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My Cancer Surgery

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The surgery to remove the prostate is called a radical prostatectomy. This surgery removes the entire prostate gland and some surrounding tissue. While the urologist/surgeon is inside the abdomen, he/she also checks the lymph nodes to see if the cancer has spread or metastasized.

The urologist can have “live” biopsies taken and evaluated during the surgery to determine if cancer may have spread. He/she also performs both a visual and tactile (touch) examination of surrounding organs and tissues to check if cancer has spread outside the prostate gland.

Of course, the best scenario is that the cancer is encapsulated in the prostate and removed completely from the body. The urologist that I chose to do my surgery was very experienced and has performed over 1000 similar operations in his career. This experience made me feel very confident in his ability to determine the extent of the cancer and deal with whatever he encountered during the surgery.

An option that I didn’t choose was robotic prostatectomy.  This robotic surgery has become more popular in recent years. The robotic procedure is a very similar surgery but done with a robot and cameras instead of a surgeon’s gloved hands.

The advantages of this type of surgery are that the incision is much smaller and less traumatic, so the recovery time is shorter. The disadvantage is that the surgeon cannot manually feel the internal organs or lymph nodes and must go by the visual cues from the camera. My personal preference was to deal with a longer recovery and let the surgeon use his tactile senses and experience to give me the best results possible.

The night before the surgery I was instructed not to eat after midnight. I got to the hospital very early, before 6:00 AM, and checked in without incident. By 6:30 AM they were moving me to a preparation room where I removed all my clothing and put on the infamous butt-baring hospital gown.

The nurses came in and took my blood pressure and reassured me on how the surgery would go.  The nurse ran an IV line in my right arm and started a slow drip in the preparation of the injection of anesthesia in the line. The anesthesiologist arrived by 6:45 AM and I discussed my impending surgery and what drugs he would use. I had some concerns about anesthesia because in the past when I’ve had surgeries

I’ve woken up somewhat combative and have torn the IV line out of my arm in my confusion. The anesthesiologist assured me that he could adjust the drug cocktail so that I would wake up gently and not have those issues. My urologist showed up at 7:00 AM sharp and gave me a pep talk, and on my okay, the anesthesiologist started putting the drugs into my IV line to get me relaxed and prepared for the surgery.

About five minutes later a couple of hospital transporters showed up, and along with the anesthesiologist, they rolled me towards the operating room. That’s about all I remember of the pre-surgery preparation. I don’t even remember going into the operating room.

When I woke up, I was in a recovery room with a nurse anesthetists beside my bed. A nursing specialty known as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) are licensed to work under the anesthesiologist and deliver anesthesia drugs before, during, and after an operation.

It didn’t take long for the pain to hit me hard once I started coming around. Over the five to seven minutes it took me to wake-up, I realized I was in a lot of pain. My natural instinct was to curl into a ball and moan. Having the nurse right beside my bed to start adjusting my pain medication and nausea medication was fantastic.

 

I’m not sure if that was the standard protocol or if they were concerned about my past combative tendencies in emergence from anesthesia but she was there to give me the proper amount of pain medicine so that I regained consciousness but could deal with the pain. It was hard for me to judge time but it seems that I stayed in recovery for at least an hour while she adjusted the amount of painkiller dripping into my IV to get me stable. Once that was done they moved me to my hospital room.

At this point, I need to make a confession. I don’t like being in the hospital at all. Now don’t get me wrong, this was a very nice modern hospital with great amenities, but I don’t like people bothering me all the time.

If you’re in a hospital, you’re going to have to put up with various workers and nurses coming in and out of your room almost constantly. They have to come in and take your blood pressure, check your IV, empty your catheter bag and make it difficult to get any amount of continuous sleep. Most of the nurses and technicians that came in were very polite and tried to be considerate by knocking first and warning me they were going to turn on the light.

There were others that just barged in, whipped on the light and started to perform whatever task they were there to do without any consideration that I was a person and not a hunk of meat to be examined.  I don’t understand why they don’t supply the hospital staff with flashlights, or headlamps so that they don’t have to turn on the bright overhead light. Maybe it’s a safety issue, but it’s aggravating to the patient.

So after my first night, I was determined to get out of the hospital as soon as possible. My doctor had allowed for me to stay for two nights, but when he arrived, I talked him into letting me check out as soon as possible. He looked at my chart and said as long as I could walk around the hospital floor and empty my catheter bag he would tell them to discharge me that day.

I worked with the nurses and had two walks around the hospital floor with my IV pole and catheter bag trailing faithfully alongside me. So after one night in the hospital, I was discharged at 4 p.m. I had spent about 28 to 30 hours in the hospital, and I was ready to go home.

On the way home I stopped at the pharmacy near my house to pick up my pain meds and some other necessities. To my dismay, this particular pharmacy didn’t have my pain meds in stock. I was a bit surprised, and after some pointed requests, I had them call around and find out a pharmacy that did have what I needed so I wouldn’t aimlessly drive from pharmacy to pharmacy in a quest for my meds.

Fortunately, we a found a pharmacy that was open about 20 miles from my house but at least I knew they had what I needed before I drove all the way over there. So a piece of advice is to scope out what meds you might need after your discharge from the hospital and find out if a pharmacy near you is going to have them in stock. Otherwise, you’ll be driving around in a great deal of pain and frustration trying to get what you need so you can get home and start your recovery.

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