Abdominal Surgery, Chemo Class, Chest Port, Colectomy, Losing Control, Metal Staples, Rip Van Winkle, Unpredictability, Water Strider
All is fine. The recovery from my colectomy surgery is as perfect as can be. Very neat and smooth repair of the incisions, thanks to the careful attention of my surgeons and the little metal staples that held my abdomen together during the initial healing process. I think I’ll be completely scarless when this is all through. After such a short time, I’m able to bend, sit, walk and otherwise exercise with no distracting pain. In addition, I seem to have passed the disconcerting period I experienced when I seemed to be competing with Rip Van Winkle in my ability to sleep incredibly long hours. Twice this month, I was able to get to the noon Mass at Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light where I’m the Thursday volunteer cantor. With luck, I hope to resume docent duties, too, though that will likely depend on my reaction to the chemotherapy.
I feel I’m quite prepared and ready for the next phase: the actual chemotherapy treatment. The Cancer Clinic conducted a very informative and comprehensive “Chemo Class” which gave me a lot of information about what I might expect. I’m scheduled to have a subcutaneous port installed tomorrow. The port is a plastic doohickey that will connect directly into one of my large chest veins, and whose opposite end will be somewhere under my skin in the area of my shoulder. Being covered by my skin, the port won’t get contaminated or dirty, and will allow me to shower and otherwise remain as active as I want. Its totally “cool” technology, and it will be permanently installed during the forthcoming 6-7 months.
When I report for my first chemo infusion Wednesday morning (31st), the nurses will be able to feel around and connect the IV drip directly through my skin to the doohickey (and thence to the vein for circulation). This will eliminate the need for repeatedly installing an IV into the top of my hand. Since I don’t find the “hand IV” very pleasant, the port appeals to me as a perfectly sensible alternative, especially since I’m scheduled for some 12 bi-monthly sessions of infusions (which would require a lot of repeated IV installations). Each of the infusions will apparently take 3-4 hour sessions in the Cancer Clinic (so I’m expecting to catch up on the pile of books in my “to be read” pile).
In addition, as I presently understand my schedule, once each month I’ll be sent home with a little fanny pack that will pump additional chemicals into my chest port for 48 continuous hours.
The day before each infusion I’ll be having blood drawn to check the status of my platelets and check, especially, the count and condition of my white blood cells. The white blood cells constitute one of the main components of the human immune system. But they will also suffer degradation from the chemotherapy treatment. So the docs will carefully analyze my blood counts (and especially monitor the count and condition of my white blood cells to make sure they don’t drop below a safe threshold).
The “losing control” is evidenced by the fact that nothing seems entirely permanent in this process. Schedules change at a moment’s notice due either to evidence obtained from the numerous blood draws, CT scans, and other lab tests I’ve been taking, or doctor’s availability and unexpected schedule changes. Monica and I have learned to “take it as it comes” (which, for organized and conscientious people is much easier to say than to experience.) But the learning is not optional… its imposed. So the frequent schedule changes and calls to come to the hospital for this or that test is taking a bit of an adjustment. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to actually beginning a regimen intended to battle the cancer.That will start next week, Wednesday morning. A good time for continuing good thoughts.
Ending this obviously positive report, I wanted to share with you a temporary residual effect of removing the metal staples securing the surgical incisions from my colonectomy. My skin around the former incisions is now attractively patterned with what looks like a tattoo of water striders. I’ll be a little disappointed when those disappear as the physical healing continues!
Monica and I thank you for all your continuing good wishes (as do Michał, Anastasia, Stefan and Krysia). Keep those good thoughts coming. They are much appreciated (and obviously efficacious)!