Friday, April 7, 2017

Surgery; the Wait and the Aftermath

So I had written before about my health History and waking up from my laparoscopy on December 15th with the sudden and unexpected reality that I had cancer. The gynaecologist called 2 weeks later to confirm the diagnosis.  We had held back on telling people before that. Orhan was holding on to some hope that it would be benign, but I wasn't.  It's not that I was being negative. I just understood quite clearly that a surgeon doesn't deliver news like "it doesn't look good" if he hasn't seen something that he professionally knows and recognizes to be cancerous.  I was glad that he actually prepared me. I wished he had actually said something beforehand if my MRI gave him reason to be suspicious.
In the immediate aftermath there was some stress and pressure from relatives to get the hysterectomy asap.  It was even proposed that I should go to Turkey to have it done more quickly.  But I really wanted to stay at home, even though I was powerless to change anything with respect to timelines - you get your diagnosis and a referral to the cancer centre, but you are still a person in a lineup of many others waiting for action. I had to wait what seemed an agonizing 2 weeks for my first appointment with the oncologist.  She did order a CT scan in the interim, which thankfully showed no apparent growth on any of my other organs - with the exception of the other cyst on my right ovary.  It showed a lot of growth since the previous scan in October.  After meeting her I was relieved.  My surgery was scheduled for January 26th. I set about to prepare for taking time off work and getting myself mentally ready for the big changes in my life.
I stuck to the diet I started in December - with some help from a naturopath.
The surgery was over 2 months ago now, and it already feels like a distant memory.  I remember being really nervous about getting an epidural.  I've heard of people whose epidurals caused long term back pain. It felt strange going in, but I was so happy that I got it. It helped with the pain tremendously.
 I always get really sick with anaesthesia, and this time was no different. I remember going up to my room after waking up feeling ok in recovery.  The nurses were asking questions and my blood pressure dropped really suddenly. I asked for a cold cloth and one of the nurses just dismissed me, saying "we're just trying to do your transfer here" and then proceeded to ask me some question that I couldn't answer because I'm pretty sure there was hardly any blood reaching my brain. They only stepped up to help when the BP monitor alarm started sounding. I think it was actually less than 90/60.

I stayed for 4 days - the first day was the most difficult- although the epidural was helping with pain, it did cause the low blood pressure and my first trip to the bathroom the next morning was horrible. I actually made it to the toilet and then fainted into the nurses hands. Luckily she was able to keep me in the sitting position.  The rest of the day I had to use a commode because there was no way I could make the short trip to the washroom.  I would say that once I was actually able to make the walk there, I started to get better pretty quickly. I had a lot of visitors and it was uplifting to receive that much support.  I was happy to get home on Sunday though.  There is no better comfort than home.

In the weeks that followed, I was frustrated by bowel issues.  I was eating really carefully but I did lose a lot of weight because I was too constipated to eat much. Two weeks to the day after the surgery, I woke up feeling horribly nauseous. I had had stomach pain since the night before. I couldn't eat - I actually forced myself to break the diet and eat a piece of bland toast with tea.  But the nausea just got worse throughout the day.  I started throwing up in the afternoon.  I threw up several times and each time it was dark green liquid. By 7:00 I knew that something wasn't right so Orhan brought me to the ER.   The doctor told him it would take several hours to wait for scans and results, and that I might even be admitted. So he went home and I just tried to rest/sleep while waiting for results. By around 1:00 am, a nurse told me that I had been admitted. Turns out that my bowel was so inflamed from the surgery that I had a blockage.
Sometime before morning, they inserted an NG tube. I can honestly say, it was probably the worst medical procedure I've ever had to endure in my life. It was in for about 30 hours, draining the backup from the blockage. The whole time I struggled with constant gagging - I could barely turn my head left or right.  I could hardly speak and my voice got progressively more hoarse as the time passed.
Thankfully the surgeon who was overseeing my case felt that the blockage could resolve on its own, without surgery.  At the first sign of movement, she took out the tube and I became the happiest person in the hospital.  I started walking laps around the halls just to encourage movement.
I got to go home on Sunday (again), but I had to stay on a very liquid diet because I was still really inflamed and constipated.  5 days later, I started getting diarrhea instead - although it was more like a constipated diarrhea if there is such a thing.  I just thought that the 2 were connected to the inflammation, so I just waited until my post surgical appointment at week 4. They tested me and confirmed a C. Difficile infection.  Oh the fun! I was actually relieved at the diagnosis and the diarrhea stopped within 36 hours of starting the antibiotics. Then I was able to heal the constipation that returned by taking 6 Turmeric pills a day (for the inflammation) and stool softeners. 3 days later, I was finally as good as new, with most of the pain from my surgery subsided and my bowel issues finally resolved.
My chemotherapy was originally supposed to start on March 3rd, but it got pushed to March 17th so that the infection could finally clear.  The bonus of waiting an extra two weeks for chemotherapy is that by the time it started, my bowel issues had resolved and I felt fully healed from the surgery. The only signs that remain are this lovely 6.5 inch Frankenstein-like scar (22 staples!) that remain... and the bonus ... my skinny new self as I lost probably 15 or 20 more pounds in the time since the surgery - thanks to my reduced appetite, bowel issues and my lovely grain free diet.  How can I complain though?  I finally feel like I'm in a healthy body and I actually get excited in a fitting room now.  Sometimes you have to endure some hardships but there's always a light at the end of the tunnel.

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