In the summer of 2016, Garret Mathews (see his legacy website) learned that his PSA (an enzyme produced by the prostate) was dangerously high. The best course of action, the family concluded, was a radical prostatectomy to remove the organ as well as surrounding lymph nodes. This was done in the (very) early morning hours of Nov. 1 at a hospital in Carmel, California. The 67-year-old Mathews penned this essay during the recovery period.
The idea hit: Hundreds (thousands?) of men around my age visit the several on-line sites I’ve written for since retirement. No doubt, many are staring at surgeries similar to the one I underwent. Perhaps, I reasoned, some might appreciate a bit of counsel from one who is still oozing from the procedure.
So here goes.
You should allow as much time as possible between diagnosis and surgery. This is in case you are not married. Post-operation, you will smell like the toilet at the bus station. It is imperative that you find a partner willing to have, to hold and to change your catheter bag.
The first time you go out to a restaurant you will eschew the smaller leg container in favor of the full-sized urinary catheter. You will think you have fashioned a purse-like sack that will hide the offending two-foot tube. A woman at the next table will notice and start to gag. You will duck out before the waiter arrives. Lesson learned. Attach the leg bag.
Let’s talk pain. You will experience bladder spasms. It will feel like someone – or something – has issued the order to squeeze to kill. If you even think about doing 3 percent of a sit-up, your lower abdomen will seize up and surrender to the other side.
Let’s talk discomfort. The surgeon will install a drainage tube in your side. It looks like a plastic grenade, dangles by the side of your leg and is designed to fill up with vile-looking yellow and red matter that otherwise would have its way with your body. My Ooze-O-Meter, as I call it, often collected as many as 450 milliliters (way too much) over a 24-hour period. As you can imagine, the area was very tender and swollen. It’s better now, but if someone touches it, understand in very certain terms, I will take you out.
You will brag. A man watched me walk up and down some hills at a park not far from where we live. “Bravo, sir. You are truly a credit for a fellow your age,” he gushed. “Thanks, mister,” I replied, “but imagine my heightened performance WHEN I RECOVER FROM HAVING A BROWN SPACE WHERE MY PROSTATE USED TO BE.”
Your urologist will say you can’t drive for at least a week following the cut job. This is bogus. I was southbound and down on Day 5. Your urologist will say you shouldn’t approach your previous aerobic regimen for at least two weeks. Bull. I walked my usual four miles – albeit, in increments – on Day 6.
Like me, you can run five miles in under 48 minutes. Like me, you can do 75 push-ups and 75 squat thrusts in less than 20 minutes. Like me, you are scared to death you will fall off the fitness bus during this prostate thing and morph into the fat man on the TLC channel who can’t get out of his bedroom.
Your urologist will say you can’t go to the gym for a month. You will think, hey, this fool was wrong about driving and walking. What’s the harm of doing 15 minutes worth of light bending and stretching to make sure I stay off TLC?
Plenty. Your Ooze-O-Meter will spike. You will be dizzy. When you return to your car, you will not so much climb in the front seat as fall in.
I’ll take your questions.
Will my catheter leak? Yes. See earlier reference to toilet at bus station.
As we speak, are your sheets soiled? I don’t want to talk about it.
Will my stomach make strange noises? Yes. You will sound like a caldron.
How many days did you have to wear the catheter and the Ooze-O-Meter? Twenty. We are becoming old friends.
How have you adjusted to wearing Depends? The only way possible. I get to experience being 88 years old without actually being 88.
How many times a day do you tell your willing wife that you love her? I try not to get below a dozen, 15 if she’s having trouble with the catheter.