Editor’s note: This past summer, Garret Mathews learned that his PSA (a protein produced by the cells of the prostate gland) was dangerously high. The best course of action was a radical prostatectomy to remove the organ as well as surrounding lymph nodes. This was done Nov. 1. Mathews, 67, penned this essay during his recovery period.
The idea hit: Lots of guys around my age are staring at surgeries similar to the one I underwent. Perhaps, I reasoned, some might appreciate a bit of counsel from one who is still oozing from the procedure.
So here goes.
You should allow as much time as possible between diagnosis and surgery. This is in case you are not married. Post-operation, you will smell like the toilet at the bus station. It is imperative that you find a partner willing to have, to hold and to change your catheter bag.
The first time you go out to a restaurant you will eschew the smaller leg casing in favor of the full-sized urinary catheter. You will smugly think you have fashioned a purselike sack that will hide the offending 2-foot tube that, often, is more red than yellow. A woman at the next table will notice and start to gag. You will duck out before the waiter arrives. Lesson learned. Attach the leg bag.
Let’s talk pain. You will experience bladder spasms. It will feel like someone — or something — has issued the order to squeeze to kill. If you even think about doing 3 percent of a situp, your lower abdomen will seize up and surrender to the other side.
Let’s talk discomfort. The surgeon will install a drainage tube in your side. It looks like a plastic grenade, dangles by the side of your leg and is designed to fill up with vile-looking matter that otherwise would have its way with your body. My Ooze-O-Meter, as I call it, often collected as many as 450 milliliters (way too much) over a 24-hour period. As you can imagine, the area was very tender and swollen. It’s better now, but if someone touches it, understand in very certain terms, I will take you out.
You will brag. A man watched me walk up and down some hills at a park not far from where we live. "Bravo, sir. You are truly a credit for a fellow your age," he gushed. "Thanks, mister," I replied, "but imagine my heightened performance WHEN I RECOVER FROM HAVING A BROWN SPACE WHERE MY PROSTATE USED TO BE."
Your urologist will say you can’t drive for at least a week following the cut job. This is bogus. I was southbound and down on Day 5. Your urologist will say you shouldn’t approach your previous aerobic regimen for at least two weeks. Bull. I walked my usual 4 miles — albeit, in increments — on Day 6.
Like me, you can run 5 miles in under 48 minutes. Like me, you can do 100 pushups in 10 minutes. Like me, you are scared to death you will fall off the fitness bus during this prostate business and morph into the fat man on TLC who can’t get out of his bedroom.
Your urologist will say you can’t go to the gym until he says so. You will think, hey, the fool was wrong about driving and walking. What’s the harm of doing 15 minutes’ worth of light bending and stretching to make sure I stay off TLC?
Plenty. Your Ooze-O-Meter will spike. You will be dizzy. When you return to your car, you will not so much climb in the front seat as fall in. Listen to the guy on this one.
I’ll take your questions.
Will my catheter leak? Yes. See earlier reference to toilet at bus station.
As we speak, are your sheets soiled? I don’t want to talk about it.
Will my stomach make strange noises? Yes. You will sound like a cauldron.
How many days did you have to wear the catheter and Ooze-O-Meter? Twenty. We are becoming old friends.
How have you adjusted to wearing Depends? The only way possible. I get to experience being 88 years old without actually being 88.
How many times a day do you tell your wife that you love her? I try not to get below a dozen, 15 if she’s having trouble with the catheter.
Garret Mathews is a retired newspaper columnist who lives in Carmel, Ind.
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