Tale of Two Camcers VIII

Surgery on my back went ahead on Monday. Apart from being prepped and knocked out for it, my memory of that day is mainly of emerging from the fog of the druggy sleep from time to time only to go back under after a moment of blurry consciousness. Caroline tells me the surgery went on for longer than she expected, but that’s about all I remember it.

Sometime in the early hours of Tuesday I finally stayed awake long enough to get a basic grip of my new surroundings. Post surgery I was transfered to a new room, and as I made a tentative attempt to move in my bed, I realised there was something sticking out of my back. And something else sticking out of my penis.

What the fuck are these things ? And why are they sticking in/out of my body ?

How much can I move ? What day is it ?

Goodnight.

When I woke up next, I opened my eyes and there was Caroline, looking at me with every emotion I could recognise washing across her face in less time than it takes to blink and not backing away an inch. Amazing. Breaks my heart to think of it and yet it’s what made me get out of bed two days later to take my first steps after surgery, along with the tubes sticking out of me. With the help of Caroline and a nurse I was gently guided to my feet and then escorted on my first walk in months. I think it lasted for about 10 steps and it hurt like hell, but I felt better than I had since sometime in March.

As a bonus, walking also got the doctors to take out the tubes a few days later, once they were sure I could get around enough to make it to the bathroom. Getting the tube out of my back, which was there to drain off the after effects of the surgery, didn’t hurt so much as feel plain old weird in a sci-fi kinda way, very alien. As for the one in my dick, it was the classic “you may experience some discomfort” followed by a big YEEOOOOWWWCH !!! as the doc yanked out the catheter. I think I paid my dues as a member of the male bastards club that day. That pain made me think of how effective some rites of passage young men in some traditional societies in Africa undergo in order to chill them out and let them know just where they belong in the pecking order. Mercifully swift but holy fuck !

But it sure beat how I was feeling a week before. 

Meanwhile I found out what the doctors had come up with as a diagnosis following the surgery and reconsultations of the CT scans and MRIs. I had Hodgkin’s disease in the form of tumours surrounding my spinal cord from my L4 vertebra to the end of my spine, and the cancer had begun to spread into the muscle and bone of my left hip. Fortunately it hadn’t gone into my vertebrae.

The plan was to let me rest up from surgery for a bit while I learned to walk again and to give me some more tests to prepare me for chemotherapy while I was in the house.

This chemo was to be the first part of a bigger overall treament which was to incorporate an initial, aggressive chemo treatment in order to shrink the tumours as a preparatory stage for an eventual stem cell transplant using my own stem cells, a process that would prove to be a trip down the medical rabbit hole as well as a compressed ethical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual drama unfolding in what was literally a life or death situation.

For me, having my situation layed out so plainly along with a map of the terrain we were entering was a great help, as it made the whole thing become a series of details to absorb and steps to take that would hopefully lead to a cure. Besides, what else was I going to do ? Roll over ?  I knew my condition was really fucked up, because 1) all of a sudden I’ve got the leading specialists in several fields of medicine taking a close interest in me, and 2) I know that stem cell transplants are reserved for seriously fucked up patients whose options have run out, and 3) Nobody even mentions the odds of my making it, let alone staging me on the traditional A1-4B scale.

I can’t, however, begin to imagine how all of this was playing out in the hearts and minds of Caroline and the kids, or Rocky, or any of the rest of my friends and family. And to everybodies credit, but especially Caroline, Rocky and my daughters, I never saw anything in their behaviour or words that made me think they had any doubts I would be allright again once this was all over. No matter what they may have been thinking otherwise I always saw their best faces, making me think I’d be ok again, too. I don’t know how they did it, because I know what I looked like at every stage of my decline and treatment, and let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. They’re my heroes.

At this point, I was just beginning to feel like things were finally looking up. I was slowly getting the hang of walking, I at least knew what I was dealing with and a plan was being put in place to go after the crap in my body that was causing so much trouble.

Let the testing and chemo prep begin.

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~ by Rocky Green on May 28, 2007.

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