September 26th, 2009, my husband Harry Curtis Bates
with Penile Cancer.
It would be hard to explain Curtis’ Wish without telling you of all he
went through. This is his story…….
For 51 years Curtis’ visits to a doctor were very far and few between. Unless absolutely necessary, he stayed clear of any doctor.
In the spring of 2009 Curtis started having a burning sensation when urinating. He went to the walk-in clinic and was given an antibiotic for a urinary tract infection.
After two weeks, symptoms persisted, so he went back to the clinic. It was then he was diagnosed with penile warts and given Aldara cream for 16 weeks. Believing what the doctor said regardless of his faithfulness, he never questioned it and went home to follow instructions.
I was angry for such a diagnoses. Being asked if he was a “good boy” of which he replied yes, cast the blame so to speak on me, of which there was no grounds. Curtis wouldn’t go back to the doctor to question his diagnoses.
Still, things proceeded to get worse to where his foreskin was next to impossible to pull back, very painful, with intermittent bleeding.
So he went back once again, and was given Nystatin cream and told to continue with the Aldara. Things never got better. Being one who didn’t go to doctors, and never asked questions or shared on things; he followed the instructions and continued with what he was told to do.
When I look back, it was asked why he was given Aldara if the foreskin wasn’t able to be pulled back? I begin to wonder if the doctor even examined him. All of this has taught me that a person has to be their own advocate for health and never stop asking questions especially when things do not seem right. One has to push and never let things just be because of fear.
Late evening on September 25th, 2009, Curtis awoke and was bleeding profusely from the penis. With several attempts to stop the bleeding we proceeded to Emergency at the Colchester Hospital.
A tourniquet was applied to try and stop the bleeding, which only acerbated the situation; with his elevating blood pressure from the uncontrolled pain, the bleeding persisted. Things subsided, only to have Curtis crash, where he had to be bagged.
When his breathing returned, his pain had subsided some, and so did his blood pressure and bleeding.
Urology at QE2 was called for consult Blood work was taken as well as catherization attempted but failed.
In the morning of the 26th when a bed was available, Curtis was transferred to the QE2 in Halifax.
Upon arrival he was examined by an urologist and was diagnosed with having penile cancer. X rays were taken.
A total penectomy was scheduled the very next day.
On September 26th, 2009, Curtis underwent a total radial penectomy and perineal urethostomy.
Though things were explained, everything had happened so fast, not much registered. At a time like this, pamphlets or information that we could have had in
hand would have helped so much.
Doctors must realize that most men don’t “talk” on these things; talking or asking anything is difficult.
As well as the ability to take everything in at a time like this
is next to impossible. Literature or anything would be beneficial.
The operation lasted 1 1/2 hours and everything went well.
Margins were good, although Curtis had some trouble with elevated blood pressure during surgery. He was sent for a cat scan a few days later and was told pathology would be back in approximately 3 weeks. Curtis kept a light, jovial attitude, though at times I seen how all the changes affected him so; he was vigilant in wanting to beat this.
Curtis was seen by internal medicine for his hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes….all diagnosed upon coming into the hospital. On the 4th day post op, the catheter was removed and Curtis went home with antibiotics. In two weeks he was told he could return to work. But with everything that had happened and all the changes, Curtis took 4 weeks and started his regime of cutting back on salt, fats and sugars to control his hypertension, cholesterol and diabetes. He wanted to try all he could be get back to being healthy.
In three weeks he had his diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure under control.
At his 3 week check-up pathology report was in.
Although margins were good, the pathology showed an aggressive cancer. Due to this, as well as some enlarged lymph nodes that were noted in the cat scan, a total lymphadenectomy would be needed.
That same day he was introduced to his surgeon and was told of the procedure. Once again, with heads reeling, trying to take in information, we were left with nothing in hand.
I remember walking through the halls of the hospital headed home that day, when he said, “Mamma, I dunno. Is there any sense to even go back to work?” Curtis was facing his immortality and I felt he was ready to throw in the towel.
I said, “Papa, what will you do at home? Go crazy in thinking on this and that?”
Curtis thought only a few seconds, when he said, ” You’re right, I’d go nuts so I may as well keep busy at work eh?”. I agreed and with that, his pace lightened and his out look changed. He was ready to focus on what he could to get him through.
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