D-DAY: Down to Business



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

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.


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!


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.


Stoma Revision: Fasting for the second operation, started at 2:00am.

I was now counting hours until the new procedure was to take place. The doctor came in to my room while Matt was getting coffee at the cafeteria. I had already hit the PCA (Dilaudid) button twice to relieve some discomfort and awoke from a deep nap, and in her frenetic pace, she began to overwhelm me with scenarios about solving the stoma problem, then laid out my risks and said she would have waivers for me to sign. I felt helpless because it seemed (in my drugged stupor) like a scattered conversation, and like a lot of information was coming at me that I couldn’t keep track of, yet still had to consent to. Then she was gone.

When Matt walked in, I broke down and told him I felt worried now. I recounted what I could remember about the hurried conversation, and questioned whether the doctor was feeling confident about operating on me. He firmly reassured me that the doctor was highly experienced with all things abdomen, and pointed out that I was not in the best condition to be receiving the information and he wished he had been there. I said I would feel better if I consulted with our family friend, a Portland surgeon, Earl.

Dr. Earl Schuman has been in on my story since diagnosis when my parents strongly recommended I consult his expertise. He was very forthcoming with advice and offered his support in any way. I was way more together when I explained the situation in detail, and ask his advice. He listened quietly, then assured me that the complication was very common, the doctor is very adept in her expertise, and everything that was happening was within good reason (he was more eloquent). Voila, 2nd opinion. That set my confidence.

Then, I was headed in…

Then I woke up…

The lights of the OR were garish and the staff flitted around the OR talking like chipmonks. I could barely make out what they were saying, trying to see straight, wanting to meet the strange creatures that swirled around the abyss behind my eyes. It was over.

It all went smoothly, of course. The operation lasted from 1:30-4:00pm. I had a new pain in my abdomen, but felt more in charge of my body than after the first surgery. The deed was done! Now it was on to waiting for the anesthesia to wear off, for the ‘plumbing’ to wake again and for sounds to come from the new stoma!

The rest of the day passed, and the next day I waited, then around dinner time, I heard a toot! I flipped up my hospital gown and looked down. Well, I’ll be.. I saw it move! My dinner was sitting there on the counter, untouched until then, so I grabbed a fork and took pecks of mashed potatoes, chicken, chowder, and chewed really well, then went back to bed to wait. An hour later, more noise, and the bag showed residue. Bingo! More dinner. I ate with glee! It had been 9 days since beginning my initial fast until I can finally EAT!

Hercules! This was recovery!

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