Tuesday, September 05, 2006

MediBlog - Say What?

Okay - so I go see the surgeon Tuesday, August 22 and received the news posted here. Discussions with docs are interesting. You're sitting there, listening, trying to read between the techno-babble lines and keep up with what's being said. And then the doc says something like...

DOC: "If we move on this and act aggressively we can lengthen your life expectancy from three months to two years. And that's a quality of life - not life in a nursing home with tubes running in and out of you..."

Now, when you hear a statement like that, your brain immediately ceases following the trail of the discussion and says something like...

MY BRAIN: "Did he just say three months? Three months? Was he talking about me directly or was he just giving me a fer'instance - numbers out of a hat..."

So I'm mulling this over while he is going on and on and then he abruptly comes to:

DOC: "Okay, any questions? Good. Gotta go. The folks around here will get you set up..."

ME: "Um, when you said three months to two years, were you speaking hypothetically, pulling numbers from a hat or were you speaking about me specifically?"

DOC: "I was speaking of you specifically, if we don't move on this right now you'll be dead in three months..."

ME: "!"

So I drifted through the rest of the day getting set up for surgery the following morning. Here was the plan: open me up over top of the liver...

...eyeball the three tumors: two small, one large. Remove the two small with a procedure called Ablation...

...basically they burn the material out with a sort of ultrasound wand.

Depending on the location of one of these small tumors, they might remove it with Resection - cutting out a whole chunk of the liver.

The best approach for the third, large tumor will be determined once inside. They know it's on the back of the liver...

...in the vacinity of the two major blood vessels that feed the liver making it impossible to determine if the tumor has its own blood supply - which would be bad. Also, with me running way low on my platelets, the danger posed by accidentally puncturing one of those major blood vessels is pretty high.

Okay, long story short - they go in. Of the two "smaller" tumors, one can't be found at all while the other is so small it can't possibly be cancerous. They start battling it out with the insurance company about what to do on the third bit. They do a needle biopsy - three very small samples of the tumor are taken out and schlepped into the freezer. This material will be put under the microscope as soon as it's frozen and they can slice it. It's a fast and dirty biopsy. They also have to take a fourth, larger sample and let that one be biopsied in a more elaborate (read longer wait for results...) biopsy. Surprise - according to the quicky biopsies, the large lesion isn't cancerous as well. So - out it comes via ablation.

What with the back and forth of my amazing, disappearing tumors and my insurance people tracking and at least once overruling the doc, I'm in the OR from about 10am to 3:30pm. And baby, I'm hurtin' when they get me out of there. I'm moaning and groaning and they're like:

NURSE: "On a scale of one to ten, how much pain are you experiencing?"


They take me to a room and hook me all up with various and sundry electronic monitoring devices as well as an IV with a liquid dilaudid push button thing. At this point I've had nothing to eat or drink for 15 and a half hours. I'm finally allowed some ice water - which hits me like the greatest, coolest, wettest water I've ever tasted - just wonderful.

T tells me there's no cancer in my liver. I sort of hear this but don't really take it in because by now I've been hitting that dilaudid button non-stop and I'm high as a rat. Even so, I manage to remember that I have to have a pee as soon as I can or they're gonna catheter my guy...

I manage to squeeze out some liquid - much to the relief of the night nurse. (I'm thinking this catheter thing is as embarrassing for them as it is for the patient.) I'm waking up every hour but in between I'm getting some real sleep and Thursday morning I'm feeling pretty good.

They take away my beloved push button and start me on dilaudid #4 pills...

...once every four hours. The pill version is courser, and it's got me feeling a little nauseous. But T and I take a walk. They've gotten a lot of the monitoring stuff off me so I can get in and out of bed without calling a nurse. A physical therapist comes by - asks me to stand on one foot, stuff like that. She sez I'm looking pretty good.

Then the lung guy comes in. He's not convinced at all that the spot on my lung is cancerous. He says it looks a lot more like a bacterial or viral infection. But he wants me to stay over so the next day they can run a tv camera with a cutting blade up my nose and into my lung to gather some cells, grow them up in a petri dish and run a biopsy and find out for sure what's going on in there. So that means...no eating or drinking after midnight.

I nibble at lunch - and throw it all up an hour later...

NURSE: "Are you vomiting?"


Same with dinner.

I am given a roommate who is in really bad shape. He sounds like he's breathing under water. Staff are coming in and out every 30 minutes doing stuff with him ALL NIGHT LONG. Needless to say I get no rest that night - or food and water.

Friday is sketchy. I'm exhausted, miserable. Lips are chapped and shredded. I've bitten up the inside of my mouth. The lung team take me away - give me something to "relax me" and then go get their little cells from my lung. I'm back in my room late Friday morning. I've had no solid food since Tuesday at midnight. T and I work overtime to shake out the cobwebs so I can get the heck out of there. And we're home Friday afternoon.

I'm back at work today. But hardly at 100%. The fourth biopsy on the large lesion in my liver has confirmed the others - no cancer in the liver. We'll get word about the lung biopsy early next week. If that proves to be non-cancerous, then I get fast tracked for a liver transplant which will head off this liver cancer all together.

Thanks for everyone who pulled for me. Thanks to those who offered encouraging words. I wasn't posting but I was reading. I'm clearly in a much better place than I was three, four weeks ago. Now we wait for word about my lung...


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