My Robotic Prostatectomy: Expert Care, Easy Recovery, Great Outcome
I recently underwent a robotic prostatectomy, which was performed at miVIP Surgery Centers by nationally-recognized urologic oncologist Thomas Ahlering, MD. I am sharing my prostatectomy story to reassure other men and give them hope. I want others to know there are top urologists out there who can help.
At miVIP Surgery Centers, the best urologists in the nation are working with skilled surgical teams in state-of-the-art facilities. They provide a high level of minimally invasive treatment using advanced technology for the best possible outcomes.
I feel lucky to have found Dr. Ahlering, who is extremely knowledgeable, skilled, direct, patient and compassionate. My healthcare experience under his care was spectacular from the moment I first contacted his assistant to discuss my elevated PSA to when I returned home one week following my robotic prostatectomy surgery at miVIP Surgery Center in Tustin, California.
Here’s my prostatectomy story…
When I learned I had elevated PSA levels at the age of 54, my regular physician recommended a prostate biopsy. Before getting a biopsy, I conducted online research and learned that biopsies are not always accurate. A friend who is a professional in the field of urology robotics gave me his list of the top three urological surgeons in the United States. Dr. Tom Ahlering was at the top of that list.
Dr. Ahlering is an original adopter of robotic surgery for prostatectomy, and widely recognized as a leading innovator of surgical techniques to maximize the best possible outcome for patients. He is also passionate in his research and advocacy for the early screening and treatment of prostate cancer. He is the surgeon that other surgeons turn to when they are diagnosed with prostate cancer. What a testimony to his skill! I booked an appointment with Dr. Ahlering immediately.
Getting a Prostate Cancer Diagnosis
When I met with Dr. Ahlering, we discussed my options for prostate biopsy. Based on his recommendations, I chose a contrasted multi-parametric 3 Tesla MRI with an MRI guided needle biopsy. Unlike other biopsies, the contrasted MRI procedure is non-invasive and does not involve the older method of using a Trans-Rectal Ultrasound, or TRUS.
Multiparametric MRI guided needle biopsies assure the most precise core samples of the suspect tissue, and are becoming the standard biopsy method over the ultrasound-guided biopsy methods.
Unfortunately, my test results were positive for prostate cancer on two of the three sites tested. I ended up with a Gleason 3+3 or 6, PIRAD-4, PSA Density 0.014 ng ml/cc. This meant I needed to do some serious thinking about prostate cancer treatment options.
Researching Prostate Cancer Treatment Options
After my cancer diagnosis, I embarked on more research to learn about the latest treatments. I met with numerous medical professionals involved in prostate cancer research and treatment protocols, including Brachytherapy, Proton Beam therapy, High-Intensity Focal Ultrasound (HIFU), Focal Laser Ablation, and “Watchful Waiting.” I also spoke with other prostate cancer survivors who had undergone various types of treatment. I chose the path of “watchful waiting” while I gathered information that would help me make a well-informed decision about my treatment.
Over the months of “watchful waiting” and research, I had countless discussions with Dr. Ahlering. He was always very patient and understanding with me. He understood I was hoping that a new medication would soon come on the market and bring a cure.
Preparing My Body and Mind for the Cancer Battle
I also worked on improving my overall health to fortify my body’s ability to fight the cancer. Dr. Ahlering stressed the importance of the patient’s involvement in care. While a surgeon’s skill and experience are critical for a good outcome, a patient has a lot of control over a successful outcome as well.
Taking his advice to heart, I ramped up my physical training program and improved my diet. I started walking and swimming more to develop core strength and lean body mass. I also added weight-training to my program. My regimen got me into better shape and also helped me deal with the stress of my cancer diagnosis.
Moving Forward with a Robotic Prostatectomy
Unfortunately, drug research and development take time, and the magic pill I had been hoping for wasn’t yet on the horizon. A total of 22 months had passed since my initial cancer diagnosis. I had another multi-parametric MRI, which showed the cancer was still active. I needed treatment. I finally scheduled my robotic prostatectomy surgery with Dr. Ahlering.
Receiving Treatment from the “A-Team” at miVIP Surgery Center
Others had told me that I would love the VIP treatment experience at miVIP Surgery Centers, and they were right!
The team at miVIP’s Tustin facility takes great pride in working with Dr. Ahlering, even referring to themselves as his “A-Team.” That name is a perfect fit! Everyone on the “A-Team” is very familiar with the robotic prostatectomy. Their skill and experience translate into a level of cohesion and continuity that is reassuring, and they complement their expertise with one-on-one patient care that you don’t typically find in a hospital setting.
From pre-surgery to post-surgery, everyone at miVIP treated me with the utmost care and consideration. The day before my surgery, Aubrey, my patient advocate, provided me with a very comprehensive pre-surgery briefing. She explained the necessary post-surgical catheter and was later responsible for its removal. Aubrey also continued to check in with me regularly throughout my post-surgery recovery at home.
I Was in Good Hands
The head nurse, Alma, made me feel I was in expert, caring hands. She and the nursing team made sure I was comfortable every step of the way. They provided a pre-surgery tour of the miVIP facility, which included a viewing of the latest generation robotic da Vinci Surgical System. They were at my side following surgery and throughout that first night post-op.
My anesthesiologist, Kelvin Nguyen, MD, made sure I was relaxed and comfortable going into and coming out of the operating room. He followed up with me for several days after surgery to see how I was doing, making me feel like I was a member of his family!
Dr. Ahlering takes a lot of time and care throughout the entire treatment process — before, during, and after surgery. My surgical procedure was flawlessly executed from start to finish with everyone on the team working together in perfect concert. Observing the team working so seamlessly together as they prepped for my surgery gave me an overwhelming sense of comfort. I could tell I was in good hands, and I surrendered myself to their expert care.
An Easy Post-Op Recovery
My outcome was the best I could have possibly imagined—I am cancer-free. Also, once the catheter was removed, I was fully continent! (Becoming incontinent as a side-effect of my prostatectomy had been a huge fear of mine, so learning I was fully continent so soon after surgery was a huge relief).
I sincerely believe my outcome was the result of Dr. Ahlering’s surgical skill and the vast experience he has obtained over the thousands of robotic surgeries he has performed.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m a sensitive guy when it comes to anything dealing with needles and pain. However, thanks to the skill of my surgeon and the “A-team” at miVIP, I experienced very little pain after my robotic prostatectomy. Any pain I had was easily managed with ibuprofen (Motrin®).
One week after surgery, I was walking two miles a day. As I write this, I’m enjoying my third week of post-surgery recovery. I am already swimming at 50% of my pre-surgery workout regimen and walking four miles on my non-swim days.
Post-surgery test results and my speedy recovery confirm that getting a robotic prostatectomy was the right thing to do. The post-surgical pathology came back showing an advancement in my grade of prostate cancer. What had initially been a Gleason 3+3 or 6 had become a Gleason 3+4 or 7 within those 22 months of “watchful waiting.” I was fortunate that my cancer hadn’t spread — it still remained within the prostate and my margins were negative, or clean.
My Future Outlook: Brighter by 100%
Those 22 months leading up to surgery had been incredibly stressful. Now, with the surgery behind me, I feel incredibly relieved that I’m fully continent and no longer dealing with the thought of carrying cancer. I give full credit to Dr. Ahlering and the team at miVIP Surgery Center for the success of my robotic prostatectomy.
The change in my Gleason score from a 3+3 to a 3+4 increased the probability that my prostate cancer would return. However, Dr. Ahlering is confident that if I continue with my healthy lifestyle, I can significantly lower that probability.
Reflecting on this experience, I am convinced that robotic surgery and world-class surgeons such as Dr. Ahlering will continue to radically change the future of urology medicine by maximizing the best possible surgical outcome for the patient while also minimizing patient discomfort and recovery time. I am 100% convinced that I made the right choice in every way.
This story was submitted by Chris H., miVIP Surgery Centers patient, and was medically reviewed by Thomas Ahlering, MD, as part of miVIP’s Healthy Living Recommendations. To learn more about Dr. Ahlering, read his BIO in our miVIP Physician Directory.