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Posts Tagged ‘Gastric Cancer’

Going Under the Knife with Equal Parts Grit and Fear

CT Scan of Garcia stomach

CT Scan of Garcia stomach

The following account includes details of human biology that could make normal people a little queasy.  It’s an honest account and, I might add, a therapeutic one for the author.

Last time somebody opened up my stomach and took a gander it was all quite spontaneous.  You see, the stomach is supposed to be a sterile environment.  But in my case last October, an undiagnosed ulcer perforated.   It was a mess.  Suffice to say I was en route to getting numerous rapid and intense infections that would make me, if left unattended- a dead man by morning.  But waking up that day not knowing I would later be taking an ambulance ride to the ER had its advantages.  At least I had no idea what was about to take place.

Now, some six months later, after an endoscopy performed to check on my progress from the perforated ulcer operation discovered- oops- a tumor- they’re going to open me up again.  Only this time I know exactly when; 8am, ET, Thursday, May 2nd, 2013.   They’ve blocked off 6 and half hours of operating room time to get a 1 to 2 centimeter superficial carcinoma out of my body and cure me.  I’m grateful for that.  It was caught early.  Stomach cancer is not curable in later stages. And, of course, to be on the safe side, cancer-fighting doctors are using an AK-47 to wipe out a gnat, so they’re also going to remove 60 to 70% of my stomach.

I am likely to be going from being an overweight former smoker, to being a perpetually slender and much healthier former smoker.   God works in mysterious ways.

But the knowing is not fun.  I am sentimentally enjoying meals I know I am not going to be having again for six months.  Even sipping from a water bottle is a luxury.  In less than 24 hours,  I will be lying in a Georgetown University hospital bed with a tube running from my nose into my stomach while an IV pushes saline solution, antibiotics and painkillers into my bloodstream.  No water or even crushed ice for at least 2 to 3 days.  You get nothing but a moist tooth brush type thing to keep your mouth sort of hydrated.  You know it’s bad when you start salivating at the mere thought of green Jell-O.  Forget solid food for 3 to 4 weeks.   Welcome to the wonderful world of nutritionists teaching you how to eat six small meals a day.

I generally have a very good attitude about these health things.  But only because I suspect I’m going to live to laugh about it.  I would not be this sanguine if the situation were dire.  Still, dark thoughts enter the mind from time to time.  Will this be the 5% of operations that have complications?  What happens if they mess up the anesthesia and you have a massive coronary or something?  Do you see the white light and the tunnel and everything if you’re knocked out on heavy drugs?  Who do I bitch to about a bad outcome if I’m, like, dead?  Will they get all of it so I can avoid post-operative chemotherapy?  What if it’s worse than they thought and I awake from the operation and they tell me the whole stomach or some other organ is gone?

But then I remember they have done about 3 bazillion tests on me so they have a pretty good idea of what they’re dealing with.  I have Dr. Waddah Al-Refaie, Surgeon-in-Chief (that’s his actual title) of the Vince Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University performing the operation.  I also realize how fortunate I am to be alive in this day and time when there is so much knowledge about these terrible diseases that used to be death sentences.  Perhaps most importantly, I remember there are so many folks so worse off than me and my stupid stomach.

I have a health directive in place.  Finances are in order.  My peeps know who to call if stuff goes south.

To my many wonderful family, friends and co-workers with whom I have shared the cancer news in recent weeks and who have been so sweet and supportive- THANK YOU!   But just because it’s early stage cancer and an operation may cure me, doesn’t mean you can stop praying.  No siree.  Keep those going please.  Especially from 8am-2pm on Thursday, May 2nd.

Speaking of prayers- here’s an Irish joke somewhat appropriate for the occasion:

An Irishman is flustered not being able to find a parking space in a large mall’s parking lot.

“Lord,” he prays,” I can’t stand this. If you open a space up for me, I swear I’ll give up drinking me whiskey, and I promise to go to church every single Sunday.”

Suddenly, the clouds part and the sun shines on an empty parking spot. Without hesitation, the man says, “Never mind, found one!”

The Little C

March 27, 2013 5 comments

Serene Lake

Well, thank you for your prayers! Looks more and more like I’ve dodged a huge bullet as medical tests continue to indicate I have a very small and early gastric tumor. I’ve seen the pictures; it kind of looks like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree- just a scrawny little thing.

Blood tests do show a slightly elevated level in a marker that’s an indicator of tumor growth. But a CT scan came back completely boring with nothing irregular whatsoever. This should all mean it’s at a very, very early stage which means everything in regard to stomach cancer. Basically it’s the difference between it being curable or not- the difference between a 5% and a 75% five-year survivability rate.

Within a week or so, I’ll get a treatment plan and then get a second opinion on that plan. I’m pretty sure they will still want to dive in with knives so they can eyeball things for themselves and cut the thing out, along with a hopefully very small portion of the stomach. And while an operation of that nature has risks of its own and really, really sucks for about 7 days in the hospital and then another six weeks of recovery, it’s way more important and significant that long-term survival looks like a real good bet.

My highly amusing doctor, Thomas Butler, tells his patients that the most important part of any treatment plan is looking both ways before you cross the street. Because what good do the best and most intricate treatment plans do if you’re going to go get hit by a truck?

My son has a funny line about trucks too. Last year, I sent him info on what his life insurance benefits would be just in case I get hit by a truck. His dry, one sentence e-mail response was priceless.

Dad:

Stay away from trucks.

Love,

Charlie