Tues. May 7th. 2019.
It is about five months into my recovery from my surgery, and over six months from the time I was told that I had only six months to live. I can only assume God still has a plan for me on this earth. On a most unfortunate day in July in 1963, I was almost snuffed from this life by hitting a tanker truck head on. Five weeks in the hospital and again another five weeks 20 years later with two large growths on my hip that were not malignant, since then I have been in reasonably good health.
Early in Oct. 2018, I was diagnosed with a growth in my Esophagus. It was cancer. I sensed a problem a week earlier with my stool, it was black and the consistency of tar. My family doctor saw me at once and ordered blood tests then sent me to our local hospital for an Endoscopy. It was the Thanksgiving week-end so I was sent the next day to the St.Catherines Hospital and told the very moment when I recovered from the antiseptic, that it appeared to be cancer. Only by the fact that I was on blood thinners was it possible to detect my problem early. My 5 days in Emergency were hell but that story is called “Cancer” and can be read on my blog at www.rantingsandraves.com.
A friend and neighbour suggested that she found very little on how one handles such a jarring life situation, (recovery of Esophagal cancer and given a short period of time to live, what were my feelings during the long period of recuperation. This and much more will be revealed in the following pages.
We humans know that we are destined to die at some time. We know not when or where, but even with news that you have only 6 months to live or you are stricken with a cancer, faith and being optimistic rules that somehow you can beat the odds and avoid the grim reaper. Of course, this frame of mind only lasts until there is little time left and then the reality sets in and no matter how prepared you are, for most of us, no matter how deep our faith, fright and despair become evident. For we Christians, we know that provided we believe our Lord Christ died for our sins and he is the Son of God, we will see a much better place than here on earth. We will be with God in a place called Paradise. However, fear for the unknown can make for a difficult time for some that do not have faith in a supreme God.
Sunday May 20th 2019.
Recovery from my cancer has been long and slow. I am almost six months into my recovery and I am getting tired of being tired and very weak. If I exert myself for an hour or so, I am as weak as a kitten. My whole chest area has been affected and so I will have pangs of pain in places that I would have thought were not possible. I was told that the medical profession regard my whole upper body, back and front as my chest. The back of my chest where I have a large incision gives me few problems, but my stomach has been made smaller by pulling it up and making the top into a tube to be fastened to my throat. My esophagus has been removed along with the cancer that was in it so I have a straight flow into my stomach. I must try to keep my head higher than my stomach to avoid bile and stomach fluids coming up and into my lungs and throat. This is a real problem if you are accustomed to sleeping on your side or stomach. You cannot, you must sleep head elevated 30 degrees and always on your back. During my last 6 months I have had a cough and when not coughing I am either burping a lot or passing wind (Farting). I find this an expression of humour rather than profanity as one of my books is called “Ranting and Raves of a Curious Old Fart”.
Sleeping has been a problem. I find that a glass of water before retiring helps and I can now sleep 7 or 8 hours without waking. I have experienced what I call “Phantom pains”. They would occur out of the blue and be like sharp needles of hot pain. I get, even after six months internal pain that will last longer and be all around my frontal chest, I put it down to the healing process perhaps because I do not want it to be a signal of further problems. My surgeon has said he wants to see me in six months and I am hoping we can follow his plan.
Coming home was a bit of stress for us all, Joan, Brenda and myself as we were sure that I would not be able to handle the stairs so at the last minute we had the Acorn stair lift installed. This was anticipated so all the quotes were done and as I did not die on the operating table and survived the Step Down which was formerly called recovery, the stair lift was finished with Michael and Alex supervising and learning so they can install a lower level one in the future if needed. The Step Down was hideous but necessary for going forward. I was pushed and walking the morning after my surgery. I would far rather be left to lay and sleep but 6:00 AM came just as I was getting to sleep after a sleepless night. Busy all day with more injections, more teams of specialists doing their job to keep me alive and ready to return home soon. Procedure after procedure and after 6 days a regular hospital bed in a quiet room felt oh so good. I did use the lift and have used it twice since. I figure the dam thing has cost me at this point $1,000.00 per ride. Even Canada’s Wonderland is cheaper. We now use it for a grocery lift.
About three months into my recovery my body seemed to be trying to accept the trauma of experiencing a lot of my internal stuff removed and replaced in a somewhat different home, it seemed to rebelling by throwing my bowels into a turmoil. I would spend as much as an hour on the toilet waiting for the last big blow. I also had gas and large bowel movements along with diarrhea. This is probably more than the average reader needs to know but for any one entering into this voyage, it may help you to understand better what to expect.
Weakness and fatigue are still my problem along with the constant feeling of pressure in my left chest. It still feels like I am wrapped with duck tape. Hopefully, it will become just a part of the cost of not dying.
What are my inner feelings? How am I excepting this new life in such an old body?
I first must thank my God for this experience. That seems to be a bit out of the ordinary but I must say that I have learned a great deal from this journey. I do not think I would want to repeat it but always realising that the tunnel of darkness, doubt, fear and frustration would come to an end sometime in the future or I would die, gave me strength to continue. My Wife and niece in law were a great strength in this part of my life. Other family and friends from far and wide were there for me with their prayers and help. I thank you so much. For 12 hours our God daughter, Tammy, Brenda and Joan were in the waiting room before they got the news that I was out of the OR. When I came out of the anesthetic, I saw, not Angels but, Bossy, Messy and my beautiful wife Joan, my three Angels on earth.
Have I had a change in my demeaner? I would say, you would have to ask my wife, I think that I am the same cuddly, cute, funny and wonderful guy that every one has loved and looked up to for years. However, Joan has a different slant on it all. “No, you were not at all what you envisioned for your self and you are now even worse because you are more critical and grouchier.” I don’t know how she can live with me now but I guess after being together for more than 60 years, it can’t go on for much longer. She must love me if I am as bad as all that. I walk like a drunk sometimes and I forget my train of thought. I think it is weakness but others just say that is what old people do when they are my age.
I am sure that I have missed a lot of the details and I will think of many other points that I should jot down so we will let it rest for a few days and see just how forgetful I really am.
May 20th 2019
Home Care; I really need to talk a bit about Home Care. Arrangements were made in a big hurry for all the dressings, tube feeding food, wheel chair, IV pole, syringes, walker, boxes and boxes of stuff for my use at home and also for the Home visiting nurses. This was accomplished from the time we left Hamilton until just after we arrived home. For the first months we had two visits per week and then one visit per week for another few weeks until I was mobile. This care is needed and is included in our health care plan. It is very well managed and a God-send for older patients. Joan was given instructions at the hospital for administering my feeding tube that was inserted by the surgeons. However, there was a professional way that took a few practice rounds before Brenda and Joan had it mastered. The walker is either sold to you or taken back when the patient feels he can get along without it. There are time limits set down by the government policy makers but sensibility sets in on the job and no stress was made on the family or the patient. I returned home with a feeding tube into my upper intestines and a draining tube with a flexible ball container in my back. Both were rather cumbersome but I was not going to be attending any parties for a while. When all the tubes were removed, it was a painless procedure that I had no reason to fear. I had a total of 50-60 staples and the home nurses removed them painlessly. Pain was generally not a problem from the very start. Just don’t let a male nurse who has no idea where your incisions are, try to move you. That was PAIN! All the nursing staff and the teams were fantastic. I had 5 teams.
Surgical, Anesthesiologists, Physiotherapy, Nutrition, Medication. All were there every day to check and advise and answer questions.
My Oncologist was the only weak link, she dropped me when I was reluctant to take the Chemo and Radiation. I had done enough research to know that treatment when not absolutely necessary for a successful result can kill up to 50% of cancer patients. Your body has had all the natural immunes damaged or killed and the cancer has been given more time to grow. When I finally had my last visit on my required process to see the surgeon who had first advised me that I was doomed to a very harsh death in about 6 months, he checked all the many procedures which took over a month. Endoscopy, Cat scans, Pets cans, X-rays, Lung test and echogram, total body scans to find any other cancers that I might have. I guess he was satisfied that I should have this very invasive surgery. Dr. Shargall looked at me and said, I can operate in ten to fourteen days and give you a 95% chance of success. We don’t fool around with cancer. However, your chances are about 50% when we consider post surgery complications. They are many and for you, we have to consider your heart A fibulation, blood clots, infection and other considerations. What do you want to do? I had no chance before and now I have a 50% chance of a future. The next day I had a call that we were set for two weeks. Dec. 3rd. 2018 at 8:00 AM.
My family and I felt we were on a roller coaster for those weeks but were relieved and thankful for the chance for a few more months or years together. Brenda said that she was watching my expression when I was told I would have a chance to fight this horrible life taker. I looked like a new man with once again a chance for a future.
My final thoughts for this summarization would be this.
No 1. Read your body and pay attention to changes.
No 2. Try to keep a positive outlook no matter how bleak the future.
No 3. Try to keep or have a sense of humour.
No 4. If you don’t understand your doctor when he uses medical terms
we don’t understand, ask for plain English please.
No 5. Have faith in your maker, this life here on earth is for learning and
preparation for a new life with him for all eternity.
May 22nd 2019 – I had coffee and snacks with a number of my neighbours at our community centre this morning and looking around at all my friends and their happy faces I said “I’m glad to be alive, I’m glad I didn’t die” just yet. As long as I keep gaining strength and feeling a bit better every day, life is good.
Paul D. Scott. A Cancer survivor.