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Patients speak about prostate cancer and laparoscopic radical prostatectomy

Robin Cole, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


[A Super Bowl champion and his operating-room-nurse wife review prostate cancer treatment options including radiation treatments, prostate brachytherapy radiation, and surgery procedures including radical retropubic prostatectomy and laparoscopic prostate cancer surgery.]

I was not born to fame or fortune. Anything I have today has come from intense physical and mental effort. When I was a teenager growing up in Compton , California , I decided that I would become a professional football player. I worked hard and then I received a full scholarship to the University of New Mexico , where I became an All-American. In 1977, I was the number one draft pick of the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. I played 12 years as an All-Pro linebacker.

As a result of football injuries, I have undergone six operations, including a total shoulder replacement. That operation resulted in six months of intense physical rehabilitation. Rehab didn't bother me, because all of my life I have been goal-oriented and disciplined in respect to my body. Following all of my surgeries, the extent of my recovery depended on my discipline and work ethic. No problem … I worked hard and achieved the desired results. I have become accustomed to thinking that I could overcome all of my problems through focus and tenacity.

In 2004, at age 49, I was found to have something that could not be fixed in the gym: I had prostate cancer. The diagnosis of prostate cancer did not come as a total shock. I was the fourth brother of eight to be diagnosed. I also learned from my brother that my father and his twin brother had died of prostate cancer. I had always thought my father died – at age 49 – of lung cancer. I came to learn that he initially had prostate cancer. I did not know at the time just how many men get prostate cancer. Then I learned that not only is prostate cancer the number one cancer in men but there is an increased incidence in black men.

My wife, an operating room nurse, had reminded me to get a physical exam, including PSA prostate specific antigen every year since turning 40. In 2003, my PSA was 2 ng/ml and of no special concern. A year later, it had elevated to 3 ng/ml and I learned of my family history. My doctor immediately agreed that I should see a urologist, which I did, and had an ultrasonic prostate biopsy done. The results were not surprising, but still devastating: Gleason score 7 cancer.

My wife immediately began to research prostate cancer treatments. As an OR nurse, she had assisted in many open radical retropubic prostatectomy surgery procedures. She told me how hard it was for the surgeon to see the surgical anatomy due the location of the prostate gland, the considerable amount of blood loss, and the inability to see the nerve bundles controlling erectile function. She was determined to find a better option for me.

Along the way, my wife considered a variety of treatment types: radiation treatments, prostate brachytherapy radiation, freezing, and surgery. However, given my relative youth, we reasoned that it would make the most sense for the prostate to come out; my urologist agreed. We looked at a variety of options for prostatectomy here, but found that the surgeons were generally aloof and not very supportive.

Our search for experience and support led us to Dr. Krongrad in Miami . I made a call to his office and my wife sent an e-mail. Incredibly, within 15 minutes, Dr. Krongrad returned my phone call and answered the e-mail! Talk about support. It didn't take us very long to realize we'd made our decision.

The next day, my wife called his office and spoke to Ruth, who scheduled the prostate cancer surgery, answered questions, and helped us find a place to stay. We flew from Pittsburgh to Miami , checked into our hotel, and went to meet the man himself. Dr. Krongrad explained step-by-step what would happen, and reassured us. I may be a tough-guy on the gridiron, but put on a white coat and it's another story. It's a good thing nurse Linda was with me every step of the way.

I checked into the hospital at 6 a.m. and was in recovery, fully awake, at 11:00 a.m. I was expecting to be in pain and vomiting, as I had with my previous orthopedic surgeries. Instead, I felt great! I had five small band-aids and a catheter in place. I had no pain and never even took a Tylenol. I later learned that my experience was typical for a Krongrad LRP. My IV was removed and I began to take fluids. By 5:00 p.m. on the afternoon after my LRP, I was walking in the hallway. I was discharged the next morning after the doctor came to tell me that the cancer was organ confined and that no further treatment was indicated.

Everything from admission to discharge, from the private room, nursing care, to the view of the ocean from my room was perfect. Linda was also permitted to spend the night in a comfortable recliner in my room.

The night after surgery, my wife and I went out to dinner and walked in the Aventura Mall. We went to Dr. Krongrad's office the next day for a quick check. I was told to have my PSA checked again in 3 months.

I am now three months out from surgery, and just got my first PSA result: a perfect 0 ng/ml! During the post-op weeks, Dr. Krongrad has continued to stay in touch with us, which my wife thinks is incredible. This was the first time that I could not do anything to enhance my recovery. I had to completely rely on the skill and expertise of my surgeon.

In my humble opinion, there is no finer surgeon, doctor, and human being than Dr. Krongrad. He was there for me in a time of real turmoil and helped guide my wife and me through it all as easily, compassionately, and professionally as one could ask. We also give full recognition and appreciation to Ruth and Hope – they're the best.

Just this week, I learned that another of my brothers is having a biopsy performed. He has already decided that he will have Dr. Krongrad perform his LRP. He and his wife life in Los Angeles , but know that the best prostate cancer surgeon is in Miami.

    
A Super Bowl champ and his wife review prostate cancer treatment options including prostate brachytherapy radiation, external beam, and surgery procedures.