In his own words: living with benign prostatic hyperplasia
Rubin, 57, is a manager for a multinational manufacturer of electronic systems for jet aircrafts and airports. Here, he describes how he began to exhibit the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and how he copes with his condition on a daily basis.
What was your first sign that something was wrong? What symptoms did you experience?
I first noticed that something was wrong when I began having to urinate a lot more often. I was suddenly spending a lot more time in the bathroom. Even when I did, I never felt as if my bladder was emptying completely. Since this happened at night as well as during the day, I was getting up several times each night. You can imagine the toll this was taking on my sleep.
What was the diagnosis experience like?
The diagnosis came out of a mandatory physical that I, as a manager at my workplace, have to have every year. When the blood tests came back, my PSA (prostate specific antigen) was 12, which was double what it had been during the 4 previous annual physicals. My family doctor referred me to a nephrologist, but I was unable to get an appointment for over two months. In the meantime, I made an appointment with a urologist, who was able to see me right away.
The hardest part of the diagnostic process was dealing with the catheter they had to insert in my urethra. In the course of a month they had to put it in and take it out 4 times. I not only had an enlarged prostate, but also a complicating condition known as retention. The first time I saw the urologist, I had just voided, and still had 900 cc of urine in my bladder—it’s no wonder I wasn't feeling empty after going to the bathroom.
What was your initial and then longer-term reaction to the diagnosis?
I was relieved in some ways. It was reassuring to know that, although it's not pleasant, my condition wasn't really dangerous—it was not prostate cancer. The urologist reassured me that BPH doesn't put me at higher risk for prostate cancer. Since getting my diagnosis I've felt more in control. I've been able to learn about my enlarged prostate and how best I can treat it.
How is BPH treated?
I wanted to be as involved as possible in the diagnostic process, so I spent a lot of time informing myself about this condition. I did a lot of research on the internet, and made calls to people I knew who had had similar conditions. I educated myself on all the possible treatment options.
I needed a procedure called TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate), which the doctors described to me as being rather like a “roto-rooter” job. We discussed other procedures, but for someone whose condition causes him to retain urine, like mine, this was more appropriate. Some men have prostate enlargement without retention, but I had both. So it was important to get medical treatment.
Did you have to make any lifestyle or dietary changes in response to BPH?
I did. I cut way back on how much I was eating and drinking, and ended up losing 25 pounds. I would like to begin exercising—I think vigorous walking is the best plan for me—but I'm still mending following the surgery, so that will have to wait just a little bit.
Did you seek any type of emotional support?
What I sought—and got—was more like spiritual support from those closest to me. I do rely still on the internet for information, however, and when I can I pass along information about this condition and the treatment options; I do so on an internet message board.
Does BPH have an impact on your family?
Not so far, except that I'm off from work for a little bit, so I'm probably getting on my wife’s nerves! She's been terrifically supportive, though.
What advice would you give to anyone living with BPH?
Make sure you have a good urologist, one you're really comfortable with so you can ask any questions you have. Be as actively involved as you can in your own care plan—be informed about your illness and your treatment options. Try medication first, but if that doesn't work, don't be afraid of the TURP procedure. It sounds intimidating, but it has really helped me so far.