The best thing about Dave’s first post-surgical hospital stay was that it was over a weekend. The hospital was quiet, and he was given a private room. (Honestly, why are there semi-private rooms? Is there ever a time that you might be at the hospital where you would think a semi-private room would be a good idea?) The first night Dave was on the Spine Unit because of the full to capacity situation on the Surgical Telemetry floor. The only issue with this was that the nurses weren’t used to dealing with colon resection patients. Luckily the next morning a room became available, and he was moved.
The worst thing about his hospital stay was that his blood sugar was out of control. His numbers were sky high, and the prescribed sliding scale was doing nothing to remedy the situation. Dave was extremely agitated and wanted me to sneak his insulin into the hospital. It was hard for me, but I stayed firm and refused to do this. This resulted in him kicking me out of this hospital room on a couple of occasions. As much as I hated to see him so anxious, I was worried that in his hazy state, he would give himself too much insulin and then bottom out. As is the case in many things in life, it is connecting with the right person that gets the job done. This person was a nurse on the floor who told the on call Internal Medicine doctor that Dave needed to control his own insulin. With that, the doctor changed his orders, and it was much smoother sailing from that point out. I would say that this setback definitely affected Dave’s recovery initially. As quickly as he did recover, the undue stress was unnecessary. I can’t understand why in this day and age a “one size fits all” prescription would still be used.
Part of the recovery process is getting up and walking around in order to get your system back in gear. We made many laps around the 7th floor as did Dave’s parents and his sister too. We quickly learned that having a cart filled with yellow gowns, gloves and masks outside your room was a bad thing. It meant MRSA or some other highly contagious and undesirable malady was afoot. We gave those rooms a wide berth as we passed by.
The doctors were ready to send Dave home after a day and a half. I remembered hearing that if you were going to get an infection, it would generally occur within 48 hours, so I pushed for him to stay one more night. That night passed without incident, and we were home Monday afternoon.
read parts 1 & 2 here – https://embracingtherollercoaster.wordpress.com/category/in-the-beginning
When we left off, our hero had just received the shocking and unexpected diagnosis of stage 4 metastatic colon cancer. After a grueling 48 hours, we met with the colon surgeon that Dave’s gastroenterologist had recommended. His office was this shabby dark space near Fair Oaks Hospital. When we first saw him, he was yelling at one of his staff. My first impressions was “Geez. This guys is old. How is he going to do the surgery?’ Once we sat down with him though my mind was put at ease. He could do the surgery laproscopically. It was straightforward and the tumor was in an “ideal” location which meant it could be removed and the two pieces of colon could be reattached eliminating the need for a colostomy. He took Dave into a separate exam room. When Dave returned he looked a bit shell shocked and told me he could “cross going to prison off his bucket list.” Then this fine doctor dropped the news on us that he was going on vacation for two weeks. I thought Dave was going to jump over the desk and strangle him. Luckily, one of his partners could work Dave in the next week.
Things always work out for a reason, right? It turned out to be a good thing that Dr. Otchy was going to be gone. His partner was great, and it turns out that his wife is one of the kids’ pediatricians. Dr. Stern was exactly what we needed. Dave had his surgery on Friday, August 12th. We were told it would take about three hours. When three hours came and went, I got very nervous that they weren’t able to do the surgery laproscopically after all and had to open Dave up. Turns out the laproscopic surgery takes longer than a traditional open surgery. Dr. Stern was able to remove the tumor and surrounding lymph nodes which would be sent off to pathology to be tested. After a long day, Dave was sent up to his room to start to recover.
*The surgeon on the left in the photo above is the wonderful Dr. Lawrence Stern.
**To read the beginning of our story, start here . https://embracingtherollercoaster.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/in-the-beginning
As we near the one year anniversary since Dave’s diagnosis, I thought I would share how our journey began. I promise not to get too graphic, but if you are easily grossed out, then you may want to skip today’s entry. I think it is useful to know what symptoms he had, so that you can be aware of what to look out for or mentally check off with relief that you are not experiencing the same.
In June of last year, Dave mentioned that he had been noticing some blood after he went to the bathroom (enough said). We both thought it was worth getting checked out, but we weren’t overly alarmed. He made an appointment to see a gastroenterologist a few weeks later. The doctor told him that it could be anything from hemorrhoids to cancer and that he would need to have a colonoscopy to find out. That was scheduled for mid-August. In the meantime, Dave started having pretty severe abdominal cramping so his appointment was bumped up to early August.
We got up bright and early on Wednesday, August 3rd. I was struck by how many men that looked to be Dave’s age were also at the center for colonoscopies. Why is testing not started at an earlier age? Dave’s doctor came out afterwards and explained to us that he saw a tumor on the scope that was all but blocking Dave’s colon and that he had been doing this long enough to know it was cancer. I appreciated that he already had an appointment set up for Dave to see a surgeon that Friday. He also had all the paperwork so that Dave could have a CT scan the next day.
I can’t say that I was entirely shocked at the news. I had done a quick google search, and the only diagnosis that matched Dave’s symptoms was colon cancer. I hadn’t shared my internet research though since I didn’t want to stress Dave out with my armchair doctoring. He was floored. It was too much to comprehend.
We were both stunned the next day when his CT scan revealed that the cancer had already metastasized to his liver in two or possibly three spots. Suddenly we seemed to be moving at hyper speed.