Home from the hospital, beginning to heal, and still so confused. The surgery went well. Dr. Johnson removed one foot of my colon, tested the surrounding lymph nodes, and found no cancer. He also found a benign cyst on another part of my colon, which was, and I quote, “really strange” to him. So, what I have learned about cancer stages is this:
- Stage IV: The cancer has metastasized to other organs of the body.
- Stage III: The cancer has spread to the surrounding lymph nodes.
- Stage II: The cancer has penetrated the deeper layers of the organ and has grown significantly.
- Stage I: The cancer is isolated and small.
This tells me a few things:
- I do not have Stage III or IV cancer.
- I do not have Stage I cancer.
This seems simple then. Dr. Johnson told me that the cancer was deep into the musculature of my colon, so Stage II, right? Well, maybe not. No one has told me this, so I refuse to feel certain that I am at that level.
More important information:
- The survival rate of Stage I colorectal cancer is 90%.
- The survival rate of Stage II colorectal cancer is between 55 and 80%.
- The survival rate of Stage III colorectal cancer is 40%.
- The survival rate of Stage IV colorectal cancer is 10%.
So what does this mean for me? This is what I want to know, and this is what I am unsure about. Should I assume that I have a lot of work to do before I can feel “well” again? Or, is the scare over? Am I cancer free, since they removed the mass in my colon? Who is supposed to tell me these things? I meet with the oncologist for the first time on October 7. That is a long time from now. Until then, I guess I will just wait.
Since I’ve been gone for so long, I thought I would give a short run-down of my hospital recovery. It was not easy, as I had hoped. It was not just up and up, better and better. It was good, better, terrible, worse, okay, good, etc. etc. etc. Healing is a strange thing.
- Day One: Woke up from surgery without any pain medicine in my system. Broke into tears, fear, and anger. Met my husband in the hospital room and cried for a while before allowing the rest of my family to see me. Hydrocodone worked well on me, meaning it didn’t make me feel “out of it” or “crazy.” I was pleased with its effects until night time, when I tried to sleep. I had a machine that measured the number of breaths I took per minute. If that number drops below 6, an alarm goes off. This basically means I am overly sedated and could die, if the alarm did not go off, simply because I wasn’t breathing. Scary. So, when I tried to sleep, the alarm went off, again and again. At around 4, I insisted that I needed to sleep, begging through tears for the nurse to do anything to help me sleep. So they lessened the medication, and I finally slept, all of 3 hours.
- Day Two: I was removed from the automatic I.V. pain medicine and put on vicadin. In order for me to receive the vicadin, I had to ask for it (meaning, when I slept, I could not ask for it, obviously). On my second day, I had a fantastic nurse, who really pushed me to get moving. I took a short walk that day, my catheter was removed, and I was feeling fantastic. Not literally feeling fantastic, but feeling that I would be out of the hospital in two days or so. My nurse told me that I was healing faster than any patient she had ever seen with my surgery.
- Day Three: I began to receive broths for food. Very exciting! I was again walking, a bit more, and feeling that I would probably leave the following day.
- Day Four: I received the “full liquid diet,” consisting of a blended soup or cream of wheat, juice, pudding or ice cream, and a carton of milk. As I was quite excited about real food, I ate most of my food for breakfast and a good amount for lunch. At around 2:00 p.m., I began to feel very nauseous. By 3:00, I was vomiting and feeling terrible. And, this may be too much information, but I had not completed a bowel movement, though I felt a strong need to do so. I definitely wasn’t going home.
- Day Five: Again, nausea, vomiting, and exhaustion. I received phenegren, an anti-nausea medication, which made me sleep almost the entire day. I walked once, maybe twice, on this day. Again, definitely not going home. At this point, I am feeling very frustrated and depressed. I had assumed I would be home at this point.
- Day Six: I felt pretty well for most of the day, and began walking very early in the morning, determined to have a bowel movement. I was sure that I was feeling such nausea because I had not regained my bowel function. At around 8:00 a.m., I had an x-ray to ensure I wasn’t having unusual swelling, and the doctor discovered that my colon was filled with, well, you know. I really needed to go. But, I didn’t, so in the hospital another night.
- Day Seven: Again, I felt well for a long part of the day, but in the evening, beginning around 5:00 p.m., I was nauseous. My parents had gone home, sure I was going home, and my husband had left for the night. I vomited around 8:00 p.m., with only a new nurse who I had not yet seen to comfort me. Dr. Johnson came by to see my progress, and I broke into tears. I was sad, frustrated, and just wanted to go home. But, not today.
- Day Eight: Finally, success! I had the most painful bowel movement of my life, thanks to some colase and serious walking through the hospital halls. At lunch, I was actually hungry for food, for the first time since my surgery. Steve, Dr. Johnson’s P.A., came by and said that I could go home. At 3:00 p.m., I was discharged from the hospital.
I go through this so that, if anyone does read this, they will know that no matter what, everyone is different. I am quite healthy, in general, and was called a “star patient” on the second day of my stay. Though I was sure I was going home on the fourth day, I stayed for eight full days. It was horrible. My spirits were as low as they could have possibly been. But, as of today, I am feeling better. Not good, no. I tried to clean the house a bit today, and that wrecked my entire day. I killed any energy I did have, and even felt a bit dizzy and nauseous. It’s just one of the “off” days, though. I know that now. Healing is not a straight shot upward; it is a long, bumpy, winding road, and I know I can do this. I do have to be patient, which is hard for me. I just have to be patient.
Weight: 114, Mood: Tired