Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Waking up is hard to do

Quick update on today (11/6/07)

So I haven't been sleeping that well, but at least my urinary control is getting a little better, day by day. It's still quite frustrating but not nearly as bad as it was the first day. I'm trying not to build up stress, but it's hard when my outlet used to be exercise, and now I can't do much of anything. Walking is okay but hurts after a little while. I'm starting to do a bit of tai chi again, and that feels pretty good, but I'm being careful not to overdo it.

Over the weekend we also went to a Chinese doctor who gave me some herbal supplements to help improve digestion and generally help my immune system. It seems like all Chinese doctors tell you that you have poor digestion, but maybe it's because it's true... I'm not sure, but talking to our western doctors it doesn't seem like it can hurt (we also got some consultation from other Chinese docs as well). Anyhow, I have to keep building up my strength and energy before the chemo...


Hospital Stay: Surgery
Now back to the past...

So when we last left off, I had been drinking the nasty bowel prep liquid and trying to keep my mind from worrying too much about the impending surgery in the morning. At the same time, I was mentally preparing myself to wake up from surgery with a stoma in my abdomen and also to have to stay in the hospital for 10 days...

The nurses came into the room at 4:30am on the day of the surgery; my mom and sister showed up at 5am. There wasn't a whole lot to do to prepare at that point. I got up, went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and did the normal things one does in the morning I suppose. Then the transport guys showed up with a gurney and whisked me away to the pre-op waiting room.

There I waited with mom and sister or mom and Serena (only could have two at a time) while people came around and asked me questions, confirmed my name and such, and made sure that I knew what was going to happen that day. The anesthesiologists came in as well to ask if I wanted to have an epidural put in place for pain control (this would actually turn out to be more trouble than it was worth, but at the time it seemed like a good idea). My surgeon had recommended this if by chance he had to remove my bladder - that is, the pain would be much worse than if it was just the prostate, and the epidural would help to control that. Sounds fun, eh?

So you may be thinking, "Epidural... epidural... where have I heard that before?". Well, an epidural is what they give to pregnant women when they're about to have a baby - it's a small tube that they insert into your spine to numb the lower portion of the body. I guess it's a little more effective than other medications because they can deliver stuff straight to your abdomen and pelvis, and you don't get as woozy as you would with other more systemic medications. Plus they give you this little button that allows you to give yourself a shot of one of the three pain medications, though I'm kind of convinced that that button doesn't do a whole lot.

Anyhow, so I opted for the epidural, and eventually when about 7am rolled around, they took me out of the waiting room and into the OR. I have to say I didn't actually feel that scared. I don't know why I didn't feel scared - it seemed like I should have been freaking out at that point, but I felt relatively calm about going into surgery. It's funny, because the actual surgery is really easy for the patient. The worst I had to knowingly endure was the doctor putting in the epidural itself. I was kind of waiting for it to hurt a lot or feel weird (it's a strange sensation to have someone poke you in the back like that - some how not being able to see what they're doing makes it a little scarier I guess), but it really wasn't that bad. Once they had it in, they told me to lie down on my back and breathe into the oxygen mask while they administered the anesthesia. Two or three breaths in and I was out...

"Alex! Alex! blah blah blah! Alex! blah!"

That's about what it's like when you wake up - all I really remember was hearing my name a bunch and then I was in the post-op waiting room. I'm sure they were actually saying things like, "Alex, can you hear me? Alex, open your eyes!" but really all I remembered was hearing my name. First thing I asked the nurse was what time it was - she said about 1pm. I was doing the math in my head - my surgeon said that the prostate procedure would take 3-4 hours; if they had to remove the bladder it would be about 7 hours. I was trying to deduce from the time what they had ended up doing - I thought they had started around 7am, so in a total of 6 hours... Seemed like there was a chance they only took the prostate, but I was too afraid to ask. I had a free hand that wasn't tied to an IV, but I was afraid to move it over my abdomen to check. I figured I'd just wait for a doctor to come tell me something.

Finally the surgery fellow came in and asked me some questions... he didn't tell me anything though, so I called him over to ask what they had done. When he told me they only took the prostate, I thanked him profusely for the news. Oh my god what a relief. Then the surgeon came over and confirmed, and I had nothing but love for the guy. Kind of silly, really, because objectively, he really didn't have much to do with the decision. Of course he was going to try to spare the bladder, but if the cancer had gotten out, it would have decided whether or not he had to take the bladder. Still, I was grateful, and so so soooo relieved...

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey, good posts - write more! it's nice to hear how it went/is going..
-jeff

Alexis said...

I second that. Sounds like you aren't quite as enamored of the epidural as I am. As far as pain relief goes, the epidural is A No. 1 on my list.

Janet said...

i'm finally reading your blog. i keep forgetting you have one, and it didn't occur to me to read it since i see you pretty frequently. but there's lots of interesting stuff here -- keep em coming.

also, your post says 10/6 instead of 11/6. :p

- janet

Nancy said...

Hi Alex,
I like your description of what it was like to come out of surgery. The part about the first words that you heard upon wakening was very funny, and I also liked how you described your feelings of gratitude towards the doctor who told you what had happened.
I am glad that that was the outcome of the surgery and that the doctor was able to give you the news that he did.
- Nancy

noah said...

Wonderful news that the surgery went well, Alex. That's one more step forward. Hang in there, work that tai chi...
Noah

Jessica said...

Alex - thank you for sharing your experiences so freely. Your honesty, humor, and equanimity are absolutely amazing (though not surprising). As I'm reading your posts I find I have tears in my eyes, yet a big smile on my face. I'm thinking of you often these days.