Monday, February 29, 2016

Surgery: it's Tensions Terrors and Traumas. I am home.

First things first:

I am well, at home, learning to eat again - harder than you might imagine- and feeling okay.

Never bury the lead is a guiding principle of journalism, never keep the audience in the dark about the key issue, the key revelation, the key truth. I survived surgery. Relatively speaking, I have survived well and while the trip is by no means done, the journey for now seems so much more navigable. We always want the latest step to be the definitive one, the piece of the puzzle that turned things around but health doesn't really work like that and cancer doesn't really get solved like that.

Strangely enough making it into Hamilton for surgery on the 16th of February was more difficult than most of the other steps in this medical drama. When we left the house it was the early moments of a blizzard that made the normally easy trip harsh, tense and worrying. As Debi said as the car slid slightly as every bit of the surface seemed buried in ice, snow, or a nasty mix of the two, there is no point in getting killed in a car accident on the way to potentially life-saving surgery.

The surgery itself was 'complicated but routine.' And long. Debi had to deal with the anxiety and uncertainty of an operation that ran longer than expected, with doctors who were less clear than they needed to be about how things went. I was the lucky one, under an anesthetic, unaware of just how much time was passing.

Snowstorms, a shortage of real information, medical people being oblique or circumspect were just the things that happened that day to Debi, reminding me yet again of how little we acknowledge the intense and incredible strain illnesses put on others, not just on the one who is sick.

Complicated but routine translates into being opened up and having a section of the esophagus and the stomach cut out and then reshaping the stomach and what remains of the esophagus into a new functioning whole. The esophagus, the breathing tube, the aorta, part of the lymphatic glands all come together in sections and in my case the surgeon was surprised by just how close the aorta and esophagus, especially the part that needed to be excised. were. Cutting out the one while missing entirely the other was part of the reason the surgery took so long. At the end of the procedure, everything is closed up, everyone believing, hoping, praying that what needed to be removed had been so.

Once I did wake up, there was pain - lots of pain - grogginess, and tubes...tubes everywhere. Tubes that took stuff out of me, tubes that put stuff in me, tubes that let the medical team monitor me. Tubes that were necessary and at the same time made me feel and appear very ill. In addition to finding the most apt pain management system, there was the whole thing about not taking anything by mouth for a week, Over time the tubes came out, the pain became manageable, not taking things by mouth became slightly tedious and my medical team kept telling me how well I was doing. So ten days after checking in, I checked out and, on a much nicer, though still slightly snowy, day, Debi drove me home.

At home the tedium of recuperation sets in. Change and improvement are incremental and by no means unidirectional. Some days the eating is a charm, some days the diarrhea nearly intolerable, not to mention deeply embarrassing. The drowsiness seems to be abating, the energy seems to be returning, the pain today is less than yesterday but we are still only days into what was described a a 4 to 6 week process and the human impulse is to want it to all be better now.

But the top line is that I am home, I have survived complicated, difficult surgery and there is every reason to believe that things are on the mend, if I can borrow and twist one more cliche.



  1. Hi Peter
    So very glad that you are home. Your writing is, as always, so insightful and courageous and honest. Here's hoping that the biggest hurdles are behind you and that the mending process is full steam ahead. Christine

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hi Peter...
    Glad to hear you're on the mend. Wishing you all the best for continued improvement as the days and weeks go by.
    Kudos and best wishes to as well to Debi.
    Best regards,
    Thee other Kavanagh (Tom)

  4. The comment that was removed was removed by me because it was a duplicate of my other comment. I don't know how that happened. I feel like a friend of mine with whom I had dinner few weeks ago. His 18-year-old daughter was there, and was quite amused when her father said he had received a twitter from someone. SHE would know how I managed to post a comment twice.
    Cheers again,