My Battle With Cancer Part 2- Surgeries

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Check out My Battle With Cancer Part 1-My Life Turned Upside Down. It is the beginning of my journey with cancer. It is about how it all started. Read Part 1 first.

The Surgery

When I woke from surgery I was in and Intensive Care Unit. I had my surgery on a Saturday but I don’t remember much of anything, I remember only bits and pieces. I do remember being thirsty. They would not let me have any water. I remember my daughter walking in. But I don’t remember any conversation. I remember my son being there, but only in bits and pieces.

I do remember them wheeling me into a regular room. I was so confused about what was going on. I knew I had surgery and that I had made it through the surgery, which was questionable before surgery.

I Have What?

On Tuesday morning my Doctor (Surgeon) came into my room with my regular Doctor. My surgeon asked me why I didn’t go see a doctor and why I had waited so long to come into the hospital and if I would have waited less than 12 hours more I would not be here right now. I looked at my regular Doctor and said that I had seen her the same day I called the ambulance so he (surgeon) needed to ask her (regular doctor). My surgeon looked at my regular doctor and rushed her out the door.

They both returned a few minutes later. My surgeon told me that I had cancer in my colon and that it had perforated and they had to clean my insides also. Wait, WHAT? I had cancer. Then he said that I had a colostomy bag attached to my colon. He did not know if that was going to be permanent or not yet. Wait, What? I just laid in the hospital bed and stared at both my doctors and I never spoke a word.

I laid on my bed staring out the window. My mind was blank. No sound, no thought, just staring out the window. The nurses and CNA’s came into my room to do their rounds, give me medicine and clean. I was not able to eat solids yet. I drank a soda. I felt so numb.

Each day that passed I was getting better. I had an incision that went from just above my pelvis to right at my stomach with 48 staples. I started to think about the word ‘cancer’ that my surgeon said to me. I just couldn’t believe it. But he said that he had gotten it all out. So what does this all mean? I was so confused.

Going Home

After 10 days in the hospital, I was able to go home. With my colostomy bag. Oh, I hated that thing. It hurt trying to get it to stay on. The glue that was attached to the bottom part made my stomach raw with the skin coming off. But this was all so new to me. I couldn’t drive, move around, walk, or anything.

It was hard dealing with so much all at once It was a lot for me to take in. Eventually, I did. I also went back to work driving a school bus. Yes, with the colostomy bag on. Which by the way was no fun at all. I hated that colostomy bag with a passion.

I had issues with healing. Most areas healed really well but a couple spots did not and the was a hole that was in my stomach that the nurse packed with medicated gauze. I still worked through all of that pain.

Another Surgery

After three months I was back into surgery to repair my colon back to normal and hopefully get rid of that colostomy bag. After surgery when I woke up the first thing I did was look to see if that bag was still there. I was so thankful when it was gone. But I was back to another recovery. This one wasn’t so bad this time, my colostomy bag was gone.

I was in the hospital for four days this time. I knew what to expect from the first surgery so I wasn’t blindsided. Recovery at home was not as bad and I was back to work in 30 days.

A Cancer Specialist? Why?

Then my surgeon said I needed to go to a cancer specialist. Why? He said because I had cancer. I thought to myself that since my surgeon had gotten all cancer out then why am I going to see a cancer specialist?

I did as I was told. This was all new to me and I didn’t understand most of it. So I spent my time researching colon cancer. Well, that was depressing. I did feel lucky that I was able to make it through. My cancer doctor wanted to know why I hadn’t come sooner. I didn’t know I was supposed to go to a cancer doctor.

He decided to put me on chemotherapy as soon as my surgeon said it was ok. Wait, What? Now I have to be on chemotherapy? But I don’t have cancer. I am so confused again. My cancer doctor said that it was preventative measures.

I did not have any experience with cancer and all that was entailed in what I should or shouldn’t do It was a learning experience for me. There was so much being thrown at me in a short amount of time. It was hard to take all the information and process it in my brain. But that is exactly what I had to do and I did.

Now a Procedure To Put In Port

I had to be put to sleep again to have a port put in so that there was a direct line for my chemo. A port is a bendable tube that (in My Case) is put into a vein in my neck so that the chemo medicine can be given to me intravenously. A port is a central venous catheter.

Chemotherapy

My port is used to take blood for all my blood tests that are taken weekly and to hook me up to the chemo that will be pumped into my veins via a pump that is in what looks like a fanny pack. I would have chemo continuously pumped into my veins for 46 hours and then have a 12-day break. Then continued like this for four months.

I never had a perfect blood test since this all began in December 2011. Now it is October 2012 and I finished my last chemo. I was so glad to get rid of that thing.

The side effects of being on chemo were awful. I was sick to my stomach nonstop, the nausea was terrible. I was so weak I could hardly move. I know the side effects are better than having cancer and I believe that. It just takes a while to get used to everything that is happening to my body.

Surgery Number 3

In December 2012 I had a hernia surgery to remove the hernias caused by scar tissue. I was cut open in the same spot that my previous 2 surgeries were just a couple inches shorter. I was out of the hospital this time the third day after surgery. I had to go see my cancer doctor every other week for blood work. Then February I was down to once a month cancer doctor visit.

I changed my regular doctor to a doctor close to where I was since the cancer doctor said that I had to have 3 doctors. One my cancer doctor, one surgeon, and one a regular doctor who would see me on noncancer-related issues, like my diabetes. Diabetes was diagnosed 3 years prior to my first bout with cancer.

That year 2013 I continued seeing my cancer doctor once a month except when I would skin one or two. I was so burned out on all of this, I just wanted to just forget about it for a while. Live my life for a little bit. In March of the following year 2014, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I went to a gynecologist surgeon and had surgery to have a total hysterectomy. I told my gynecologist surgeon to take it all out since I was no longer using them parts, that way cancer cannot move to those parts if they are gone.

Surgery number 4

In June 2014, I had a hysterectomy. After coming home from the hospital I had a visiting nurse on a daily basis for vitals and to recover my surgical staples. I got an infection since part of my staples had to be taken out in the hospital due to fluid build up in my stomach.

This was not an easy road. I was constantly having to go back to my gynecologist surgeon due to infection and it seemed like a waste of my time since my antibiotics were the only thing that was being changed. I finally quit calling.

Chemotherapy Again!

My cancer doctor, who is wonderful, told me that I would have to go on chemotherapy again. I tried talking him out of it to no avail. So in October 2014, I went on chemo again. This time was a different chemo medication. I did not know there were different chemo medications until now.

The doctor explained to me that this chemo was stronger and more powerful and there were some side effects that I needed to be aware of. My hair would fall out was the one I remember the most. I did not want that to happen. The cancer place I went to was very supportive and offered free classes for makeup and free high-quality wigs. As well as massages taught meditation and had support for families of cancer victims. I really like this place. No one was ever in a bad mood. They were always so pleasant and helpful.

The other side effect was drinking or eating anything cold would feel like glass breaking inside your mouth and would be very painful. Touching anything cold would feel like needles. What, wait! I would feel like I was chewing glass? Oh no, I thought my hair falling out would be bad.

I started chemo in later October that would run until the end of March 2015. This would entail getting blood drawn early in the morning then seeing the doctor and usually the results were in by the time I saw my cancer doctor. Then if the blood work was ok and the platelet count was not low then I would go back to the chemo room.

In this room, I was hooked up to a couple medicines for side effects. When those were done about 45 minutes later they would start the chemo IV through my port and that would last about 4 hours. Then I was hooked up to the chemo in the bag that I would wear for 46 hours. When the chemo pump in my bag would start to beep, I would go back to my cancer doctor and the nurse would remove the IV in the chemo room. I did this every other week until the end of March 2015.

The chemo side effects were so bad this time I had to quit my job. As you remember the last time I was on chemo I worked right through. This time was so much worse. To top it all off it was winter and here in Illinois, it gets cold. I would wear gloves to get food out of the fridge and freezer. Even though I was on medication for the side effects it was only a slight relief, if any.

I was so afraid of losing my hair I was extremely careful about washing and brushing my hair. I did not lose all my hair, it thinned out a lot but not all my hair was gone.

This brings me to March of 2015 when I was finally free of the chemo. My blood work was coming back good. My cancer level was down in the normal range. That was great news. Although the side effect of chemo would continue and I would have to deal with that until such a time where the chemo is out of my system and I would feel better.

Read Part 3 next.

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