By Mercy's Madelynn Innes
For Father’s Day, Mercy patient Ronald Johnson is getting exactly what he wants: back to livin’ life and really enjoying it. For more than a year following his prostate surgery late in 2014, he had doubts he’d ever be able to do that.
“I wasn’t going to stop hunting with my son or going camping with the family, but the problem I had with a weak bladder after surgery constantly weighed heavy on my mind. I’d lost my confidence,” Johnson said.
Of the 219,000 men in the United States who learn they have prostate cancer each year, nearly half undergo surgical removal of the gland, according to the National Cancer Institute. Following that surgery, incontinence is common, which understandably, most men find highly embarrassing and difficult to talk about. Fortunately for most, bladder control usually returns after surgery within a few weeks or a few months.
For Johnson, “It’d been 13 months since my surgery, and I’d lost all hope of any improvement. I’d been miserable.”
Johnson’s urologist, Dr. Eric Guilliams, referred him to Mercy Springfield’s Outpatient Therapy. Through Mercy’s STAR (Survivorship Training and Rehab) Program, physical therapists help cancer patients minimize the difficult side effects that often come with treatment. Ready to do what he could to begin seeing improvements, Johnson was nevertheless a bit taken back when he learned his therapist was a woman.
“I thought ‘Oh, my gosh, this is going to be uncomfortable! But Nancy was so kind and understanding; literally, within two minutes, all my fears were gone.”
In just two visits, Johnson and his therapist, Nancy Meesey, covered a lot, from the best posture to a variety of isometric exercises that would help.
“At first I thought all she’s going to do is show me a few exercises,” he said. “But she gave me hope that I could get better. When Dr. Guilliams told me to start physical therapy, I never dreamed it would help as much as it has. I’m finally livin’ life again!”
Johnson turns 60 in January. While he’s still working full time at City Utilities in Springfield, the part of life he loves living the most is spending time with his family. “We do a lot of camping together. It’s usually one big group: our two kids and four grandkids.”
“He hasn’t let things keep him from camping and hunting, but I can tell he has a lot more confidence now,” said son Tim. “He’s a lot closer to being back to his normal self. I’m really thankful he’s doing something and seeing improvement.”
Meanwhile, at his last check up, Johnson recalled triumphantly, “My PSA number is 0.0 – my favorite number! The last few years, I’d seen that number start to climb. When my test results came back in 2014 at 4.6, I knew there was a problem. Now, I feel like so much has been given to me. I feel so fortunate that my prostate cancer is gone.”
And thanks to his physical therapist, Nancy and the STAR program, he also knows how to proactively make a difference in how he feels.