Thursday, 13 December 2012

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.

I'll cut to the chase because I know a lot of you are sitting on the edges of your seats....
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.  


  1. What wonderful news! And what a beautifully written post... those lessons are ones that all of us need to be reminded of when we get bogged down with the 'day-to-day'... thanks for the reminder :)
    I'll pass on the news to my girls -- they'll be thrilled to hear that Mrs. Sherlock is doing well! All the best over the coming weeks with your recover, Leslie... and Merry Christmas to you and your family! Sue Kryway

  2. Thanks for the update Kelli and give a big (but gentle) hug to Leslie and Bill for me. Thinking of you all. Diana

  3. Kelli, thank you so much for the blog. And congratulations to all of you - you must be so relieved right now. The picture is wonderful. Only your mother, could look like she's on the verge of a big smile, right after surgery. You, your mom, your whole family, have given all of us a real gift with the journey you've shared in the blog. Thank you - the lessons you are sharing, truly we all do need to remember and to live them. Please give our love to your whole family. Connie & Michael

  4. Kelli Thanks for the awesome blog. Please give my love to your mom and all of you guys. This whole blog by your mom and you would make an awesome motivational book for others, You are truly amazing and your mom's strength is unbelievable!!

  5. So relieved to hear that the surgery went better than expected!!!! Kelli, you give your mom a run for her money on fantastic blogging skills! I agree with Bernice - this blog should be turned into something for others to read - the emotions and life changes I have experienced over the last year while reading this blog would benefit many others!!!! I'm looking forward to your posts all week . . .

  6. So happy to hear that the surgery went very well and Leslie is doing well inspite of the nausea. Surgery on her one year anniversary is a good omen for the future! Gudrun

  7. So glad that things went well. Please tell Leslie the McPhees have her in our prayers. And you and yours Kelli - as a fellow daughter with a mom with cancer, I can appreciate what your are going through.

  8. Wow, you are truly inspiring!
    Leslie, your strength, determination and positive attitude has defied the odds throughout this long journey.
    You and your family have made a lasting impression on me, and are a constant reminder of what the true priorities in life are. I want you to know that I think about you often.
    Congrats on making it over another hurdle; I hope you and your family get through this recovery period smoothly.
    :) Sydney

  9. Thanks Kelli, much love and prayers Les!!!

  10. This is such great news!! Kelli you are a terrific writer like your Mom! You and your family have had quite a year. I can hardly believe that is the one year anniversary. You and all of us bloggers have learned from your Mom too! My favourite part you wrote was that when your Mom was diagnosed, she 'got busy living'. We must all remember to 'get busy living' regardless of our situations. We may live once so make it AWESOME!!! Your Mom did that even before she was sick and I have always loved that about her! Give a big but gentle hug for her from her tiger twin!!

  11. Thanks for the update. Fantastic news - hugs to y'all!!!!

  12. I totally agree Bernice - I feel so fortunate to be a reader of this blog and wish more people could be inspired by Leslie's journey.
    - Jessie

    1. oops, that was meant to be posted above. Also wanted to say, more generally, that I am so proud of your whole family. The Harvey's are rooting for you all the way. Love you guys, and congrats on another hurdle crossed. See you soon! - Jessie

  13. Kelli,

    What a beautiful post; very well spoken. Leslie; you are such a fighter and it is inspiring. Much love, Lindsay (Mullaly) Read