Monday, February 24, 2014

Seven weeks out from surgery

A week ago, we finally got some real snow in Vermont.  For the first time all season, I spent the weekend teaching off-piste.  We explored tree runs all weekend and had a great time.  I was fighting a cold through the weekend and I was a bit tired, but we had a lot of fun.

Last week, I hoped to get to CrossFit three times.  I made it on Tuesday and Wednesday, but by Thursday, my entire body ached.  I felt so beat up that I wondered if I had the flu.  But, a couple days of anti-inflammatories, and I felt a lot better by Saturday.  Regretfully, a rain storm on Friday changed the ski conditions drastically for this past weekend.  The kids seemed oblivious to the weather conditions and wanted to simply charge into the trees again.  For the most part, when we ventured into the trees, I felt the runs were much tougher and more dangerous than the week before, yet the kids did not seem to believe this at all.

My rule on the hill is that safety considerations trump all other considerations.  Twice on Saturday, my students deliberately ignored me and went into a tree run that I had expressly said we would not ski.  I was not happy, and the main offender got to go home early for the day on Saturday.  After some discussions with her parents on Saturday, she returned on Sunday much more willing to listen to directions.  Hopefully that will continue for the rest of the season.

This coming week looks cold and snowless.  Snowmaking is done for the season, so we are likely to be looking at firm conditions next weekend.  The children are really getting restless on the slopes at times.  This is an "adventure" program and they want more adventure.  But, despite record snowfalls in some parts of the country, and a fairly cold winter, snow is still less than normal in my part of the country.

In some ways, and I almost hate to say this, the lower snowfall amounts have been better for me physically.  It is less demanding for me to teach on groomed trails than it is to teach in the trees or on steep icy terrain or steep mogul terrain.  Yet, despite the easier than normal demands on my body, I am still struggling somewhat to keep up.

In the past two weeks, I've been fighting an illness, which has led to coughing (I did get some cough medicine that helped there) and sneezing.  After a lot of sneezing, I noticed that I was starting to feel some discomfort near the center of the surgery - right where my prostate used to reside.  This is a good indication that I'm still not fully healed.  Of the six incision points for the robotic surgery, the largest incision has still not completely healed, although it's close.

I've been pretty lucky with incontinence, which normally resolves in 2-4 months.  Even sneezing and coughing, I haven't been having any problems, so I seem to be at least 99% contintent.  Other surgical side effects are taking longer to resolve.

But, the bottom line is that I'm still not 100% recovered.  I'm napping and sleeping more than usual.  A day at the gym or a day on the mountain tires me out more than it would have before the surgery.  Even being at my desk for a full day of work can be a bit of a chore, and I find myself getting tired by the end of the day.

I know I've pushed myself back to a fairly full life much faster than most patients after surgery like this.  For this particular surgery, I was probably a decade younger than the typical patient, so I think it's reasonable to expect that my recovery would be better than average.  But, better than average has not translated into "full and complete" in a very short timeline.

So, I need to remain vigilant and do what my body lets me do.  I'm glad I'm skiing again.  I'm glad I'm in the gym.  I'm hopeful the cancer is completely gone.  I have my annual physical in March and my next appointment with the surgeon in April - 14 weeks after the surgery.  PSA has a half life of about 3 days in the body.  That means that my PSA level of about 5 should be undetectable within a month or so of surgery.  I won't be tested at my physical, most likely, but I will be tested for the appointment with the surgeon.  If the level is not undetectable, that will likely indicate that some cancer remains, and I'll be looking at radiation therapy.  The surgeon thinks this is unlikely, but we need to do the blood test to verify.

All in all, I'm guessing I'll really start to feel 100% by the end of March or so - right about the time that ski season starts to wind down.  That will leave me 9 more months in the year to regain the fitness I've lost in the first three months of the year.  If I can end this year as fit as I ended last year, I think that will be a very acceptable outcome.

Despite the fact that I'm enjoying being on the mountain again, I have to admit that I'm starting to dream of fly fishing and hiking in the high peaks with my wife.  I'm always happy that I live in a place like Vermont, where we have real seasons that push us towards different activities throughout the entire year.

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