We celebrated Thanksgiving on Wednesday evening, instead of the actual holiday because of my scheduled surgery on Friday. Actual Thanksgiving day for me involved starting the morning by drinking an entire bottle of Miralax, with the rest of the day consisting of only liquids as I prepared my bowels for surgery the next day.
My bowels empty and prepped, my body cleaned twice with special antibacterial soap to help prevent infection from surgery, we left for the hospital to check in early Friday morning. We checked in at the desk and proceeded to my pre-op room where I was given the first of many IVs by the nurse. The anesthesiologist was the next to arrive – he gave me a little something for my nerves and got me set up with an epidural, which would be the main pain control for during and after surgery. My surgeon and his other team members then showed up to check in and for a little pep talk. I was soon unconscious and under the knife.
I awoke in the post-op recovery room in excruciating pain and extremely thirsty. Though I couldn’t feel my abdomen, apparently pain also presents in the right shoulder if you’re having liver trauma and wow, did it hurt. The nursing team was right on it, getting me more drugged up and comfortable as well as feeding me little bits of ice chips.
I was eventually wheeled up to the post-surgery floor and to my room for almost the next week. I was still quite drugged up and not in the most severe pain, though that right shoulder would continue to be the main point of my pain for a few days. Continuing my diet of one cup of ice chips per nurse’s shift, we watched some of a live music stream before visiting hours ended and Emily was sent home.
The weekend was long and slow – lots of pain killers through my epidural, little bits of hot and interrupted sleep here and there. I had a low grade fever the first few nights and was pretty freaked out, though the nurses and doctors were not so concerned as it never got over 100.9. I was hooked up to a tremendous amount of tubes – 4-5 IVs, including one in my neck, 2 drains near my incisions, the epidural, a catheter and a few more I’m forgetting.
My larger incision (Mercedes type, on the left in the picture below), where they worked on my liver, is about 10 inches wide. If you look at the picture above, the surgeon removed most of segments II & III, a deeply imbedded tumor in segment IVb, and then as to not remove any more healthy liver he microwaved the remaining tumors on the rest of the liver. The incision below my bellybutton, where they removed the piece of colon, is about 6 inches long. He removed about 2 inches of my Sigmoid colon, reconnecting it and not requiring me to need any sort of ostomy bag.
After a few days of epidural pain meds and an exclusive ice chip diet, my epidural was removed. I was switched to oral and IV pain meds as well as a liquid diet of broth and jello. Things then started to move in my bowels and I was soon able to eat some simple solid foods. Tubes and drains continued to be removed and I was sitting up and walking around with a walker. My progress continued and soon enough, I was walking unassisted throughout the halls – walking is great exercise for rehabilitation after abdominal surgeries.
There were a few SNAFUs with the removal of some of my tubes. My neck IV was sutured in with 3 stitches – apparently very securely. The nurse had to pull on my neck and really dig deep to snip the stitches and remove the IV which truly hurt like hell. The next fun one was the removal of the epidural. Ironically, the anesthesiologist who was about to remove it said something along the lines of “Oh, you know? I always forget to tell people that the actual removal of the epidural doesn’t hurt at all!”. He then proceeded to rip off the adhesives around the epidural along with a good chunk of body hair and my screams of “FUUUUUUUUUCK” reverberating down the halls of the floor.
Finally, after 6 long nights in the hospital, I was released on Thursday 12/3. I’m home and continuing to recuperate. I’ll be getting my staples out this Thursday (about 16 in the smaller incision and 25 in the larger). In a few weeks, I’ll get more scans and blood tests to see where we’re at with the cancer and what are next steps are for treatment.
As always, thank you for keeping me in your thoughts and for all your texts, messages and well wishes in all their various forms.