Saturday, June 29, 2013

Part 3: Are you kidding me, a six and half hour surgery

It's never easy anticipating an impending surgery. At least, not for me anyway. A week before surgery, my good friend, Michelle, came to visit from Southern California. It was fantastic. The goal for this week was to take care of any last minute details, prepare my room for a long convalescence period and enjoy myself and have some fun. I had a great week with Michelle. I am a worrier by nature, but this week I was so distracted that I never really had time to worry – absolutely awesome. Michelle stayed until the day before my surgery. I will forever be grateful for that week with Michelle. The day before surgery was such a busy day, there was Michelle's planned departure, my oldest daughter, thirty years old, flying in from Las Vegas, and my youngest daughter, twenty-four years old, had been visiting New York and was expected back that evening. I had reserved two rooms in a hotel near the hospital. We would stay there the night before surgery and then while I was in the hospital the girls would have a place to shower, eat and rest. My youngest daughter’s flight was delayed, she made it home late that night, so by the time we made it to the hotel it was quite late. It was about this time that my anxiety kicked in. I was very glad that I was surrounded by my three daughters –having them near me gave me a sense of calm during a stressful situation.

The Day of Surgery. I had to be there EARLY –it was still dark outside. I checked in and waited to be taken back for prep. It was all so surreal. When I think about that time now, it seems like a dream, a bad dream actually. Once I was assigned a room for surgery prep, activity arose –there were nurses coming in and out of the room. My surgeon came in a number of times to check in and share with me his plan –he anticipated the surgery would take about 6 ½ hours. My word—that was a long time. Since I had my daughters with me, I thought this was a good time to go over what they were going to do while I was in surgery –I asked my older two daughters to keep my youngest busy because I knew this was not going to be easy for her, I could tell she was concerned, emotional and worried. The anesthesiologist came in a few times –this was my opportunity to let him know that I am a nervous patient and fear surgery. He was interesting to say the least and had a humor I certainly appreciated, he even called me out saying he understood that I was a type-A person and needed to plan and strategize my every move. Yeah, okay, a little harsh to hear, but that’s pretty much me in a nutshell –remember the list making comment from my last post?? The anesthesiologist assured me he would take great care of me –and that he did –he gave me something that made me quite loopy, but hey, I was no longer nervous or worried. Mission accomplished.

I don’t have any memory of saying good-bye to my kids or ever being taken to the operating room. The next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room. My two older daughters were there –my youngest was busy setting up my hospital room—a good thing for everyone. As I slowly came to reality, or pseudo-reality, I was loopy as all get out –plus I struggled with swallowing. Eventually, I was moved to the hospital room I would call home for three days. Surgery went according to plan, except it went a little quicker than expected. Yay! My entire neck was a white blob of bandage and I could not move my right arm very easily. You see, when the surgeon cut into the side of my neck (he referred to it as deep neck dissection) to get to the tumors, he had to move several nerves out of the way, including my right shoulder muscle. Over the next few days, it would be revealed that I have a keen inability to withstand narcotics. The nurses tried three or four different kinds, all of which, my body reacted to in a negative manner. I was then put on straight Tylenol for pain. Poor me. I could not believe that I was unable to take any strong pain pills. I would make the world’s worst drug addict. I guess that’s a good thing, but at this moment, I was in so much pain that I needed something stronger than Tylenol. That was not meant to be, so I was destined to channel the pain with only Tylenol. Rest assured, I got through it alright. I was able to go home on day three. I was so glad to go home and get into my own bed. Now I could convalesce in the comfort of my own home. I still had a long road ahead of me, but the surgery part was over --thank goodness. I had a few days before I needed to go in and have the dozen or so staples removed from my neck and a good month to rest and heal before radiation treatment. My next post will cover some of the health issues I dealt with post surgery, pre-radiation prep, radiation treatment, the isolation period and all the wonderful side effects.

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