A note to regular readers: Some new readers are visiting this blogsite who have upcoming prostate cancer operations or who have relatives who do. This post is mainly about my operation last week.
I have now returned home after a morphine-induced twilight week at hospital. Intense pain, doctors and nurses, and devotee visitors have floated in and out of my consciousness. I experienced a lot of hospital hospitality and studied a lot of hospital ceiling. I have been prodded, pricked, cut, stitched, injected and had medicine placed in all of nature’s holes – and more. But I am well. Apparently the operation to remove my prostate gland and any other cancer-affected parts was a success. The happy doctors were pleased and let me out a few days earlier than expected.
I am shuffling around the house, trying to cope with around 30 metal staples keeping my abdomen together, a drainage hole in my left side, and an uncomfortable urinary catheter tube strapped to my leg. But I’m better than I was last week and today I made a few more steps on the road to full recovery. I came off the heavy morphine-derivative painkillers I was taking four times a day, baby-stepped at least 100 yards outside in the morning sunshine, and successfully visited the smallest room in the house for the first time in a week. I also gave a short webcam Srimad Bhagavatam class.
Here are a few more details of the last week. If you’re not interested in bodily news then skip this part and read my post tomorrow.
Last Tuesday morning I went to the hospital in preparation for my operation the following day. Because I had contracted the flu in the week prior and still had a bit of a chest cough there was initially some doubt as to whether the operation could go ahead at all. They took blood, an ECG and a chest X-Ray. Later in the day I discovered that the final decision would be taken by the anaesthetist. I also discovered that I would probably not eat for a total of five days after the operation. Blimey. Not only that, but the nurses presented me, rather apologetically, with a laxative drink to empty my bowels before I went to sleep. The drink tasted Ok but the results were explosive. My advice to readers: always be careful of women you don’t know who offer you drinks.
On Wednesday morning I read verses from the Bhagavatam, prayed to my deities for their protection and forgiveness, and touched Srila Prabhupada’s dhoti to my forehead. I chanted my Gayatri as the sun was rising over west London and then I was ready. I then realised I’d not written any ‘final words.’ If there were complications – as there sometimes are during major operations – I had not written my thoughts and goodbyes to my family and the devotees. So I hastily scribbled with a pen and on the last paragraph a nurse came to me and said, rather prophetically: “Good morning Mr. Harrison, we’ve come to take you back home now.” Although she was a nice nurse I could not see any symbols of Vishnu in her hands. What could she mean? She then looked at a chart at the foot of the bed and corrected herself, saying: “Oh no, sorry, you’re going to theatre for your operation.”
I was wheeled on the bed through long corridors and up in a lift. It was still early and the hospital was quiet. The last thing I remember was the anaesthetist telling me: “This is the one that will put you to sleep.” I got halfway through one maha-mantra.
I was then shaved, had several intravenous drips placed in my veins and was transferred to an operating table which moves into a bow shape, arching the body so the surgeon can gain good access to an organ which is buried safely within the abdomen. Unfortunately for me, that particular organ was now a threat to all the other organs. After the op I learned that I only had about eight weeks before the cancer would have started moving into the bones, a completely different scenario.
An incision was made from the navel to the pubic bone, about two inches deep and more. The entire operation took around two and a half hours. I was then another two hours in the recovery room before being wheeled into a ward. My main feelings over the next few days were of being completely weak and helpless, yet of being cared for with compassion and expertise. My surgeons would come to see me with their young medical students each morning, enquiring as to how I was and checking to see that the students understood how to care for a case like mine.
Devotees have been very concerned for my welfare also. I have had more well-wishing prayers, cards, emails at any time since I first became a devotee. I even had devotees chanting kirtan in the temple on the morning of the operation. My photograph was even placed at Srila Prabhupada’s feet, a position normally given only to those devotees who are no longer with us!
So I am very grateful to the entire Vaishnava community; those whom I see and interact with daily, and those unseen saints who were surely protecting me. I offer my deepest thanks and prayers to you all. I will try harder to make my remaining years an offering of thanks to Srila Prabhupada and to the Vaishnava community.