6/14/17 The Big Day
Don was in good spirits as we headed to Duke yesterday. His surgery was scheduled for 2:00, so we needed to get there at Noon. His good spirits helped mine; we are a good team like that. I’m sure he was a little nervous, as was I, but mostly we were ready to get it behind us. At some point during this roller coaster ride he has said, “It seems weird to be talking about a major surgery like this when I feel fine.” Yes. Weird is an understatement. Cancer is crazy like that.
They got him set up in pre-op and then I was able to visit him one last time. While there he showed me his shaved belly and how they had to that because “each hair is a vessel of infection.” He found that entertaining. “Now I’m looking at all the arm hairs and realizing all the vessels of infection I have all over the place!” The nurse laughed. Dr. Z, the surgeon, was there when I got there. He confirmed the planned procedure — look around laparoscopically, remove tumors from liver, hopefully identify and remove primary tumor, which he believed to be in the small bowel. We agreed that sounded good. He figured the procedure would take 3-4 hours.
Then Dr. M, the anesthesiologist, came by. Wow, what he does is incredible. In addition to being under general anesthesia, Don would also have an epidural. This is for pain management after surgery and also to help with recovery. Dr. M described, “Back in the day, when someone had abdominal surgery, anytime the bowels were touched they would freeze up and stop working. Now when we use the epidural, it puts the bowels ‘to sleep’ so they don’t know they are being handled, so they keep on working. This allows for better and quicker recovery. When the patient’s bowels are working after surgery, they can eat and go to the bathroom, and recovery is much better.” Don will have the epidural for as long as he needs it – could be 3 or 4 days. Or maybe more?
So the time came and I gave him a kiss and told him I’d see him in a few hours. They wheeled him to the OR about 1:15. They would need about an hour to get anesthesia going and then they would begin surgery. They did begin about 2:20. My mom and Don’s mom arrived about that time, so we got some lunch in the cafeteria and visited there for a couple of hours. I got the OR update at 4:20, right when they promised (updates every 2 hours) and the update was “procedure is still in progress.” Ha ha, this was funny to me. I was glad to know they are in process, but some info would be nice. But … I felt like no news was probably good news. Carry on! The moms and I moved up to the surgical waiting room, which was very nice. We settled in and chatted some more there. And then we were buzzed with an update at 5:20! I was surprised to hear they were finished and Dr. Z would meet us in the consult room. He kept it to 3 hours. Impressive!
Surgical waiting area
Arrivals/Departures aka Patient status board
We met Dr. Z in the consult room and he said it went as he expected and Don was doing fine. He looked around laparoscopically, and saw what he believed to be the primary tumor on the lower small bowel (terminal ileum) almost where it meets the colon. He removed that segment of small bowel, in addition to the ap-
Can you find the terminal ileum?
pendix, gallbladder and lymph nodes. Then he removed the tumors from the liver, three spots, which resulted in the loss of about 25% of the liver. We will get pathology reports on all of this in about a week. It’s great news that he found & removed the primary tumor! This will have a positive impact on Don’s health & longevity.
When I was finally able to see him, he was a little loopy and our chat went like this:
Me: You did great, honey. They got the primary and removed a small portion of bowel with it.
Him: What’s the bad news?
Me: No bad news. They removed the lesions from your liver, so you lost about 25% of your liver. That’s good.
Him: You can tell me the bad news.
Me: No bad news! He did see a few tiny lesions on the liver, but they were deep, so he decided not to mess with them. We can watch them over time.
Him: Really, what’s the bad news?
Me: The only bad news is that you have some pain and you are stuck in this bed for a few days.
Him: Okay, that sounds good.
He made it to his room about 8 pm. He joked/complained to the nurse that the tv screen was smaller than the computer monitor used by the nursing staff. As the nurse was leaving she asked if he needed anything, and he said, “Bring me some tools so I can switch out those screens.” Ha ha. He might be short a few organs now, but he still had his sense of humor. I am grateful.
6/15/17 The Day After
Today was a good day! Thanks to the epidural he is feeling good. He took a walk around the unit, ate some broth and even peed a few times (eventually)! I learned that hospital time is kinda like the Twilight Zone: goes at a snail’s pace but then the day is over. I’m so proud and happy he is making great progress. Special thanks to Pastor Mark Brainerd who came to visit and pray with us.
Don is eager to see the boys and I hope they can visit tomorrow. At this point I think he will be coming home on Sunday, but that is yet TBD. Again … grateful! Thank you for all of the prayers, texts, facebook messages and support!
Superman on his first walk down the hall