My Road to Pennsylvania Hospital


I never liked hospitals much. Nor sick people.  I want to be understanding and supportive.  I admire people in the medical profession.  But would rather avoid sickness, disease and hospitals.  But one of the side issues of retirement, getting older is sickness, accidents, doctor appointments and many times hospitals.  I was always amazed at the number of doctors my father would see when he was in his 80s and 90s.  And then the hospital stays. In the past few months, I’ve had my share but have tried to accept it as a price of getting older and hopefully staying healthy and living a bit longer.

About 10 days after mr return from Italy in early June.  I had to go to my GP for what turned out to be a urinary track infection.  Something Father got frequently in his last years.  I thought, oh no — I’m too young to start this.  I started on antibiotics (10 day treatment), the pain cleared and I thought things had returned to normal.  Post radiation treatment for prostrate cancer four years ago, normal urinary and bowel movements were a bit abnormal anyway

I debated weather to blog about this and if you reading it, I posted it.  But feel free to close the page if you’ve heard enough.  But writing is therapy for me so I will continue.  I’ll be honest I was never drawn to  books, movies, or TV shows  about people’s medical problems

I went back to Sullivan, my GP.  He recommended I see Raffelson, who had done my colonoscopies — the last one before prostrate treatment was fine, he had said come back in 10 years.  He did a mini camera look with me awake and discovered some discolored, unusual tissue — assumption: due to radiation. Better call my doctor at Penn radiation.  A bit of history. My prostrate cancer was discovered by a physical exam, followed up with biopsies.  First year, no cancer discovered; second year one spot in ten snips.  Advice to guys; don’t rely on PSA numbers, mine were always low, no prostrate issue. My urologist was associated with a radiation lab in NJ ( my insurance wouldn’t pay for it in PA so he maintained a Jersey office as well as a PA office, health Insurance Is a whole other issue).  I wanted a second opinion and set up an appointment with Penn Medicine.  They hooked me up with a surgeon.  He sold surgery — it’s a guarantee, cut out prostrate, remove cancer if it’s the only location.  Of course, there are always the pluses and minuses. Usually  not recommended for someone my age.  Another choice is implants witch radiated pills — quick, fewer doctor visits.  For a senior, do nothing — something else will probably kill you before the spread of the prostrate cancer. And then there is radiation treatment.  All have possible side effects.

After reading and talking to people, I had decided on radiation as the best option for me.  This happened at the same time my grandson Eli was being treated for neuroblastoma at CHOP (18 months of treatment and 3 years later, no sign of disease).  He mentioned my decision to his radiation doctor at Penn.  He was going to have a newer, more expensive type of radiation — proton.  It was suppose to be more focused with less side effects and damaged tissue than regular radiation.  I really liked Doctor Tochner who had fought to get Penn to invest in a Proton machine (lots of investment, a handful in the country).  He didn’t push Proton but of course believed in it. Some critics claim it’s no better than traditional ; others say it’s a real waste of money for prostrate cancer.  Of course there aren’t a lot of neuroblastoma customers (rare disease) but  lots of potential prostrate customers.  I became one.  I told Tochner “if I trust you with Eli; I trust you for me.”

Treatment was something like six weeks, daily.  HGP generously gave me afternoons off and guys in sociial studies covered my afternoon classes.  A real sense of family.  Everyone at Penn was fantastic.  Enjoyed my proton team (3 or 4 each day).  Ironically Eli was scheduled for the same room, same team, many fewer days.  I’m not sure of any dosage differences?  Every day, the team told me how great did.  He refused anthathesis (usually given to kids since you must hold still and sometimes there is a wait for the machine which services 5 rooms; actual time machine is on was a few minutes).

I have been three years out since treatment.  PSA levels very low.  Minor urinary and bladder issues.  My doctors and I thought I was in the clear.  Then the urinary tract infection in June, discovered fistula, damaged tissue ith holes between urethral and rectum.  I am on the wrong side of proton treatment statistics on complications.

So September 16 I checked into historic Pennsylvania Hospital for surgery.


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