so yeah, i’ve been quiet…

…because I’ve been really busy!

Those who may have been following either my twitter or facebook feeds are pretty up to date with the news.  However I will give a full “Reader’s Digest” version here.

On September 19th, DH went into the hospital to have a cancerous tumour which was strangling the bile duct between his liver and pancreas removed.  As he is the recipient of a transplant, has significantly altered anatomy and is in a state of chronic immunosuppression to prevent rejection of the transplant organ, the surgery was quite serious.

The surgery that DH had is known as a “Whipple Procedure” and involves removal of the affected bile duct, part of the stomach, part of the pancreas and part of his intestine.  He was expected to remain in the hospital for 10-14 days and then recuperate at home for another two weeks prior to starting a projected six months of chemotherapy.

We went into the hospital at 6am on the morning of September 19th and began the pre-operative procedures.  DH was brought into the operating room at 8am and I and LCA got a chance to talk to the surgeon, who was rather anxiously pacing as he knew and understood the serious nature of this procedure.  We discussed how the surgery would go and, knowing that it would be 9 to 11 hours long, LCA drove me home.

The surgeon made NO bones about the fact that the scans showed the tumour and a lot of other material which could have been scar tissue from the transplant or further cancer.  If it was the latter, he was simply going to stitch DH back up and determine how he could be made comfortable.  As this was the case, I wasn’t able to relax until a good four hours into the surgery, when I finally crashed at home at around noon.

The phone rang at 3:30pm and it was the surgeon, who sounded relieved and confident that it was going well and confirmed that if I could get back into the hospital by 5:30pm, he would chat with me.  Needless to say, I did.

The surgeon came out at around 6pm and confirmed that they got the tumour, that the rest of the findings on the scans were indeed scar tissue and that he took the bulk of that out as well.  He also performed the Whipple Procedure as routinely as possible and that DH did not require any blood transfusions.  I then had about two hours to kill until DH was stabilized and settled in the intensive care unit.

I proceeded to walk the streets of Toronto, calling the appropriate family members and sharing the news.  I also managed to settle my stomach enough to choke down a part of a small Hero Burger for dinner after a long day of eating nothing beyond coffee.  When I made it up to the ICU, DH was awake and waiting for me.  The first words out of his mouth were:  “Did they get it?”

I replied that the surgeon had gotten all of it and he responded with: “Good, I’m going to fight this with all my might now.”

I broke down in tears as I was already fighting this by engaging our friends and family in sending him thoughts, energy, prayers and support.  I was overjoyed and I was also exhausted after a long day.  I went home and sat with the dogs on the back deck under the moonlight, crying tears of joy.

The next day, I visited DH in the ICU and he was already bored and frustrated.  He was still groggy from the anaesthesia, however he needed something to keep him occupied.   Thankfully I had brought his slippers, his iPod, some reading material and some word search books to keep him busy.  As he was still in the ICU, I couldn’t hook up the phone or the TV (as there was neither to be had). 

Due to the nature of the surgery, they had concerns regarding blood pooling in his legs and blood clots forming, so they had him in compression stockings and inflatable “moon boots” that would massage and compress his legs regularly to help the blood flow.  He complained about being uncomfortable and asked what he could do to get out of those boots.  Looking at the nurse, I winked and told him he would have to get up and walk around; the nurse beamed at me for telling him that and went to get the upright walker (a chest high walker that DH could rest his arms on and walk upright with).  After a few tentative steps, we got him in his slippers and down to the end of the nursing station and back.

As I left the ICU that day, the nurse thanked me and asked if I was going to help with DH’s rehabilitation, which I confirmed to the best of my abilities, however noted that I would need a day off here and there to ensure I’m not run down.  She understood and agreed.

The next day, I had a few meetings around home and also wanted to go and thank my support team personally (not to mention it was the Sew Hungry Food Truck Rally on Ottawa Street!), so I held off and went into Toronto that afternoon.  By the way, to my support team and you know who you are – Y’ALL TOTALLY ROCK MY WORLD!  I will give particular mentions in a later posting.

I got to the hospital that afternoon and was notified that DH had been moved to the post-transplant ward for further care.  I got down to his room and saw him ensconced in bed, looking thoroughly bored.  I immediately got the phone and TV set up and showed him how to plug his headset in – he was ecstatic about that.  Later that afternoon, I had DH up and walking again and we went further than the prior day.  The nursing staff was happy with me being there, however the nurse confirmed that I looked tired and would need some rest the next day.  I agreed whole-heartedly!

Thankfully, the Parental Units had agreed to visit DH that Saturday, while I could catch up on chores around home, some sleep and rest as well as go to the farmer’s market with DM2.

On Sunday, JCS and LCA had wanted to visit DH in the hospital, so they drove me in after I finished singing church.  It was particularly nice to have some company en route to and from the hospital.  It was also nice not to have to take the GO Bus in and also be able to bring in DH’s suitcase for him without having to worry about marching it up University Avenue or use the subway!  I always value JCA and LCA’s companionship and their guidance both emotionally and spiritually.  They are a remarkable couple and have also been a great support to DH as they are of the same faith as he.

We had a lovely visit and chat with DH and then went to the World’s Biggest Bookstore to browse and purchase some reading material.  That evening, it was mentioned that as DH was continuing to heal and progress, that he could be released as soon as that upcoming Thursday.  I noted that unless he could climb two flights of stairs this would not be a possibility as it is two flights up from the main floor to get to our bedroom and bath.

The next day I had returned back to work and went into Toronto after my day was through.  DH was excited to show me his latest gain in that we walked an entire lap of the whole seventh floor of the hospital.  He had also done a flight of stairs up and down but tired easily, however understood baby steps and small gains.  He was thankful for the phone and TV as his new roommate was rather high maintenance and he was getting quite frustrated.

DH had been seen by the surgeon that day and the grumblings about him being released in three days’ time were confirmed.  I booked that Thursday off work.

The last few days of DH’s hospitalization were rather unremarkable other than his determination to climb two flights of stairs up and down, which he ended up doing with me with great glee.  The last night, he was informed that they needed his bed on the transplant ward and he would be spending his final evening on the general surgery floor in a ward.  He was not happy with that, however it was only one night I reminded him.

LCA and I drove into Toronto to pick DH up on September 27th and brought him home to two very happy and concerned dogs.  We were given discharge instructions to arrange a follow up with the family doctor in one week’s time and a follow up with the surgeon in two weeks’ time.  We were also instructed to come into the hospital the following Monday for his staple removal.  We spent a quiet weekend together, reacquainting ourselves with each other.

42 staples and a hell of a lot of steri-strip tape later, DH is at home and recovering, experiencing the usual post-surgery problems of discomfort, compounded with his pre-existing low-back issues and having a stomach that is recovering from having a section removed.  He continues to lose weight and, despite being a professional Santa, is not feeling very jolly these days.

The dogs continue to watch over him and alert me if there are any issues at night and I continue to fret myself silly about his condition.  We will reach our 12 year anniversary on October 26th and I love and cherish ALL the time I have with him.  As long as he is willing to fight, I will be beside him for love, support and whatever strength I can provide him.

To me, this is what love, honour and respect mean.  So yeah, I’ve been quiet here, but I figure the current circumstances explain the reasoning quite well.  Peace folks and give the ones you love a hug and remind them that you love them.  You never know when they could be taken from you.


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