Monthly Archives: January 2014

Surgery – Healthy as a Horse… Sick as a Dog… Cancer P2

17 January 2014

been awake since 0415… lots on the mind. I called my son… he is in hospital also… with an infection of unknown origin.. he is waiting for results … hard to talk to him bc neither of us wants to burden the other with our woes… we keep it light and easy.

Today starts  the pre-operation preparation… more transfusion(s). My Hgb (hemoglobin count) has to be high enough for surgery…. at least 8 g/dL. I am feeling so much better that I forget I am still pretty ill and bleeding internally; which means I am still an ‘emergency’ case.

At 11 am my final transfusion (we hope) begins… two more hours and I should be topped up.

The Docs have had me on a liquid diet since I have been here… tea, fruit juices, chicken broth, and ENSURE (make sure I am getting all my nutrients). When I get tired of the vanilla flavored ENSURE… the nurses send it down to the cafeteria where they add strawberry flavor and make a “shake”. Wish they could make a Cinnamon roll flavor.

Dinner is my last meal… and then the clean out procedure begins anew… I don’t mind so much this time… and I will only have to drink two bottles of gunk (unlike the first time … took four bottles to get the job done. I guess that proves how full of “IT” I was!)

Oddly I find myself looking forward to the surgery. For a guy who always wants to be in control of things, it is strange that I am so ready to turn my fate over to a group of strangers. I guess when you have no other choice, THAT choice is easily embraced. With surgery over I can focus on recovery. Hopefully when all the post-operation results are in, chemo or radiation will not be necessary. Even though the CT scan indicated the tumor is localized, the only way to be sure is to section and examine the tumor and surrounding lymph nodes. I know it will be a number of days after surgery before we know for sure. I am resigned to letting things be. If chemo or radiation is needed then so be it.

My stay here has been as pleasant as it can be. The nursing staff (Raji, Anu, Ramya, Sibi, Jessica, Roby, Ragesh, Arnel, Bindu and Zahra) have all been phenomenal. I appreciate all the things they do. We (ordinary people) forget until we are sick in a hospital, that nurses do a heck of a lot more than just attend and give injections. I think they are as important to the healing process as the procedures and medicines are.


18 January 2014 06:49

Since 05:00 I have been poked, prodded, ecg’d, blood sucked, weight and measured… then more antibiotics and …. A BELLY SHAVE! At least I won’t have to worry about pulling of hairs as the dressings are changed.

The surgeon and specialist come in to explain (again) to us what will be happening. I am surprised that the hospital has flown in a Laparoscopic Surgery Specialist – Dr Latta from Muscat, Oman, just  for my surgery.

It is rainy and nasty looking out my window… can barely see across the bay. A really good day for surgery…. nothing better to do.

I suppose I should have some angst about this but, really? I am ready to get on with it… a treadmill stress test is scheduled immediately prior to surgery. What the heck for I do not know.

At first I suspect a bit of “nest feathering” but, the cardiologist explains that the anesthesia is hard on the heart so a test must be done to see if the heart can stand up to it. I pass the stress test with flying colors… something that I would not have had the strength for only two days prior.

10 minutes after the stress test I am loaded on a gurney and whisked off to the surgical theatre. Staring up at the ceiling moving by I thought of all the movies where this camera angle was used but it wasn’t as interesting this time.

The anesthesiologist introduced himself and explained what I could expect. He joked with me a bit then off to the operating theatre … strapped down, oxygenated, and the last thing I remember is the  anesthesiologist saying “good night”.

When I awake, it is his face I see first  … six inches from mine as he chants “deep breath, deep breath, deep breath”… the he makes me swear an oath to keep taking deep breaths… Hell I can barely keep my eyes open … and this guy wants me to focus on my breathing? My eyes roll up and back to lala land I go. A few minutes (?) later I wake put look across the aisle at he nurses and try to take a deep breath…. HURTS LIKE HELL! … and off to lala land I go again…

I don’t know how many times the process repeats itself but eventually I awake back in my room… in pain and unable to really take a deep breath without setting off waves of pain… in walks the anesthesiologist and tells Tilly that I made a promise to … looks at me expectantly and I mutter “breath deeply”… if I could have reached him I would have hurt him! 

the afternoon and evening a pass in an agonizing haze with Docs in & out inspecting their handiwork… i can barely make sense of what they are saying … not even sure I could reply. Finally bed-time and Tilly, thank God has decided to spend the night … her presence made the night tolerable…

The next morning I think, “AND What the HELL was I thinking? Looking forward to surgery? Damn!” The surgery has relieved me of 1/2 of my large intestine… and I chuckle to myself (OUCH) as I think “ I can only be  accused of being 1/2 full of “IT” from now on.”

But it is over and I am headed toward healing recovery… the prognosis is good (and depending on the lab rests chemo or radiation may not be needed – I can only hope). BUT there is one more battle to face… and that battle blind sides me and Tilly  totally.

Next: The Hospital and Insurance Company –  Battle Royale

Healthy as a Horse…Sick as a Dog…Cancer….

I have recently been discharged from the hospital  after cancer  surgery. The following few blogs detail the  two weeks of our saga based on my daily journal entries. It is my hope that anyone else diagnosed with cancer and reading this will be encouraged or at least comforted. It also my hope that anyone reading this will make sure they and their loved ones are screened on a regular basis. I am lucky, so far. Others are not!

16 January 2014

Please sir, could you come back to the hospital lab as soon as possible?” the voice on the phone said.

I am standing at Starbucks awaiting my coffee and cinnamon roll, could I come after I finish my b-fast?” I answer.

Yes, but please do come back, OK? We need to draw some more blood and confirm a result.” The voice said with a mix of demand and pleading.

And so our dark adventure began. One hour later, after having more blood drawn, the results confirmed, I am sitting in the ER. It seems I had a very low hemoglobin count in other words severe anemia.

It may be long time before I am going to get another cinnamon roll “, I thought; still not  twigging on to the importance of my situation. Other than a nagging cough, a bit of tiredness, and a problem tolerating exercise (which is the reason for my blood tests ordered by the doctor), I feel OK, not great but OK.

“We need to admit you to the hospital and determine the cause of your low blood count… which is most likely internal bleeding… in the colon.”, says the doctor.

S**T, no cinnamon rolls” I am thinking as I say “But I am feeling OK.”

The fact that I am sick… really sick, begins to dawn on me a few  hours later as the second of two units of blood (to raise and stabilize my Hgb count) is transfused in preparation for a colonoscopy. My mind clears and the symptoms of fatigue, mental fogginess and exercise discomfort I have experience the last few months begin to make sense. My Grandmother died of colorectal cancer when I was 8 years old. Now, I AM paying attention. Cinnamon rolls drop of my radar screen.

5 AM the next morning the “clean-out” process for my colonoscopy begins. Anyone familiar with the process knows how “not-so” pleasant this is. Essentially you drink a mix of awful tasting salts and chemistry that causes the entire digestive tract to empty. And you keep drinking this gunk until … well IF you been through it YOU KNOW… IF NOT then YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO KNOW!

While the process might be unpleasant the real challenge is to make it to the toilet before (you can guess what) … the warning signs are brief and not to be ignored for a even a second! Even connected to an IV pole I somehow manage to make the scramble successfully every time.

After hours of waiting ; finally taken to the procedure room, I am sedated, scoped and examined… while I was not fully asleep (experienced a bit of pain and discomfort) I was not really awake either. I awoke to a slightly red-eyed Tilly (who has deserved mention long before this… as she has, had been and is so supportive… even to the point of taking the day off work to attend the procedure ) – the exam found a mass …. tumor… doughnut shaped growth… with a lesion (the source of my bleeding).

”A 99.9% probability that it is cancer.” said the Dr in response to Tilly’s first question.

Well there it was… probably the most scary scenario I had ever imagined, just  realized. I had often wondered how I would react… and feared considering the possibility of dying in the most horrible way possible… wasting away… in pain and no way to exit this world gracefully.

Surprising myself, I found that my first reaction was relief and  determination. Relief because I now had a definite cause for my distress and discomfort the last two or three months. Determination,  because knowing the source of my distress would allow me to focus all my energies to taking corrective measures. My second reaction was to ask myself as I looked into the tear reddened eyes of my wife, how I was going to emotionally support my family members (children and parents) from half the world away. That was going to be the hard part.

So, most likely I had the “BIG C” as these things usually turn out to be… Plus the family history is there… but we would have  t0 wait  for the “official” diagnosis until after surgery.

And yet, I was highly confident. Being severely anemic had brought me to the hospital and the very reason we had identified the problem. Anemia is a symptom of something more serious. Our diet has for the past few years has been so well balanced that food intake could not have been a cause. However, other causes of anemia are much more serious… bone marrow cancer (leukemia), kidney and/or liver disease.

So I count myself fortunate, so far. My tumor was in the best possible spot for surgery. A CT scan done later that evening  revealed no involvement with my liver (the closest major organ). My doctor is very positive and so am I.

Surgery will be on Saturday the 18th of January. With a good result and recovery I won’t have to figure out if I am more like Jack Nicholson or Morgan Freeman (a bad reference to the movie Bucket List)…


NEXT –   Pre Surgery, Post Surgery