We have written about some of the struggles of squeezing all of our health care into these short windows of opportunity when we return to Massachusetts. This post is about prostate surgery that I needed to get done during one of our stays. And for this post I will be oversharing. Or some might say, TMI (too much information).
So if you are not a man over the age of 50 looking for info on this subject, you probably really do want check out another post.
Ok guys, you can’t walk by a men’s room without stopping in and you are up every few hours at night and off to the bathroom. If you have been to your doctor he has probably told you have an enlarged prostate or BPH. Your prostate is getting bigger and squeezing that tube that your pee comes down making it more difficult to get all of it out.
On top of all of those trips to the bathroom, this can lead to infections. I recall a flight from Cleveland to Boston while I had one of those infections. When we landed, my son took me straight to the emergency room. It was not a fun flight.
So what can be done? Well our medical systems first line of defense goes directly to … drugs. And when you find a good one of those drugs, it can be worth every penny even with the side effects. The first time this issue flared up, I was eventually placed on RapaFlo for a while. That drug seemed to keep the issues at bay with minimal side effects.
In later years when this issue became a problem again, my insurance company would not pay for RapaFlo. I tried several other drugs ending up on Tamsolusin and Dutasteride. They did make the symptoms better. I was only up once or twice a night rather 3 or 4 times and I could pass up the occasional men’s room stop. But they did have side effects. Lower blood pressure and possibly regrowing hair were pluses. Minuses included weakness and…lets just say they can lead to needing to take another drug that has side effects that can last for 4 hours…
Since those drugs had side effects, I did try more natural cures to alleviate my prostate problems. There was sitting in a warm bath, taking saw palmetto and eating pumpkin seeds among other things. None them appeared to improve my condition.
As the drugs my insurance company would pay for were not providing satisfactory results, my doctor suggested that he could operate using a green light laser. Essentially he would to clear a path so all of the pee could escape. My doc had said recovery would be one to two months. For us that meant it had to be done in Medical May.
Living in the van while trying to recover from surgery did not seem like it would be a fun time so we found an AirBnB near the hospital.
This was my first time on full anesthesia. As I was laying there in the recovery room after the surgery, I recall someone asking me a question. I answered her and then continued talking about … well who knows what I was talking about. Suddenly I had one of those Three Stooges moments. I could not see! Why couldn’t I see! And then I realized it was because my eyes were closed. When I opened them I discovered that all this time I had been talking to …no one.
After having prostate surgery, the doc felt they needed to put a catheter in place. Again this was a first time for this. It was a seemingly huge tube inserted through a very tiny hole in area that had just been operated on. I had pain and discomfort from it until it was removed over a day later.
The doc said that blood in the urine would be normal and that there might be some pain for the first few days but that it should subside. The blood would be worse after a bowl movement and I should take as tool softener. He was on the mark on all of these.
I listened to his advice to not lift more than a milk jug. I did discover that sitting up in bed used muscles down there which encouraged me to be very careful when I needed to move.
After 2 weeks we had the bright idea that we did not need that AirBnB anymore. We jumped in our van Sparty and drove north to visit relatives. I still had stinging, urgency, blood in the urine and was not sleeping well. In hindsight this was not a bright idea.
By the 4th week the number of trips in the middle of the night continued to decrease but still did not seem give me enough time to actually sleep. The blood seemed to stop except for slight amounts after a bowel movement. That sense of urgency remained. There was no “I can hold it for a sec.” If I did not rush I would not quite make it to the toilet
At 34 days after my surgery I had my follow up appointment. He said there was a small amount of blood and white blood cells in my urine. Bladder scans showed a minimal amount of pee left in my bladder after urinating. The urge to pee was still strong and at times I did not quite make it to the restroom. My doc said that was normal and he suggested setting a timer and going before urge comes.
Urgency time varied from just over 20 minutes to as much as 2 hours. Using a timer help me beat that urgency and slowly increase the time. Several days later there was no obvious blood in my urine anymore so I stopped taking stool softeners.
By the 5th week after the surgery we were back on the road. I quickly realized that waiting for a rest area was just too much. Pulling over on the side of the road and using our on-board equipment was required (that would be peeeing in a jar). There was no blood but I was up 2 to 3 times at night. A bright spot was that most mornings there was no panic to pee as soon as I thought I was awake.
It took about 3 months to be back to where I felt I was before the surgery. After 6 months it was clear this was much better. Sleeping through the night became a common occurrence and the constant urgency had faded. I did not need a timer and could even sit though an entire movie without a panic trip to the men’s room in the middle, or even at the end.
There are things that they did fail to tell me. One is that you will no longer need to push hard to pee. When its time it just all comes out. And when you use a urinal, take a step back. It no longer just dribbles out and, if you stand too close, you get back splatter all over you, especially if you are sill pushing.
So if you are one of the older men out there with this prostate issue and are wondering if you should have the green light laser surgery done, don’t wonder. Just do it. You can get off those drugs and live better.
For van dwellers, definitely schedule to be in a more traditional living arrangement for about a month. Climbing in and out of #vanlife bed can be painful. Using cramped, inconvenient toilet facilities in your van or running off to a men’s room will not work well.
And if you reached here and are offended that I have overshared, you should have paid more attention to the second paragraph.