Saturday, May 8th 2010.
The morning – Hardly slept. Spent the whole night tossing and turning. Happy to finally be up. Helene and I didn’t speak much, although we’d occasionally just glance over at each other, trying to avoid the elephant in the room.
We arrived at the hospital and settled in for the longest, most boring 3 hours of my life. Filled out more paperwork, taken to my room, changed into a gown, put on special stockings and legs put into a special contraption – both to avoid deep vein thrombosis – and just sat around waiting.
We’re off to see the surgeon – Finally, at around midday, an orderly came to take me to theatre. Helene came along and I was wheeled down a long series of very long and straight corridors. This was a part of the hospital I’d never seen before, nor even imagined. It really was a different world. We ended at a “docking station”, where they did a number of tests and asked me some more questions, like “What are you having done today?” Uri had warned me about this. “If you don’t say ‘I’m having my left kidney taken out’, the operation will be called off.” As you can imagine, I really toyed with all sorts of responses, but all who know me will be pleased to know that I did dutifully respond appropriately.
Penny, the anaesthetist (for all you Americans, that’s Aussie for anaesthesiologist) came and said hello, told us everything that she’d be doing and left.
And then finally, it was time to say au revoir to Helene. That really was the hardest bit. My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t wake up from the surgery – closely followed by that I would, but too early! It’s hard to really know what to say in those moments. On the one hand, it may be the last time, so you’d better come up with something really good and meaningful and intimate and inspiring. On the other hand, if you do (say something really G and M and I and I), then you may just be putting a moz on (you know, you may be tempting fate) – so better to just be cool and calm and collected like nothing bad can really happen here. But on the other hand again, (I sound like Tevye) that’s so inauthentic, and papering over the cracks, and not saying what’s there to be said, etc, etc. Anyway, we squeezed hands, looked into each others’ eyes, and knew each other completely. I said “Catch ya on the flip side”, and off I went, taxi-ing to the next little holding area outside the Operating Theatre.
Thanks for coming – As I got there, I caught sight of Uri. I said “G’day”, and he looked up from whatever the hell he was doing on MY day, and yelled out really cheerfully “Thanks for coming!” with a wave. I actually thought that was very funny and it calmed me down. Penny came over, stuck some tubes into my veins, and asked me to count backwards from 10.
That was quick – A minute later I woke up. It was dark. Helene was there. I said “well that was quick – it didn’t take as long as we thought it would”. She told me it was 11:30 pm. The surgery went for over 6 hours, and finished at around 7:30 pm, and I ……….. I fell asleep again.
The aftermath – I don’t remember much about the next day, Sunday. Monday is clearer. I started feeling OK. Uri came to see me and said that it appears to have been a success. But why it took so long is that the tumour was stuck to the pancreas, and he had to do a lot of hacking and smooth moving to detach it all. The whole kit and caboodle has been sent off to pathology, and we’ll know for sure by Wednesday.
Great. Just what a worrier like me needed to hear. Six and a half hours. Pancreas. Pathology. The next two days will be murder. They actually weren’t. Because I’d been reasonably fit and strong and healthy (aside from having had a whole cancerous kidney), I started recovering very quickly. I had my self-administered Morphine button, but I didn’t use it that much. I started walking early on, and did some breathing physio. And I was quite the host, sitting up and entertaining my visitors. (Of course, I didn’t realise or catch on to what my family – Helene, my daughters, my parents, my sister – and my close friends – were actually going through themselves, but more on that later).
The bombshell – Uri had come in to see me every day with no news from Pathology. Finally, on Wednesday, he dropped the bombshell. Pathology showed that the stub of the renal artery (or vein – not sure which) had microscopic cancer cells right at the end (where it was cut). This was crazy, because the whole purpose of the ultrasound right before the surgery was to make sure there wasn’t any cancer in the arteries or veins. Anyway, he’s consulted with another bunch of urologists and pathologists and vascular specialists, and the recommended action is to have another operation as quickly as possible. He won’t be involved in this one AND he’s going overseas for a conference and vacation tomorrow, but the vascular surgeon will come in and speak to us tomorrow………(to be continued)