John’s story: How a robotic prostatectomy saved his life (Healthy You)

Local News

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Prostate cancer is the number one most common cancer among men and cutting-edge technology at United Regional is helping cancer patients get back on their feet faster.

Nothing can prepare you for it.

“It’s difficult to explain the feeling, it’s the c-word, and everybody panics when they hear the c-word,” Cancer survivor John Howell, who had a robotic prostatectomy at United Regional, said.

A c-word Howell knows all too well. His father and grandfather both battled prostate cancer before genetics took its toll on him too.

“I had a PSA (Prostate-specific antigen) of four for several years, which is considered high normal, it jumped to a seven,” Howell said.

“It’s a simple blood test and it has a role in screening for prostate cancer,” URHCS Urologist Paul Morrison, M.D. said. “The standard range on the lab value is zero to four is considered normal.”

After the initial shock set in, next came the hard part for Howell and his family.

“He gave me three options, he said that I could watch and wait because it is a slow-growing cancer, he said I could do radiation or I could go through the surgery,” Howell said. “My wife and I spent quite a lot of time praying about it and felt that the surgery was the right way to go.”

Howell made sure to ask all the questions of Dr. Morrison and then that day in September 2020 arrived for Howell to have his robotic prostatectomy.

“I drive all of the robotic instruments and so throughout that process, you have a high definition camera system and a viewing port where I’m using the joysticks to be able to drive all the instruments,” Morrison said.

“Before you had very straight laparoscopic sticks and now we have capability of the laparoscopic instruments to make wristed moments like the rotation, bending, grasping, and flexing and so it mimicks a surgeon’s hand.”

A successful surgery is exactly what the doctor ordered and what the patient prayed for. Neither realized just how successful it really was until lab results came back.

“Dr. Morrison found a second cancer and that second cancer was undetectable, it was aggressive and if I hadn’t done the surgery I probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you right now,” Howell said.

Prostate is the most common cancer among men. Those at higher risk are older men, African American men, and men with a family history of the cancer, men like Howell.

“I have had prostate screenings every year for the last 10-12 years and I think that was critical,” Howell said. “It was caught at an earlier stage than it would’ve been if I hadn’t done that.”

Howell now looks back at his journey knowing he made the right choice.

“I am so happy that I elected to use Dr. Morrison, you think of small towns and you think eh maybe not the best medical care,” Howell said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

A second chance at life and a chance now to share his story.

We would like to thank Howell for sharing his story with us. He is completely recovered and is now back to playing with his grandchildren and working in his shop.

Dr. Morrison said robotic prostatectomies are minimally invasive meant to get you out of the hospital sooner and in less pain.

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