A man walking out of a rocky trail and entering a sunny meadow

Recovery Road

On May 30th, six weeks and two days after my prostatectomy, I had my first PSA check-up with my doctor. Prior to surgerymy PSA was 8.3. On the 30th it was 0.014. Almost all of the post-surgery discomfort I experienced – swelling, cramping, pain around my incisions, gas – was gone. I still felt some abdominal discomfort when I stretched or reached to get something into or out of a cabinet, but for the most part I felt good physically, and I’m very happy that my PSA indicates no presence of cancer.

Returning to my exercise routine

In addition to the good PSA news, my doctor told me I could resume my normal exercise routine, as long as I “listened to my body.” I started walking on flat ground almost immediately after my surgery, but now I plan to do more hiking on varied terrain, one of my favorite activities. I’m not ready to go backpacking yet, but it will be a goal for the fall. I also enjoy rock climbing, and as a test I spent an hour at my local climbing gym. It went well, no subsequent problems. I plan to be back on the rocks soon. I may even start swinging a golf club again.

I’ve been kegeling twice a day for over a month. Each week I increase the number of repetitions and the duration of my slow contractions. As I write this on June 4th, I’m up to 30 quick contractions, 30 10 second slow contractions, and another 30 quick contractions, twice a day. I have also started doing bridges, crunches and planks with a block of foam between my legs that I gently squeeze while exercising. They help with strengthening the pelvic floor.

Improvements with incontinence

Combined with the natural healing I’m experiencing, I’m noticing an improvement in my incontinence. During the day I go through one or two maximum absorbency guards, mostly done with Depends briefs. At night I wear a lightweight shield to bed. I usually wake up twice to go to the bathroom. My doctor feels I am making good progress in this area and will continue to see improvement with each passing week.

My new normal

Combining good news about my PSA, some improvement in my incontinence, and the freedom to work my way back to normal activities, I feel like the clouds are lifting and I can see my “normal” life on the horizon. Or what one of my friends who has been down this road calls “the new normal.” There have been times when I’ve felt demoralized, probably because, until recently, of the ongoing incontinence, but that is changing. The men in my support group think I’m making great progress and that I have to remain patient. I’m still early in my recovery. The other issue is erectile dysfunction, which right now takes a back seat to incontinence, but will definitely be the subject of an article soon.

Months ago I signed up for a 145 mile REI guided trek in Patagonia, a 70th birthday gift to myself (with my wife’s blessing, of course.) I recently bought an airline ticket to Argentina, departing on January 6th, 2019. Having goals like this, which will require hard work on my fitness prior to the trip, always motivate me, but this time I have extra motivation. I hope I can step on the trail the first day fully recovered, with no need for shields or guards. With a little over seven months before departure, I’m confident I will be ready, and I’ll be hiking cancer free.

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