How (not) to pass out from a biopsy

Arland Benn

My GP was a progressive doctor who followed the book in checking me out for prostate cancer. This was back in the last century, 1998 to be exact, when I was 72. For the previous few years he had my PSA checked periodically, allowing for age, and when it hit about 10, he recommended a biopsy.

I well remember this first biopsy and the 6 arrow-like clicks (unlike the 10 or 12 today) shot into my prostate to grab a chunk. Afterwards I was told to sit outside in the hallway until I felt like going home. However, feeling a little faint, I moved around the corner where the pedestrian traffic was lighter and this 72-year old body was less likely to be seen if it did pass out. Well, it did anyway, and moments – or minutes later – I came to on the floor. Scrambling to my feet, still unobserved, I quickly exited the scene and went home.

About this time I saw a notice in the Citizen about the PCAO (as it was then called) Thursday monthly meetings. Feeling pro-active, I showed up and was loaned a kit with several books and a video, all of which I delved into.

The first biopsy was negative, however a few months later, I had another one - and did not pass out. Shortly after Christmas, I learned that 4 of the 6 samples were positive. Not too much of a surprise, however, unwelcome. I don’t recall the options provided by my urologist other than “do nothing or take it out,” but perhaps he did mention radiation. He loaned me a couple of books, which favoured removal. My wife asked about his record on radical prostatectomies (a scary name) and he responded that he had done over 180 - successfully -with his oldest patient being 78.

Having read up on surgery vs. radiation, I pretty much based my decision to go with the prostatectomy on the basis that salvage surgery after radiation had a poor record of success. And so it was to be removal in a couple of months with injections of Zoladex and daily Casadex pills in between.

The operation went well, the surgeon found no surprises and I felt no pain whatsoever, even after sedation ceased.

There was a little postscript to this operation. When the catheter was finally removed, I found some restriction to the urine flow. Seemed like some obstruction in the penis, and so back to the hospital I went for day surgery.

The operating room appeared set for a full operation what with my urologist, the anaesthestist and a couple of nurses. As they all waited around for me to pass into oblivion, above their quiet chatter I heard music from the PA system, recognizable old hymn, “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide….” Had this been followed by “Nearer my God to Thee” I would have been out of there like a shot.

In a few weeks, I returned to normal with good urinary control. My PSA has stayed undetectable in the 12 years since. I have been fortunate in the outcome of my prostate situation and in meeting so many courageous and interesting people during 13 years with the association. I always come away with an upbeat feeling generated by men and their partners still facing their own challenges.

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My Prostate Cancer Journey - David Cook

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Of best times, biopsies, and Beirut phone booths

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