By Patrick Campbell, ITV news health blogger
It's a strange feeling not to be able to control your bladder. You pee when you stand up and when you sit down, when you cough or sneeze. The first night at home without the catheter I woke up dry. I was elated, thinking I had cracked it. The following morning brought dismay as the pad I wore was soaked. I hadn't felt a thing in my sleep.
Three days after having the catheter removed, just nine days after the surgery, I went back to work. I am self employed so no picking up sick pay watching Bargain Hunt for weeks for me. To be fair I only did an hour a day at first, my staff being brilliant. I was able to catch up on paperwork amongst other things. I was under strict orders, no lifting.
My second week back I lifted a box of our small product. We do 8 sizes. I did it, without peeing. I tried the next size up and leaked. I had reached my limit. I tried this every day and, after 6 to 8 weeks I was able to lift the heaviest box and stay dry. It was all about setting targets and pushing yourself. I regarded myself as almost 100% dry by 5 weeks. This is apparently quite speedy. I know of men two years down the line who still take pads everywhere with them and plan journeys around toilet stops. The pelvic floor exercises I did before the surgery had helped enormously. I cannot emphasise how important they are to your recovery.
The scars healed quite quickly and my stomach shrank from its super size to general middle aged spread as before. It was months before I could use my exercise bike. Bicycle seats are bad for the prostate.
Last week I attended a meeting of Prostate Cancer UK in Leeds and, at lunch, four of us, all around the same age, all post op, chatted about highly intimate subjects surrounding sex. It was only when we finished lunch I asked them if they could ever have imagined talking so frankly before cancer. None of us could. The reality is we would have talked about anything but that. That's when men do, or more accurately, don't do. All agreed how understanding their partners were and how willing they were to “seize the moment”. We all become experts at moment seizing.
“You can expect sexual function to return in 12 to 18 months”. I am two years post op in July and, last time I visited the wonderful specialist nurse in Leeds, she admitted that, in over twenty years of counselling men after my type of surgery, not one had normal function. This is an aspect of treatment and the consequences that you have to discuss with your partner.
At 61, I would have liked a few more years before hanging up my bedpost notching knife but, given the choice between sex and death, I fancied living more.
Life is different now. I am more aware of how my body works, or, in my case doesn't work. I tend not to take things for granted. Things that were important a few years ago are not so important now. The cancer should not return but there are no guarantees. I cannot get prostate cancer obviously but, just one stray cell, missed during surgery, could come back to haunt. You are never “cured” I am tested regularly by having my blood analysed. My PSA is very low, almost untraceable. This is good. I am looking forward to a long life thanks to the staff and surgeon at St. James and the L.G.I. What wonderful people they are.