Patient Stories

Robotic Relief for Prostate Cancer

Evergreen man returns to skiing one month after prostate removal for cancer

An Air Force pilot for 20 years and a commercial airline pilot for another 16, Mike Wells isn’t used to much down time – even in retirement. In fact, the 72-year-old resident of Evergreen, Colorado, spends his winters skiing recreationally and chopping and transporting firewood for needy families through a ministry at Evergreen Christian Outreach.

So when Mr. Wells learned he had prostate cancer, he chose the most effective surgery with the least amount of downtime possible – robotic prostatectomy. Mr. Wells had surgery to remove his prostate in November 2015 and was back to skiing and hauling wood by December.

Mr. Wells’ diagnosis actually followed a normal PSA test. “At an annual physical, my doctor did an exam and thought things didn’t feel quite normal. A referral to my urologist led to a biopsy, which came back positive for cancer,” he says.

Two of his friends had already undergone prostatectomies for prostate cancer. “They had open abdominal incisions. They had very difficult recoveries. For me, going the robotic route was a no-brainer. My only disappointment was that I didn’t get to see the machine,” says Wells.

Dr. Derek Zukosky, a fellowship-trained minimally invasive urologist with Foothills Urology, performed the surgery. Dr. Zukosky has performed more than 500 robotic prostatectomies. As medical director of robotic surgery at St. Anthony Hospital, he was instrumental in helping the hospital earn the 2014 Healthgrades Prostate Surgery Excellence Award.

Another reason Mr. Wells opted for robotic surgery is that it still leaves an option for radiation if cancer returns or isn’t cured. Conversely, having radiation five days a week for seven weeks as a first course of treatment would rule out future prostate surgery due to radiation damage surrounding the prostate.

In the end, he still has some side effects, but calls his recovery remarkable. “I was amazed at how fast I came back.”