Life’s Roughest Storms Prove the Strength of Our Anchors

Imagine your response to the news that you have prostate cancer. If that news comes short on the heels of your recovery from a triple bypass operation, you might conclude that this is just too much to bear. But Chartered Wealth client, Roger, and his wife, Jean, and their response to just these circumstances, attest to the power of a positive attitude and resilience. Roger recounts their journey to assist others with information and insight to face a life threatening disease.

The diagnosis

“You can go the easy route or the sure route” was the choice that my urologist placed before me. Such news may be daunting for some … it was devastating for me. I had survived a triple bypass operation six years previously, and at the same time found out that my PSA levels were on the high side and that I needed to see an urologist. The urologist arranged for me to have a biopsy of the prostate, but while in hospital for this procedure I had a heart attack and had to undergo heart bypass surgery the next day. The prostate biopsy was never done and as time went by, my PSA levels escalated to10.5 ng/ml. A normal count is considered to be less than 4ng/ml. I had put off having a biopsy, dreading that the procedure would lead to me having another heart attack, but also knew that the time had come to have the procedure done.

The results came back and I was diagnosed with what is called high-volume, low-grade prostate cancer: my prostate was 80% cancerous, but, because the cancer had not spread beyond the prostate (to the glands), it was “low grade”. After some consultation with my urologist and some careful thinking on my part, I opted to have a radical prostatectomy- the sure route. This involved the urethra being cut off in front of the prostate and at the bladder and then the urethra being joined back onto the bladder. The easy route – brachytherapy – a procedure where radioactive seeds are inserted directly into the prostate during a minor surgical procedure, would have meant no operation and no hospital time; but, having already had to deal with a potential life-threatening condition, I wanted the assurance of going forward with the best possible chance of survival and of quality of life.

The Treatment

My treatment required the removal of the prostate (which would be tested by a pathologist) and some small surrounding glands. I came home after five days with a catheter inserted which was removed after 10 days… and Jean and I slept on the couches in our home as the bedroom is upstairs. There was no pain after the drip was removed and the epidural had enabled me to manage my pain by dosing myself with morphine. This operation has some unpleasant side effects – some degree of incontinence and impotence. These problems do get better with time and can be managed with the help of physiotherapy and medication. There normally is a significant improvement after six months.

The recovery

The total period of recovery after the operation was eight weeks, though a full recovery realistically takes at least six months; it was not so much the pain but the weakness and the need for sleep that was a matter for concern – for me, it was a constant worry that it might have been my heart that was in jeopardy rather than just the normal recovery process. After five months I am mostly back to normal and have started going to gym again.

The lessons

“Roger needed much more physical expression of closeness, given that we had to adapt our intimacy following the operation,” says Jean. “This was a challenge for me as I am not an expressive person. We learned that we had to communicate very clearly regarding our sexual needs and preferences. Roger needed to know that, while such operations often result in incontinence and impotence, he could recover and we could adapt.”

I concur with my wife’s view. This is invasive surgery, with unpleasant side-effects, but these improve. Having the sexual element removed from your relationship can be quite enriching, as you need to find alternative ways of communicating.”

In addition, Roger strongly endorses consulting a physiotherapist as soon as possible. “My therapist was a huge help, and played the role of an advisor also. She pushed me to get back to normal, although you have to avoid bending and picking up objects.”

Another advantage that I had was that my son is an urologist. It is greatly empowering to have access to information … I asked lots of questions. You have to have a doctor that you can trust and we found one that we could communicate with and in whom we had complete faith.

Finally, stay positive, be patient. Be practical about the recovery and take the emotion out of it as much as possible.

During this, at times, difficult journey we experienced God’s provision and experienced His blessing in our day to day lives.

*Clients’ names have been changed to preserve their privacy.

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