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Barrington Man Celebrates One-Year Anniversary of Robotic Surgery for Prostate Cancer


Returned to ski slopes 47 days post surgery; looking forward to new season

For most people, November 9 does not hold a special significance. For Richard Staples, it’s one that he will never forget. In 2012, Staples, a resident of Barrington, underwent a robotic prostatectomy for prostate cancer. This year, on the one-year anniversary of that surgery, he will be signing up for his 12th season as a volunteer instructor with AbilityPLUS an adaptive ski program based in New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley. With November fast becoming the month to call attention to men’s health issues, the timing couldn’t be better.

Richard Staples Staples was a healthy, active 63-year old who had volunteered with AbilityPLUS since 2002. When he had his annual physical in June 2012, a test showed a high PSA level. The next few months were a whirlwind, and one he chronicled. A second test in July confirmed his PSA level, and in August a biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of prostate cancer.

“I was calmer than I would have thought,” says Staples. “I'm in pretty good health generally, so a quick read of prostate cancer treatment options and survivability helped me deal with it.”

Staples and his family were no strangers to cancer. He and his wife Betsy had already successfully navigated one cancer experience a couple of years earlier when she was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. So with optimism, Staples took the steps needed for treatment, in the hope of returning to his normal, active life quickly.

It was also at this point that Staples began his annual pre-ski season exercise routine, despite knowing he was scheduled for surgery in less than two months. He felt that it was important to build up his strength prior to the surgery, then he could take it easy for a while after surgery and be ready for therapy afterward.

Also as part of preparing for his surgery, an MRI confirmed that no cancer was detected beyond his prostate. At that point he was referred to Joseph Renzulli, MD, a urologist who specializes in prostatectomy using robotic surgery at The Miriam Hospital. Renzulli was among the first in the state to perform a prostatectomy with technology known as the daVinci system.

When he first met with Renzulli, Staples recalls, “My first impression of Dr. Renzulli was very positive because he was encouraging and straightforward with me. It was pretty clear to me from the beginning that, at age 63, if I had prostate cancer, the most likely treatment choice was surgery since my health and family history both indicated a long active life still to come.”

Renzulli says, “In 2006, The Miriam Hospital acquired the first daVinci system in Rhode Island. We’ve now performed more than 1,000 prostate cancer surgeries using this system.” Renzullli explains there are many benefits of robotic surgery for prostatectomy. He says, “There is less blood loss, a quicker recovery, and a shorter hospital stay. In addition, fewer narcotics are required for pain management, and patients are able to go home sooner after surgery. Most men can often return to normal activity in roughly two to three weeks.”

That was especially appealing to Staples, who adds, “Since I was concerned about missing any part of my ski season, daVinci offered a quicker recovery timeline than open surgery. I was also very pleased that Dr. Renzulli enthusiastically signed on to my request for a referral to The Miriam Hospital Men's Health Center prior to surgery. My wife, Betsy, did a great deal of research on this and encouraged me to seek out the Center’s pre-surgical program.”

Three weeks prior to his surgery, Staples met Christy Ciesla, a physical therapist at the Men’s Health Center. Ciesla specializes in treating urinary incontinence, especially men who have been through robotic laparoscopic prostatectomy. At that point he began his pre-surgical physical therapy appointments with her.

Staples says that Christy’s information and pre/post-surgical therapy protocols made a huge and lasting difference in his experience. He believes it’s important for men who are facing this diagnosis to know about this program available at the Men’s Health Center, based on how much it helped him.

On November 9, Staples underwent his surgery. Of the experience, he says, “Everything went well and while I wasn't too comfortable for a short time afterwards, I received excellent care and concern from the nursing team. I can't imagine anyone enjoying a catheter, my first experience, but I was totally in a "no pain, no gain" mindset with skiing on my mind.”

Ciesla says, “I have seen a few patients recently prior to their surgery to help prepare them for what is to come, and the outcomes have been tremendous. Richard Staples was one of those patients. He is a true success story of how patients can return to their lives in just a short time after their surgery.” Ciesla also notes, “Richard was on skis and pad-free by Christmas, just six weeks after his surgery, and is a great example for other men who may be facing prostatectomy.”

Ciesla and Renzulli were thrilled to receive a photo (attached) from Staples just 47 days post-surgery, atop the mountain, holding up a sign that thanked them and noted his remarkable recovery and return to his winter sports activities.

Now, one year later, Staples says, “I feel great! I felt great only a few weeks after the surgery, and was very self-confident that life would return to normal quickly, which it did. My ski season was one of the best ever and I can now report that my primary care physician has officially returned me to his ‘Medically Boring Patients’ list!”