Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Hospital Stay (Cancer Story, Part 3)

The nurses knew of me because my mom is a retired RN from the same hospital. They told me they were so sorry that it was indeed a tumor and I was just numb. It took me about 30 seconds to regain a little composure. Then I asked Dr. P what the recovery rate was for this and when he said about 85% I thought to myself, "YEAH, we can do this!" Then I asked the next step. He said that he would do surgery later on in the day, and that he would see me again very shortly. He left the room to go out and tell my mom and Ted what was going on and within a few minutes they were in the room with me. That was a big help. I was trying not to cry, but a few tears were sliding out. Thank goodness they were both strong, because I needed that. My mom is ALWAYS strong. She's a tough italian woman! Ted, well, I wasn't so sure how he was, but at least in front of me he was fantastic.

The next few hours were sort of a blur, until two surgical nurses came to my room to take me down to surgery. One of them said hello to me, like she knew me. When I seemed a little puzzled, she said that she was M's mom. M is a second grade teacher at the school I teach at, and I have known M since we were in high school together. I had seen this woman at our school, helping her daughter M on different occasions and had actually met her. Believe it or not, it was a real relief to "know" someone. She was absolutely WONDERFUL with me! Because of HIPPA and privacy, I told her that she could tell M what was going on. I knew that she wouldn't, unless I gave her permission. She asked if I was sure I wanted her to know, and I said yes...M and I are close at school. We can tell each other anything about people at school and situations at school, and I know I can trust her completely.

Because surgery was running behind, they let my mom and Ted into the surgical "holding" area to be with me for a little bit. Eventually I went to surgery, and things were pretty much a blur until the next morning. As I awoke in the morning, I realized that I was in pain all over my body. I ached absolutely everywhere. I felt like I'd been hit by a semi and thrown 100 yards. As I was just thinking about that, in walks Dr. P, my surgeon, and he said, "Hi...I'm the truck that hit you!" Because I had been thinking that exact thought, I started to laugh and that put me in more pain.

However, he had good news. He said he took out about 15" of my colon along with a golf ball size tumor. Yes, I had a colostomy, but it was temporary. He said that he felt confident that he got everything that he needed to get and that I probably wouldn't remember most of what he was saying right then. I think he was right! He checked my colostomy and incision, then said he would talk to me later.

Since the day before, I had been telling the staff that I wanted a private room, and it just so happened that one came open. So while Dr. P was out at the desk, writing in whatever secret documents doctors write in, he saw me being wheeled out and around the corner. He looked at me with a questioning look and someone told him I was going to a private room. He said something about he was sure I wasn't being dismissed yet!

Within 10 minutes of being in that private room, a vase with a beautiful flower arrangement was was from my good school friend M and her family. That really brightened up my day. Over the next several days, a total of 11 different arrangements came and they really helped brighten up the room.

I had been trying to get in touch with my principal but had not been successful. I had told her the previous Monday between the time I found out about the gallstones and the time I went to the ER that I would probably need gall bladder surgery and didn't know if I'd be able to start the year out. That Friday night I was finally able to touch base with her. I'd been leaving voicemails and messages with people, but hadn't been able to talk to her in person. When we finally did speak, she said that she saw the Caller ID say the hospital, and she asked if I had had my gall bladder taken out. I told her that it was a little more involved than that and told her what was going on. She really felt bad. Of course she was also thinking about getting a sub for me, and not knowing how long I would be off work. I had no idea how long it would be either, but promised to keep her informed. Then there was also the fact that the staff would be told, and our secretary's sister had died of colon cancer about a year before. I didn't want her to go through being reminded of that whole nightmare again, so I told my principal to keep it very upbeat with the secretary.

The next day as I was up in the chair in my room with my mom and aunt visiting, I actually got a meal. I remember eating a glazed carrot first. It was soooooooo good. I hadn't really eaten in at least a week, and at that point anything tasted great! I had about 5 bites and that was all I could handle. That day was good as far as getting to eat was concerned, however it wasn't so good as far as the colostomy was concerned.

My colostomy became notorious for leaking. A colostomy appliance should last 5-7 days. Mine weren't even lasting ONE day before leaking out the sides. In fact, on that Saturday a nurse started her shift at 7 am. The first thing she did was change my appliance. This is not a simple, short process. It can take up to 30 minutes at times, depending on how messy it is. This nurse worked 12 hour shifts. The last thing she did, just before 7 pm, was change my appliance. The next morning, she came in at 7 am, and her first thing to do...was to change my appliance. They tried everything they could think of and eventually they could get it to last an entire day. What a mess.

Throughout my stay, Dr. P had repeatedly mentioned that the colostomy was temporary. He said that it could be reversed in a couple of months. HAHAHA...little did he know that I had this all figured out in my head. A couple of months is two months, which is close to 8 weeks, which really isn't much longer than 6 weeks, and could even be not too off from one month, which is only about 4 weeks. So I was planning on having this thing reversed by Labor Day weekend. OH MAN, WAS I EVER WRONG!!! On my last day there, he mentioned that I would need to see an oncologist after the pathology report came back to determine whether or not I needed chemo. Then he said that they couldn't reverse the colostomy until after chemo (if I needed it) was finished. Talk about bursting my balloon.

Then I went home on Monday, August 15.