Tag Archives: da Vinci surgery

One year later, all is well

Biking by Bruce Stambaugh

A year after prostate cancer surgery, I am enjoying regular activities like biking with my family.


By Bruce Stambaugh

A year following my prostate cancer surgery, all is well. It’s hasn’t been a totally uneventful recovery. It certainly could have been worse.

I am extremely glad to be able to say “cancer free.” And yet, I do so with humility, appreciation and the realization that too many people never get to utter those precious words.

Men tend to be pretty squeamish even just thinking about prostate issues, much less talking or writing about them. That’s mainly due to the two unspeakable potential side effects, incontinency and impotency. Because of those two potential consequences, some men unfortunately never return to their doctor once they have been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Father and sons by Bruce Stambaugh

My older brother, Craig, my late father, Richard, and I all had prostate cancer.

I wasn’t surprised at all when I received the word that I likely had prostate cancer. My older brother had had robotic prostate cancer surgery 18 months before my own diagnosis. Our father had died of the consequences of prostate cancer after a 17-year battle.

It was this family history and the marked vigilance of my good doctors via annual, then semi-annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing that kept the possibility of having prostate cancer at the forefront of my medical exams. I am forever grateful for that watchfulness.

In the months before and after the surgery to remove my cancerous prostate, I received invaluable advice from friends and strangers alike regarding their personal experiences. I also read and researched as much as I could.

Veggie pizza by Bruce Stambaugh

A healthy diet is essential to good health, especially if you have or had cancer. This homemade veggie pizza is both colorful and healthy to eat.

Months after my surgery, a government sponsored panel recommended that regular PSA tests be discontinued as a way to monitor for prostate cancer. That conclusion was based on what was determined to be an overuse of the test and subsequently a high rate of prostate biopsies.

Without either the PSA tests or the conclusive biopsy, I could only guess today whether I had prostate cancer or not. I exhibited no symptoms. When my PSA steadily rose over the course of nearly two years to beyond the danger threshold, I was given a relatively new medical test, called PCA3, that was 90 percent accurate whether it returned negative or positive.

I remember exactly when and where I was when I received the call that my test was positive. It’s the kind of news that one never forgets, like where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001 or December 7, 1941. This was my personal 9/11.

Yet here I am today, alive and well and steadily overcoming the after effects of the surgery. Last November, I had a non-prostate related second surgery that dramatically impeded my recovery. True, left untreated the prostate cancer would not have killed me by now, perhaps never.

Grandchildren by Bruce Stambaugh

This picture was taken just three months after my da Vinci surgery. My wife and I were already traveling with and enjoying the grandchildren.

The biopsy determined that my cancer was the same moderately aggressive type that my brother and father both had. I leaned heavily on my older brother for advice, especially once I decided to move ahead with the robotic surgery, called da Vinci. It’s a surgery that is less invasive, less painful, causes less blood loss, has a quicker recovery than regular radical surgery, and focuses on nerve sparing to lessen the manly issues of being impotent and incontinent. Implanted radioactive seeding or direct radiation were my other options, both with similar long-term side effects that I deemed undesirable.

Through marvelous treatment and care by my doctors, and proper diet and exercise, I have survived. At this point in time, I am ahead of the curve on the two “big” side effects. They are only occasional and manageable inconveniencies. With the cancer out of my body, I don’t ever have to worry about prostate cancer again. No medical test can measure that satisfaction.

I cherish the words “cancer free.” I only wish every cancer victim could say them. Until then, I’ll keep telling my story to whoever will listen. If doing so helps save just one life, it all will have been well worth it no matter what the experts say.

Dewy web by Bruce Stambaugh

Being cancer free, I try to cherish whatever each day brings, even the dew on a spider’s web.


© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Reflecting on an unhealthy year

January sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

This hasn’t been the healthiest year of my life. It began in January with bronchitis that turned into pneumonia and has ended with recuperation from a second surgery.

In between, of course, came the confirmation of prostate cancer. I had to endure uncomfortable tests to determine both its presence and infiltration into my body. Fortunately, the cancer was caught early, and removed without major complications.

Helping hands by Bruce Stambaugh

My good wife braved the cold winter elements to fill the bird feeders while I was sick.


I chose the robotic or da Vinci surgery to get rid of the cancer as opposed to the regular radical surgery. The da Vinci was proven to be less intrusive, cause less pain, have less blood loss, be more exact in saving the bundle of nerves that control men’s precious plumbing, and have a quicker recovery.

I was more than glad I went that route. Of course, like anyone else facing surgery, especially surgery for cancer, I ran the full gamut of emotions that ranged from anger to fear to doubt to denial. Still, I wanted that cancer out of my body. My good doctor expertly did just that.
Bluebird by Bruce Stambaugh
After the surgery, I knew I had to behave and follow the instructions religiously. With the aid of my wonderful wife, I did my best to get my life as close to being back to normal as possible.

My recovery was progressing along nicely until I had an unexpected sidetrack, which led to my second surgery. Repairing a hernia certainly isn’t life threatening, but it did set me back considerably in my initial rehabilitation from my May surgery.

Kids and balloons by Bruce Stambaugh

My grandchildren did their best to keep me smiling.


The second surgery was also successful, and once again my recovery has gone well. I still have some lifting limitations that I tried unsuccessfully to get the doctor to extend for six years.

All that being said, I tried to keep my focus on others. Clearly, many, many people in this socially connected world of ours have had or do have it much worse off than me. The last thing I wanted was to feel sorry for myself. But I did. I’m a man. What would you expect?

Mom's birthday by Bruce Stambaugh

My mother celebrated her 90th birthday in June.


My wife made sure my self-pity didn’t last long. Thankful to be alive and alert, I worked around my physical limitations as best I could by trying to focus on the circumstances of others. There are lots of hurting people out there who have it much worse than me. Friends, relatives and even friends of friends are going through unthinkable miseries.

But think of them I must. To be down and out, sick or disabled through some accident or illness is bad enough. To be that way during the approaching holidays makes it all the harder. I try to visit and pray and do whatever I can to help. They did that for me. It’s the least I can do for them.

Three survivors by Bruce Stambaugh

Three prostate cancer survivors, Kim Kellogg, Randy Murray and me.


I greatly appreciated the kindnesses shown to me. I feel obliged to return the favor wherever and whenever I can.

Chances to help unexpectedly present themselves. The key to being helpful is recognizing when those opportunities arise, and responding accordingly.

Being a survivor, I hope I never forget that that’s exactly what I need to do. Respond where and when I can, even if it’s just listening and holding a hand. Having company in times of personal distress is a mighty gift that needs no unwrapping.

This has been an unhealthy year for me. But I’m here. I made it, grateful to be alive and determined to help those in need, even if it is nothing more than offering a smile.
Foggy sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh

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My journey with cancer so far

By Bruce Stambaugh

On the morning of Dec. 14, 2010 I got the call I had dreaded. My preliminary test for prostate cancer was positive. A follow up biopsy confirmed the results. My journey with cancer had begun.

My immediate reaction was more of disappointment than surprise. My father had died of prostate cancer, and my older brother had had his cancerous prostate removed a year and a half earlier.

I saw the miseries my father had been through, and I knew what inconveniences my brother dealt with. Still, it was that immediate family history that resulted in my early diagnosis, for which I was most thankful. My doctors tested my PSA level twice a year.

Nevertheless, my initial emotions resembled the steepest, most winding roller coaster at any amusement park. Only, this turn of events wasn’t amusing. It was sad, frustrating, discouraging, lonesome, unacceptable, and agonizing all rolled into one.

At the same time, I knew that with the early diagnosis that I likely would have many more options than other cancer patients with much worse prognosis. And yet, this cancer was in my body and I was not happy about it.

I had been close to cancer before. Besides my father and my older brother, other close relatives and friends had had cancer. Too many acquaintances, former students and friends have either had cancer, are currently in their own battle with cancer, or have died because of it.

Each of their experiences touched me. Still, when the doctor tells you that you have cancer, everything changes.

Yes, it had been detected early. Yes, it likely could be removed or radiated. But it was still cancer. There is no good cancer. Cancer is cancer. Any action to counter the disgusting disease had the potential for unwelcome and unwanted physical, mental and emotional consequences.

Even so, I have found both friends and renewed friendships so far along this rocky path. I have been proactive in asking questions, and others have reached out to me.

Blues Brothers by Bruce Stambaugh

Kim Kellogg, Millersburg, OH, Randy Murray, Orrville, OH and I have formed our own prostate cancer support group. We meet about once a month at a local restaurant.

I meet periodically with two friends, both also in the midst of dealing with prostate cancer. Hearing their stories helps me to understand that each situation is different, and requires decisions that are best for each individual. The road to being cured from prostate cancer is different for every patient. Indeed, for some, there is no cure.

My route took me to a new urologist who laid out the best options for me, naming one by one the potential side effects, both short and long-term. None of them were pretty, including incontinency and impotency.

I have chosen robotic surgery as the best way to deal with my cancer. It is the least invasive, least painful, has the least blood loss, and the quickest recovery time, assuming all goes well. Plus, the surgery will remove the cancer from my body.

My particular prognosis for recovery is good, much better than hundreds of thousands of other cancer patients. I don’t find much solace in that, however.

Statistics show that one in six men get prostate cancer, and some of them are as young as 30. Early detection through testing is paramount, especially with a family history of the disease.

Others who have been down this road ahead of me say it’s important to maintain a positive attitude. That is how I am approaching my surgery. With supportive friends and family, I am comforted knowing that I do not have to walk this journey with prostate cancer alone.

Footnote: I especially appreciate the information and support received so far from Gabe Canales and his Blue Cure Foundation, along with all the good folks who post on Gabe’s Journey with Prostate Cancer Facebook page.

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