Where Did All The Food Go?

My husband would pass by the hospital after work.  As soon as he’d arrive, he’d tell me he was going for a bite.  I was surprised and perplexed, because he did each day.  “Why wouldn’t you just go before coming?”  I’d laugh, thanks to the meds.

It was the weekend, around dinner time, and a large part of my immediate family was visiting.  Knowing I wasn’t able to eat, I could hear them whisper options of where they could go for a quick dinner.  “Why don’t you just pick up something and have it here?”

It felt really nice to have them all there together, and I didn’t want them to leave.  “You could get smoked meat sandwiches or chicken.  It’s alright if I can’t have it.  I’d love to just smell it.”  It makes me giggle as I remember this awkward moment.

I could tell they were shocked by my request, because they all just stared blankly at me.  But they soon obliged, understanding that it was what I wanted, and they shouldn’t feel guilty about eating in front of me.

Now that I think about it, was it that they just didn’t like eating in a hospital room?  I feel that way too at times – especially post-op – concerned about the environment I’m eating in.  But when I’m hungry, I’ll eat pretty much wherever I can.

Hunger did not exist for me at that point, but I just wanted to enjoy the aromas.  I wanted to remember them.  I realized I had a special appreciation for them now.

Things felt different for me once my stomach was removed.  Eating is such a large part of life, and here I was, not eating for days and weeks.  There was the feeding tube to keep me satiated, but it was strange not having to think about food.  Now it was natural for me, in my new state, not to be worried about hunger.  I suppose it was good for me that I was adapting well and quickly.

 

Summer may soon be over, but let’s be grateful for the wonderful one we had.  Think of this time as a fresh start.  Do the things you kept putting off.  I don’t write as much during the brief summer months, but as my daughter returns to school, and schedules become routine anew, I hope to work on my own projects that need attention.

Patricia

On the Move

Eventually, I settled into a semi-private room on yet another floor, in the bed by the window – which I prefer.  I still had no pain with the epidural in full force.  Recovery was going well, but I became a little bored because I wasn’t able to move much.  It wasn’t like me to lie around so much.

I was mostly in and out of sleep for the first few days.  There wasn’t even a need to eat, since they were giving me 1200 calories daily through the intestinal feeding tube that hung from my belly.

The cushion they had given me in case I’d cough wasn’t needed.  The redundancy in bodily functions avoided any pain from sneezing or having to go to make the effort to go to the washroom.  The catheter took care of my urine, since I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed anyway.  My torso and part of my legs were frozen, even passed the first week following the operation.

My sisters and mother were there every day, and they brought my father in to see me a couple of times.  They may have waited until I was doing well, so he wouldn’t worry more than need be.

Susy took vacation from work so she could be there during my second week at the hospital when I would require more attention.  She and my mother would come during the day.  Susy always made sure my telephone was disinfected and my tray table organized.  Actually, she was a little obsessive about it.  It didn’t make a difference to me at the time due to my inactivity, but I am always grateful to be in a clean environment.

I don’t remember them all, but I had a number of friends, family, and colleagues come by the hospital to spend time with me.  That was really kind, and I loved each visit.  They even brought thoughtful gifts.  I’m always surprised when I know people are thinking of me;  moreso, when they go out of their way for me.

 

This was the time of the year when I was awaiting my diagnosis.  August 17 I was told I had tumours in my stomach, and September 28 was my operation.  After all the agonizing steps, fear, tears, and strength, I am happy to report that I am soon celebrating 12 full years of remission.  How many get that opportunity?  I am so grateful to God!

I’ve been receiving more stomach cancer patients lately that want mentoring, and I am happy to help as much as I can.  What ails me is that this type of cancer is much more common in my city than I ever thought.  

Wow, Pain-Free!

The next day or so, I was in a more populated recovery area on another floor, where more than immediate family was allowed.  They finally pulled the tubes out of my body, leaving my throat on fire and my voice hoarse for several days.  I seem to remember complaining that the tubes were disturbing me.  There wasn’t any other pain.  The nurses made sure the epidural took care of all of it, before the feeling of pain ever had the chance to register in my brain.  I wouldn’t say it was easy, but so far, I felt things were only getting better.

Soon I had my first new visitors.  I can imagine family and friends were awaiting news about the surgery.  Having been in it, I honestly wasn’t thinking any one had it on their mind.  Not that I thought they were cruel, but I knew life went on for every one.  Surely their genuine concern would force them to inquire, and their love is truly treasured.

My (second) cousin, Nick, and his wife, Tanya, stood at the end of the bed.  What a sweet gesture, I thought.  Nick and I are the same age and somewhat grew up together.  Our mothers were close too, especially during their overlapping pregnancy.  Although as adults we had our own lives, we kept in touch.  Seeing him that day was very special and brought a smile to my face.

Claudia had told me that she called Gerry to let him know the operation went well – as I had asked her to do.  She told me he wanted to visit with me.  I was thrilled to see him for those few minutes, especially since he had a large part in connecting me with my surgeon through his cousin.  Several weeks later, he told me how happy he was that he had received that phone call.  He was feeling down the day Claudia called him.  Following his recent split with his wife, that day was the first wedding anniversary that they were apart.

 

When you need a little sunshine in your life, look to those that love you, appreciate you, and respect you.  There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for…

Be well, Patricia

What Light Through Yonder Window…

Later that evening, my husband’s brother, Mike, who’s since passed from cancer, and a friend of Susy’s came by the hospital.  As I opened my eyes again, Mariano and Mike stood quietly by my bed, staring, waiting for a sign of life.  I noticed my brother-in-law’s smile, only because he was showing teeth in the darkened room.  He was over six feet tall, fair-skinned, and with little hair on his head.

The light from the glass behind them helped me recognize the brothers’ silhouettes.  Having come from the same parents, you would never think they were siblings by their opposing features.  My husband seems to have taken most of his mother’s physical characteristics, and Mike, his father’s.

Mariano is about 5.6 with much more hair.  He didn’t play sports much, but tells me he occasionally did the street hockey thing and played soccer for a short time in his early teens.  I’ve seen him ice skate really well.  Mike loved golf, hockey, and hunting, taking trips into the wilderness for a week at a time.

Ralph recently explained that he, my mother and sisters were first at my bedside.  I don’t remember seeing them, but he said I was awake and had signalled two thumbs up to him.  Funny that now that I’m rereading this brings a glimpse of the sign I gave him.  Is this a memory or just a visualization of what he described?

 

Be well always.

Am I Really Here?

The first time I remember opening my eyes, I didn’t feel a thing.  For all I knew, I was missing more than my stomach.  The lack of physical feeling meant I was still frozen by the epidural.

My eyes opened and closed a few times, coming in and out of consciousness or sleep.  The room seemed different each time I awakened.  It was unclear how much time had elapsed between each snooze, and it was difficult to know what time of day it was.  Was it the middle of the night?  Had I slept all day, and didn’t get to see any one?  Had my family gone home?  Has the surgeon left for his holiday, and I wouldn’t know details about the surgery?

Without my contact lenses or glasses, my vision was still limited to blurriness after more than one foot away, but I think I was alone in the room at that point.  The lighting was so dim, it felt as though it came from a night light.  The vastness of the room told me I was alone – it wasn’t because I couldn’t see any one.  It felt peaceful;  not at all like being in a hospital.  I was comfortable and pain-free.

For a few moments, I felt a little lonely and intimidated by the emptiness of the room.  I stared blankly at the ceiling and toward the light, unknowingly trying to become aware of where I was.  Wondering if I was being monitored, I realized why I was there, but felt detached.  Maybe the feel-good medication had something to do with the lack of concern.

It turned out that the quiet room was intensive care.  They put you there for a few hours following important surgeries.  You’re close to the operating room, in case something goes wrong.

I finally turned my head slightly to the right.  I could see light coming from the rectangular-shaped window of the next room.  That was probably what lit up my room.  I imagined it was a viewing room for the nurses.  My husband says I was next to the operating room.  So then how were the nurses looking after me?

Again I was awakened, but this time there was a presence in the room.  My surgeon sat by me on the bed.  He put his hand over mine – a real gentleman – happy he saved another life.  “We did it.”  He was humble, and if I were any more aware, I would have thought he was a little emotional.

I could only smile.

“It was full of tumours, so we removed all the stomach and about one-third of the esophagus.”

Ironically, it was as if I had died and gone to Heaven.  What a miracle that I was blessed with a second chance.  I forced a mumble, even with all the tubes that went down my nose and throat, “thank you.”  What else can I say?

 

Hope you all have a little sunshine today!

Patricia