The healing process related to the expected period of incontinence following a radical prostatectomy is a very strange one. I freely confess that I do not understand the mechanism(s) involved. Given that, during the two weeks immediately following my operation, my bladder’s sphincter muscle was clamped around a catheter pipe the diameter of which approached that of an HB pencil, I can easily see why there would be a (hopefully) temporary loss of continence but I don’t comprehend the restoration process.
Were I attempting to approach this medical issue logically, I would have thought that once the sphincter “remembered” how to close fully following its catheterial [Ed: new word coined] disturbance, that would be it – continence restored. I’d have been wrong.
Any movement towards the restoration of normality is very gradual. The process is so gradual that I haven’t noticed any change on a day to day basis. Actually, to be more accurate, I haven’t noticed improvement on a day to day basis. There have been days, though happily only about two or three, when I’ve noticed a deterioration giving me the unhappy feeling that my condition had regressed somewhat. Such days were low points mentally and it was difficult to remain positive. These didn’t last, though. I could attempt to blame alcohol which, if I remember my Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy correctly, is an effective muscle relaxant.
No, to detect an improvement it is necessary to think back one or two weeks.
The process began, immediately after having been sent home sans catheter, by my leaking whenever I was standing up. I’d leak my way to the loo. Certainly any jobs around the house, such as coffee making, had to be performed from the security of a bar stool.
The first noticeable milestone – well, yardstone [Ed: there’s another new word] – was managing to get to the loo, a distance of about 20ft/4m, without leaking. Getting out to the car, about twice that distance, was not possible without “a little accident”.
The next stage was noticing getting downstairs to the kitchen in the mornings, apparently cleanly, and that I now could make it to the car. As long as I didn’t overdo it, I could now stand for some of the coffee making process before having hurriedly to resume my perch on the bar stool.
Washing up is nobody’s idea of fun but, when hadn’t been able to do it, realizing that I now could stand at the sink and complete a small pile of washing up without my bar stool safety net was quite a thrill. “Yikes, I couldn’t have done that a week ago”, is the kind of phrase that spins through the mind.
Monday last week was one of those mercifully infrequent low days that I mentioned; having been making progress, I suddenly seemed to be leaking at the drop of a hat again, relatively. I’ve never regarded shopping for anything other than food and booze as an exciting pastime but, later that week, I had recovered from my bad day and found that I made it around IKEA with little in the way of trouble. It may not be a hike out in the open air but it’s a significant distance around that megastore. I was very pleased. (There is a section at the end of the tour selling Swedish foods so maybe that lessened the shock of shopping.)
Earlier this week Carol suggested a visit to our local Stockgrove Country Park. Gulp! “OK, I’ll take my portable seat and see how things go.” I’m delighted to say that they went surprisingly well. I had my seat but didn’t need to deploy it. I felt a little “insecure” once or twice but essentially made it from the car park, down to and around the lake and back. Joy!
Yesterday was something of a rarity: a pleasant day in February. Few people regard washing a car as fun and I haven’t been able to entertain the thought since I went into hospital on 1st December, 2010. I couldn’t resist it yesterday, though; I was feeling reasonably secure and the draw of being out in some sunshine doing something useful was too much to resist. I even went on to clear up some leaves around the garden. Gardening – arghh!
So, here I am eight weeks downstream and what seems to improve, and improve very gradually, is the length of time/distance that control can be maintained. I’m also happy to note that the control is not now a case of clamping the ol’ pelvic floor/Kegel muscles though, if I do feel a little insecurity setting in, a quick clench often seems to sort it out. Why this process should be so gradual, though, I don’t know.
I suspect that, at some time, I may arrive at a point where I can go for a certain length walk but that I’ll then be able to keep going and not hit some invisible limit. Hopefully, the sphincter will not suddenly decide that it’s had enough and take a rest. When I am able to complete, say, a five mile walk, I’ll be overjoyed. At that point, I’ll be able to do pretty much everything that’s important to my lifestyle.