Prostate cancer recovery experiences2021-06-11T12:08:25-04:00

Prostate cancer recovery experiences

Experiences along the bumpy road to recovery from prostate cancer and its treatment. This includes my story in chronological order, and invites other men’s stories to be added.

Day 7: Cancer close to spreading beyond prostate

5 March 2020: Yesterday my surgeon told me just how close my cancer had come to spreading beyond my prostate gland. It’s a huge relief to know that my doctor’s hunch last November and a quick response to her initial warning have probably saved my life.

In my first post-op consultation, my surgeon removed the catheter and the surgical clips, and gave his post-operative report. He gave me the all-clear to walk as much as I like, run when I feel ready, but no heavy lifting till 6 weeks post-op. Going home in a kind of adult diaper was a […]

Day 9: Basic functions coming back

7 March 2020: It’s only nine days since radical prostatectomy and my basic physical and mental functions are coming back. I am down to one strong painkiller per night. Yesterday my wife and I walked our normal 3 kilometre morning walk around our neighbourhood at almost normal speed. Urine control is better than 95% and bowels are back to normal (which is unusual after a long operation like mine). Sleep is still a bit difficult but improving. This is my progress report.

Recovery big picture

Physical healing is proceeding very well and yet I realise the finer aspects will take a long […]

Day 11: Improving my anti-cancer diet

9 March 2020: I am convinced that a healthy anti-cancer diet improves my chances of keeping cancer at bay. My cousin Conner Middelmann is an expert on anti-cancer diet – how lucky is that?! As I begin to pick up the pieces after my radical prostatectomy surgery, I want to do as much as I can to stop cancer from growing or returning.

Conner is one of the first people I turn to. Her first response by email is “There’s a bunch of stuff you can do to create an inhospitable environment to cancer cells.” She has established […]

Day 13: Healing practices to get through the night

12 March 2020: Spiritual and energetic healing practices really help me get through difficult nights. I am grateful to my wonderful somatic coach, Vanissar Tarakali. She gave me a wonderful ritual to direct energy and compassion towards the parts of my body that have been cut open and poked about. This complements the unconscious natural processes.

It’s hard to get through the nights

It’s two weeks since my surgery. I’m completely off the pain medication, and my pelvic area is more tender and achy than really sore.

But deeper down I am disturbed. I often feel weak and weepy, scared, […]

Day 19: Deep desire to reclaim fitness and get back to work

17 March 2020: OK, I admit I have a deep desire to reclaim physical fitness and get back to work after radical prostatectomy. The idea of “normal life” has a great pull on me. In this moment I’m celebrating small wins at work, out running, and in the bedroom.

Getting back to work in a time of coronavirus

back at work with poster for coronavirus precautions

Long before either the pandemic or my cancer diagnosis, we had scheduled a wonderful in-person ORSC systemic team coach training course in Johannesburg. We have participants coming from all […]

Day 27: Lockdown and turning inwards, turning to earth

25 March 2020: My cancer and the global pandemic are calling me inwards. It feels like world events are asking all of us to make radical reassessments. Maybe the cancer gave me a head start. It is demanding that I turn inwards, and get grounded in the earth. It’s only a week since I was so full of the joys of getting back to “normal” but it turns out there is no normal to get back to.

Turning inwards: the privilege of a retreat space

With my wife’s wonderful support, I was determined to create some retreat space after my radical […]

Day 29: Healthy action to support cancer healing

27 March 2020: I want to take healthy action to support my cancer healing. A month ago my surgeon cut out all or most of the cancerous tissue. Now it is up to me to live healthy, in the widest sense of the word. This includes supporting my immune system to do its thing: detect and remove any current and future cancer cells before they gang together and start another rebellion.

How others have supported their own cancer healing

I was already living a relatively healthy life when I got cancer, and I’m a bit perplexed to know what else I can […]

Incontinence: confusion and lucky escape

29 March 2020: Bladder control after radical prostatectomy is difficult and confusing – and I am lucky mine is relatively good. Being away from the city reduces fear of being “caught short” by urine leaks. It gives me time to understand why it is so confusing. Why have the most simple automatic bodily functions stopped working like they used to?

It is so weird as a grown man to be perfectly fine one minute, not more than an hour since I last emptied my bladder. The next minute there is a wet patch in my pants. It feels as if the […]

Day 41: Possible recurrence of cancer – testing PSA

8 April 2020: An anxious day waiting for my PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test results. To get an accurate reading one has to wait six weeks after surgery. I’ve learned that PSA is very reliable for measuring prostate cancer recurrence risk after treatment. However it is not reliable enough as your sole diagnostic tool – see prostate cancer screening post.

In the sober words of the American Urological Association in the journal Oncology:

“A detectable PSA following radical prostatectomy is associated with eventual disease recurrence in most patients. The median interval from PSA recurrence […]

Taking stock two months after prostatectomy

27 April 2020: Taking stock after prostatectomy: it’s been two months and I have so much to be grateful for. First of all I am grateful for my life! Also, I am grateful for undetectable cancer levels and only very mild urine control issues. On the other hand, my sexual function seems worse affected as each day goes by, and I am both frightened and puzzled by this.

Video reflections

Here’s my best two-minute summary of how it all feels:

YouTube player

I recorded this “vlog” style video exactly two months after my radical prostatectomy surgery. We are celebrating Freedom Day […]

Day 43: Talking about erectile dysfunction

10 April 2020: It is very awkward talking about erectile dysfunction (ED). Hardly anybody does – except in derisive jokes. Yet it is extremely common after any form of prostate cancer treatment. Some level of ED affects about half of all men by age 60.

Surprisingly large numbers of men under 40 are also affected. It’s a big deal – specially when you factor in the impact of ED on partners and intimate relationships. Yet it remains rather undiscussable.

My prostate cancer journey makes it easier to talk about erectile dysfunction. Somehow for me as a […]

Day 58: Physicality and manhood after cancer

25 April 2020: My energy is pouring into all-round physicality after cancer treatment. It is helping me rediscover my manhood. I still feel sore and a kind of emptiness where my prostate used to be, but the rest of my body is raring to go. Since I got the six-week PSA clear result I have also been cleared for all kinds of physical activity.

I am lucky to have bounced back into action. It helps me keep two of my pre-surgery promises to myself:

  • My libido is not limited to my sexuality
  • My manhood is not limited to my […]

Impact of Erectile Dysfunction: into the wasteland

20 May 2021: The impact of erectile dysfunction (ED) is like throwing a man and his partner into a wasteland after a wildfire swept through.

It is easier to for me to talk about erectile dysfunction than most, because I can trace my physical problem back to prostate cancer treatment. Otherwise I’d worry that you would think “it’s all in my head.” Here’s my experience of ED as it happens.

Erectile dysfunction strikes at the most vulnerable moments

Everything is on track for a fulfilling sexual connection. I feel horny. My partner does too – not that she shows it […]

Day 74: Resources supporting recovery from ED

11 May 2020: I need more resources to support recovery from erectile dysfunction (ED) after my prostate cancer treatment. My surgeon told me “use it or lose it” but I don’t know how to find this erection to use!

I’ve been taking Cialis every day for months, and whatever it does in the background it has no impact on my erectile function. I asked my surgeon for help but (perhaps appropriately) his diamond focus is on the surgery. He seems less well informed about empowering patients to help with their own recovery.

I feel all scrunched up and need to find […]

Drug free treatment of erectile dysfunction – a business and personal story

Here is a backgrounder on the drug free treatment of erectile dysfunction. The story starts in the 1990s and goes back more than 100 years earlier.

It is also a very modern story of business and technology innovation to solve an awkwardly intimate problem. Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects millions of men and their partners worldwide.

He was a civil engineer, his wife a keen cyclist. They were a normal Afrikaner couple living in the culturally conservative city of Pretoria in the 1990s. People didn’t talk about things like ED.

Then, as she delicately puts it, “he started having the problem. He was a […]

Using a Vacurect pump for penile rehabilitation

Using a Vacurect pump for penile rehabilitation

Using a Vacurect or similar pump for penile rehabilitation is a core part of maintaining sexual health while suffering from erectile dysfunction. The generic name for these awkward but magical pumps is “vacuum erectile device (VED).” Here are some practical notes based on my experience using a Vacurect VED, shared without claiming medical expertise.

I suffered from serious erectile dysfunction for about 8 months after radical prostatectomy surgery. After that, there have been hopeful signs of life in my old friend but it still is not back to its pre-surgery strength. I am actively […]

Day 88: Yoga for the penis | penile rehabilitation, part 1

25 May 2020:  At last I am able to take practical action on penile rehabilitation. Medically, it directly addresses the biggest danger to long term erectile function arising from my prostate cancer surgery.

Penile rehabilitation exercises also promise to help with sexual function. Some practice and  open communication is needed to get over the awkwardness. It feels weird to apply mechanical exercise around an intimate activity which we expected to be spontaneous.

It helps me to think of this as “yoga for the penis” in that it is a stretching and exercise routine for long term health. I don’t intend to imply […]

Day 98: The importance of energy flow

4 June 2020: Tracking and managing the flow of my energy feels crucial to my healing. There are many ways to make meaning of “energy.” In this post I will look at where different forms of energy come from, get boosted, how energy gets stuck, and pathways for opening up healthy energy flow.

Energy is a gift from within and beyond

Physically, the sources of energy are clear: we are what we eat, and our bodies are amazingly effective at converting food into useful energy for our minds and bodies.

My wellbeing is also governed by a more ephemeral sensation of energy that […]

Partner experience after prostate cancer surgery

Prostate cancer impacts couples: here are the early weeks of my partner experience after prostate cancer surgery.

By Colleen Dawson

The harsh reality of cancer

Actual photo during my surgery taken by robotThe reality of my husband’s cancer hit me only at the post-op check with the surgeon. He described the operation, and showed us part of the film done during the surgery, with the arms of the robot inside Mish. Even as a biologist, I found it hard to watch.

Then he described the biopsy results of Mish’s prostate – more cancer than either biopsy […]

Guest post: The road to dry nights after prostate surgery

By Dr Rhys Leeming

Without a doubt, of all the medical interventions I have had, my prostatectomy has left the deepest scars. Thrown instantly into erectile dysfunction and bladder incontinence, my world was thrown into a deep turmoil.

This is my story of how I navigated the night time aspect of the bladder incontinence that hit me immediately after surgery. My following post explores the longer road towards dry days.

Not my first medical intervention

I reluctantly joined the band of prostate cancer survivors in November 2020. Prior to that, I felt I’d had a slightly above average association […]

Diagnosis and treatment

You are welcome to visit these pages to read more about how I found out I had prostate cancer and prostate cancer treatment – radical prostatectomy surgery experience itself. These posts include my own story, other men’s stories, and my wife’s commentary.

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