It’s a week since my radical prostactomy, my fourth day at home and I have settled into a routine of sorts. What occupies my mind most is pain. Ironically, it is not so much pain from the surgery as that from a different operation, over four decades ago.
When I was one or two years old I had surgery for a hernia. I have no recollection of it, just a long scar on my abdomen, to the left of my brand spanking new scar. My abdomen is still swollen following my prostatectomy but it is very lop-sided, with most swelling on the right. It seems that 42-year-old scar tissue is not as flexible as ordinary skin and muscle. There is a pronounced dimple along half the length of the old scar, where tissue is being pulled and stretched, resisting the swelling and causing considerable pain as a result. If it were not for this, I would actually be relatively comfortable. It’s just my luck that something which never bothered me before flares up now! Hopefully, when all the swelling has gone this issue will go with it. But I have an awful dread of needing further abdominal surgery at a later date.
Pain in around the prostactomy wound is worst when I laugh, cough or sneeze. The pain hits me in the whole abdominal area on these events but sneezing the worst. I feel a strange sensation like a burst of heat within the wound when this happens. It only lasts a second or two but the stinging pain in the old scar area continues for several minutes afterwards. I have become adept as suppressing sneezes but if there’s one in there it has to come out sooner or later. The knowledge of this and the anticipation of it is terrible. I like to think I have a pretty high pain threshold, making a distinction between pain and tolerable discomfort. This is definitely pain and it knocks me for six every time. If this is what a caesarean section feels like, I have a renewed respect for TLC and other women who’ve had sections. It is no joke, I can tell you!
Coughing causes the pain as well but it’s not as severe and I’m getting used to controlling it. The first thing to cause coughs are phlegm in the lungs. I’m like a cat bringing up a furball now, coaxing it out gently instead of ejecting it decisively. I’m sure it’s not a pretty sight or sound and it must be testing TLC’s patience. It still hurts but not as much. The second cause of coughing is something hitting the back of my throat. This is as bad as sneezing and is caused by the most innocuous things like eating toast! Yesterday, I must have been inhaling as I raised a slice of toast to my mouth and a crumb came off it and hit me where it hurts, causing an involuntary cough I wasn’t ready for. I nearly went through the roof!
Laughing causes pain too but it’s the kind of pain you don’t mind so much. It’s like trying to suppress a laugh at a funeral and is all the more enjoyable for it, in a perverse way.
Thinking about it now, I’m attending a national prostate cancer seminar tomorrow and the first workshop I’m registered for is ‘Laughter Therapy’. Maybe that wasn’t such a wise choice, nine days following major surgery. What the hell! It’s the one I wanted to go to so I will. The full day seminar will be my first big excursion from the house since leaving hospital and I’m a little apprehensive about it. Taking my meds on time and getting to drain Cathy (my new name for my catheter) will play on my mind somewhat I expect. But I’m sure there will be many like me there, though probably not as soon after surgery.
On my second day home from hospital this week, I received a letter. It was from the hospital, informing me I have an appointment with a consultant breast surgeon! This was either an admin error or someone was taking the piss! On phoning the breast clinic, it transpires I do indeed have an appointment for a breast check, of all things. Apparently, men can get breast cancer as well. This was news to me and what a way to learn it! Wouldn’t that just be the cherry on the fucking cake, if it turned out I had breast cancer!