Patients speak about prostate cancer and laparoscopic radical prostatectomy
Jim Breit, Evanston, Illinois
I have always been a pretty healthy individual. Maybe a cold once in a while.
When I turned 52, I decided it was time for a physical since I had not had one in quite awhile. Everything was normal except for my prostate PSA test reading. My doctor informed me that it was 6 and recommended that I see a urologist for further tests. Two weeks later I had another blood test which showed my PSA to be 6.7.
The urologist wanted to perform a biopsy, which I kept delaying. I looked on the internet for other things that can cause a higher than normal PSA reading, since only other people get cancer. I found out that activities like bicycle riding or anything that puts pressure on the crotch area can cause a temporary rise in PSA. I hadn't ridden a bicycle recently but I did use an uncomfortable desk chair with a broken seat when I sat in front of my computer. I had a subsequent blood test that showed my PSA had dropped to 5.2 I figured that the chair had to be the cause.
The urologist finally convinced me otherwise. My wife and I drove to his office where the biopsy was performed. It wasn't such a big deal. No pain, just uncomfortable. The next day the urologist called me and told me that the prostate biopsy showed that cancer was present on one side of my prostate in 5 of the 12 samples that were taken. He said that I had a 3+4 Gleason score 7. The only Gleason I knew of until then was named Jackie. The urologist wanted my wife and me to come to his office so he could discuss my options. I was still thinking this can't be happening to me.
The urologist said my options were watchful waiting, radiation seeding or surgery. He didn't recommend watchful waiting due to my Gleason score and my relatively young age. He said seeding was an option but he recommended a radical prostatectomy. He described the surgery as straightforward but then told me to make sure I had a will!
When I got home I started researching prostate cancer on the internet and reading messages in a prostate cancer news group. There are so many different opinions but I kept reading that surgery is the best option for someone my age. Radiation seeding can be done but if it is not successful, it makes surgery more difficult to do later. I found Dr. Krongrad's website while doing my research. Doing the surgery laparoscopically definitely got my interest. I read about one gentleman who flew down to Miami, drove to the hospital in a rental car, had surgery a couple of days later and drove back to the airport the next day. Sure beats staying home from work for 6 weeks. I decided I wanted LRP.
I called Dr. Krongrad's office and spoke with Ruth, who was very helpful and friendly and said that Dr. Krongrad would call me the next day. He called right when he said he would and answered all my questions. He seemed like the kind of guy you could have a beer with. I knew then I had made the right decision. My wife and I decided to stay in Miami for a week and make it sort of a vacation.
The surgery was on March 25, 2003. By the end of April, I had no incontinence and even my erections were starting to return. I got back to my bicycle the first week in May.
What caught me off guard were the psychological aspects of having prostate cancer. I did research on the physical aspects and was prepared to deal with whatever happened. Funny thing, though, nothing much physical happened at all. What has changed is my outlook on life and my general attitude which I consider a positive. My wife and I are closer and my general attitude toward life in general has changed.
Before the surgery a friend gave me a book by Lance Armstrong, who has won the Tour de France bicycle race three times, in which he wrote about how he was such a hotshot bicycle racer but then found out he had cancer. He described what it was like getting the chemo and radiation that cured him and what it did to his body. Towards the end of the book he wrote that if someone gave him the choice of winning the Tour de France or getting cancer, he would choose cancer. He said that he would choose the cancer because of how it changed his life. When I read this, I thought, "Yeah. That's easy for you to say." But since I've had the surgery, in a strange way I have to agree with him. I guess there's nothing like getting hit in the head with a 2x4 to get your attention.
I thank Dr. Krongrad for his skill in turning such a major life event just another visit to the doctor's office.