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Diary of a Cancer Survivor

(Editor’s note: Barb Killmeyer was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004.  Following surgery and some complications, she had chemotherapy and was given a clean bill of health toward the end of 2005. The following is the second of three excerpts from her personal diary during her experience.)


Finally! It’s Tuesday and I had my appointment with the surgeon. He was very nice and explained everything to Don and I and he answered all my questions. The best news is that the success rate of this surgery is 95 percent. That made me feel a lot better. I will be having the operation on Friday, January 7, 2005.


About half of my colon will be removed along with the surrounding lymph nodes and blood vessels. In the recovery room I will wake up to find that I have a catheter and an NSG tube that runs from my nose to my stomach. Also, the colon does not begin to work again for about three days after the surgery so I will be fed intravenously until they can hear my “guts gurgle” which is a sign that the colon has come alive again. I will be in the hospital for five or six days with the day of surgery counting as day zero.


I left his office and went right to the hospital section to have my blood work done and to have an EKG. Now more waiting!


It’s Thursday and I am on a liquid diet. I am also waiting for the hospital to call and tell me what time to be there in the morning. I’ve become resigned to the fact that this is going to happen so I made up my mind that I will go to the hospital, get on the bed, gurney, whatever, and let them do their thing. The hospital didn’t call until around 5 p.m. I am to be there at 11 a.m. and the operation is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.  The citrate of magnesia that I drank at 2 finally started to work about 7 so I’ve been spending a lot of time in the bathroom.


Well, it’s Friday morning and I’m getting ready to go to the hospital. I’m looking forward to getting out of the operating room, out of recovery, and into a room of my own when I’ll know it’s over and I can just relax and sleep off the effects of the anesthetic.


One thing I have found through all this is that I have so many wonderful, caring friends who are worried about me, praying for me, and who have offered to do anything at all that would be helpful to me or Don. Their concern means a lot to me and I am so thankful for them.


More when I get home and am able to get back to the computer.


Well, I had quite an adventure. My operation was scheduled for 12:30 p.m. and they didn’t even take me down to the operating and prep rooms until 1:30. Needless to say I was a nervous wreck.


On the advice of several people I opted for an epidural rather than the self-administered morphine. It may have worked wonders for others, but for me it was a bad move. I ended up with a terrific backache that may or may not have been from the epidural. Anyway, the procedure for inserting the tube and medication was interesting. Not painful, but at that point everything is worrisome.


At last I was wheeled into the operating room and shifted to the operating table. A very kind and sympathetic nurse told me when she was going to administer the anesthetic and said that I would next wake up in the recovery room.  That’s sort of my last memory of Friday. I don’t remember the recovery room and Don said he talked to me, and I answered, in the hall when they brought me to my room. I don’t remember any of it.


I slept through Friday. Saturday was painful, but I got through it. Same on Sunday. Then Sunday night/Monday morning the nurses came to my bed and asked if I was feeling alright. I told them yes and asked why. They said my heart was fluctuating a lot. Don told me later that this was what had him very worried because my heart rate would jump from 180 to 175 to 150 then spike back up to 180. I was moved to Intensive Care. The cardiologist and staff were able to stabilize the heart rate. I had so many tubes, etc., coming out of me, into me and hanging from me that I couldn’t keep track of them all.


The incident with the heart called for heart tests. I received an echocardiogram and the doctor said he was scheduling me for a stress test for the next day. I must have looked shocked because he quickly assured me that I didn’t have to get on the treadmill. That was good because I have no idea how I would have managed that! Instead I remained on a gurney and they chemically simulated the stress of the treadmill. I was amazed -- I never knew that could be done.


One of the heart tests showed a shadow on one of the chambers of my heart and this needed to be checked out to make sure there was no clot. . .


By Barbara Killmeyer


Barbara can be reached at www.barbarakillmeyer.com.


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