Sunday, October 17, 2010

Time to tie up some loose ends - literally!

Everything is going great and I'm feeling pretty good, something I haven't felt in a while. I have this artifact from last years surgery called a temporary ileostomy that needs to be reversed. (Google it for more deatils on what it is.) Another artifact that I am carrying around is a surgical incision hernia. The hernia broke though back in late February. While it was breaking through I was in a world of hurt that wasn't helped by even the strongest pain killers. The hernia settled down but still presented problems in the form of pain now and again and was pretty unsightly. It literally looked like a cantaloupe was sticking out of the middle of my chest. So long story short I decided it was time to address these 2 issues and take a break from chemo.

I met with Dr. Temple and Dr. D'Angelica to discuss surgical options. Dr. Temple was game to do the hernia repair and the ostomy take down. Dr. D'Angelica agreed to do a visual inspection on my liver. The surgery was scheduled for October 7th which is 2 days short of a year since my last surgery. I went through the battery of pre-surgical testing and was sent home to wait and rest up for the big day. I had about 3 weeks to wait in which I worked full time at the job which by the way is going great. So much gratitude goes out to The Treo principals and all my co-workers without them I don't know where I'd be right now. Sandy attempted to secure housing at Miracle House but the Inn was full and no rooms were available. She found a place that was 2 blocks from the hospital which was great however the cost was 5X as much as Miracle House. Oh well...

The big day came and we were on our way down to the city. As usual we took the Amtrak down and had a beautiful ride down the Hudson. The Catskills were ablaze with their fall colors and the typical wild life were spotted along the way (saw 5 eagles 3 mature adults and 2 juvies). We arrived in NYC on time a cabbed it over to our accommodations, The Helmsley Medical Tower and this place was really nice. The room came equipped with a small kitchen, HD cable TV with HBO. The place was pretty quiet as it is used solely by folks in similar situations. The best feature of course was its location. We went to the market and stocked up the room with some food and beverage. This was torture for me as I was not allowed any food the day before surgery. We went back to the hotel for a good nights sleep.

We reported to the hospital at 7:30 AM on Thursday. Went through the paper work and signed a bunch of stuff. The nurse gave me my uniform for the week and told me to pack my stuff away in a garment bag that would be delivered to my room. Next I was prepped for the IV and anesthesia. 1 needle on the top of my hand the second in my medi-port. Dr. Temple stopped by to say hello and ask me about stuff before we began . She was off and about 30 minutes later I was escorted to the OR. At Sloan you walk to the OR on your own. Its kind of cool because you can see the whole room and everything in it. You also get the opportunity to chat it up with the staff before the anesthesia does its job. "Here comes the sedative Mr. Barber". At this point I was out.

Next thing I remember is waking up briefly while the NG tube was being pulled and the docs hurriedly putting me back under. I was then placed in the recovery room to get the pain under control. I was in and out of consciousness and asked to see Sandy, my Dad and my brother Ed. I forgot to mention that both my Dad and brother Ed were able to make it down on Thursday to spend the day with Sandy. It was nice to see them and we joked a bit when I was awake. Like the last time I had to wait a while for a bed to come available. Finally around 9 PM a room was tagged for me and it was a private room to boot. Since we didn't ask for a private room we can't be charged for the room. I settled in with Sandy and on came the pain. I was on the "button" (self administered pain meds) which was programmed to deliver a dose of hydro morphone every 30 minutes. At this level I was still experiencing alot of pain and they modified the timing to allow for a dose every 10 minutes. This was the ticket and the pain became more manageable. Sandy left for the night and I was off to dream world.

Friday morning Dr. Temple stopped in to see how I was doing and to give me the rundown on the surgery. Sandy was filled in and I'm sure she told me all about it the night before but at this point I had no recollection of what happened to me. She told me that my intestines were reconnected and back to the way they were. She told me to go slow with food and not over indulge. This was advice that I heeded due to my prior surgical experience where I over ate early in my recovery and ended up with a NG tube up my nose and down my throat for 3 days. I wasn't going to have that again so I took it easy. She told me that I should expect my bowels to move in a couple of days and that I may or may not have control over them. She commented that my hernia was one of the biggest she'd ever worked on and that that procedure would cause me the most pain. She said she really had to tug and pull to finally get everything back in place and sewn up. I didn't see Dr. D'Angelica but Sandy did and she relayed his report. He said that overall the liver looked good and that the fuzzy spot on the scan was toxicity damage that was on the mend. He also noted that there were still tiny spots dispersed across my liver but they all appear to be scar tissue. He biopsied 1 and we'll get the results on the next visit. So all and all the surgery was a success.

Saturday morning I was up and out of the bed sitting in a chair. I walked a half mile around the hallways before breakfast. Sandy came over around 9:30 and spent some time with me after lunch I was nodding off pretty frequently so Sandy decided to head back to her hotel for a nap too. I was laying there when all of a sudden I had a feeling that I have not felt in a long time came over me. The plumbing is working as it should again.

Sunday was a relaxing day. Sandy and I spent some time out on the roof top deck Sloan has for patients. Nice view of the Chrisler building and good meeting place. I found it to be a good spot for a nap.

Monday was a good day. Onward and upward to bigger things now. Sandy decided to check out of the hotel and take up camp in the hospital room. We found a convertible chair and had it moved to our room. Monday was also the day my brothers came to see me. My brother Jim met Michael in Woodbury and Mike drove into the city. They got in around 11:30 and hung out with me for a bit and chatted it up. Mike was getting hungry so Sandy and the guys went out for lunch. I took a nap... They came back and hung out for a while then had to leave in order to stay ahead of traffic on the GW bridge. It was nice to have Sandy in the room and we were treated to a mother nature light show that evening as a big thunderstorm passed through the city.

Tuesday my goal was to eat regular food and get discharged Wednesday. Dr. Temple came by and gave the green light for discharge. I spent the rest of the day going around saying my goodbyes and thank yous to all the staff and fellow patients I met. I was lucky to meet some really good people while I was there at Sloan. My nurse Glendacy was awesome. She was very caring and her 20 years experience at Sloan impressed me. The nurse's aides were all very good too they were all friendly and professional. I met a nice guy from Brooklyn named Louis. He was in for his third recurrence in 25 years. Tom was a young guy around 30 who had a colectomy (total removal of the colon) due to a colonoscopy the revealed over 400 polyps that were pre cancerous. Despite his condition he was very upbeat and felt as though he dodged a bullet. Then there was Luke. He was back again after a recurrence. He was quite a nice guy and a real fighter.

I have my followup on Wednesday this week where I'll get my staples removed and discuss any other followups. I also have a appointment with my oncologist to have a conversation about the game plan going forward.

Thanks to my family and friends who helped out and supported us with this last trip and to all who continue to support us. You all are the best!