Monday 17th to Thursday 20th April 2023

Radical Prostatectomy at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

I found out on the 22nd of February that I have prostate cancer. I was phoned by Emma Peacock (what a great name for a specialist urology nurse) who gave me the news. After all the tests this did not take me by surprise. I received her letter (dated 22/2/23) confirming this on 28th Feb. The MRI scan showed no trouble outside the prostate, the biopsy gave a Gleason score of 1. That was great news.

The history to get to this diagnosis is as follows –

28 Oct 22 – appointment with locum GP (Mr Roy) about my scrotal hernia and to see if pills might help with an old man’s water-works problems. He was not interested in the hernia nor in my request for tablets to deal with benign prostate enlargement. He was concerned that no one had followed up three PSA tests above 6 when pre-COVID I had been 3.5. (He did refer me to general surgery for my hernia).

28 Nov 2022 – PSA test

20 Dec 2022 – phone consultation. PSA level now 8.1. Digital rectal examination at 5.00 with Dr Hutton in Invergordon County Hospital. He referred me to Urology.

10 Jan 2023 – Raigmore, Urology (Emma Peacock) 10.00 – urine flow test, digital rectal examination, ultrasound scan of prostate. She suspected something and advised to have my prostate removed when the time came for choices. She was excellent.

26 Jan 2023 – Raigmore, MRI scan, 5.20. It came as a bit of a shock to have a cannula fitted to my left arm, to be injected with Buscopan to relax my muscles and to be infused with Gadolinium (a dye) towards the end of the scan.

14 Feb 2023 – Raigmore, Urology, Biopsy (Brian Corr) 9.00. Not a pleasant experience though the staff were lovely.

03 Mar 2023 – Raigmore, Urology, meeting with Mr David Douglas, surgeon at 10.20. I was given the most encouraging news. This cancer will not kill me in the next 10 years. Because my PSA levels are still rising, the tumour can be felt and it occupies more than 50% of the prostate it is best to have it treated. I am to have a robotic assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy on the 17th April at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. 

When I received the letter for my appointment at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary the date was changed to the 18th April.

I put the following notes together mainly using my record of events from my diary and adding some memories.

17 April 2023

I did a lateral flow test before leaving for Aberdeen. This was not a requirement but we had some lying around and I was being a good citizen. It was negative.

It was a beautiful sunny day. Anne and I left for Aberdeen at about 10.30 and picked up diesel at Tesco in Inverness. We then drove onto Nairn where we went to Home Bargains and Sainsburys for supplies and bits and pieces for our picnic. We stopped in Forres at Grant Park on Victoria Road for our lunch picnic. We walked up to Nelson’s Tower. We stopped in Keith and went for a wee walk by the distillery. We stopped in Huntly for an ice-cream. We arrived at the CLAN Cancer Support Centre about 4.30 and were given our very nice room. We walked down Westburn Road to LIDL where we picked up microwave meals for our tea. We rested and then went for a long walk down to Union Street passing the Free Church on Rosemount Viaduct on the way. A lovely evening. Today would be the last time I would drive for a month.

18 April 2023

A day of beautiful sunshine. I did not sleep well at all. The CLAN Centre was quite noisy in the night. We walked up to the hospital, about a mile away, and arrived there 15 minutes early. I signed in at the Department of Scheduled Admissions. A nurse came for me at 10.00 and Anne had to leave. I was seen by two nurses, the theatre sister, the surgeon and the anaesthetist before surgery.

Here is where you see the goodness of God and prayers being answered. I could not understand why my appointment was changed to the 18th. Mr Douglas told me that one of the operations planned for the 17th did not go ahead because a bed was not available. I would have gone out my mind if that had happened to me. I do feel sorry for the poor man yesterday who would have, like me, built himself up psychologically for the procedure.

It was a long wait by myself in a wee room. I had to change into elastic anti-embolism socks. That took some doing (as the month past I got used to it!). I also had to put on a hospital gown. I was taken for surgery at 1.30 being taken on a very surreal journey by the theatre sister. We walked past a lot of operating theatres and lots of people in green scrubs. Then I reached the theatre for my surgery. The bed or table for surgery was being warmed. It seemed very strange as there was a sheet over it which was rippling with a heater blowing under it. There were several nurses and the anaesthetist with his student. The two surgeons were at a consoles at the side of the theatre. Mr Douglas was training an Australian surgeon in the technique. I believe he fitted my ‘ports’. The theatre sister pointed out the robot that was to be used for my surgery. It was beyond the foot of the bed and seemed awfully big while I felt awfully small. The staff around me were so nice. I was aware of boots being put on my lower legs. This was to keep squeezing my legs during surgery to reduce the risk of blood clots. Electrodes were attached to my chest. The student anaesthetist told me there would a sharp scratch at my left hand while she fitted a cannula. Everything was well rehearsed. The anaesthetist then put a mask over my mouth and nose and told me to breathe in what was oxygen. I think it took maybe 10 seconds for me to go off, it was longer than I expected. I was aware of the bright light above the bed starting to rotate and then I was out.

I am aware of being in Recovery and of thinking a broom handle had been rammed up my bottom. I’m aware of being asked did I need a bed pan and refusing it. I dosed in and out of consciousness. I was next aware of the time at 5.30 when I got onto the ward. I do remember being wheeled in my bed to the ward on some magical mystery tour. Then I became aware of the two cannulas in my hand and the catheter coming out from under the blanket. I was also on oxygen. Oh dear!

It was a long evening and I dosed a bit. Anne came to see me in the evening. I don’t think I was great company. Painkillers were given orally. I was given some toast at around 9.00. I tried to eat it but could work up no saliva to chew or swallow it so I gave up. I did eat it in the middle of the very disturbed night I was to have but had to use a lot of water to get it down. Around 10.00 I became nauseous and dizzy but a nurse injected something into my cannula and that passed.

WhatsApp message to my family –

It has been quite a day but I’m through surgery, I’m out of recovery and in the ward. No nausea, no pain till I move. The catheter is awful and makes me think I need the toilet. At first it felt a broom handle had been rammed up me. It is getting easier. Mum has been to see me. So the op is passed and now it’s recovery. Thank you for your prayers which have been answered. I’m not good at showing affection but I love you all. The best family God could have given. Love you Dad

19 April 2023

I had a most awful night. It wasn’t because the bed was uncomfortable, it was very comfortable. The ward was so noisy and busy. I doubt I slept for an hour. There were 4 other men in the ward. Sean, across from me, had an accident while drunk falling on to his privates. He had had testicular cancer as a boy and had been fitted with a prosthetic testicle. The accident had forced this into his body and he was (unsurprisingly) in a lot of pain. Jim, an old man, was beside me. He had had a stroke and though this was a urology ward it was the only available bed for him. John Scott, from Shetland, was in the bed beyond Jim, by the window. Poor old Brian was in the bed across from John beside the window. As far as I can gather he was just there because of old age.

I managed to fall asleep maybe about 4.00 in the morning but got woken at 5.00 by Sean phoning his wife in the USA! ‘Hello darlin”! 

John was taken for surgery at 8.30 and I never saw him again. This was worrying because I was released at 4.30 so that was a long time in surgery. I do pray and hope it was successful. He had cancer in a kidney and was to have robotic surgery to remove the mid-part of his kidney and re-attach the two ends.

I was taken off oxygen in the morning and a nurse tried to get me up and walking but I felt a bit light headed so they left it. They said they would come back in an hour but didn’t. Eventually a nurse took me for a walk round the wards in the afternoon. I had already got up by myself for a wee walk to take a photo out the ward window.

Jim’s wife and two daughters came in to see him. He had been complaining to me that they stayed too long! At lunch he ate everything that was going. Some rice went down the wrong way and then he had a major choking fit. His wife had to keep cleaning him up. I just had a bowl of pea and ham soup with some bread. I just had no appetite.

Observations of temperature and blood pressure were taken regularly throughout the day.

Anne came in the morning to see me. She then came late afternoon and helped me to get dressed. I was discharged at 4.30.

You get discharge papers from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary just like the Royal Navy!

A nurse took me in a wheelchair to the hospital main entrance. I phoned for a taxi and one was there almost immediately. The driver took us to the CLAN Centre. I was quite nervous being out of hospital just 24 hours after surgery. I have written in my diary that I was feeling terribly unwell. Anne heated a Scotch Pie for me, which is what I asked for, but I could only eat a bit of it. I also wrote – I hate the catheter.

Here’s the sick old man in a rather fetching hospital gown.

Jim’s bed beside me. John’s was beyond that. Brian was in the right corner.

Sean’s bed was across from my feet but he was taken away for a scan when I took this.

I managed to walk to the window and what a view to the sea.

WhatsApp messages to my family –

What a dreadful night. May have slept an hour. Nurses talked all night. Had blood pressure checked twice and my catheter checked 3 times. Person with horrendous cough coughed in a dreadful way all night. Snoring all round. Old man soiled himself and had to be cleaned. Old wifey shuffled up to outside my cubicle and was taken away by nurses saying ‘your not supposed to be up here you’ve got COVID’. And so on. I have just been taken off oxygen and had the smaller bag fitted to my catheter. The place is bursting into life. I had a pain free night. I feel it if I move. I have a stitch in my side and shoulder which Mr Douglas warned me of. It’s the carbon dioxide used to inflate me degassing. So we will see what the day holds. It is all interesting.

Hello I am out of hospital and back at the CLAN Hotel. I’m glad to be out of hospital but a bit nervous of coping without the hospital.

20 April 2023

I was up at 7.00 after a much better sleep. I was only awake for two hours in the night. I had a problem with the catheter kinking and blocking which made me feel very uncomfortable. In the morning both bags, the leg bag and the night bag were full to bursting! That never happened again. This was another beautiful day. I shaved and had a terrifying shower but it did make me feel much better. Poor Anne had to do so much. She had to pack the cases and load the car. She had to get my elastic socks on and tie my shoes. We went and paid the bill and left at 9.45.

Anne had to drive and she headed out to the A96. Once out of Aberdeen it was plain sailing. We stopped at ASDA in Huntly and went to the cafe there. I had juice and a scone. I was thrilled. It just seemed a normal thing to do. Anne went to do some shopping and I just sat in the window in the sun thanking God. I then went for wee walks up and down the car park. I have been told to keep walking to stop blood clots. We stopped in Forres at Grant Park and went for a wee walk across the grass to the pavilion and back. We then had a picnic on a bench by the children’s play area. We then went on to North Kessock where we had another wee walk. We arrived home about 2.30.

I wrote in my diary – ‘I am improving but feel very fragile’. Hugh was here over from Stornoway. He was very helpful but less sympathetic! Charlie called in. Mairi and Graham called in. It was a joy to see them all. My children are the best. I kept going for wee walks round the house but was very lazy. I also wrote in my diary – ‘I was able to have a bowel movement’. That is a major step. Hugh went to David and Kirsty’s for tea and spent the evening with them.

WhatsApp messages to my family –

I had a much a better night. I was awake for two hours but compared to previous two nights, bliss. I had a problem with the catheter not draining due to a kink which made me very uncomfortable. I’m glad to be through the night without the hospital. It was a concern. I have discomfort, I wouldn’t call it pain. Which is amazing. It will be good to get home.

I’m home. We stopped at ASDA in Huntley and had something to eat in the Café. Then stopped at Forres. Had picnic lunch in Forres. Then stopped at North Kessock. Each time we stopped I had a wee walk (very wee). It is good to be home. God is good.

Our room at the CLAN Centre. You can see I was watching ‘Frasier’.

The CLAN Centre.

To my horror I found out I had to give myself an injection of Fragmin each day for a week. I did it in my belly – plenty of fat to get the needle into! It was not sore but it was a real thought to stick a syringe needle into your belly. I’m pathetic – it was a very small needle.

The spent syringes had to be returned to our local pharmacy.

I was on a catheter for 10 days. That was not the best. I had a small day bag which was changed a week later. I had to connect a larger bag in tandem with the day bag for the night.

And added to all that I had to wear anti-embolism socks for a month, day and night. I was given six pairs instead of the suggested two, which was great.

By Sunday the 23 April I was walking 3 miles a day.

Ten days after surgery –

27 April 2023

WhatsApp messages to my family –

The catheter is out and I have managed to pee. I am leaking a bit. But it’s so good to get it out. I am in a bit of discomfort. I’m sure another week will make a difference. I don’t know when I’ll be let out but mum is with me.

13:50 I’ve been released 😁🤸Now I’ve to build up and get continent. Thank you all for being so caring. God is good.

14:41 I am home and managed a big pee when I got in the door. I’m a bit like a 2 year old being potty trained. It is wonderful to get the catheter out. Where it’s been is a bit uncomfortable but that should ease soon. I’m on the mend.

03 May 2023

Just two weeks after being released from hospital I’m strong enough to go with Anne to Shandwick and walk along the ‘Path of Good Health’. We had a picnic in the car. Just lovely. It is just wonderful at present to be content with small things.

It is wonderful to see the Spring flowers.