So, after eight days away I finally get to update the blog! I’ve seconded Lewis’ laptop for 24 hours to enable me to catch up. The absence was perhaps not unexpected, but events over the last week certainly have been. Surgery went ahead, as planned last Tuesday morning. Taken down to theatre at 08.00 , first to the anaesthetist to put in an epidural, the idea behind that being to control pain after the operation. Just as a point of interest the anaesthetist live just a few miles up the road from me (Delph if you really want to know). Preparation and the insertion of the epidural took an hour, theatre for surgery to begin. Six and a half hours later I was out in recovery, not that I remember much, other than the pain. Pain management is a balancing act, we all have different thresholds, and so it took a while to get this under control. But I’m sure they did at some point. An hour later I was in Critical Care Unit, for what was planned to be an overnight stay, just for observation.
The overnight stay turned into a five day residency in CCU as things started to go askew to the plan. Memory from my stay is pretty vague, I know what happened, but the amount of morphine pumped into my body obscured most of the detail. Firstly pain, it soon became apparent, that the epidural wasn’t working. Only one side of my body was pain free. Not a problem and not unusual, but still something I could have done without as it took some time to establish the fact despite me being in agony. From there on I was given PCA (Patient Controlled Anaesthesia). In effect a pump I controlled with a button to deliver morphine whenever I needed it. Some sort of software ensured that overdose was not possible, and doses were automatically adjusted to ensure I was getting sufficient pain relief. My saviour for the next 7 days. CCU is a computer controlled environment, everything from blood pressure to heartbeat is monitored by the nurses who are with you 24/7. They react to the information they are receiving. I recall my head being swathed in wet towels at some point, as my temperature spiked from hour to hour. Now an indication of a serious infection. Again not unusual, maybe I was just being unlucky. Three broad spectrum intravenous antibiotics soon brought the fevers under control, but it did mean that my stay in CCU was extended whilst they ensured the infection was under control. I was supposed to be on an enhanced recovery programme, to enable me to be discharged as soon as possible, with the aim of starting the new chemotherapy regime as soon as possible. This meant getting me out of bed as soon as possible, being the day following the operation. I may have used to the term excruciating before to describe pain, but this time it hit a new level. An hour and a half to get me from bed to chair is no exaggeration, but in hindsight, it was a good move, as each time the process was repeated it got easier and easier, and I think I’m now benefiting from this decision. Food was the next hurdle. Just a sandwich to start with – no problem. That evening a tiny amount of mashed potato with a tiny amount of some sort of meat and gravy. I kid you not, we’re talking morsels here. But boy it certainly wasn’t morsels when it all decided to come back up! By now I was on I/v medication to stop me feeling nauseous, being sick, antibiotics, blood thinning…..and anything else you care to suggest. I know at one stage I had eight different medications being pumped into my body. I really do look like a junkie with the number of marks on my arms, so many that at one point they were considering using my feet to try and gain access to a vein. It was another couple of days before I was able to tolerate food again, but tolerate I did, and so finally after 5 days on CCU I was transferred back to the surgical ward.
Ah yes, the medical outcome ! Did you want to know ? There was no success or failure involved in the surgery. I knew from the beginning that there could be various outcomes. The operation was a success in that the tumour was removed, and with sufficient margins to reduce the likelihood of it returning, well at least in that place. Hopefully sufficient lymph nodes were removed to enable a precise staging of my cancer. This may not have been possible as radiotherapy may already have destroyed many of them, but we’ll have to wait for the histopathology report for confirmation of that – probably still another couple of days away, possibly more due to the holidays. In Mr. S’s own words, the area of bowel removed was like a a tube of concrete piping. The radiotherapy may have helped to save my life, but it also caused considerable damage. As a result of this, and the necessity of the stent, it will not be possible to reconnect my bowel in the future and so for me it’s a bag for life. At least I’m doing my bit to save the environment.
Well folks, that’s about it for now. By the time I blog again I’m hoping to be home, even as early as the end of this week, fingers crossed. My thanks and Love go firstly to Lew who has been here by my side every day, not exactly the way he would want to spend time up here, especially when it involves an hour and a half bus journey, each way, every day. Secondly to my family, all of whom have demonstrated their love and support me throughout this ordeal. I’d better hurry up with the rest I’m getting emotional. Thirdly, the staff at The Christie, from the very top, Chief Exec who took time to come and visit me in CCU last week, to the ground workers who show so much care, despite the difficult conditions they sometimes have to work under. There are no superlatives when it comes to describing the dedication, professionalism and god damn basic human love and respect when it comes to the staff on the critical care unit. Despite being at the depths of what any man can take you always made me felt cared for, and I always knew that you were doing as much as was humanly possible to make me comfortable. If anyone in future would like to criticise the NHS, please make sure you don’t do it in front of me, you might just end up with a bloody nose. And finally Mr S. and his team of surgeons. I haven’t seen him since Thursday last week, but I’m guessing he’s had the Easter holiday off. In my eye’s he can have the whole of the rest of his life off, for me you’ve done over and above what could possibly be expected. But I Know you’ll be back Tuesday, that’s the kind of guy you are, and after that holiday you’ll probably be putting in 18 hour days to make up for lost time. I have so much respect for you man.