Chapter 5 Post-op & hospital stay part two of three

Later that morning the nurse said I should try to stand up and walk around at least twice a day– it’s important to become mobile as soon as possible. I enthusiastically obliged since I’ve always been an active person.

I’m convinced that most of the IV poles in Beth Israel 10 floor Silver building is possessed by the ghosts of past patients. The IV pole I had had a mind of its own. I found myself one arm wrestling with it as I’m walking up and down the hall for the exercise and to break the monotony of the day. I just wanted to walk straight while the pole was determined to go left, then right, anything but straight. Then there was always the one stationary roller that just refuses to roll, period. No matter how many times I swapped poles they all responded the same way.

The nurses on occasion would mention that soon I would be free from the IV and have the painkillers given orally. All I would have to do is ask for one.
That sucks! I thought to myself, although I’ll be glad to get rid of the IV and the possessed IV pole, I’ve gotten used to getting a dose of the painkillers with a push of the button. Although the night nurse did say I was under dosing – which is amazing since any slight discomfort I would push that button.

The day & night nurses are both caring and fun, I remember the male night nurse, he has a quick wit– then he would tell me to “Laugh inward” so as to not damage my stitches. He even demonstrated how to cough inward – having your chest go “in” and not expand. So far I’ve been lucky not having to cough or sneeze.

Early afternoon the surgeon walks in to tell me the results of the pathology report.
His head low and for the first time he has a serious look in his face.

“The results of the pathology report came in” he says.
Bracing for the worst but secretly hoping for the best I took a deep breath and simply said “ok”

Then he smiled, lifted his head and said that there are no indicators that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and there’s a less than 10% chance of it spreading to other parts of the body! I almost jumped out of bed I was so happy!
“Isn’t that great news!” He finished
“That’s excellent news!” I replied, “What’s the next step” I asked with the widest smile I ever had.
“Well, you may be given a six month stint of chemo just as a precaution, but we will wait and see, in about a month or so to find that out, you will have to see an oncologist every three months for a year and of course, have an annual colonoscopy”
“I could live with that” I replied.
The surgeon also mentioned that I should be discharged in a day or two, when the stitches and IV is removed and things seem to be stable. It felt as if I just got here.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon calling up my friends and a cousin telling them
the good news.
During my stay at the hospital I felt as if I was a holographic image – like Princess Leia in Star Wars where she pleads for Ob One’s help in an image played through R2D2, you know… when Luke Skywalker first sees her.
That’s how I felt, turn to the left I’m there, turn to the right I’m not.

By the strong smell of food overpowering the corridor tells me when lunch and dinner was being served. Up until then I was still on a liquid diet, but I started to get hungry when I would smell food, a good sign that I was getting better… so I thought.

Well… the stitches were removed by a member of the chief resident’s entourage; the staples were replaced by a series of small, rectangle bandages that looked like those “Breathe Right” bands.
The IV was removed as well and now I’m totally free, FREE!!!
Free to roam around the corridor without wrestling with the IV pole.
Later that evening I was walking down the corridor when I saw a familiar face looking around. It’s my friend Viv! I came right up to her before she looked straight at me. It took a couple of seconds to recognize me, “I know, I look different in a hospital gown – do you like the latest fashion in patient wear?” I said as I twirled around.
Laughs and hugs followed and we were walking back to my room.

That night… in my sleep… I sneezed.
Not the building shaking, earth shattering sneezes that I’m infamous for, but rather a whimper type of sneeze. Although I kept right on sleeping – I could feel some of the bandages give way. I told the chief resident the next morning as he inspected the incision and he did notice a slight opening towards the last few inches of the incision. He said it was nothing major – but some of the bandages did become loose. So he had a member of the entourage redress the area.
The surgeon stopped by later that morning to see how I was doing and give me my progress report.

The threat of discharging me was ever present, after one of my acupuncturist sessions, a nurse mentioned that I may be discharged as early as later that day – when she left, the acupuncturist said these words “they are anxious to kick you out, I see” to that I simply replied “yes”.
By day four I grew weary of the liquid diet and grew more and more hungry each time the smell of food engulfed the halls whenever it was lunch or dinner time.

Friends upon their visits would comment how good I looked and the fact that I’m walking around without any apparent distress amazes them… given that I did have major surgery just several days before. The positive remarks given to me by my friends gave me the confidence in my rapid recovery to think that I can handle solid foods again.
I meant to voice my desire to eat solid foods when the chief resident made a cameo appearance sans the entourage, but I got distracted by the smell of his cologne he was wearing – I just laid there in bed thinking he must be going out that night and before I knew it, he was gone.
So… the next day when he stopped by with the entourage I mentioned if it was ok to be put on solids, the chief resident then instructed a member of the entourage to put me on solid foods, along with medication (a pill) . I told the surgeon later on that afternoon about my going on solid foods and he mentioned that it should be fine.

With the smell of food permiating the halls I knew dinner was on its way, I was so excited with the anticipation of eating solid foods again – my last meal – I remember it well… was Salmon in mustard garlic sauce with vegetables – I cooked it of course, and that was three days before the surgery.

The dinner tray came; I quickly lifted up the plastic cover to find that it’s rigatoni in tomato sauce with vegetables. I ate a couple of veggies, eating one at a time, and a friend stopped by for a visit as I impaled my fifth rigatoni with a fork.
She looked down at my plate and was in shock that I was eating solid food.
“Cindy, what are you doing?!” she asked in an exasperated voice.
“Having dinner” I simply replied.
“Is that wise? my mom didn’t go on solid food until a month after her operation and she only had a cancerous polyp removed, not a huge tumor” she answered.
“I got the doctors ok” I said.
I finished eating after that fifth rigatoni and covered the plate with the plastic cover.
With that we exchanged small talk and she left about an hour later.

Soon after her visit my stomach started to do wheelies, it was freaking out, I started to break into a sweat and had to run into the bathroom, and where I …yes… vomited.
That dinner didn’t last long in my stomach.

I spent the whole night going to the bathroom, this time… with the runs. Forget about sleep, the night nurse gave me Phillips of Magnesium but to no avail.
By the time morning came I was exhausted.
Now I looked like someone who had major surgery, gone were my rosy cheeks and energized self, in its place was an exhausted, lifeless person.

All this for food! I must add that the smell of dinner was much more powerful than the taste, let’s just say it’s not exactly 5 star.


I could see the headlines now… front page on the POST, I thought as I was lying in bed.

“Patient has successful colon cancer operation but dies from hospital cuisine”

Or truthfully, tries to eat solid food way too early.

 Website on colon cancer for the Latino community:
 http://coloncancerlatino.com/

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