Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Rumors of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated (Part I)

This should be the penultimate of the giant tumor updates, in which I detail the removal of the giant tumor and all that came after it. It's funny now, mainly because I didn't die. What I don't specifically remember, I'm filling in with things other observers have told me.  Think of it as a shoddily made documentary related by numerous unreliable narrators.....

On the morning of the 15th, I went to the hospital, arriving promptly at about 5:30 AM for a scheduled surgery at 7:00. I changed into a gown and handed over my clothes to the SO to be kept in a plastic bag until such time as I might need them again. It was pretty boring for a while, interspersed with some drawing of labs, placing of IVs, etcetera, and a final pass by my doctor, who explained I would not be receiving the robot surgery (BOO!), but would have a full laparotomy because she doubted she'd be able to actually remove the tumor unless I had a HUGE incision. I reluctantly agreed. Then the nurse asked me to hand over my glasses to the SO for safekeeping, and explained she was going to give me a little Versed to relax me. That's the last thing I remember, although I'm told I did say, "I feel a little woozy...."

Flash forward some hours later -- I'm not sure how many hours, because a lot of Monday is just strobe-lit images and vague sensations, and not a lot was really clear until much later in the day. I'm told I said a lot of nonsensical things, to which I replied, "And how would that be different than any other day?"

Anyway, at some point I woke up in the room. My mom and oldest son were there, along with a nurse and assistant nurse. (Apparently you get a doctor, a nurse, an assistant nurse and an assistant-assistant nurse assigned to you, which makes you feel special and important until you realize that all of these people will be constantly poking you with various sharp and dull implements for as long as you're there.) It was probably sometime in the early afternoon. I was hooked up to all manner of machines and tubes: oxygen, blood pressure, pulse ox, fluids, pain killer drip, foley catheter. It had taken me longer than anticipated to come out of anesthesia, so there was mild concern and I was being carefully monitored. I asked questions about how the surgery had gone, and then asked those same questions several times more because I immediately forgot what the answers were. Apparently my doctor was "positive" and "upbeat" and "90% sure" that the surgery would take care of the cancer. They had removed cervix/uterus/ovaries/fallopian tubes and, as a special bonus, my appendix. Apparently with this kind of cancer, the appendix acts as some kind sleeper agent, waiting until you're not paying attention and then going all crazy like a mole in an old episode of "24," so it's best to dispense with it early.

So the surgery was deemed a great success and the hard part was over, now all I had to do was rest, and I might even get released late the next day or early on Wednesday if I could jump through all the pre-release hoops that are set up. You have to perform a number of tricks before they'll let you go, to make sure you're not going to expire in the parking lot and make them look bad. Easy-peasy. I was encouraged to push my painkiller button as often as I wanted to, which I certainly intended to do.

At some point my daughter arrived, and everybody just camped out waiting for me to do something unintentionally hilarious or embarrassing that they could mock me with later. Be careful what you wish for.

I was pretty doped up, but I had this terrible sensation of needing to pee. Most of you, especially women who have been pregnant, will understand the extremely uncomfortable, overwhelming desire to empty your bladder. If you are forced to wait, it becomes incredibley painful and nearly unbearable. I didn't want to be a problem, but I finally told the nurse that she needed to do something. She told me not to worry, that sensation was just a sensation, and that there was no way my bladder would become distended because the Foley catheter would take care of that. I heard what she was saying, but the agony in my lower pelvis was not buying it. I became a little agitated.  Time went by and I became more agitated. It was getting no better.

Finally someone looked at the collection bag for the Foley catheter. (I'm assuming nobody had looked at it before.)  It was distinctly lacking urine. "Well," the nurse said, in that way that indicates the words following "well" are not going to be good. I'm a little fuzzy on the exact next chain of events, but it involved clearing the room and calling in additional personnel and at my best count, four different people tried 3 different catheters. (I think this has something to do with the lemon-sized dark-purple bruise somewhere very uncomfortable). Whatever occurred, it did not produce a satisfactory result for anyone. I believe I am partially to blame for what happened next, because by that point I was in considerable pain AND was "hopped up on goofballs," as they used to say in the 1950s teen crime dramas, and I may have overtly threatened someone that if I wasn't allowed to pee RIGHT NOW bloodshed would ensue.

So, against their better judgement and probably out of extreme frustration that my bladder seemed to have adopted a "no catheter" policy, the nurses agreed to help me to the bathroom so that I could actually pee like a normal person. Sitting up in the bed went well, and I think I managed to take an actual step before I uttered the famous last words I had uttered once already that morning: "I feel a little woozy...." That's the last thing I remember until I woke up to this:

There were literally doctors and nurses standing on the furniture and spilling out the doorway. Various health care personnel kept slapping me and asking if I was awake. I was very annoyed that so many people kept slapping me and asking me stupid questions. Really, like six different people slapped me, as if I'd opened up a slapping booth at a local fair and was having a two-for-one happy hour -- a slappy hour, if you will.  Various crowd estimates have come in so that as best I can figure there were between 15-22 hospital employees shoved into my room in the space of a few minutes.   Unbeknownst to me, at the exact moment they had called the rapid response code on me, my SO and the two smaller children had just stepped off the elevator to visit.  This apparently led to some consternation, especially on the part of the 9-year-old, who burst into tears, causing his sister to burst into tears. Or so I'm told. I was busy being slapped. At one point I distinctly remember requesting "The machine that goes PING," and being upset that no one laughed. At that point I was only talking in movie quotes, which may have made them worry I was not getting enough oxygen. Other than that, I was semi-conscious, which is probably good because at some point someone put in another Foley catheter, and I'm sure there was a sternly-worded admonition not to get up to any further shenanigans. Time passed, slapping me lost its novelty, and most everyone shuffled out to find entertainment elsewhere. Which is a shame, because that was only the opening act.....

(To Be Continued, because I can only sit in the desk chair for so long before I need a pill to combat the numerous throbbing bruises....)

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