Wednesday was a big day for me. It was 14 days since my radical prostectomy procedure and I had my catheter removed. Just in case you don't know what a catheter is, it is a plastic pipe that goes into your bladder and is connected to a bag, which allows your body to remove urine whilst your body recovers from the surgery. At the end bladder end of your catheter is an inflateable balloon, that, once in place, is inflated to ensure that the pipe doesn't come out.
When you have a catheter, you feel like you need a wee the whole time. The inflated bag tells your brain that your bladder is not empty. You get day bags and night bags. The day bag is a small bag that can hold half a litre of fluid. The night bag connects to this and contains 2 litres. There are stop cocks on both to allow you drain them. You tend to drain them as often as you drink, although the night catheter is emptied in the morning.
It is inserted under anaestehtic, so I've no idea what that sensation is like. When it is removed, the balloon is deflated and then it is pulled out. It is one of the more unpleasant sensations I've ever experienced. It is only painful for maybe half a second, but it is a horrible feeling. Once it is removed, you have to drink a litre of fluid over 2 hours, then urinate naturally, to the level where your bladder is empty (or functionally empty). There are two potential problems at this point. The first is that you can't urinate. If this happens, the catheter goes in and you will need further medical examination. The second, for men following a radical prostatectomy is that you are incontinent and have no bladder control.
I am pleased to report that my bladder function is almost normal. I've had no major accidents, just a few small dribbles. I'll be wearing pads until this stops. The other issue for men is erectile function. This is affected as the nerves that manage erections are next to the prostate. I had nerve sparing surgery, so theoretically, I will be able to get normal erections eventually if the nerves have not been affected. For me, this was a big deal, and informed my decision of surgeon. Professor Eden felt there was a good chance that the nerves could be preserved. After the op, he said the surgery went well. Apparently it can take up to three years for this function to come back, if it does. Thus far, there are no signs of life, but there is still a degree of soreness and bruising and so it is not abnormal. So fingers crossed.
The big question is how is my mental health following the procedure. The last six months has been extremely stressful. Once I had made my mind up to have the procedure, I've felt a lot better mentally. Now that the op is done, I feel that a cloud has lifted. Of course, there are many possibilities that may occur that will not be great. I probably won't know for a several years whether the cancer has definitely been despatched. I have a consultation on the 4th September with Professor Eden, where he will discuss things like pathology results. I will hopefully have a clearer indication then. That will, most likely, be the next installment of this blog. The other thing I have to still get my head around is the implications on my sex life of the changes to my body. Again, I will have a clearer idea after I've spoken to my consultant. It is early days. I've started to accept that my life may have taken a turn in a direction that I didn't want in regards to my sexual function. Of course it is early days at the moment, no conclusions can be drawn. I do however feel it is necessary to get your mind in the right place. The bottom line is that whatever will be. One way or another, I've got to live with that and get used to it. For now, it is fingers crossed.