Dai John's Blog

Follow Dai's Experiences With Robotic Surgery...

The DaVinci Robot.

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Robotic Urological Surgery is commonplace throughout England, Europe and the USA, but is not available in Wales…

Introduction and pre op tests

Hi everyone,

David John here. I am a 55 year old just retired supermarket executive. 3 years ago I joined the Protec study at Cardiff University hospital because my Dad died of prostate cancer at the age of 76. Sal (my wife) and I nursed him for the last 3 months of his life, and as the cancer had spread to his bones his arm was broken in two places and ten days before he died be broke his hip. It is not an easy way to go, so I signed up to help research into this terrible disease, hoping to help others avoid this fate.

I was naively confident there was absolutely  nothing wrong with me. I am an ex rugby player but have kept fit since retirement from rugby by running, cycling and swimming. Sure, I worked long sometimes stressful hours, but like a lot of us men I was in the “invincible” mind set- it will never happen to me. So it came as a shock when in the early Protec study my PSA was 4.1, and I was duly summoned for a biopsy. Now I had read what this involved and was not looking forward to it- and it lived up to my expectations. However the discomfort passed, as did the blood in urine and semen. The worst bit was waiting for the results, as I was working in Leicester at the time, so it was 6 weeks before I had chance to see Prof Kynaston at Cardiff. He kindly explained that I did not have prostate cancer but there were suspicious cells identified, and he recommended I had another biopsy. I cannot explain the blind (now stupid in hindsight) reaction I had. I only heard what I wanted to hear- I had not got prostate cancer. The fact that an eminent urologist wanted me to have further tests sailed through my psyche, mainly because I didn’t want my backside violated again. The professor said that if I was determined not to have further biopsies I should have my PSA tested every 6 months, and as soon as it went above 4.5 I should return post haste.

The 3 years that followed brought 6 monthly terror awaiting for the dreaded PSA test results- but blow me down they went down! 4.1 to 3.5 to 3.1— heyup thinks me- I am in the clear. Then last May I came back from a cruise celebrating my retrement and went for my routine test albeit I had become blase, and had left it a year. When I had a phonecall from the GP when I was mowing the lawn, a cold fear struck me at the base of my stomach. The GP doesn’t phone if the results are OK. It was 7! Back to Cardiff to see the urology boys and girls. Cut a long story short, saw a lovely senior sister, who did the usual exams, and I was in next day for the dreaded biopsy. I knew what was coming, but this time it was 10 cores not 8. Still not a pleasant experience, but friends, it is well worth this discomfort to save you from the fate of my Dad.

Right- back for the results, almost again in the invincible mindset- but a deeper anxiety this time. Sitting in the waiting room was surreal- this can’t be happening to me- I am fit, healthy, all bodily functions at least 100%. The hammer fell. The sister told me I had prostate cancer, albeit in only 1 core of the 10. Treatment options are……..

So, 2 months on here I am. I did a lot of research into the options, and saw 3 expensive urologists to help me decide. I am going for robotic laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, which for the non medical boys is keyhole surgery removing the entire prostate gland with a robot called Da Vinci……. I hope it can cut like he could paint!!! The surgeon can see what he is doing via a 3 dimensional image on a screen Bit like sophisticated space invaders really- I hope my boy is top scorer!!

Today I am up for my pre op tests to make sure I am fit enough to survive the anaesthetic. Broadmead hospital Bristol, a 4 hour marathan. The operation is scheduled for September the 12th……

So I’ll let you know how I progress.

Pre Op Tests

Generally went OK apart from one major hiccup. First time we had been to Bristol Southmead and it was quite difficult to find. Then, when we got there, there was no where to park, so I arrived stressed out. Enough adrenalin to do credit to an international player just before kickoff. Consequently blood pressure much higher than usual. Went through all the other tests- ECG, Bloods, weight, height and interminable questionnaires, then back to blood pressure again. Gone down a bit but still not in the no problem zone. Then had a chat with the anesthetist, who wasn’t that concerned. I run about 3 miles every morning, and the only stress in my life at the moment is this bloody prostate. Popping down to the GP this afternoon hopefully chilled out! So, learning is boys, when going for pre op check arrive early and chilled out!

Operation is now a week on Monday.  I am understandably anxious as it is a major procedure and have never had anything done like this before. Broken nights sleep last night, but I am trying to put my fears into a box that analysis the alternatives. Also rationalising the statistics, which are on my side. Won’t blog again now until day before op to let you know how I feel.

Cheers all.

David

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I was naively confident there was absolutely nothing wrong with me…

Eve of the operation Sunday 11th September

Well the day will arrive tomorrow. It has been a strange week of anxiety mixed with looking forward to getting it all over with. Been important to keep things in perspective- the prognosis from this procedure is excellent with my stage of prostate cancer. The potential discomfort of the procedure (which is currently imagined not real) is a small price to pay for peace of mind and extended good health and a long happy retirement.

So I hope I sleep reasonably well tonight with the trepidation in check. I have to be at the ward for 7.30 am tomorrow so it is going to be an early start- no going back now, but I am sure this is the right decision. Will update you as soon as I can on how things have gone, and my experiences of the operation itself.