MY HUSBAND, MY WIFE

I awoke this afternoon to a call from Matt at the grocery store, asking what else I wanted besides the items on the grocery list he had. He went down the list and told me what they had, what they were out of, and how the quality was. What he couldn’t find he asked a nearby produce clerk while I listened. Shop completed, he thanked the clerk and told me he’d see me at home soon.

It was just so cute!! I felt so proud and happy. He’s taken my role with grace and no complaints. And it’s hard work, I know, I’ve done it for 6 years in various living arrangements.

This is the job I do for Matt regularly, but in my absence, my husband makes it happen!

obscured_sunset

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DISCHARGED!

Yesterday I was discharged from the hospital around 1pm.

Finally, according to my surgeon, my health was stable, I was mobile, eating, pee-ing, and just waiting. He said (and think Barack Obama‘s voice),

“At this point, you’re gonna do better at home… You see, we’re in a hospital where there are lots of people coming in and out all day long. Each person that comes in, raises the risk of infection. At home, you will be more comfortable, you’ll get more rest. Just get on home.”

Did you hear it? Obama’s voice? I did!

Matt took a few detours for groceries and medications on the way home, then he excitedly got to work on chicken soup in the pressure cooker. Remembering a prior conversation about what I really need and want, he made this soup extra brothy for me, and chunky for him, and we could dial our own chicken soup consistency to perfection. And it was soooo gooood! We can’t find that soup anywhere but The End of the Road Café (us).

I overdid it unpacking and helping clean things, but we exhaustedly sat and watched a movie before succumbing to the night. Oh, yes, and then I had a physical, emotional breakdown. Very unpleasant. It actually started in the hospital the day before. Crying, lots of crying, frustration that things weren’t going my way, fear that I wasn’t recovering properly. At home, it just boiled over, and I was overwhelmed with tears for a few hours, for no reason. That must be the pain pills.

Over night I slept like a rock until 3am. I woke and felt like a spayed cat, unable to move but laboriously, and I felt every inch of that incision. I got up and took 3 Ibuprofen to take the edge off, and fell asleep. At 5:30am I told Matt to get me a couple of the prescription pain pills. By the pain scale, I was 8 or 9. Fortunately, that’s all it took and I was asleep again. That is pain you don’t want to meet face to face. It steals your soul.

But the darned narcotics; no sign of a bowel movement!

portland_ohsu_hospital

POST-OP DAY 3: Sleeping Bowels

Today, Sunday, I began feeling alert, Post-op Day 3.

Ah, wellness! I’m starting to come out of the fog; anesthesia flushing from my brain and system! No more IV fluids. More tests passed, more tubes removed. Right now, for example, I’m only hooked up to my iPhone. More and more, the hospital staff are leaving me alone (not that they weren’t all lovely people, I just wasn’t in the mindspace to make friends), and I will probably be free to go home tomorrow, the 12th. Poor Matt went home with a terrible cold which cropped up after his flu shot, so we are currently ambulating in different places. Boy did he miss me!

So, why am I still in the hospital? There is one last thing that I hope will not turn into a major complication. My bowels are still not passing anything, liquid or solid. In 2012 this same thing happened a couple of times after surgeries. My sleeping bowels took an incredibly long time to wake up, from days to weeks, and it is frightfully uncomfortable. I was ill-advised at that time to start eating “whatever I want” immediately following surgery, and that resulted in lockdown of my bowels.

This time I knew better, so I stuck with a liquid diet for the first three days.

The staff has advanced me to solids foods, but while I could use the nutrition, I’m afraid of compaction!cactus on rock wall

D-DAY: Down to Business

OHSU-Kohler-Pavilion

OHSU-Kohler-Pavilion

Matt got us to the hospital on time for D-Day,

…in spite of OHSU’s confusing, hilltop campus. It’s astounding; can you believe they built a hospital up here? It was quiet, dark and cold at 5:30am. I arrived clean (inside and out, thanks to that special body soap) and dressed simply and purposefully. Matt & I were a team, at times a comical duo, and in spite of the D-Day reality of the procedure, it was little worry to us as we bustled to gather belongings we would need at the hospital for about 5 days.

wet_dog_nose

Wet dog nose

After admitting, the nurse took me back to the pre-op waiting room and gave me moist, medicated towels that I was supposed to meticulously rub over my whole body. It felt like dog nose on the skin because when it dried, there was still an invisible tacky residue. “I’ve never, ever been this clean,” I thought.

Cancer_Institute_Team

Knight Cancer Institute Team

Each one of the surgical team came in at different times to introduce themselves, describe course of action for this procedure, the potential complications and answer questions. The procedure would last 5 hours, including:

1) Resection of two tumors on the outer tips of two lobes of the liver

2) Visual exam and surgical fondling of the whole liver to check for unusual masses or spots.

3) Finally, an ultrasound of the liver to look closer and deeper into the tissue than the hand and eye can.

And then I would wait in the recovery room for an hour or more for monitoring before I could see anybody, then I will see Matt and my parents before getting moved to my recovery unit. After that I will either go to the ICU (intensive care unit) for over-night observation (pretty routine in liver cases, but not always necessary), or I will go to a regular old room. IV’s placed, then the Anesthesiologist, a big teddy bear with jovial grin, went over his whole procedure.

All set to go

Matt & I said our goodbyes, and I was wheeled gently back to the OR (operating room) where the whole team was bustling about confidently getting ready for this complicated surgery. Some were familiar from the prep room, and others were introduced to me as they helped me shimmy to the operating table, and I faded out.

Again, both Matt and I have been through this more than we care to discuss, so a whole lot of mystery has been cleared up by our personal experience. We knew what to ask, and to some extent, what decisions to make.

Later on

I learned that the procedure was simplified because there was nothing new and unusual found in the liver, the chemo and complimentary treatments shrank the tumors down so he could remove the tumors with “good margins” (tissue surrounding the tumor is taken in case cancer cells traveled outside the tumors, and still leave large portion of my liver!

OHSU-Kohler-Pavilion-terrace

Many walks along this terrace

From Recovery, I was moved into a regular old room! But I guess it was not in the cancer ward, so the second night I was moved up to be among my kin. Not a stellar view, but where this hospital is situated, all kinds of cool weather effects happen all the time. I saw a double rainbow, lots of rolling fog banks between the trees and buildings, what a great place for pictures! The food is pretty good (!!), my expectations were low, so I am very impressed. Matt stayed one more night, and the lack of privacy drove him nuts, he couldn’t sleep, and he felt a cold coming on. But he was so gung ho to be my personal caretaker! Jeez, really, there will be plenty of time for that at home, Sweetie. So, we decided the hospital could take care of me, and my husband could be his own wife and recuperate at home.

A successful D-Day down and behind me! Each day is easier, and I can see progress. As long as I can pass gas by tomorrow, I can go home.

Tee hee. Truly, that’s what I’m waiting on.

POST-HOLIDAY PRE-OP

Finally, the Post-holiday pre-op I’ve been waiting for!

Although the whole month of December was my month off of any heavy-duty treatments, the month flew by! I made sure to participate in everything I could during that month, including a showing of my art photography, a final round of chemo, lots of family events, a spontaneous Christmas dinner and New Year dinner at my house. Inevitably, I was way too stressed out.

cancer-supplements-spreadsheet

Keeping track of supplements!

Then, about two weeks before surgery,Dr. Elena Panutich, my complementary care oncologist, gave me a diet and supplement order to help me tolerate the surgery, and to help with recovery afterward. I was able to find most supplements that I needed through the medicinary staff at NCNM (National College of Naturopathic Medicine), and created a spreadsheet to keep track of them. I joined a gym and started yoga once per week and had a personal trainer consultation. With surgery day advancing, I did a 2-day colon cleanse diet, then a 2-day low residue diet, then a clear liquid diet the day before surgery. The holidays were just a near memory, but I still had holiday obligations, so no time to sit around! I felt good and strong and ready.national college of naturopathic medicine

Then on Sunday before D-Day, I caught a cold. Could I avoid the cold, or could I at least be completely over it before Thursday? Fortunately, Monday and Tuesday were the worst of it, Wednesday I probably wasn’t contagious any more, and by Thursday morning I felt ready again!

Wednesday January 7th, Matt & I went into the OHSU clinic for pre-op testing and meet with the surgeon, Dr. Billingsley. I passed all the physical tests (EKG included). The doctor seemed quite confident in the success of the procedure.

So long as we got to the hospital the next day, I could relinquish responsibility for my self-care to the surgical and hospital teams knowing I did MY best.

COMING BACK ONLINE

I’m doing exceptionally well since coming back home from the hospital three days ago. Appetite is back and bowels are finally online (I mean, not online, ha ha, thank goodness…), functional.

See? I told you not to worry!

I’ve been writing the entire time, but nothing published until now. So, I will begin posting updates from the time in the hospital.

The good news from here is the hospital sent me home in excellent condition, healthy, well, and with a good prognosis on full recovery. Now the baton is in my hands, and Matt’s. At this time, I feel best staying home and clear of that horrid H3N2 flu. Rather than having guests over, Matt and I had our first “visit”, a chat on FaceTime, with his daughter Chloe, and that worked out great!

Stay tuned…

GlassSuds

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