It’s been six weeks since my robotic-assisted (da Vinci) radical prostatectomy, that is, the surgery that removed my cancerous prostate. My employer has allowed me to work from home for the last two weeks and next Monday I return to working from my office. I have been aware for a little while that the surgery and recovery stage of my cancer journal needed an update. I reread my earlier posts to the journal and to log in and say, “it’s done” seems not just anticlimactic, but some how to short-shrift those who have followed along. But that is the reality: it’s done.
The hospital we chose to deal with is probably one of the finest we have had opportunity to be associated with. The pre-op/registration appointment meant that we had all the paperwork and testing done the week before surgery. On surgery day we arrived about an hour-and-a-half before the scheduled surgery time. We waited only a few minutes before my wife and I were taken to a private room associated with the surgery center. Street clothes exchanged for the latest in open-back hospital attire; identity verified and double-checked; surgical procedure verified and double-checked; IV and monitoring attached. Just as the activity settled down, Pastor arrived. The staff gave us a good 15 minutes together. What comfort to hear God’s Word, to hear, that even in these circumstances that the Lord is faithful.
Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. (John 19:31–34)
As Jesus hung lifeless on the cross, He was preparing for His Sabbath rest in the tomb and His victorious resurrection from the grave on the eighth day. His battle was done. You are preparing as well, and before surgery it is natural to have anxiety, even fear. Put your trust in someone else’s hands. Your doctors will work to bring you health and healing. However, remember that you have already received better care than any earthly doctor could give.
Jesus Christ is the great physician of body and soul who will work through your doctors and nurses and medicines to bring physical healing. This same Jesus allowed the soldier to pierce His side that He might pour out the fountains of life for you. His holy water washes you in Baptism, and His holy blood feeds you at His altar. Even amid your trial and tribulation, look to Christ. See His pierced side and behold the medicine of immortality. You are healed, both now and forever.
Lord God, heavenly Father, may the water and the blood flowing from Jesus’ side on the cross that healed the whole creation now heal this, Your loved one, in both body and soul; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. (Visitation, CPH 2008. 95)
Soon the room was again awash with activity as those who were to be involved with the surgery itself started checking in: surgical lead nurse, anesthesiologist, and finally my doctor himself. All is ready, now is the time: a handshake from my friend and Pastor, a last kiss with my wife, “I love you.”
Peace. Really I was at peace with whatever would happen. No matter the type of surgery there is always risk. No one expected any problems, no one wished for anything less than the best outcome, but should I not wake up again in this life, that was okay. Having done all that we could, I handed the rest over to the capable and loving hands of God. He would work out His will for me through the hands of doctors and nurses, and that was all right. I was at peace.
Surgery took about 3 ½ hours, during the course of which I lost my prostate, seminal vesicles and a couple of lymph nodes. The initial pathology done on the lymph nodes while I was in surgery indicated no spread of the cancer. That, together with the visual inspection of the prostate gave the surgeon the confidence to proceed with the plan to spare the nerve bundles on both sides of the prostate.
Two days later I was home. Six weeks later I am returning to work, the last puzzle piece to returning to a regular routine. Except for the six new scars on my belly, it is almost like nothing happened. The reality is that there a lot of fine stitches on the inside—bladder, blood vessels, and nerves secured in different places—and I must stay on my guard to not over do and allow for all the healing to continue over several more weeks.
The pathology of the prostate showed a slightly elevated incidence of cancer than did the biopsy, but in the end it was all removed. Barring the cancer raising its ugly head in the future, no further treatment is indicated. In a couple of weeks I will take the first post-op PSA test and it is expected that the level will be <0. The post-op appointment and blood test results are scheduled for the day before my fifty-first birthday. I anticipate that we will be celebrating being cancer free, being a cancer survivor.
There are certainly some life lessons that I will take away from this journey. While this leg of the journey certainly may be done, the journey itself is not over. The Lord has used this awful disease in ways I already know, and in ways that may not yet be apparent. While we have had a good and solid marriage, dealing with this cancer has retuned to us a tenderness borne of deep discussions that hadn’t been part of our conversations for, well, probably before children, or before embarking on the return to school that lead to the call into the public ministry. Known to hold hands when we walk together, I find we touch a little more, cuddle a little more.
Perspective is another gift of the cancer journey. Probably like most males, my self-identity is hooked into my work. Six weeks away from work. I’ve never taken six weeks away from my work. I have come to realize that work is not only the tasks that make up the job but also the people with whom I work. The relationships are nearly as important for being successful in my work as is completing the tasks. And here’s another: as important as my work is, my time away from work is equally as important. The time outside of work needs to be carefully guarded and used. It is in this time outside of work that I can attend to my relationship with my wife and family, recreate, and attend to the several other interests that make life varied and interesting. Now that the largest chunk of my schedule will again drop back into place, it will be important for me to find the means that will allow this fresh perspective to create a healthy balance for my life.
So, I thank God for my cancer. I thank God for the changes that I have seen and the changes that I cannot yet so clearly discern or to which I cannot adequately give voice. Those who have followed my journey through these writing, those who have prayed on my behalf, now thank God with me for using this prostate cancer for my good. And thank you, so many of you, brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, for your prayers, thank you for your many messages, your tender thoughts and good wishes.
Now, its time to move forward—off to the next leg of this journey called life. May it be less eventful than the last.
Other posts in the Prostate Cancer Journal can be found under Categories in the sidebar of this blog.