of anxiety while educating myself and researching prostate cancer treatment options. My wife and I talked to several physicians and checked with some of the large national cancer treatment centers like the M. D. Anderson in Houston and the Mayo Clinics in Rochester and Scottsdale. Many relatives, friends, and friends of friends offered advice and leads. Ultimately, my wife's sister in Minnesota came across surgeon Arnon Krongrad and suggested I make contact.

I was particularly interested in the description of the laparoscopic radical prostatectomy procedure on the website. It seemed to be the most practical and minimally invasive of all that I had investigated. Dr. Krongrad was very easy to reach and able to address all our prostate cancer questions and concerns. His office receptionist (wife Ruth) was very helpful to us with finding lodging accommodations in Miami.

Since the prostate cancer surgery was scheduled in March and living a long distance from Florida, we planned our trip to Miami for surgery as a vacation away from the long cold Alaskan winter. We stayed at a Marriott Hotel in Aventura near his office the two nights before surgery, and five nights following surgery at the Bal Harbor Beach House in Surfside.

The surgery took place at the North Shore Medical Center. It went better than I ever imagined. The staff was very friendly, supportive and reassuring. The operation took 3 hours and I was up on my feet and eating delicious hospital Jell-O just a few hours later.

I was released the morning after surgery. My wife and I spent the next five days at the beach. I went for walks along the beach at sunrise, ate full hearty breakfasts, spent afternoons reading in a hammock outside, and walked to downtown Surfside or a nearby mall for dinner in the evenings. Hard to imagine, but it was truly a relaxing five days before flying back to Alaska and resuming work a week later.

Six weeks after surgery I started playing softball on a summer league team. The end of May my family traveled to California for a family wedding. While there, I hiked around Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. In June and July, was flying and salmon fishing with family and friends. August, out hiking to Portage Glacier with son and daughter. September, it was out berry picking. In October, I flew to Boston on business and visited my daughter at college in New York City. This is said simply to illustrate that my life and activities are not impaired in any way. And the recovery was so quick!

I can look back on the cancer and say that, in a certain way, it was a wake up call. The consequence of having gone through that experience is that I lead a less stressful life, eat better, and am more conscience of exercising regularly. In those ways, it has changed me. But even more so, it has also made me more sensitive and concerned for other people. It has made me aware of the good in everything.

And, I am free of cancer.
Tom Nelson - Alaska