“Dick, Dr. Malone is on the phone and he wants to speak to you.”
“I do not like to give you this kind of news over the phone. The results of your biopsy indicate that your prostate is 65% consumed with cancer.”
My wife Helen has told me that her hand was on my shoulder during the phone call, but I did not recall. She is always there for me, a friend for 51 years, and wife for 48 years. I would not have made it without her.
I felt totally alone for the moment.
I thought of my mother Catherine, and asked for her help to get me thru this ordeal.
Whenever I ask her for help for a problem, the problem just disappears, as if it never existed. It does not need to be fixed. That is how I know she has helped. She always is a source of hope.
The month before during an annual physical my primary care physician, Dr. Southard had advised me that the results of a routine blood test indicated my PSA was up. He had set up a biopsy, just a routine precaution. We never anticipated these results.
I told Dr Malone that we were on our way to Naples, Florida for one month. We would be back in April and could we wait until then? He hesitated, but said yes as long as we could run the usual tests in Naples, bone scans, x-rays, etc. I said o.k. and hung up.
Rick and Julie’s garage which I was in the process of cleaning up would have to wait until later.
We went to Naples, FL., for our month, but we elected not to talk of this setback as all our friends were also there to have a winter break. We managed to keep our secret and enjoy our trip while getting required tests all done. The results were all normal. I learned about and performed my Keegle muscle exercises for bladder control. We scheduled the surgery from Fla.
Month over, we drove back north and had second opinion, blood donation, whatever else is needed. The dreaded day, of course, came. We arose very early. Might as well get up. No sleeping going on anyway.
Think of Catherine, a source of hope.
We arrived at the surgical wing as instructed. Preps were done. I was lying on the hospital bed, with my loving wife Helen at my side, having the I.V. needle inserted into my hand by the anesthesiologist when I had a visit from my Guardian Angel and he assured me that all would be o.k. I got a feeling of extreme comfort and reassurance. A feeling like when your mother would comfort you when you were a child.
I asked Helen and the doctor several times if I had been administered any drugs at that time and the answer was always no.
I was wheeled into the operating room and the next thing I remember is the recovering room nurse saying “Breathe, Mr. Boulay, continue breathing “.
During the operation a catheter was inserted which would be with me for two weeks and a pump for self medication for pain which I used sparingly. I took my FIRST STEP that day, not pretty but effective.
Dr. Malone came in to see me and said, “The prostate popped right out, and I believe I got it all with the margin, and preliminary biopsy indicates that the cancer had not spread beyond the prostate. Therefore no chemo and no radiation. What really helped is that you are in good shape.”
My 300 sit ups, three times a week may have helped.
I had personally targeted to go home for the weekend, even learned to attach the portable catheter collection bag on my thigh.
Saturday, 6:00 A.M., two residents come by, checked my status and ask me if I want to go home. I called Helen and asked her to pick me up. It was a wake up call for her as well as Rick who had come in from Allentown. I placed the portable collection bag on my thigh, walked to the nurse station and told them that I was ready to go home. I think I got them upset because they escorted me back to my room. The two residents did not make it clear that I could go home, shift change and Saturday morning crew issue.
I called Helen at 7:00 A.M. and asked how come she was not at the hospital to pick me up.
Helen and Rick finally got there, and determined that I could go home, so, I threw my overnight bag onto the wheelchair and proceeded to walk out of the hospital.
Not so fast, not so easy. I was required to use the wheelchair. My son, the doctor and my wife, the person in charge, made me sit.
I spent the next two weeks recuperating with my catheter in tow and exercising my keegle muscle faithfully. It is now time to go back to the hospital for the catheter removal. Here I am lying on the real time x-ray table and the two doctors asking me, “Have you been exercising your keegle muscle?”
“Yes,” I replied. Just as I was replying yes one of them yanked the catheter out of my body causing severe momentary pain and severe burning and the second one yelled for me to tighten my keegle muscle.
For the next several minutes the keegle muscle was relaxed, then tightened. Relax. Flex. The result? I was continent. Both doctors congratulated themselves on their fine work. They told me to start walking as much and as far as I could. I started immediately by walking out of that hospital like a new man.
The next day I started walking around the cul-de-sac. Then down the street and back up that steep hill, I almost did not make it back, had to sit many times, never told anybody either. I was walking three miles a day after four weeks, and never looked back. Aimee brought Catherine for visits. Lauren and Carolyn called often. They were an inspiration for full recovery. It has been 8 years since my operation. I have four grandchildren, Lauren and Carolyn, Rick and Julie’s girls, and Catherine and Cameron, our daughter Aimee and Shawn’s children. Cameron, the only boy. is the youngest, 5 years old, and I plan to see him and the girls graduate from college some day.
Nevertheless, recovery remains a daily issue. I know I am physically all better but emotional scars are deep. I came face to face with the killer. I won. I keep working out and loving Helen so that I can stay in shape. I also go fishing, play tennis, swim. For these ski trips with Rick, I must continue strength training in order to keep up with him. The picture of Rick and I at Snowbird Mountain inspired me to write this story.
Helen has commented that I place much emphasis on technical information, and less on the emotions of illness and healing. I say men immediately start a thought process on how to solve a problem. We work only with the tangible. Get better. Move on. Stay strong. Easier said than done. None of us men or women, admit that the darkness of depression looms. We fight for a happy frame of mind, a bright horizon . We make it happen. We all work hard to keep a smile on our faces. In the end, it is our attitude that makes each day worth living.
Need less to say, my mother Catherine has influenced and inspired the whole family, she is always with us. When the grandchildren were infants, she made us know that she would be there for them. She is always there for them, but this is a story for another time..
Richard E. Boulay, Dad