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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 surgery my 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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The ProstateCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • CharlesV
    5 hours ago

    Well, after August 15th, which was on a Thursday, it had been four month after the surgery and I make sure that I still wear the bladder pad in case I have to go to the bathroom and at night wear depends. Sometimes I wear the depends throughout the day. I still leak after I urinate, but that’s part of the process. I’ve been given a prescription from my urologist to control my bladder and there are some days I go more than usual and vice versa. At night, I either go once, twice or never, and that number not going is a sign.

    I still continue to be on my feet whether at work or on my days off when I go for long walks. For example, during my vacation last week, I went to Wareham, MA by bus and then walked to check out different places like amusement parks, department stores, etc. I did a lot of walking before the surgery and more so after and beyond.

    At times, I feel gastritis and I would either go to the bathroom for bowel movement or release gas. I usually use fiber therapy pills to control it; however, depending on the generic brand, you have to be careful of which brand or type you pick up because the generic bottle I picked up was a laxative and I had to keep going to bathroom for loose bowels. I talked it over with a physician last week and he recommended that it might be the foods I eat that might have caused it. The next day, I discussed the same matter with my counselor and she said what I believed that it was the fiber therapy pills I picked up as a laxative. So I stopped taking it and the bowel movement returned to regular. I still have gas but at least my bowels are normal and not loose.

    Next month will be follow-up with my urologist and he’ll see how I’m doing. He’ll check what my PSA and Gleason are. Hopefully, I’ll still be fine and cancer free.

  • Will Jones moderator author
    4 hours ago

    Thanks for your response, Charles. I hope you continue to make good progress. Subsequent articles of mine document my experience over the last year. For incontinence, I wear light weight shields when I’m exercising or walking long distances, but on many days I’m shield free. Are you kegeling? That will help with bladder control.

  • sevensix
    7 months ago

    The only good thing I may comment about incontinence are the unlimited showers I took every day, sometimes as many as six refreshing soaks. Thank goodness we replaced the hot water heater with an 80 gallon unit. We bought stock in Depends. At about five months I was doing well with occasional guard pads usually when leaving the house. I got better with time. During IMRT therapy two years later leakage was a bit of an annoyance using pads once again away from home. OK, very small bowel leakage most aggravating for me. I was a small kid all over again. MS (I live in a power chair) and cancer treatment were challenging on all fronts that kept my many physicians hopping. Fatigue and weakness were insurmountable problems to overcome by any means possible. I did not win that battle paying dearly for the engagement. Today I am four weeks post radiation feeling stronger and not quite so sick all the time where I can do something for at least an hour of constructive time keeping me busy. Although I was surrounded and supported by friends 24/7 I was still very alone. Cancer gathers no moss.

  • ninaw moderator
    1 year ago

    @maxieb, thank you for sharing more of your situation – I bet it will help other guys to hear it too. I wanted to offer, if you’d like to share it as a story, you can submit one here: https://prostatecancer.net/stories/. You can also submit multiple if you’d like to share different parts of your prostate cancer experience. Really appreciate you in our community! – Nina, ProstateCancer.net Team

  • ninaw moderator
    1 year ago

    @dtj49er, I know the progress can be frustratingly slow, but it sounds like you’re doing what you can for now. I hope you’ll keep us in the loop as things progress. – Nina, ProstateCancer.net Team

  • Maxieb
    1 year ago

    What a great story. Wishing you the very best, and looking forward to hearing about your trip in January….

  • Will Jones moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you Maxieb. I’m looking forward to that trip and to writing about it! Have you published your story on PC.net?

  • Will Jones moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks for your story, Maxieb. I hope your recovery from the TURP goes well and that your High Grade Pin doesn’t result in a cancer diagnosis down the road.

  • Maxieb
    1 year ago

    I thought I did, but after checking out my profile, apparently I did not. (must have been another “senior moment” for me)..Had a biopsy (with no anesthesia) last year after psa went to 8.3 and was diagnosed with High Grade Pin. Urologist recomended active surveilance. Had to wait 17 days for the pathology report because the pathologist here had to get a 2nd opinion/consult from another pathologist. He confirmed the diagnosis of High Grade Pin….Was told by my urologist that my increase in psa was probably do to sexual activity (hours before I took the psa test) or the increase in size of my prostate….Anyhow I just went thru a TURP procedure to alleviate some symptoms that was making my life miserable..(I’m sure you are aware of them)….just recently had the cathether removed..am going thru the side affects -waiting for the pathology report which is supposed to come next week…So as I sit here at my desk with a “diaper” on me, I’m hoping to get back to normal within a reasonable time period….Thank you for your response and continued good health to you……..

  • dtj49er
    1 year ago

    Wow, Will! Hope my recovery is as smooth as yours. My prostatectomy was four weeks ago today. Healing has gone very well; however, I’m still dependent on Depends. I walk with a group of retired guys every morning for two to three miles. My PSA test is July 9th. Shooting for a big zero. Good luck on your 145-mile hike in Patagonia. I want to go on day hikes and have my old life back. I will be 70 in January, but can’t think of myself as old.

  • dtj49er
    1 year ago

    I am very happy to report that my post surgical PSA is 0–undectable! I expected more improvement with my bladder control. I do have some control, but I am still leaking after eight weeks. I continue to kegel daily.

  • Will Jones moderator author
    1 year ago

    Congratulations, dtj49er! That’s great news. I’m fourteen weeks post-surgery and still leaking, but it also keeps getting better. I think three to six months is a reasonable amount of time to expect leakage to be an issue, based on research I’ve done and conversations I’ve had with other men who have had surgery. But you should see steady improvement. I use one guard and one shield per day.

  • ninaw moderator
    1 year ago

    What great news, @dtj49er! Sorry to hear that the bladder control is progressing more slowly than expected. It can be a long road and for some might not get back to exactly what it was before, but hoping for continued improvement for you! – Nina, ProstateCancer.net Team

  • Richard Faust moderator
    1 year ago

    Hey dtj49er. Patience, while no doubt difficult, is a key. Sounds like you are doing what you can and have the right attitude – “can’t think of myself as old.” As you said, the main thing is getting back that good PSA test. Keep us posted on how it goes. Best, Richard (ProstateCancer.net Team)

  • Will Jones moderator author
    1 year ago

    We are definitely traveling the same road. If you haven’t tried kegeling, I highly recommend it. It helps and it’s a great discipline. The social aspect of recovery is so important. Walking and hanging out with my friends, several of whom have been down this path, really keeps my spirits up. Btw, I’m down to one guard a day. Definitely improving!

  • dtj49er
    1 year ago

    Faithfully kegeling because I am tired of the swamp below the belt. I am getting a little control, but half the time I don’t make it in time to the toilet, or I stand and get a few drops out. I must learn patience. “[D]own to one guard a day”–that’s damn near perfect! That’s my goal! I am so happy that I had my prostatectomy at stage 2. I have friends and associates who waited too long for surgery. One is getting bombarded with numerous rounds of radiation and hormone injections, and another is using homeopathy–cannabis and a vegan diet. I shouldn’t get on my high horse, but I believe I made the right choice.

  • ninaw moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi @dtj49er! I hope yours is as well. Glad to hear you’re staying as active as you can and socializing at the same time. It can feel like a slow process of recovery. I wonder if you’ve tried kegels? I know Will mentioned he had some luck with them. Not sure if you’ve read Will’s previous articles, but in this one he talks more about the cognitive dissonance of not feeling old: https://prostatecancer.net/living/decisions/. Wishing you much luck with your next PSA test, and we’ll be hoping to hear back some good news! – Nina, ProstateCancer.net Team

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