The resection surgery

I went into surgery to have my tumor removed on July 23; Dr. Brennan and 2 of his residents did the surgery. The surgery went as expected, a bit shorter than we thought it would be (less than 2 and 1/2 hours). I was in the hospital for less than 2 days, which also was a bit less than expected (we were told 5-7 days). I'm not sure why they let me go home early; when the doctor mentioned that perhaps they could send me home soon, he was addressing the residents with him, and said this before he looked at my incision.

My roommate was pleasant enough; an older woman who lost 20 lbs in the last month, and was surprised that it was cancer in her abdomen. Her grown-up children were bossy, loud, and not very nice to the nurses, but they didn't stay for too long.

My experience was pretty uneventful. I came out of the anesthesia when they were taking my blankets off so that they could put a heated blanket on me. Then, they wheeled me into place in the recovery room. I asked to see my foot a few times. The nurse would move the covers at the base of my bed; since I didn't have my glasses, I couldn't see the foot, but it was reassuring that she was moving the covers. 20 minutes later my family came in. They hadn't seen the doctor, but he came while they were visiting with me. He said that the surgery went as expected, and that I was right that the tibial nerve was surrounded by the tumor, and that the nerve had to be removed with the tumor. I asked how much nerve, and he said that I have to learn the difference between imporant and unimportant questions. One of the residents later told me that they removed 2-3 cm on each side of the tumor, so they probably removed 15cm of nerve in total.

I was soon bought to my room. The folks and Tom helped me settle in. The folks left soon, and Tom stayed. They were supposed to get a chair or cot for him to sleep on, but didn't. So, he slept on 6 pillows on the floor. Tom ended up going home at 5:30am to sleep and take a shower.

The incision was covered by an ace bandage, and I had two drains coming out from under the bandage. The ace bandage went from mid knee to 2/3 up the thigh. One could see an inch or two of sutures on the back of the thigh. Most of my left leg and part of the right was slightly blue; they had tinted the alcohol that they used to clean my leg with since I'm allergic to iodine (which is a component of the standard skin cleaner). This isn't standard; each of my nurses thought that I was very badly bruised.

We didn't know that I was going to be on a clear liquid diet (dinner was an Italian ice, Jello, and beef broth), or that I wasn't supposed to leave the bed for the first 12 hours. (Using a bed pan is much harder than it looks.)

On the next day, I slept in a bit. After the first set of rounds at 6am, my nurse helped me to the bathroom for my first trip there. Before I got up, I asked her if I would be showing everything to everyone, walking to the bathroom in my gown. She said no, but that even if I was, everyone has seen it all. When I got up, she said that I was only wearing half a gown, not only could you see my back side, but my sides as well. So, after cleaning myself up, I changed into shorts and a tank top. I had a few visitors (Juan Carlos, Bruce, and Alan). Tommy came back around 2:30, and stayed with me until 9pm. I played a few games of bingo in the rec room. Matt and Karen visited in the evening.

On the second day after surgery, the residents decided that I could go home. They took out the drain at 12:30, and we left the hospital by 2:30.

So, the big question is "how is the pain?" Well, I don't feel the tumor; it in itself was causing a lot of discomfort. And, I haven't had the burning pain. The first day, I had a lot of incisional pain. (Just in case you're wondering, this incision is 8 inches long. [incision picture]) The second day, I had a lot of muscle pain (a number of the hamstring muscles were cut and pieces taken since the tumor was close to them); when I use these muscles, they complain.

Plus, I have to re-learn how to move my leg. I could be lying down on the bed, and think, "I want to bend my knees." The good leg does what I want, and the bad leg just sits there.

I'm not having problems walking; in fact, my walk probably is better now than before the surgery (since I was in pain before the surgery). I don't think the fact that I have a floppy ankle is noticeable yet. I'm using crutches some, but am also walking without them.

The surgeon said that he spoke with a neurosurgeon who told him that a nerve graft wouldn't be possible (even after all of the cancer treatment) because the tibial nerve is quite a large nerve, and the standard grafting nerve, the sural, is too small. When the time comes (once treatment is over), I will discuss this directly with neurosurgeons.

The experience at MSK was pretty different then Columbia. The rooms are larger, and both beds have some window exposure. Meals are not delivered at a set time, but are ordered like room service in a hotel. (The food was good, too.) There was a very large rec room, where Tom and I made trivets for our mothers from tiles. There was a nice library on our floor also.

Copyright 2003 The Shriver Family: Last modified: 01/06/04.