Patients speak about prostate cancer and laparoscopic radical prostatectomy
Tom Wallace, Tampa, Florida
It's great when everything works out just as planned!
I'm a 51 year old dad with a 9-year old daughter, 12-year old son, and a younger wife. I am in the export business of agricultural equipment to Latin America. Three years ago I sold my business to our main supplier and now run the Latin American sales office for them.
My sport is fishing, mostly in Tampa Bay, also spending time in May/June in Boca Grande, the world's greatest tarpon fishing!
We have a very busy family life. Our kids sail Optimist class boats in Florida and all over the USA. In January our son's dream came true when he qualified in a Regatta for the team to represent the US in the International Easter meeting in Lake Garda, Italy.
What an opportunity for him and the whole family to travel to Italy and watch him compete. After extensive planning we made arrangements in January for the trip, leaving at the end of March and returning April 13th.
When I turned 50, my urologist recommended a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test even though the digital rectal examinatin (DRE) didn't cause any concern. My PSA in July 2003 was 3.1 ng/ml, a level that my doctor thought was high for a man my age. He is one who does not subscribe to the standard thinking that anything under a PSA of 4 is OK. After waiting 6 months I had another PSA test in late January 2004 in which my PSA had increased to 3.5.
My urologist thought I should go ahead and have an ultrasound and biopsy, which was scheduled for February 17th. Although this was not a very pleasant experience, to say the least, I'm very happy to have had it done at the time, since on March 3rd I got the bad news from my doctor.
First, he asked if my wife was with me. It hadn't occurred to me that this would be one of those grim doctor consultations like you see in the movies and didn't bring her along. The pathology report showed a Gleason 6 tumor in one side of my prostate gland.
I remember being in a somewhat dazed state while he told me of my various options for treatment, none of which sounded at all like anything I wanted to go through! He did not recommend radiation treatment due to my age and the fact that surgery would not be an option if it didn't work. He explained the traditional radical prostatectomy operation, which he does, and the possible complications. Laparoscopic radical prostatectomy (LRP) option was not mentioned. A follow-up appointment was made for me with my wife two weeks later.
If you're reading this, you probably have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I don't need to remind you of all the bad thoughts and scenarios that go through your mind.
Much of the next day at the office was spent on the Internet learning about prostate cancer and the options for treatment. We sure are fortunate to have this resource available to us and the fact that Dr. Krongrad realizes its importance is the reason I have this experience to tell about.
In a couple of days, I was convinced that LRP was the best option for me. I called my doctor and requested an earlier appointment with my wife to make a decision. In the meantime, while Dr. Krongrad appeared to be a very viable choice, especially due to his superior experience with LRP with more LRP operations than any other surgeon in the US.
Susan and I had our appointment with my doctor who didn't seem to know much about LRP. His response was "this may sound crass, but they don't pay me to learn a new procedure." He gave some good advice that if I decided on LRP, don't go to a university hospital where a student may be learning on you and definitely go to a surgeon with lots of experience.
I sent Dr. Krongrad an email and was impressed that he responded almost immediately. He sent me some forms, list of medical records to fax him, and invited me to call directly regarding any administrative matters. Ruth coordinates the LRP program and was great to deal with, very patient in answering my many questions and quick to get back with any information I requested.
I scheduled my surgery for April 22nd, a week after returning from Italy. The vacation was great and I was able to mostly forget about my health problem knowing I had plans made to resolve things upon our return.
I flew into Ft. Lauderdale airport Sunday night and took the 15 minute taxi ride to the new Hampton Inn, just a ½ block from Dr. Krongrad's office and the Aventura Hospital. On Monday morning I did my pre-op bowel preparation then walked over to the hospital for the registration and next door to meet Dr. Krongrad. He was not the "rushed" Doctor you're used to; he spent a long time with his explanations and repeatedly asked if I had any more questions.
On Tuesday morning I checked in early at the hospital, dressed into my gown and was ready when Manny rolled me down to the operating room. He shaved my lower belly where the small incisions were to be made.
Next thing I knew I awoke in the recovery room and was on my way upstairs. My wife Susan had arrived after the 3 ½ hour drive from Tampa. Dr. Krongrad came by to say hello and encourage me to move around and take a walk. The only pain came when I tried to sit up to walk down the hall. I was slower than usual, but, not bad for having had surgery only hours before.
After a night of not much sleep, the nurses keep checking on you and the bed reminded me of trying to sleep in an airplane seat, Dr. Krongrad came by at 7:30 AM. He took off some of the band aids and gave me the green light to go home to the Hampton Inn, with the written instructions "No Tarpon Fishing".
I was very happy to get back in the Hotel and get a good long nap! Some time in the middle of the night I was very pleased to "pass gas!" That meant I could eat something. It had been three days. Dr. K did caution against eating too much, so I had some fruit and yogurt for breakfast.
We packed up for the drive back to Tampa, stopping by to get my check-up at the Krongrad's. Dr. K gave me the good news that my pathology report showed the tumor contained in the prostate gland and removed the other band-aids.
Less than two weeks after surgery I had my catheter removed by my local urologist. I had some worries how I was going to train myself to urinate again, but it worked right away and I was able to start and stop!
I showed off my scars and souvenir photos to the doctor and his staff who were all amazed that I had my prostate gland removed less than 2 weeks before.
A couple of hours later I got a call from Dr. Krongrad, just checking up to see how the recovery was going. Checking my email Sunday afternoon I found a short message from Dr. K;
How goes it? I assume the catheter is out. How is your urination? BMs? energy?
I gave him a report, asked a question, and he responded in an hour. Anyone ever had a doctor that cared about his individual patients like this?
It's only been two months since my diagnosis, my cancer appears to be gone (will get a PSA report in a couple of months), our family life is back to normal. Dr. Krongrad suggests I wait a few more weeks before catching a tarpon!
I hope everything works out as planned for you too!