Prostate: Unintelligent Design at Its Worst

Want a chuckle? No, want a belly aching guffaw? Check out the male urinary plumbing. You got a nice small tube running from the bladder out through the “you know what” to the outside world. Wrapped around┬áthat tube is the prostate gland, which grows and hardens over the years, squeezing the tube until nothing flows through the tube. I’ll bet you can imagine how much fun that is!

Go ahead and laugh, unless you are a man. Us guys can cogitate deeply on the realization that we were truly “designed” to last just 20 years or so, long enough to propagate our genes and get out of the way for the next generation.

Why, you may be wondering, am I writing this? Because I have been the butt [sic] of this cosmic prostate joke. In researching the T.U.R.P. surgery, I did not find many first-hand accounts. So, being pretty much the opposite of shy, I decided to fill that gap with not just one, but two, blog postings about T.U.R.P. This first posting is light on detail and completely family friendly. The next posting, Transurethral Resection of the Prostate (T.U.R.P.), is no-holds-barred and has all of the detail and explicit words that you might not want to explain to your grandkids.

Returning to the mainstream of this evening’s symposium:

I am a pretty normal mid-50s guy. For most of my life, I did the normal guy stuff, including walking into the bathroom, doing my stuff, and walking out a minute later (maybe less). Several years ago, “a minute” turned into “a couple of minutes.” I remember the time when a smart aleck in a restroom at a trivia night got tired of waiting for me to finish and cracked, “We can tell who’s prostate is acting up tonight.” I was a big boy, though. I walked out without saying a word to him. I could have placed my hand on his brow, bowed my head, and intoned, “Just you wait, sonny boy! Just you wait.”

I had developed Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or B.P.H. In plain English, B.P.H. means that your prostate is big, they don’t know why, and it is not cancerous. The urologist sent me home with some pills which would help my prostate relax a bit, thereby reducing the time that I had to spend in bathrooms.

Fast forward a few years. During the intervening time, my B.P.H. got worse (as it always does) and my urologist entertained me with comments like, “You’re awfully young to have this large a prostate” and switched me from drug to drug to drug to drug. Some of the meds had entertaining names, reminding me of mufflers that teenage boys should put on loud cars. My favorites were Flomax and Rapaflo. How can a gearhead like me not like taking something like that? Easy: because Rapaflo has a $75 co-pay and without it, I could not pee! But I digress. (Don’t get me started on the US health insurance industry.)

By last fall, I was spending a lot of time in bathrooms and I realized that I had reached the end of what the drugs could do for me. The only solutions remaining were surgical and that gave me the willies. I mean, honestly, what man wants surgery “down there?” I put off the surgery. My symptoms got worse. I put off the surgery. I got to where I was limiting the amount of liquids that I would drink and I was still spending even more time in bathrooms. I put off the surgery.

In January, my wife and I went on a cruise. (Fantastic experience. If you haven’t been on a cruise ship, go! You’ll love it.) As luck would have it, my B.P.H. symptoms worsened to the point where trips to the bathroom were completely futile. Nothing would come out but a few drops.

Guess what happened then. I got to find the medical center on the cruise ship and meet the nice doctor and the nice blond nurse with the sultry South African accent. You know you are not having fun when you are a straight guy and there is a sultry blond poking around below your waist and you don’t even care because all you want is for relief from an overly full bladder! The doctor inserted a urinary catheter, zinged my credit card, and sent me hobbling on my way, feeling thankfully relieved.

Getting through the TSA checkpoint for the flight home was amusing. My catheter ran into bag that had more than three ounces of urine in it. Stupid me; I neglected to remove the collection bag and place it in on the belt running through the x-ray machine. I explained to the TSA guy that I had a urinary catheter. He motioned vaguely to the bag strapped to my shin (inside my pant leg) and asked if I was sensitive to touch. I said, “I am here (pointing to my crotch) but not there (pointing to the bag).” He decided not to grope me and sent me to a second guy with a big machine for further processing. The second guy swabbed my palms, consulted the oracular machine, decided that I was not a threat, and sent me on my way.

That day, I learned to appreciate wheelchairs in airports. My wife was an angel and pushed me out to the departure gate and, upon arriving back home, got another chair and pushed me down to baggage claim. When you have a catheter, walking (or moving your legs) is generally something to be avoided. Walking long distances, like in airports, is definitely something to be avoided. When I did have to walk, I took small, slow steps. It was painful but manageable. And at least I did not have to pee all the time.

Three days later, I got in to see my urologist. He removed the catheter, agreed when I opined that it was time for me to have the T.U.R.P. (transurethral resection of the prostate) surgery, and sent me away with, “I just hope you can pee.”

The surgical prep was by far the worst part, followed by general anxiety about surgery and general anesthesia, followed by worry about potential bad side-effects from the T.U.R.P. The prep involved a “low residue” diet for two days (no fruits or vegetables), followed by a clear liquid diet for one day (even bullion and Jell-O had to be diluted with extra water), followed by nothing at all on the day of surgery. Did I mention Epsom salts? You get to drink those on days two and three. Great laxative. Tastes absolutely horrible. A spoonful of honey after the Epsom salts is essential. I would love to know who tried drinking Epsom salts in the first place. What ever made someone think it would be a good idea?

The surgery was the easy part. I was asleep. No problem. ’nuff said.

Recovery has been much better than I had dared hope for. I was in some pain in the recovery room but the nurse fixed that with good drugs. By bed time, I was a achy and my nurse brought me a Vicodin. I never had any pain after that. I am not being a tough guy and minimizing anything. I truly have not had any pain.

I went home from the hospital, with a new catheter (my third in two weeks), just 21 hours after my surgery began. My urologist told me to remove the catheter the next morning and, when I wakened at 5:30am, I figured it was morning so out it came.

I was given some Pyridium to relieve stinging when I urinated. I took that for three days and then stopped, to see how I would feel. No problem. As I write this, it has been two weeks and I have not even been tempted to start again.

I have been lucky with regard to side effects, too. I am not experiencing any incontinence or dribbling. As far as I can tell, other functions are functioning normally, though my urologist says don’t even think about “it” for at least 4-6 weeks. Sigh.

I slept a lot for the first three days that I was home. Now, two weeks into recovery, I feel pretty much normal, though I still get serious nap attacks.

If you, or someone you know, is having prostate troubles, get to a good urologist and get the good drugs. They help and can make you much more comfortable for a long time. If you run through all the drugs, do not fret about a T.U.R.P.

Want to know a lot more detail about my experience? Click through to this blog post: Transurethral Resection of the Prostate (T.U.R.P.). Here’s to your good health!