Kelli here -- I'm honoured to have been handed the blog torch for the week! I have to admit I've been looking forward to it! At the same time, anytime I get to fill in on the blog it means mom must be in pretty rough shape. Incidentally today marks the one-year anniversary of my mom’s diagnosis of esophageal cancer. I remember the phone call I received in Vancouver last year as I was heading out the door to my residency Christmas party. When my mom told me the news my world stopped. Every tomorrow disappeared. I couldn’t remember much about esophageal cancer from my medical school lectures – but I did remember that in 90% of cases by the time the cancer was diagnosed it was already very advanced.
Mom's surgery went very well. We were at the hospital by 5am. It was a bit of a rocky start when the pre op nurse insisted mom remove her Christmas pedicure that we just got THIS week - I was major annoyed. She was whisked off to the OR at 7:30am. Made it to recovery by 12pm and then to the ward by 2pm.
The surgeon was very happy with the results of the surgery. Mom was supposed to have the entire right side of her liver removed -- but she had a bit of white rabbit luck today. Turns out she had an accessory hepatic vein supplying the inferior portion of her right liver. Because of this he was able to salvage that 1/4 of the liver and only had to remove 1/4 in total. He was happy with the tumour margins (by the naked eye anyway - the pathology report will have the final say). Most importantly he did not see ANY other cancer. Our worst fear was that she would be opened up and other small flecks of cancer, that were not apparent on the scan, would be visible by the naked eye. We were warned that if that was the case they would close up and no surgery would be performed. Thank goodness that didn't happen.
Mom is being her typical stubborn self. She declined the nasogastric tube which is used to decompress the stomach after surgery to help with post op nausea. She had one of these tubes for nearly 3 weeks during her last hospital stay and I think it was a pretty traumatic experience for her. Honestly I think this go around she was more afraid of this particular tube than the surgery itself! In any case - she did have some pretty severe nausea today - but that's typical for her with just about any narcotic. She doesn't tolerate narcotics well and despite aggressive anti-nausea management it's almost impossible to avoid.
Our experience today was a stark contrast to our experience at the Foothills back in March. Instead of being cramped into a 4 person room with a communal bathroom for 8, mom has her own private room. Instead of being squeezed onto a general surgery ward where care was much more depersonalized - she's on the transplant ward and her nurses are great! During mom's last three week admission we saw her surgeon twice - today we saw her surgeon three times in one day! He's great - he's well known and respected in his field but he's also, importantly, kind. I know this stuff sounds trivial but the impact of these small details should not be underestimated.
So....... what a way to celebrate a one year anniversary - it certainly has been a year to remember. As all of you blog followers already know when mom was diagnosed with cancer she got BUSY living. She barely skipped a beat. She adopted an attitude that she would do everything she could to fight this terrible disease and anything out of her control wasn’t worth worrying about. I am learning SO much from my mom every single day. I have learned courage, toughness, and the incredible power of a positive attitude. I have learned the importance of physical fitness despite physical capabilities. I have learned and witnessed the true unremitting gifts of friendship. I have learned that life is most definitely WORTH living, despite unbearable struggles and the terrible things that happen to good people. I have learned how to be a better doctor and importantly the limitations of our knowledge of medicine. I have learned how important it is to adapt when life brings unexpected challenges – that redefining your expectations can take you a very long way. I have learned what marriage means – what unconditional love looks like – modelled by my most amazing parents. I have learned not to take the ones we love for granted – and I’m not just talking about my mom.
Well.... i'm signing off for tonight - I will be posting again tomorrow! Thank you to EVERYONE for the enormous outpouring of support. From our individual friends, family friends and even strangers - your thoughts, prayers, personal stories and words of encouragement have carried us through.