My Cancer Story: Out of Surgery

Standard

liquids

I opened my eyes.The clock said noon.

Four and a half hours gone by in a twinkling.

Barbara body check:

No nausea.

No memory of a tube being whipped from my throat.

No weirdness from a catheter.

Worries Two, Three, and Four, all vanished.

Yes!

“You’ve been out of surgery for an hour,” the recovery room nurse said.

I did some fast math. My surgery lasted a half hour longer than expected, by my calculations.

Did the doctor need to remove additional nodes, meaning the cancer had spread?

Worry Number One, The Big One, despite my sleepy brain, loomed large.

An orderly wheeled me out of the recovery room.

I saw Cliff for a moment. At least I thought I did.

A blur of walls. The ding of an elevator.

Next, I was in a hospital bed.

I glanced around. No other beds.My own room. Worry Number Five, gone!.

Cara, who introduced herself as my nurse, explained lots of stuff. I mostly remember her pointing out the  TV remote control and the phone, tucked in on one side of the bed. Cool!

But what about the pathology? Cliff had promised to tell me right away, good news or bad.

But he had said nothing in the flash of an instant I saw his face.

Did that mean bad news? Was he waiting until I was more stable?

Finally, at one-thirty, he stepped through the hospital room door. I hit him with the question immediately: “What’s the pathology?”

“All good!  Everything is good.”

I sank back into the bed. Never, ever have I experienced such relief.

That joy took hold and hasn’t left me yet.

My first meal arrived. A liquid one that included my beloved Coke!

Despite my high spirits, I fussed at Cliff, “Why didn’t you tell me the good news when you saw me after recovery?”

He explained that besides a half-smile, I slept, and of course, he didn’t know he wouldn’t be coming into my room right away. (Turns out, the orderly and nurse asked him to wait while they got me settled, and then forgot about him until he began to worry and inquired.)

Maybe waiting made the news even more powerful, if that’s possible.

All was forgiven, and Cliff enjoyed my jello with gusto.

Cliff Eating

An hour later we checked out the bandages. Amazing, isn’t it, that not so many years ago, this would have been a giant incision.
Stomach

A visit from our pastor (don’t worry, I didn’t reveal my stomach) and phone calls added to the room’s festive spirit. Everyone reported later that I was an upbeat chatterbox.

Ordering a meal at UNC Hosptial  is great sport. The menu is divided into pretend restaurants. This is the page with Asian food.

Menu

We decided to select dinner from the Southern Cooking page. After all, we were in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Best milkshake ever. It’s probably all I really consumed. While food sounded, looked, and tasted good, my appetite was missing and wouldn’t return for two weeks.

Hospital Dinner

Cara printed three goals on the white board across from my bed:

Walk.

Pee.

Eat.

Eat: Although I didn’t consume much, I passed the eating test.

Pee: The catheter, which began to bother me some by nighttime, was staying in until the morning, per doctor’s orders. Pain medicine helped. Official peeing would come tomorrow.

Walk: I’ve heard story after story of patients being pushed out of bed.

“Am I getting up?” I asked the late night nurse.

“Nope,” said the nurse. “You aren’t going anywhere tonight.”

If you told me three months ago that I’d be hooked up to tubes and ordered to stay in bed at UNC Hospital, I’d have panicked.

But that night, in that hospital bed, was just about the happiest night of my life.

I’m not sugarcoating the experience.

I’m not making light of something so serious.

I’m writing the truth.

The surgery over. My pain minimal. An excellent surgeon and her team. The kindness of family and friends and hospital staff.

And most of all, an excellent pathology report.

What more could this girl want?

womens-hospital

34 responses »

  1. So wonderful you have shared this. Women down the road, for a long time, who are dreading the procedure and scared, can google it and hopefully your chronicle will surface. A gift to women all over.

  2. Happy for your Happy outcome! Great documentary posts of your surgery. Hopefully it will encourage other women who have like symptoms or have the same diagnosis to go forward with their treatments with less trepidation.

    • Thanks so much! Even though I have a bit of a long suffering post coming up about my recovery, the whole operation and recovery really aren’t much to be afraid of. I have a good friend with a more virulent form of the same illness. She would tell us that it’s the chemo that’s the challenge. She’s been my role model of courage and energy.

  3. Barbara, you are saving lives. By sharing your story, you are letting women know that taking early symptoms seriously – not ignoring them or postponing doctor visits – means that cancer can be reduced to being a dreadful scare – not elevated into becoming a much more dreadful life sentence. Brava.

  4. I love the way your worries all failed to actually happen! That’s wonderful! What a great blessing that pathology was negative! I recently had surgery on my ankle and I could somewhat relate to the anesthesia experience, and lots of other facets of your hospital experience. Good luck to you and keep getting better and better!

    • Miriam, an ankle seems painful. Hope it’s better and sounds like your experience went well too. I’m so impressed with anesthesia. Can barely stand to think about what people went through in centuries past.

  5. Thank you, Barbara. Although I cringe at your love of “coca-cola” and worry about any pronlonged fondness of any kind about “jello,” you have so captured, and so very well, many of the complexities of this surgery and recovery with your blog.

    It is one’s spirit that so matters most!

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