Archive | December, 2011

I finally wore out my welcome

23 Dec

After a mere 19 days in the hospital, the doctors finally decided enough was enough.  I was released on Monday evening and the taste of outside freedom was the best Christmas present I could ask for.

A bit more on the surgery…

In my mom’s previous update, she noted the doctors were able reroute some plumbing to enable proper flow through the digestive system.  Prior to the operation, they had some speculations on what was causing the blockage, such as inflamed tissue (a common side effect from radiation) or fecal build-up; this is not what they found, however. Instead they discovered another tumor that had begun to grow in the small intestines, and it had finally reached a problematic size.  While this was devastating news, it wasn’t all that surprising. Over the past few months we’ve continued to monitor my CEA level and it had been on the rise.  This additional tumor now helped explain why.

Surgery recovery…

After surgery, the next big milestone I had to accomplish was to actually prove my bowels were working again. I asked the doctors how I could speed up the process of having a bowel movement. Walk, they said. For some people, it only takes a day for their system to be restored.  My bowels, on the other hand, continued to lie dormant for eight days as I walked lap after lap around the hospital corridors.  It was only on that eighth day that they decided to wake up…and I guarantee you’ve never seen a more excited person on the toilet than at that moment.  If it hadn’t been 4:30a.m. I would have started calling everyone I knew to share the good news.  But the good news was short lived, as other issues began to arise.  After a few days, my surgical wound – a 10″ vertical scar down my abdomen held together by 17 staples – began to show initial signs of infection.  The doctors removed 13 of the staples to clear out the infection, which left me with a gaping wound.  They cannot sew up an incision once it has been opened, therefore I had to have a wound-vac put on – a device that provides negative pressure wound therapy via a vacuum. I had to wear one of these last year after my surgical incision became infected and they had to re-open it.  Depending on how fast the wound heals, I could have to wear this device for up to a month…ugh.

Home sweet home…

While I still felt very weak and was experiencing a lot of pain, I was so excited when I was told I could go home earlier this week.  I quickly found that the recovery process sped up when I was in my own surroundings.  Within 24 hours I was able to decrease the amount of pain medication I was taking and each day I’ve noticed my strength and mobility improve.  I still have a good 4-5 weeks of recovery ahead of me, but I am well enough to be able to enjoy the upcoming festivities and celebrate Christmas comfortably.

What’s next?…

With the discovery of this new tumor, plus the existing ones on the liver and lungs, and any additional ones we may not know about, it’s obvious we have our work cut out for us.  As Nick says ‘We’re running a marathon and thought we were at mile 25, and then realized we are only at mile 3.’  We clearly have our work cut out for us.  We do have a treatment plan in place and I will share more about that in my next post.  In the mean time, enjoy the holidays with your families and know I am eternally grateful for all the love and support that continues to come our way!

Initial surgery update

7 Dec

Now that Emily has assigned me to blog duty, I want to update everyone that Emily’s surgery went well.  The doctors were able to reroute her “pipes” in order to prevent any future blockages.  She is now back in her room and resting comfortably.  Her recovery needs to be swift…..Nick has plans for rock climbing this weekend!

Please keep the prayers coming; we appreciate every one.

Toni

Unexpected surgery

6 Dec

For the past week I’ve been playing a game called Waiting for the Bowel Movement.  I can assure you this is not a fun game and I hope I’m never a contestant again after I get done with this round.  It all started last Wednesday when I checked into the ER  at Barnes Jewish Hospital with unbearable abdominal cramping.  Several hours later I was admitted for supervision and some tests, yet by the end of the next day it was clear my bowels were not moving.  I’ve now spent six days in the hospital with no food or water (only IV drip) and countless X-rays, CT scans, and blood draws…and we’ve now arrived at the last resort – surgery.

Today at 4:00 p.m. I’ll have the culprit, an inflamed portion of my small bowel, surgically removed.  This is a similar surgery to the one I had last year (when the tumor portion of the colon/rectum was removed), but I’m told this procedure will be less complicated and quicker (1.5 – 2 hours in duration). Unfortunately it’s difficult to give any more details than this because much of it depends on what the doctors actually see when they get in there.  Recovery time is estimated at one week in the hospital followed by four weeks at home.  Obviously I’m hoping to speed this up so I can be in tip-top shape for Santa later this month…call it my Christmas wish!

While I never wanted to see this result in surgery, I’m excited at the thought of there being some relief in sight (after the recovery, of course). So, please send prayers and good vibes this way and check back later for updates…my mom will be on blog duty.