I have not written since I finished my radiation. At that point I was hoping to hear that the radiation and chemo had eliminated my tumor. That was not the case.
So, I had surgery. On October 1, at approximately 12:30 pm, I went through Laparoscopic Abdominoperineal Resection to remove the tumor and any potentially disease tissue or organs around it.
This means the surgeons removed the last quarter of my colon (the sigmoid colon), my rectum, my anus, and all the surrounding lymph nodes, blood vessels and relevant nerves. It left me with 6 holes in my abdomen, a large incision in my backside, and a stoma where my descending colon exits my abdomen for waste to leave my body into a bag.
For the squeamish, this is a lot to read. But the reality is, I went to sleep and woke up about 7 hours later looking like someone who lost a knife fight. The surgery was only about 4 hours. The rest is my body’s natural tendency to want to keep sleeping when finished with anesthesia – something else we discovered during my colonoscopy last January.
[Very Weird Side Note: I recall only one thing about coming to after the surgery. As the nurses were calling to me to wake up, I was in a dreamlike state in which everything that happened was happening in SharePoint: yes, that’s right, the Office 365 cloud storage system. The nurses calling to me were all new tabs on a browser and each one was a SharePoint site. I can’t remember the titles of each site, but I do recall they were weird things related to what I was trying to do: wake up, respond to nurse, go back to sleep, ask where Debby was. I was clicking back and forth among the tabs trying to get them to stay open, but each time I clicked one, the others would hide behind the one I clicked (which is how browsers work, right?). And I remember this was pissing me off. Finally, the weird, work-related, nightmare state dissolved into a dim room with several nurses talking to me. The first thing I did was ask where Debby was, and they responded by putting ice chips in my mouth.]
I woke up around 7pm, and Debby was there shortly after. I was pretty groggy, and she tells me I repeated myself a few times. I don’t remember much more. I asked for some pain relief. Debby went home. And at 10:30, a PCA named Oliver came in and said, “You have to go for a walk.”
Really? I had just lost a knife fight against several excellent abdominal surgeons and an evil browser full of Office 365 tabs. And this guy wanted me to go for a walk?
Oliver helped me out of bed and led me down the hall. I held an IV cart with both hands and walked slowly. I made it about 30 feet before realizing I had to walk back too. This is all I clearly remember of that night.
Friday. October 2. I was up early because the nurses had been waking me up with drugs and vital sign checks all night. I don’t actually remember much. I remember one nurse coming in, handing me a urinal – a plastic jug with a bent neck. She told me I could pee into the urinal whenever I needed to. I ask how, and she looked at me weirdly. I think I let it go until the next nurse came in and asked her if I had a catheter. She took a peak and said yes. So much for urinals. Later in the morning, a guy walked in announcing breakfast. It was a tray full of eggs, fruit cup, milk, juice and coffee. I was confused. I was under the impression I was supposed to start eating slowly, so I only ate a few bites of egg and some of the fruit.
That first day, I walked all the way around the recovery wing three times. By the evening, all I wanted to do was go home. My surgeon told me there were some things that had to happen in order for me to go home. They told me 4-5 days; It took me 3.
So here I am. Home at last. Surgery over. With a colostomy bag attached to my abdomen where my colon exits. The bag doesn’t really bother me. I don’t like the type I’ve been given, but that can change. I’ll find one that fits me and my life better. I’m already quite good at handling “my appliance,” as the online discussions call it.
I’m sore, but pain is manageable and temporary. Right now, I want to know if they got all of it. I want to know if I am finally cancer free. This – my new lifestyle – will never be over, but I can “live” with that.