By now most of you know at least some of what has happened in the last 2 weeks. Here’s the full story…
On Monday, May 7th I was scheduled for pretty routine hernia repair surgery. The hernia was huge and I’d had it for about 6 months. I couldn’t have been more excited about this “last step” – fix the hernia and confirm again that I was cancer free.
Surgery went great. I did have a spot that was biopsied and turned out to be cancerous but according to my oncologist, it was a blown up cancer cell that wouldn’t show on a scan and is nothing to worry about. I should have been headed home by Wednesday at the latest – I hadn’t even arranged to be out of work because it was just a couple of days. But by Wednesday I had a fever and trouble breathing. They suspected pneumonia. And from Thursday to Saturday things went from bad to worse. A lot worse.
By Saturday night I couldn’t breathe at all and it was scary for all of us. Sunday morning I ended up in ICU intubated with a feeding tube and mostly out of it. Sunday and Monday are lost for me – they had me pretty heavily sedated which was a good thing. And then Tuesday I bounced back almost as quickly as I had nosedived.
I saw the infectious disease doctor that night and he said I did not have pneumonia because it doesn’t turn around that quickly. My chest X-ray from Monday to Tuesday was like “night and day”. Almost like a different set of lungs. My blood work and cultures indicated no disease and so he diagnosed me with a “surgical flare”. Yeah it’s a real thing. Apparently with any surgery, for any organs that are already compromised in some way, inflammation can become an issue. And my lungs aren’t great. I didn’t help that with smoking over the years but then I also had cancer and pneumonia impacts over the last 4 years. I also had been throwing up some post surgery so it’s possible there was an “aspiration event” in the mix as well. But between the steroids and antibiotics, the inflammation went away. And if it had been pneumonia, I would still be in the hospital and have a much longer road to recovery ahead of me.
Instead, Wednesday morning I was extubated and the feeding tube was removed. On Thursday I was moved back to a regular room (our 6th room in 11 days) and on Friday I was home.
I’ve had lots to process with this. It was scary. I really thought I was going to die. After all I’ve had the last 4 years, it’s pretty frustrating to have yet one more massive hurdle. I mean really what the actual hell? Who has a surgical flare?? I’m having a really hard time with the “why me” thing right now. Yes I’m stronger than I thought. But no I really don’t need more opportunities to “rise up” here. Pretty sure I’m due a giant break now. So let’s go.
I can’t say enough good stuff about Northside Hospital. And particularly the nurses – I always felt like I was the most important patient they had. Always. And I was once again reminded of how amazing our support network is. I mean I know that but when you hear nurses say they’ve never seen anything like it, it’s very humbling. You showed up in every way possible. You came so I could see your face and you gave me hope when I was terrified. You kept my wife grounded and fed and cared for. You took over for her when she couldn’t do it anymore. You called, texted, sent messages, and meals and followed along on Facebook. You never ever let us forget you were pulling for me. And you sent more hugs and prayers and love than I knew was possible. And I don’t really care what that doctor believes happened, it’s clear to me you loved the hell out of whatever it was and it ran away quickly.
I’m sorry to have stressed everyone out so much, particularly my wife. My promises of “this is REALLY it” seem a little shallow at the moment but I do believe this is it. I have a follow up with my surgeon in a couple of weeks and start on my new cancer maintenance med (which is a terrible name for it because I do not plan to maintain cancer so let’s just call it my stay clean plan instead).
So for now I am going to slowly get back my strength and love life even more than I did before if that’s possible. I am working my way through all of your messages and will never be able to respond to you all but know that I’m reading them all and that I am so very touched by your love and support. In the coming weeks I hope to celebrate life with many of you. Until then know that my heart is full and I love you all.