COMING BACK FROM HELL
|Few days after the surgery. Photo by Zina Tamang|
There’s a saying, “If the sky falls , we shall catch larks," but for me, when the sky suddenly fell on the night of May 3rd, I caught a prostate problem. A lark would have been much nicer. My mother was leaving for Nepal on the 6th, and she was worried about me. I felt a little sorry that she’d have one more thing to worry about on the airplane.
Anyone who has experienced an enlarged prostate knows how painful it is to not be unable to urinate. It was a sudden onset for me, and once the trouble started, I went through countless visits to the urologist and three times to the emergency room. My first ER visit was to Elmhurst Hospital where I went in a car service. Usually the emergency room means a long wait but a nurse helped me quickly, and I was very relieved thanks to a catheter bag. In the following days I saw a private urologist, who said I must wear the bag for about ten days. When it finally came out, I was okay for a couple of days but then the trouble returned. My second ER visit was to Mount Sinai Hospital in upper Manhattan, which I didn’t find any better than Elmhurst. In fact, Elmhurst was even a bit more efficient, so when it came time for the third ER visit, that’s where I went, back to Elmhurst. By the time of my second visit to the ER, I was also constipated, and nothing helped relieve that until I tried regular old prune juice, which did help some. But the doctor told me later that constipation was related to my prostate problem.
Eventually, I started getting a little more used to wearing the annoying catheter bag, but I made fewer public appearances than I usually do, and only in loose trousers or athletic training wear. Then I had an examination called a cystoscopy, which needless to say was very unpleasant, and following that the doctor decided I would need surgery. The surgery itself is done in the same way as the cystoscopy exam: not with an incision but through the pee-hole. Sorry to have to say it, but that’s what it was. Some people may find this unpleasant, and I certainly did too.
Throughout all of this, because I was still able to walk and do normal things, I didn’t feel completely sick. But then, when so many people started coming to pay me visits, bringing fruit and juices and bouquets of flowers, I started thinking, "Oh, I guess I really must be sick!".
Before the surgery, Karin Gustafson arranged through colleagues for me to get a second opinion from another urology specialist in Flushing. He examined me, and he gave me the green light to go ahead and have the surgery. I had it at Elmhurst Hospital on June 24th. We left home at 8:30 in the morning, and after endless visits to various nurses’ stations, they put me on a gurney with straps everywhere and wires and tubes, and my actual operation happened at about 1:00. I didn’t have to stay the night, but I didn’t get home until 9:00 or 10:00 that evening. The operation itself only took about an hour or so, but the anesthesiologist gave me a spinal epidural, which made me feel dead from the waist down. In my head I felt that I was moving my feet, but they were like stones. It took all afternoon for the effects to wear off. When we left the hospital I had no pain, because I was still numb, but a while after coming home, I started to feel it.
Most people know that the prostate is the size of a walnut when it’s normal. But when it gets enlarged to the size of a lemon, the urine gets blocked. Everyone has been telling me to drink lots of water. I try to drink more water than I used to, and lots of cranberry juice, too.
I decided to write this little piece and post it on my blog, not to publicize my health issues, but to offer awareness of this problem, to tell what I went through and finally—especially—to thank all concerned family members, friends far and near and the doctors and nurses at the hospital and clinics who healed me. My problem was no major thing like heart surgery or brain surgery, but by the same token, even a relatively small, non-life-threatening operation can feel like going through hell.
Before I knew for sure what it was, naturally the possibility of cancer crossed my mind, and how if that were what it was I’d have to accept it. I thought of former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani, for example, who went through prostate cancer and beat it. As it turned out, I was very fortunate and my problem was no fun, but it wasn’t cancer. And anyone wondering should know that I’m back to normal now. I’ll try to be vigilant in the future, and I would encourage all men, to have their prostate checkup regularly starting at age 50. And I encourage all the younger men to start drinking more water! And above all, if you have any indications that something is not right, such as difficulty peeing, do not ignore it. Be brave and go to the doctor.
Indra B. Tamang
Copyright Indra Tamang, 2013, all rights reserved.