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Archive for the ‘Good news recovery stories’ Category

PROSTABLOG NZ: John Montgomerie had his prostatectomy via robotic method in Auckland, NZ,  in mid-February and we asked him to report progress.

His report shows he is recovering well…and he has some revealing comments about insurance:

I am doing well. Had to use incontinent pads for four weeks and still not 100%, (maybe I should try the ones with wings?). Have a  problem with leakage when I cough, sneeze, etc.

We have a spa, which is set at 41.5 degrees and it has proved to be a Godsend. Use it several times daily.

I can now use the motor bike without too much pain, and I’m walking 2-3km twice a day, which is a big help,

At two to three weeks after the operation, I was able to do a lot of farm jobs, which was a big help for my dear wife – and my self esteem.

At six weeks post-op, I’m back into full-on farm work, and able to drive a tractor for a few hours at a time.

Had a good PSA result, 0.2, which is a lot better than 5.8 before the op.

Insurance paid all of the costs ($45,000 plus) without stuffing me about, which was great. I am insured with AA Health and they were very helpful.

I  would be happy to recommend them. Some insurance companies do not pay for the full cost of robotic surgery (Southern Cross is one such company). And the patient has to pay $12,000 to $15,000 before the operation’

Good one, John. Glad to see you’re progressing brilliantly. Interesting stuff about the iunsurance cover, as well.

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My PC Adventure – PART 24:

Cliche is true – cancer makes you re-evaluate

April 13, 2010

A year ago, I lay in bed at home in the mornings and stared out the window at blue skies, wishing I could be under them.

I’m looking through a different sort of bedroom window as I write this – the window of the campervan, and we’re parked beside Orewa Beach, north of Auckland.

Pohutukawa boughs frame a view beyond green and straw-coloured kikuyu and marram grass, out to the end of Whangaparaoa Peninsular, Tiritiri Matangi Island and the hill tips of Great Barrier Island popping up into the horizon of the Hauraki Gulf.

OREWA SUNRISE: Portents of rain over Great Barrier Island.

It’s a year post-prostatectomy.

We’re on holiday for a few weeks, and this April there is the same Indian summer weather, but no catheter, no bright new scar slashing the lower abdomen, no need to hold back from coughing, laughing or leaping off the bed to go for a walk.

The only “slashing” these days is at the urinal, when the flow never fails to mimic that of  mythical 18-year-olds.

The year has passed with many highlights:

  • The birth of Oliver Thomas Tucker, first grandchild (thank you Megan and Kirk).
  • Two PSA undetectables.
  • A journalism graduation dinner I was actually able to attend last month (rather than imagine from the haze of anaesthetic recovery, as happened last year).
  • A return to fitness, following walks and a change of diet to reduce red meat.
  • A couple of months’ membership of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of NZ.
  • Six months of blogging about prostate cancer, then “retirement” apart from occasional blogs. The site had 70,000 hits in the year, with about 20,000 people reading My PC Adventure.
  • Many kind messages from readers, who seem to appreciate the candour of my account.
  • Selling our house and buying a campervan, and so far several tours to beautiful parts of NZ.  We may never own another property, having fallen in love with being on the road.
  • Most important – the support of friends, colleagues and family.

YOUNG OLLIE: Me and Lin with Oliver Tucker - grandparenthood is such a bonus.

I’m now more aware than ever how widespread is the prostate cancer “epidemic”, and without compunction will ask every 40-plus male I meet  whether he gets himself tested.

An early stop on this current trip was at Palmerston North (the place John Cleese said made him suicidal) to visit my mate Lance, who is halfway through external beam radiation treatment for low grade prostate cancer. His prognosis is good.

I have one disappointment – lack of news about the NZ Parliament Health Select Committee inquiry into prostate cancer detection. It started with a hiss and a roar in September, but nothing has been heard so far this year.

My state of mind is rarely troubled by thoughts of whether or not I am “cured” of prostate cancer. It just doesn’t figure.

What scar?

However, now and again there are reminders. An acquaintance who had his prostatectomy a decade ago told me recently he was suddenly suffering peeing problems, apparently caused by scar tissue resulting from radiation he had all those years ago.

And just yesterday I had to sit down for a few minutes after feeling a bit dizzy. But that may have been an over-zealous intake of resveratrol (erm, pinot noir) the night before, and absolutely nothing to do with anything else. But you do wonder for a moment.

For those who are curious but too polite to ask, “functionality” is fine. Erection firmness is as good as ever, although the lost inch is still a little disconcerting.

Libido is normal – ie, it disappears with work stress and goes berserk during holidays.

Orgasms are just as enjoyable and intense as before, and a lot less messy, of course. No more careless maps of Asia on the bottom sheet.

The only bad in my life is stress from work. I continue the task of rebuilding Whitireia Journalism School into a half-decent hall of learning, but at times the workload is immense.

In February and March this year I found myself toiling seven days a week every week just to meet the demands of graduating 28 diploma students.

As I enter the last quarter of my life, I’m thinking seriously about how to avoid doing that for too much longer.

That’s one of the upsides of getting cancer: you take a hard look at your lifestyle.

And the view. There’s a couple of kite surfers out there on the sea. Our spell of 15 straight days without rain is about to end, by the look of the gathering nimbus and the feel of the breeze.

Bugger cancer – I’m off for a walk.  See you later.

READ the full story here: MY PC ADVENTURE

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PROSTABLOG NZ: Wellington freelance writer Ruth Nichol has published her investigation into cancer screening in the latest NZ Listener magazine.

It’s an excellent read.

Buy the mag to read it all. Here are a couple of pages:

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mikeleenzpaPROSTABLOG NZ: Why would anyone say that getting prostate cancer was actually good for them?

In his speech to open a Blue September event earlier this month, Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee (left) said just that.

Talking about his experience with prostate cancer, he described trying to ignore his rising PSA levels, finally being diagnosed, making drastic changes to his lifestyle and diet, and undergoing brachytherapy. Then he made this comment:

“In some ways, in terms of all-round health, in a funny sort of way, getting prostate cancer was good for me.”

READ MORE>

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BUZZ MACHINE: It has been a week and a half since my prostate surgery and I’m doing great, writes media blogger Jeff Jarvis. READ MORE>

I’m walking a couple miles a day (can’t run for a few weeks but even when I do run it’s not running), eating normally, sleeping well, now able to sit and stand and cough and burp without feeling as if I was hit in the belly with a Volkswagen.

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DOMINION POST: In this personal account, a Lower Hutt man recalls the dire effects on his life of an enlarged prostate – and how he finally got it fixed.

When prostate rules it’s not OK

…was too late. I was in trouble again – this time on an island miles from a hospital. I returned in some discomfort to the company and tried to act as if everything was OK. We left soon after. When we got to the cottage I sat on the toilet until I got…read more…

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NZ HERALD: He’s a doctor who has written a book on prostate cancer, he’s built a wellness retreat at Abel Tasman National Park and his hobbies include nutrition. READ MORE>

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PART 23 of My PC Adventure: full story HERE>

I’m not a racing man.

I was put off by my family, who lived horse-racing. As kids, we were dragged to racecourses.

When I started as a cadet reporter 43 years ago this week, I made the mistake of saying I hated racing – so the chief reporter quite rightly assigned me to help the racing editor on race days. I would obviously not be distracted.

So when the urologist said to me this week I’d got “the trifecta”, I knew what he meant. I’d scored three wins on the same bet:

  • The tumour removed during surgery last March was low-risk.
  • There was nothing at the margins of the gland.
  • And now, nearly five months later, my PSA is undetectable.

It was a nice analogy, and the winnings are bigger than any racehorse bet.

It means I’m in good shape, at least for the next couple of years.

From my reading up on all this, it seems two years from now will be another hurdle to jump, because that’s commonly when men in my position can get biochemical recurrence, with the PSA doing a doubling act.

My followup appointment with the urologist couldn’t have gone more wrong (aside from the one big right).

For a start, there was bit of a lead-up that proved quite unpleasant.

I picked at a bit of dry skin on my knee and managed to infect myself with ringworm (presumably from the cat).

I made the mistake of covering it up (as my mother always advised) with water-tight sticking plasters.

Have you ever tried to get those off  (as I needed to do each day to apply anti-fungal ointment)?

Each day, twice a day, I’d tear holes in my leg removing plasters that would have held a space shuttle together – and spread the infection.

It ended up at the top of both inner thighs, and by the time I went to the doc for a more powerful ointment, the proximity to my boys had unfortunate consequences: they proved allergic to the ointment.

My testes swelled to twice their normal size and the old fellah looked like a bruised plum.

In alarm, I did the one-handed cellphone camera trick, captured a couple of dramatic closeups and emailed them to the urologist.

Hmm, looks like an allergic reaction, he mailed back.

He was right. By the time the treatment was completed, the gens returned to normal and my visions of carrying them round in a wheelbarrow had receded.

By the day of the followup appointment, all seemed well.

How wrong can you be!

For a start, we went to his rooms, instead of Wellington Hospital’s urology clinic (if I’d just bothered to read the appointment reminder).

I arrived at the new hospital block to find no sign of any signs in the main foyer, in the lifts or on the appropriate floor (when I found it) that mentioned the words “urology clinic”.

I rushed in late, saw the urologist poring over a big stack of files, sidled up breathlessly, and apologised for holding him up (I was 10 minutes late).

He was suitably gracious. And I was soon appalled – because I found a huge waiting room stacked to the ceiling with other patients, more than a dozen of them, all waiting to see the same man.

Right. The public health system. Of course.

I plonked down in one of a semi-circle of incredibly luxurious, leather, padded (and seemingly electrified) lazy-boy chairs, each assigned a bold number on the wall behind, announcing its status as “Chair 1″, “Chair 2″…the logic was overpowering.

We never got to see what the electrics did because they didn’t seem to be plugged in.

But such chairs! Perhaps a gift from a kind benefactor who had, before us, endured long hours in hard, straight-backed seats in the same waiting room.

A small irony arose when I asked a man sitting beside me in a surviving hard, straight-backed chair if he would mind moving so Lin could sit next to me, and he declared that he couldn’t move because he needed a hard, straight-backed chair.

Looking around, I saw I was the youngest patient by about 20 years, and the least patient. The others sat impassively, quietly, with dignity, while I built up a head of steam thinking about my need to get back to work.

Finally, I got up in a minor fit of pique and declared grandly to the receptionist (who said there were still four ahead of me) that I would be leaving.

“Can we book another appointment?”

“No thanks – I’ll take my chances,” said I with ridiculous pomp.

On the way out, however, the urologist emerged from a session, saw me leaving in a huff, and ushered me in: “You’ve got the trifecta, Jim.” Yeah, Rod, it’s all good. Thanks for doing such a great job.”

We discussed the idea of doing a NZ book on the disease. He grabbed a couple of overseas ones for me to look at, and we’re due to meet up some time to discuss the project.

And, well, that’s it for now.

Except to observe that it’s amazing how quickly the effects of your brush with death wear off.

I declared I would work shorter hours, brook less stress, have a proper lunch hour, give up all alcohol.

The only real change I’ve made in my life is to have sushi for lunch instead of ham sandwiches.

I eat the sushi over the keyboard (lot messier with chopsticks), work longer hours than ever (this blog takes two to three hours every night), and still have a Heinie and a glass of Central Otago pinot noir each evening (the last is good for us prostate patients, of course).

Life goes on as before. But, then, that’s good isn’t it…


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JUNE 20: DINTZ.COM: Two Mayo Clinic patients whose prostate cancer had been considered inoperable are now cancer free thanks in part to an experimental drug therapy that was used in combination with standardised hormone treatment and radiation therapy. The men were participating in a clinical trial of an immuno-therapeutic agent called MDX-010 or ipilimumab. READ MORE>

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PART 22 of My PC Adventure: full story HERE>

Bus2

I now catch the bus.

So! A lot of people do, every day, no big deal. Wellington is a commuter city, with an excellent public transport system (although the trains aren’t so good, I hear).

So what’s with the bus? And what’s this got to do with prostate cancer?

Bear with me. First, a little background on my family: the Tuckers are car people.

My father boasted he owned 59 cars in his life (not all at once, thank goodness). He had every post-War Citroen up to the DS19, an exotic spaceship that turned heads when he got the first one in our town in 1958.

ChevI suspect he compensated for short physical stature with his cars. The sight of him in his 1965 Chev Impala! It was a Yank tank with an underpowered V8, but oh the size of the thing.

My brother drives a Range Rover and a BMW, and happily pays $700 for one new tyre (well, not quite so ecstatically while there’s a recession).

mgMy life’s ambition at 19 was to own an MG sports car. I had it by 20, fire engine red with white-wall tyres.

But after a year I couldn’t tell if the young women who rode in it were loving the vehicle or me. The car, I suspect. An astute female friend called it my “big red penis” car. If only…

Life did not take on new meaning because of the MG, so over time I downgraded. I discovered that women, oddly, aren’t that impressed by cars.

Micra12Now it’s a Nissan Micra, whose only downside is causing offence to men in grown-up SUVs if I pass them on the motorway or drive in the fast lane.

Even so, we male Tuckers don’t bus. Ever. It’s not, well, manly.

I trammed to school as a little kid, but biked as soon as my legs could reach the pedals of a two-wheeler. It had a speedo, saddlebags and a whippy aerial (no wonder I was bullied).

MiniI had my driver’s licence at 15, to drive mum’s humiliating Morris Minor, admittedly, but then it was quickly on to a hot Mini with fat feet, twin carbs and overhead sliding sumps.

After that, never the bus. Buses were for other people, ones who make up the numbers. There’s no freedom in a bus. Standing on the side of the street in the rain, looking resentfully at single-occupant cars going to work. What is it with that, the resentment?

So, now, the bus.

Where have I been all these years?

marsOn Mars, perhaps, as was suggested none-too-politely by a grumpy bus driver when I first tried a bus and didn’t grasp that there are sections and zones and you have to know where you’re going, and putting money in the dish thingie and walking off to find a seat is not completing the full transaction.

“So, where are you going?” this first occasion elicited from the driver.

Me: “Um, doesn’t this bus go into town?”

“Yes, and then on as far as Wilton. How far are you going? How many sections?”

“Sections…well, town, of course. Why?”

“I have to issue a ticket.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Which planet are you from – Mars?”

“I don’t appreciate the sarcasm.”

“Huh. You should try doing this job. You wouldn’t last a day. We’re short of drivers, about 30 short. Why don’t you apply, see how long you last.” And more.

He then drove like a maniac around our precipitous and narrow streets, just missing a couple of cars, muttering about how the country had gone to the dogs.

This was another reason why I should never bus, I decided. We were, after all, just following city council advice to leave cars at home because half the central city was closed off for a street carnival and a Harley Davidson rally.

Never again.

busBut, yes, again.

And I’ve got to tell you – I was wrong, wrong, wrong about the bus.

The bus, I’ve discovered late in life, is a plush, comfortable, insulated, calm place where you can sit back, catch up on the day’s missed phone messages and texts, read, daydream, look at people, watch the view, think about nothing.

air hornAnd avoid stress.

The bus is a far less stressful mode of getting home from work in the 5 o’clock rush.

No more barely contained road rage, exasperation at the stupidly of every other driver.

suvOr blasting wayward cyclists and pedestrians with the Italian air horn I was forced to install in the toy car because of the SUV bullies.

Or dodging protruding cars badly parked in narrow streets.

magic_roundabout_2Or death-defying lane changes enforced by traffic engineers whose idea of traffic light design is as chaotic as an English roundabout.

And you can listen to the bus driver’s radio communications with base as other drivers describe their crashes and coming forward as witnesses for one another because “that guy cut right in front of you, Dennis. Saw it plain as day.”

And you’re dropped off right at your door. Like a massive taxi.

200px-SnapperCardAnd if you buy one of the electronic tickets (mysteriously called a Snapper Card), you avoid the interrogation that seems to come with a cash transaction.

The machine growls at you (“don’t forget to log off”), but after a couple of trips you know what it’s going to say, and that it will say this to everybody. Nothing personal.

There are a few downsides, admittedly.

Buses don’t keep to the timetable. Or, presumably in an effort to do just that, they pull up a street short of your stop and the driver announces that he will be resting there for six minutes.

The bus you’re after will often be pulling away from the stop while you watch from the other side of the street, trapped by a pedestrian light that’s red so your bus can leave without you.

The numbers are hard to read on some buses. The one I catch is one of them.

While every other route has a bus with a giant illuminated number that can be read a kilometre away, my Number 14 is indiscernible until its upon you. Which is a problem when it pulls up at the far end of a big line of other buses at the city bus stop where I catch it.Bus 3

And there is a kind of subtle community living in buses. They are people in the know. They know the bus driver and address him/her by first name. They spread themselves out on a double seat to ensure nobody else can sit beside them.

They nod to their fellow community members, talk little and in code, look vacant but grim, and resent a newbie who is, so far, as open to this new life experience as a first day student on a gnome-painting course. I will learn from them, I know.

But to the point: this is all part of my new, post-cancer surgery existence, an adjusted life that involves less stress (no more road rage), more vegetables and fruit (no more ham sandwiches from Mr Bun eaten over the keyboard), less red meat (more hormone-crammed chicken and mercury-laden fish), more exercise.

catnapGoing back to work has, of course, been stressful (no more cat naps in the afternoon), but things have started to settle back into a manageable routine.

It helps that in order to catch a bus before they’re crammed in the rush hour, I try to leave work just before 5pm, as opposed to the old 6pm.

I’m also being cosseted at home. Lin has lost her government job, but is enjoying some time off, which means I’m temporarily off the chef roster (and the washing, and toilet cleaning roster, as well).

I’ve also learned not to rush rehab. It’s taken all of the nearly three months since the prostatectomy to rid the lower abdomen of sensitivity to tighter clothing, to fully adopt the Billy Connelly advice “if you get a chance to have a pee, take it”, and to let nature take its course when it comes to the intimate stuff.

buslaneSoreness after that was also a problem for a while. The medics urge almost instant rehab, within three weeks of the op, but although I’m sure that’s based on sound research, it seems to me that rushing to try out equipment that’s had a helluva rough ride can be less than productive.

Meantime, it’s life in the bus lane for me.

I’ll never again swear at a bus stopped with its rear end sticking out into the traffic and holding up us, sorry you, motorists.

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