It all started innocently enough.
Back on Sunday, June 24, I spent an afternoon outside hovering around the grill. There was much meat, a few martinis, and I had just laid in my summer supply of smokes, so I capped the evening with a Victor Sinclair churchill.
But....I was sitting their leisurely puffing away, and I felt a little 'off'. Bloated perhaps, like I ate too much. That does happen from time to time, so I didn't think much of it.
Monday morning, I awoke to some discomfort, but went off to work anyway. I tried to ignore it during the day, but I kept putting off doing anything for two reasons...I'm a tough fuck and I was hoping it would pass, and we were waking my dear great-uncle that evening. I dutifully drove to Melrose and saw all the family, taking care to cover up any probelms I was dealing with.
Back home, I was feeling really bad. I went to sleep, hoping it would be better in the morning, but at 3am I sat bolt upright in bed, nearly doubled over from a sudden attack. I almost called the friendly EMS guys for a ride, but incredibly, it passed and I settled back to sleep. Tuesday morning, I popped a couple of Advil and went off to the funeral. After that, I went to visit a friend that just had a knee replacement....and then directly to my doctor's office to the first appointment I could get.
Doc poked and prodded at me and said "You know what this is, right?" "I'm thinking appendix". A wan smile and a grim nod confirmed the initial diagnosis of acute appendicitis. I had a CAT scan that evening, and then the technician immediately came out and walked me over to the ER to be admitted. Since I was feeling bad all day already, I had had nothing to eat or drink, and now with emergency surgery in the offing, all I could do was watch the lactated ringers drain slowly into my vein while I wished for a glass of water.
Morning came, and with it another CAT scan requested by the surgeon. I was still expecting an appendectomy, but the surgeon told me that it depends what they see once they open me up. I waited until nearly 2pm, then they finally wheeled me down to the OR. Trying to be a good patient, I cheerfully greeted everyone, confirmed no allergies or other difficulties, then they dropped a mask over my face and time ceased to exist.
I vaguely remember seeing 9pm back in my room. No family was around; they had all given up and gone home about an hour earlier. The staff was extremely helpful to me...and fortunately the Sox were on the coast so I had some late-night programming to watch while the anesthesia slowly wore off. In a haze the next morning, I continually self-administered some pain meds, and then the surgeon came to visit me. What I heard was surprising.
It turns out that the appendicitis was a secondary diagnosis. I had what was defined as a "Cecum Mass", and this blocked the appendix and made it flare. Doc told me they took out the mass, my appendix, and the right ascending part of my colon. He wasn't sure, but he though then that the mass was cancerous, but they had to wait for the lab. They also took out 18 lymph nodes, including 3 that were enlarged. Helluva thing to wake up to.
Over the next few days, I slowly recovered....progressing from sponges dipped in ice, to actual water, and finally clear liquids. But it was another 48 hours "until my ass exploded". The last 12 hours of that period were excruciating; I had monstrous discomfort, and to cap that off, I stopped taking the pain med, as I was convinced that it was causing my nausea. I also was being a stubborn old cuss, and was standing up too quickly, which evidently triggered my vagus nerve into dry-heaves. Trust me, it's nothing you want any part of. And you don't want 2 nurses and 2 orderlies converging on your toilet while you are sitting there bathed in cold sweat trying not to puke out what little guts you have left.
Nevertheless....the crisis passed, and after that, I started to feel better. I started taking the hydromorphone again, and by Sunday had graduated from an IV to taking all my liquids and meds by mouth. When I was finally cleared to eat and drink again....well, a can of Coke never tasted so good.
Monday came disharge day...and after waiting some hours for clearance and signoff, I finally went home. There was still no word back from the lab. Even the resident was getting annoyed...as he told me, "I have patients here 7 days a week....the lab only works on business days." But I was expecting news by the time I went back to the surgeon on Thursday to get my staples out.
Thursday came, and we dutifully drove back to Cambridge. Reviewing the surgery, they performed what is called a "Right Cholectomy". They did have to slice clear through my gut and core muscles to get at it. (Yes, I essentially had a C-section. Ladies, you have my entire and wholehearted sympathies.) Then came the lab review. The tumor was indeed cancerous....and had progressed to what is called "T3-N1" stage. What that means is this - "T3" refers to how much of the local area was affected - it grew into the colon wall but did not 'escape'. "N1" is how many lymph nodes were affected; between 1 and 5. The surgeon could only tell me so much, so it was a referral off to an oncologist after that.
Getting home, I immediately jumped online to see what this meant. Converting it to something we're a little more familiar with....I have Stage IIIC colon cancer. I made the mistake of looking at the actuarial tables, and my heart sank. The five-year survival rate is only listed at 28%.
Another week later, and I follow-up with my own PCP. He again walked me through the diagnosis and the findings, and we set up the appointment with the oncologist. Again I went home to read more things I could find, but I only succeeded in freaking myself out. I am still helplessly wondering if I've already made my last trip to Florida...if I'll ever see my beloved Nova Scotia again...and never mind about things like Javi's graduation, Eagle Ceremony, grandbabies, and other such things.
So here we are. I have my initial visit with the oncologist next week. I don't know what to expect, but I'm pretty sure chemotherapy is in my future. You can all see that I've posted everything on my mind today, so you're all invited along for the ride. I'll be updating this from time to time as warranted - I'll always post a link back to the current blog when I do.
Finally...I apologize to everyone that's finding out via blog. I called family, friends, and those closest to me...but I couldn't get everyone. You're welcome to keep up with this too.