Doctors call it “transurethral resection of the prostate,” or TURP for short. It’s a diagnosis handed me a week or two back as I began life in my 10th decade with stumbles, starts and full stops in what I refer to as the flood-control system in my 90-year-old body.
The stumbles and frequent starts weren’t bad, as long as there was a bathroom nearby. Annoying, but not without a sense of control when pressure demanded the floodgates open. Full stop was something else again, when all alarm bells were ringing but the gatekeeper wasn’t responding.
It was on such a day in early February that I reluctantly admitted to myself that not only were the triggers required to relieve increasing pressure not working, they had no intention of doing so. Functions that had operated for decades, without prompting, were in full revolt. The flood gate was closed — and I was in trouble.
I lifted the phone and called my old friend and travel companion Anne Beckett to ask for a ride to my doctor’s office. In deference to the gentlemanly rule that it is rude to mention a woman’s age, let me say Anne is younger than my 90 years — but not much. She lived 15 minutes’ drive away and was at my door in 12. And yes, I was counting.
She suggested we skip the doctor’s office and head straight for Royal Jubilee emergency — advice I willingly, wincingly, readily accepted. The waiting began, and so did the pressure. Stoicly I sat. In trouble but too stubborn or stupid to ask for help. Not so my newly recruited caregiver, who sought out a sympathetic nurse and explained that some speedy action was required. It was given – and never has a catheter been so willingly received.
And so the processes, which are expected to culminate in Victoria General surgery on April 14, began. Urologist Dr. Iain McCauley has explained that an enlarged prostate — first diagnosed 20 years ago — has now grown to a size where surgery is the best way to remove the blockage. He suggested that if all procedures are successful it could be another 20 years before the troublesome gland again closes the flood gates. I told him I would settle for 10.
The official title for the condition is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. A quote from a booklet advising me what to expect assures me: “Most men can be treated safely and effectively by coring out the inner prostate with a special instrument placed through the penis.…This operation is performed with an instrument called a resectoscope passed through the urethra.…the prostate core causing obstruction is removed in small pieces which are then flushed out of the bladder.”
It doesn’t sound like a gentle walk in the park, but I’m comforted by two sons — Stephen of the Vancover Sun and Mark of the Globe and Mail — who underwent major prostate surgery two or three years ago and are living happy, healthy and, most important, cheerful lives today. When I mentioned it was unusual for sons to run into prostate problems before their father, one of them quipped: “We always were a step ahead, dad. You just never knew.”
I don’t intend to make the next few weeks weekly progress reports, but with Victoria being a small town I thought it better to let readers know where I’m at health-wise before the rumour mill has me at McCall’s prematurely.
Over the next two or three weeks I have a pre-op chat scheduled with my family doctor, David MacNaughton, and, yes, I know I’m lucky and appreciative that I have one. He will check to see if I’m game fit, hand me over to an anesthesiologist with some guidance as to whether I opt for a spinal or general anesthetic, and what pills and potions I should stop or start taking before checking into Vic General April 14.
That check-in time of 7:50 a.m. is early for an old guy, and I would have preferred Jubilee for closer-to-home convenience. But they are only minor and inconsequential blips in what I think is an impressive health-care system.
Only one serious regret. I was scheduled to be in Cambridge, England, today visiting my granddaughter Claire, who is halfway through a year at Queen’s College. Plan was to show her the industrial Black Country streets where I was born. Then with her mum and dad in tow, a quick trip to the England and Scotland Border country, the Village of Hume and Hume Castle. Had to cancel for now, but it’s back on my bucket list for September when she hopes to graduate and I hope to be on hand to show her where some of her ancestors lived hundreds of years ago.