Ron Writes A Book
Ron had been raised in the projects of Newark, NJ. I had worked in this area several years back, and took an instant liking to him. I knew the exact location of the building where he lived as a young boy – it has become so dangerous that it is scheduled for demolition soon.
The reason why Ron sat before me in a pelvic floor physical therapy office is because his prostate had been surgically removed one year ago, due to the presence of cancer.
Troubled by urinary leakage
Ron was troubled by the pesky side-effect of urinary leakage. Always an active guy, it annoyed him to wear a pad when he was outdoors doing heavy yard work.
Like many men who I treat, Ron was results-driven. He wanted to find ways to reduce urinary leakage, and I knew he would be compliant in whatever I told him to do. For instance, we discussed timed urinary voids, sitting down to pee versus standing and increasing his water consumption, as Ron was purposely restricting water intake in order to prevent more leakage of urine.
Writing a book
Ron came for two sessions of pelvic floor physical therapy. He told me of his excitement in wanting to write a book about his experiences of being raised in the projects of Newark.
“What people don’t realize about urban areas back then is that they were very integrated. In one building, there were people of many skin colors and ethnicities," he told me. "I am meeting with some of the people who grew up with me there, and I am going to record our discussions. Because I plan on writing a book about our time in Newark.”
I was delighted to hear this; because as any person knows who is going through a disappointment or struggle, there is nothing like having a creative outlet or passion to distract the mind and body from the internal tumult of illness or grief.
A sudden change
I didn’t see Ron for a few weeks after our two sessions together. When he returned for his third visit, I found out why. Ron had been working in the garden and began to feel intense pain in his right lower abdomen. It did not abate and Ron is a smart guy, so he went to the local emergency room, thinking he might have appendicitis due to the location of his pain.
After a series of tests, the doctors discovered that Ron had a rather large kidney stone. He passed this stone and declined the heavy opiates prescribed upon return home.
It was at that time when Ron realized that his urinary leakage had virtually disappeared. Gone was the need for pads and the intentional dehydration of restricting water intake. In fact, the doctor at the hospital urged Ron to continue to drink more water for the rest of his life to prevent another kidney stone from forming. “You also told me to drink more water,” Ron beamed as he spoke. “I hadn’t realized how important it is.”
Takeaways from Ron's experience
Ron’s story is noteworthy in a few ways. First, because of his urinary incontinence, Ron avoided drinking water. This can irritate the lining of the bladder walls and actually worsen urinary leakage in all humans, whether or not they have had prostate cancer.
Second, Ron was very wise to go to the hospital when he experienced pain in his lower right quadrant, because an appendix rupture can be deadly.
Thirdly, and most important, the presence of a kidney stone as the culprit of both the abdominal pain and the primary cause of Ron’s urinary leakage is a colorful example of the body’s interplay of organ systems. Just because we have a known diagnosis, in this case prostate cancer, does not mean that we can neglect what is occurring in the broader world of the human organism.
Living in harmony
I like to imagine the human body much like the housing project where Ron grew up. There are people of many ages and backgrounds, each perhaps living behind their own apartment doors, until the first day of spring arrives. Then, all the inhabitants go outside onto the pavement and set up their lawn chairs to look at the cherry blossoms.
The individuals within the building can live in harmony when they sit together and talk. We need to allow them to do just that. And I, for one, cannot wait to read Ron’s book when it is finished.
What was the most difficult part of your diagnosis?