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Dr. Adlersberg channel 7 interview

January 25, 2012

My surgeon, Dr. Joseph Martz pointing to the tumor in a CAT scan, highlighted in a news segment for Channel 7 news health segment with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

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Chapter 7, Back to work

February 16, 2010

A warm reception greeted me when I went back to work. A stream of coworkers would come by and wished me well and how it was nice to see me as I was at my desk going over a month’s worth of emails. It took a couple of days to get back into the “work” mentality but by the end of the first week I was back into the groove. The second week I got an email regarding the interview for Channel 7 news.

It was on.

It’s scheduled for the following week at 10:30, it will be between the surgeon and I, the interviewer would be Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

I’m both excited and scared.

Then I got another email from the hospital publicist saying that something has come up and it’s off.
The next day I go about my work when I got another email from the hospital publicist – it’s on again. The interview will be at the surgeon’s office in Union Square East – on the 2nd floor – my primary Dr. is in the 3rd floor.

I scheduled the interview after my appointment with my primary doctor. I figured I’ll kill 2 birds with one stone.
In my primary Dr’s office I tell her of the interview-
“Are you excited?” asked my doctor.
“I’m more nervous than excited” I replied.
“Oh, you’ll do fine, I’m going to have a patient that’s going to be on TV! you have to let me know when you’re on”.

I’m in my surgeon’s clinic, escorted to an exam room by the floor nurse. She tells me that the TV crew isn’t in yet. I read a pamphlet as I hear voices of both the Physician’s Assistant and Surgeon in the office across the hall.

“Where is Cynthia?” the surgeon asked the PA.

I immediately closed the pamphlet and ran to them.

“Here I am!” I exclaimed.

The surgeon turned, we say our hellos and escorts me to another exam room.
“They’re here” he said as he and I enter the room.

In the room is the producer of the segment, the cameraman and Dr. Jay Adlersberg. We all introduce each other and Dr. Adlersberg tells the surgeon and I what will happen.

I’m interviewed first, then the surgeon.

“Cindy, you will sit on the exam table and I will ask you a series of questions – look at me when you respond – not the camera” said Dr. Adlersberg.

Easier said than done since there is a glaring light sticking out at the end of the camera.

So I sit at the exam table as the mic is hooked on the front of my blouse, I’m nervous as hell and trying my best not to show it. Dr. Jay Adlersberg is sitting across from me.

“Now, before we start I need you to say and spell your name”

I said and spelled my name.

Then Dr. Adlesberg asked me how I was diagnosed, I told him about the Oprah show and how I recognized the symptoms by watching Dr. Oz talk about “Good poop, bad poop”.

This fascinated Dr. Adlesberg, he asked me how old I was.

“I was 45 when I was diagnosed” I replied.

The interview seemed to have gone on forever with lots of questions.

Then the subject of my scar came about as well as the CT scan, Dr. Adlesberg said if they could film me with the scar, I said sure.

Next thing I know I’m lying with the sheet over me – the surgeon on one side and the cameraman on the other – Dr. Adlesberg told the doctor to make it seem like a consult and ask me typical questions.

That went smoothly.

Then Dr. Adlesberg wanted the surgeon to bring up the CT scan in the monitor that was sitting on the desk in the room. So there we are, me in the chair – the surgeon and the CT scan with the tumor in fill glory – and the cameraman catching all of this.

At one point it was just the cameraman, the surgeon and I in the room and we were started a conversation.

The cameraman wanted to know where both the surgeon and I lived.

“Midtown Manhattan” I replied.

The surgeon mentioned a place in New Jersey.

“Oh, that’s where I live” replied the cameraman, “yeah, someone bought the house in back of us and is expanding it, Sometimes my wife and I look out and see the progress – they are putting in this large addition- almost the size of the original house and we were wondering who on earth is doing that?”

Then he went on to say “I found out that this big shot Doctor from the city is doing that” the cameraman continued.

At that point the surgeon stretched out his hand and said “Welcome neighbor”

The shocked cameraman shook his hand.

“Come on” the surgeon said, “The house isn’t that big”

The cameraman and surgeon were talking about the neighborhood when Dr. Adlesberg came in and told me that he will interview the surgeon and my part is done, but he wanted a shot of me walking into the office.

I was outside when the producer approached me and said that Dr. Oz is going to have his own show and If I would be interested in being a guest.

I said “I love Dr. Oz, yes, I would love to be a guest, would his show be in New York?”

“Yes” she said, “The show will be in the former Conan O’ Brian studios”.
I tried to conceal my excitement as the conversation continued.

Dr. Oz. is going to have his own show and I might be a guest? this is beyond exciting! I kept saying to myself as I left the surgeon’s office and on my way to Port Authority.

I said my goodbyes and went to work.
At Port Authority waiting for the bus to Ridgefield Park, NJ (I couldn’t afford to drive to work anymore so I managed to find a garage in Mt Vernon, Westchester to house the car for $85.00 a month)  I called my friend (she’s was the one who accompanied me when I was discharged from the hospital) and told her about the interview and the news that Dr. Oz is going to have his own show and that I might be a guest.

“Dr. Oz is going to have his own show, wow! that’s news” she replied.

“Yes, and there is a possibility that I might be a guest!”
At that moment the bus comes and I board.

I grabbed a sandwich at the deli in the located a floor below my job, sat down at my desk going through assignments left for me by the marketing manager. I’m grateful that it’s lunch hour and most of the staff is out to lunch. I did tell everyone that I had a Dr’s appointment but said nothing about the interview.

The interview took just under an hour.

Here’s the clip:

Colon Cancer test

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

November 3, 2009


I knew it!

I said to myself as the IV was in the process of being placed back in my arm by a member of the chief resident’s entourage.
I knew I would become totally dehydrated after my nighttime activities and the IV would be the end result.

That morning the chief resident and entourage come in and inquired about my nighttime activities, I told him (them) that it started shortly after I had dinner.
The chief resident instructed an entourage member to have me back on liquids and turned to me and said that it must have been the combination of solid foods and a pill I had taken before I had dinner. He then instructed another member to have me back on IV.

I just laid there the whole time, lifeless and exhausted; my big brown eyes just staring at the scene before me. Before I knew it, I was alone again – not looking forward to having the IV back in place. Breakfast came in soon afterward and sure enough… it was all liquid. I barley had strength to drink the chicken broth and tea.

That morning my cousin called to tell me she would stop by for a visit, and I boldly told her not to – being honest I told her that I didn’t have the strength and gave her a brief description of what happened. With a concerned voice she said she understood and I reassured her that I was ok and hung up the cell.

Other than my cousin I didn’t tell any family members what happened.
You see, I have 3 uncles and they all have major health issues – for one… they all have diabetes as well as hypertension. I have one that just had a quadruple bypass six months earlier and he’s taking it hard, another on dialysis three times a week and is on the list for a kidney transplant and the third suffers from severe gout (I know… I didn’t know gout still exists). So…I thought I would spare them of my health issues, besides… being the healthiest member of the family they probably wouldn’t believe me – being a huge advocate of health and fitness even in my late teens I would be the one who would tell my uncles and aunt how bad most of the Puerto Rican cuisine is since most of it consists of fried foods.

“Do you know what the fat content of that Fried Bacalao is”? (commonly known as Frits).

“Sí, sé” as my aunt hands me one and I’m left holding it as the grease

drips down my arm. But yes… I do eat it and it was delicious.

My cousin is the only family member I told, and she offered to have me stay and recuperate at her massive Upper West Side apt she and her family have lived for over forty five years. She has become my surrogate mother – although in her seventies she certainly does not look her age and… she has more energy than me – as my trip to Spain with her attests. She out walked me in Barcelona!

“Grisel, I must sit”! I exclaimed while we were walking through Las Ramblas on our way to see the Goudi house.

“Ok, ok… but remember, the Gaudí House closes at 7pm and we have to go see

Casa Batllo as well as the Sagrada Familia… plus don’t forget we have dinner reservations at 9pm” she replies as she stares at her wrist watch, nodding her head no.

“Why don’t we both sit and people watch for a few minutes”? I answered as I found a chair and sat down. Where I sat turned out to be an outdoor café in Las Ramblas so we both ordered a café con leche, sat and people watched for a half hour before we resumed our afternoon adventures.

Enough with my reverie… back at the hospital… later on that afternoon the surgeon stopped by for a visit and he reiterate what the chief resident said earlier, and inquired if I was well enough to be discharged. I told him I was in no condition to be discharged, I couldn’t see myself at my cousin’s apt with “the runs” and one bathroom. The surgeon understood and said I would be discharged when I felt ready.

That evening my girlfriend (the one who visited me and commented on the solid food dinner) stopped by for a visit to see how I was doing.
“I knew it!, I knew you started eating solids way too early” she said when I told her of the previous nights’ escapades.
That night was an uneventful one… for which I am grateful for. The male night nurse stopped by to take vitals…”I thought you would be discharged by now”
“So did I” I replied. “But there was a brief snag…”

Since I am contemplating my next career move throughout my hospital stay I would ask the nurses as well as “patient care specialist” where they got their training -most of the nurses were graduates of the Beth Israel nursing school… I had no idea there was one. The patient care specialist had come from a variety of training schools. I plan to look into them when I’m fully recovered.

The next morning I felt a lot better but still not 100% self. The physician’s assistant stopped by for a visit as did the surgeon.

Later that afternoon the chief resident stopped by – without the entourage and accompanied by an attractive woman in her late forties. Introductions were made and it turns out she too is a doctor only she wasn’t wearing the usual white coat. Twenty minutes later I walked down the hall to fill my pitcher from the water station when I run into the chief resident and his companion. He turned to me and joked, we all laughed as he and companion proceeded to walk down the hall. As I was filling my pitcher I glanced back at them, unaware of the fact that that would be the last time I would ever see the chief resident again.

The next morning that the decision was made that I’m well enough to be discharged, it was a Tuesday and it happened to be a very cold and gray, snowy day.

I called my friend that morning and it was agreed that she will pick me up during her lunch hour.

I can’t believe I’m going to be discharged in this weather!
I said to myself as I looked out the window and down at the white pavement…indicating that the snow is sticking to the ground, grateful I’m leaving before any serious accumulation happens.

I called my cousin to let her know, although she’s at work she assured me that her son and his home attendant will be at the apt when I get there.

As I was packing I wondered if I should have the Physician’s Assistant paged or perhaps the chief resident – this was the first time he didn’t stop by – so I concluded that it wouldn’t be a good idea to have him paged on his day off.

He’s probably sleeping in I said to myself as I zipped up the blue tote given to me at the time I registered.

The nurse came in to hand me the discharge papers and appointment to see the surgeon as well as a verbal illustration of the next steps.

“Remember, when you shower don’t soap up the incision area, just let water flow on it, and call the doctor immediately if the stomach should become distended” she said as she proceeded to illustrate with her arms extended several inches away from her stomach.

“Once these bandages are removed at the surgeon’s office it will be replaced by gauze and nylon bandages, I will give you a supply to take home” I nodded yes as she left the room to prepare my goody bag.

I gathered my things and sat patiently waiting for my girlfriend to arrive.

This was February 3rd, 2009

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

November 3, 2009

I knew it!

I said to myself as the IV was in the process of being placed back in my arm by a member of the chief resident’s entourage.
I knew I would become totally dehydrated after my nighttime activities and the IV would be the end result.
That morning the chief resident and entourage come in and inquired about my nighttime activities, I told him (them) that it started shortly after I had dinner.
The chief resident instructed an entourage member to have me back on liquids and turned to me and said that it must have been the combination of solid foods and a pill I had taken before dinner. He then instructed another member to have me back on IV.
I just laid there the whole time, lifeless and exhausted; my big brown eyes just staring at the scene before me. Before I knew it, I was alone again – not looking forward to having the IV back in place.  Breakfast came in soon afterward and sure enough… it was all liquid. I barley had strength to drink the chicken broth and tea.
That morning my cousin called to tell me she would stop by for a visit, and I boldly told her not to – being honest I told her that I didn’t have the strength and gave her a brief description of what happened. With a concerned voice she said she understood and I reassured her that I was ok and hung up the cell.

Other than my cousin I didn’t tell any family members what happened.

You see, I have 3 uncles and they all have major health issues  – for one… they all have diabetes as well as  hypertension.  I have one that just had a quadruple bypass six months earlier and he’s taking it hard, another on dialysis three times a week and is on the list for a kidney transplant and the third suffers from severe gout (I know… I didn’t know gout still exists). So…I thought I would spare them of my health issues, besides… being the healthiest member of the family they probably wouldn’t believe me – being a huge advocate of health and fitness since my late teens I would be the one who would tell my uncles and aunt how bad most of the Puerto Rican cuisine is since most of it consists of fried foods.

“Do you know what the fat content of that Fried Bacalao is”? (commonly known as Frits).
“Sí, sé” as my aunt hands me one and I’m left holding it as the grease drips down my arm. But yes… I do eat it and it was delicious.
My cousin is the only family member I told, and she offered to have me stay and recuperate at her massive Upper West Side apt she and her family have lived for over forty five years. She has become my surrogate mother – although in her seventies she certainly does not look her age and… she has more energy than me – as my trip to Spain with her attests. She out walked me in Barcelona!

“Grisel, I must sit”!  I exclaimed while we were walking through Las Ramblas on our way to see the Goudi house.
“Ok, ok… but remember, the Gaudí House closes at 7pm and we have to go see
Casa Batllo as well as the Sagrada Familia… plus don’t forget we have dinner reservations at 9pm” she replies as she stares at her wrist watch, nodding her head no.
“Why don’t we both sit and people watch for a few minutes”? I answered as I found a chair and sat down. Where I sat turned out to be an outdoor café in Las Ramblas so we both ordered a café con leche, sat and people watched for a half hour before we resumed our afternoon adventures.

Enough with my reverie… back at the hospital… later on that afternoon the surgeon stopped by for a visit and he reiterate what the chief resident said earlier, and inquired if I was well enough to be discharged. I told him I was in no condition to be discharged, I couldn’t see myself at my cousin’s apt with “the runs” and one bathroom. The surgeon understood and said I would be discharged when I felt ready.

That evening my girlfriend (the one who visited me and commented on the solid food dinner) stopped by for a visit to see how I was doing.
“I knew it!, I knew you started eating solids way too early” she said when I told her of the previous nights’ escapades.

That night was an uneventful one… for which I am grateful for. The male night nurse stopped by to take vitals…”I thought you would be discharged by now”
“So did I” I replied. “But there was a brief snag…”

Since I am contemplating my next career move throughout my hospital stay I would ask the nurses as well as “patient care specialist” where they got their training -most of the nurses were graduates of the Beth Israel nursing school… I had no idea there was one. The patient care specialist had come from a variety of training  schools. I plan to look into them when I’m fully recovered.

The next morning I felt a lot better but still not 100% self. The physician’s assistant stopped by for a visit as did the surgeon.

Later that afternoon the chief resident stopped by – without the entourage and accompanied by an attractive woman in her late forties. Introductions were made and it turns out she too is a doctor only she wasn’t wearing the usual white coat. Twenty minutes  later I walked down the hall to fill my pitcher from the water station when I run into the chief resident and his companion. He turned to me and joked, we all laughed as he and companion  proceeded to walk down the hall. As I was filling my pitcher I glanced back at them, unaware of the fact that that would be the last time I would ever see the chief resident again.

It was the next morning that the decision was made that I’m well enough to be discharged, it was a Tuesday and it happened to be a very cold and gray, snowy day.

I called my friend that morning and it was agreed that she will pick me up during her lunch hour.

I can’t believe I’m going to be discharged in this weather!
I said to myself as I looked out the window and down at the white pavement…indicating that the snow is sticking to the ground, grateful I’m leaving before any serious accumulation happens.

I called my cousin to let her know, although she’s at work she assured me that her son and his home attendant will be at the apt when I get there.

As I was packing I wondered if I should have the Physician’s Assistant paged or perhaps the chief resident – this was the first time he didn’t stop by  – so I concluded that it wouldn’t be a good idea to have him paged on his day off.
He’s probably sleeping in I said to myself as I zipped up the blue tote given to me at the time I registered.
The nurse came in to hand me the discharge papers and appointment to see the surgeon as well as a verbal illustration of the next steps.

“Remember, when you shower don’t soap up the incision area, just let water flow on it, and call the doctor immediately if the stomach should become distended” she said as she proceeded to illustrate with her arms extended several inches away from  her stomach.

“Once these bandages are removed at the surgeon’s office it will be replaced by gauze and nylon bandages, I will give you a supply to take home”  I nodded  yes as she left the room to prepare my goody bag.

I gathered my things and sat patiently waiting for my girlfriend to arrive.

This was February 3rd, 2009

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

October 11, 2009

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/

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

October 11, 2009

I rubbed my eyes as I woke from my slumber, surprised to find myself still in the pre-op room. A nurse was beside me checking my vitals.
“When will I go to surgery?” I asked.
“You already had it” she replied as she walked away.
That’s when I saw the wall clock.
It was 4:30pm
Six hours had gone by!
It felt as if I took a brief nap.
I looked down at myself to check and see any changes … still covered from the neck down with a white sheet…it seemed as if nothing had changed from this morning.

Grateful that the surgery part is behind me, now I realized that the equally challenging part awaits…the recovery. I was still hooked up to the IV. My next memory was of me being transported to the hospital room – which was in the 10th floor Silver building.
It was a semi-private room, I was grateful that I had the window side with an amazing view of the city complete with the Empire State Building – and that I was alone… for the first night.
Shortly after I settled in the surgeon stopped by with a beaming smile to tell me that they were able to remove the tumor and the surgery was a success. He also mentioned that since the tumor was pressing up against the abdomen muscle it was removed as a precaution. Had to remove a muscle? I thought.
“What are the long term effects of not having an abdomen muscle?” I asked.
“It shouldn’t interfere with your quality of life” he replied.
Then the surgeon mentioned something to the effect of the abdomen has is surrounded by many muscles….
As he was speaking all that kept going through my mind was the fact that the tumor was gone and the surgery a success. I was elated! After the surgeon left I was greeted by the hospital acupuncturist who asked me if I was interested. I said absolutely and scheduled a treatment for the next day.
Afterward a doctor came in with an entourage of people in white coats behind him.
Again- just like the surgeon I was amazed at how young he looked, he has a dark, olive complexion and fine features with deep dark eyes behind a pair of glasses… he reminded me of an actor. He was talking but I didn’t hear what he was saying, I was busy rattling my brain trying to remember the actor he reminded me of — priorities you know.
As he left the room I remembered who he reminded me of… Robert Downey Jr when he was in the TV show Alley McBeal, only with an olive complexion.

About an hour later the Physician’s assistant stopped by complete with beaming smile and dancing blue eyes repeated the news of the tumor and the successful surgery, I didn’t mind hearing the news again – we chatted for a little bit and she was out of the room.
Shortly afterward a barrage of nurses and “Patient care specialist” stopped by to take vitals and such, one of which told me that the IV contained painkillers and instructed me how to self administer should I start to feel any form of discomfort, it was primarily a button sitting beside me.
So, any tiny form of “discomfort” I pushed that button.
The friends who were with me at the surgical consult appointment stopped by, one at a time. It was great to see them and I relayed the message given to me by the surgeon.
That night I remember I thought I could just throw off my bed sheet and just walk over to the bathroom just a couple of feet away. The night nurse was there when I did throw off the sheet… only to find a rubber tube inside of me. Both half asleep and confused I instinctively started to pull the tube out of me, the nurse kept saying not to do that…then it registered… it’s a catheter.
“How long will I have this?” I managed to say
“A couple of days” replied the night nurse.
Ok, so I don’t have to go to the bathroom.
I managed to sleep the rest of the night.
A “Patient care specialist” greeted me the next morning as I rubbed my eyes open.
I then looked at the wall clock above the sink diagonal from me… it was after 5am.
She brought in fresh bed sheets and helped me wash myself as best as we both could do.

Later that morning the catheter was removed and I was free! Well, as free as I can be since I was still attached to the IV pole with the painkillers, so that I didn’t mind.
The nurse mentioned how important to pass gas to make sure “the plumbing worked well”. So that was my new mission of the day, so, after a couple of false alarms, it finally happened- later that evening I finally passed gas…. although it was a modest one…but hay, it was something. I felt such a sense of accomplishment as I dozed off to sleep.

I remained bedridden for the rest of the day- catching up with soap operas I haven’t seen in years, answering voicemails from concerned friends living far away and surfing the internet with my PDA – grateful to ambidextrous, since I was using my left hand. My right hand had the IV – therefore limited in mobility.
I also had a new roommate – she came in the middle of the day, bummed out that I wasn’t alone in my solitude.
I only heard voices from the other curtain, from what I gathered she has cancer too but don’t know what kind. The physician’s assistant stopped by to check in and later on some friends stopped by bearing flowers, which immediately cheered up the room.

That night I woke to one nurse telling another that the machine monitoring my vitals was broken, she was responding to my blood pressure reading – it was too low.

“No, that’s her reading, it’s been that way since the surgery” the nurse replied.
My blood pressure read 78/54.
That’s true.
Up till age 35 my blood pressure was always two digits both top and bottom numbers.
After age 35 the top number became three digits, with the bottom remaining two digits, three digits being 100 or 110 the highest over 65 or around that realm.
The fact that I have low blood pressure is amazing since everyone in my family – both immediate and extended – has beyond high blood pressure… I mean orbit high. I remember my mom’s reading was 210/175, I didn’t know you could still be walking around with those numbers.

That day I went on a liquid diet, breakfast usually consisted of tea and Melba toast, both lunch and dinner was soup and jello.
That night I had to go to the bathroom for the first time since before the surgery. Yeah!!
So in I went.
Then I partially removed my hospital gown.
The reflection I saw from the bathroom mirror almost made me fall against the wall behind me.
There I was, basically topless with a vertical line of staples starting at two inches above my belly button all the way to “Down there”.
My jaw dropped.
I was transported back to the scene where I asked the surgeon during the surgical consult appointment how large would the incision be. The surgeon made an apex. three inch gap between his thumb and pointer finger on his right hand. Ok, I could deal with that I said to myself then.

This was no three inch incision, but more like a 7 inch vertical incision down my belly. On my right side dangled two plastic round disks that contained a liquid substance connected by tubes that went into me. I quickly figured out they were drains.

Ok… now I know what questions I should have asked the physician’s assistant while I was in her office going through the pre-op preparation process.
Since this is my first (hopefully my last) operation I should have asked what to expect after the operation and recovery process – I didn’t anticipate the catheter, nor the possibility of a 7 inch vertical row of staples down my belly complete with drains attached to my right side across from the top line of my pubic hair.
As long as I know what’s going to happen beforehand I’m fine, but these little surprises throw me over a loop.

Throughout this whole ordeal I kept reenacting that final scene of the TV drama/comedy “Dallas” where Victoria Principal’s character wakes up to the sound of a running shower, goes to the bathroom and opens the shower door to reveal Bobby greeting her- that’s when she realizes the past year was a dream.
I keep thinking I’m going to wake from this painkiller daze and find this past several months to be all a dream, that I wasn’t diagnosed with colon cancer, I didn’t have the surgery and I don’t have this 7 inch scar down my belly.

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

Chapter 3 the consult

October 11, 2009

The appointment for the surgical consult was a week away-
“Is that the earliest?” I asked the receptionist, wanting to see the surgeon that very afternoon.
“Yes, that’s the earliest” she said as she looked at me with sad, concerned eyes as she proceeded to write the info on an appointment card…. I guess she knew.
I left the Gastro Dr.s office in that bitter cold January morning and called my friend to tell her the news. She said her mom had the same thing 10 years prior and it was caught in time before it metastasized, it too was a tumor.
“How big was it?” I asked as I walked to the train station to the Port Authority. “About an inch” the voice on the other end of my PDA replied.
 “This one’s bigger”, I answered, ignoring the cold “how old was your mom when she was diagnosed?”  “She was 62”,
“You see, that’s where I’m in shock, I’m way too young to have this happen” (I was 45) I said in disbelief.
“Try not to think of it, (easier said than done) “when is the consult? I’ll go with you, I’ll call later”
I called another dear friend of mine while I was waiting for the bus to take me to work at the Port Authority.
I went to work that day not confiding to anyone. As it happens, it was a colleagues birthday that January 9th , and … as the office celebrated with a collaborative “happy birthday” followed by cake I couldn’t help but wonder if this was going to be my last year on earth… I thought as a slice of cake was handed to me.
The appointment day finally arrived, it was early morning and I had two friends of mine join me for both moral support and to absorb the information since I was still in a state of dazed shock.
At the waiting room my friends and I sat down and, while they talked about everyday stuff I was busy filling out the paperwork that was handed to me. Before long my name was called, and while my friends and I entered the room I was greeted by a woman with caring big blue eyes and bright smile wearing the familiar garb Dr’s wear – long white overcoat complete with stethoscope around her neck. She introduced herself as the Surgeon’s physician’s assistant. She instructed us to be seated and the surgeon will be in shortly.
After a few long minutes in came the surgeon, I was amazed at how young he looked.
He has a handsome compassionate face, a great disposition complete with a quick smile, a twinkle in his eye and soft voice.
He exuded confidence regarding the pending surgery; he gave best case and worst case scenenerios, Best case being that the tumor is completely removed followed by a 6 month stint of chemotherapy as a precaution. Worst case is that they operate and find that they can’t remove the tumor because of its size; at that point I will be given chemo treatments until the tumor is small enough so that they could operate and remove it.
“How big is the tumor?” I was able to ask.
“Oh, it’s large” he replied. “Would you like to see it?”
Before I had a chance to respond …he did something I was not prepared for… he pulled up my CT scan showing my tumor in all its glory right there in the 15 inch monitor. Next thing I knew I was face to face with my new enemy… I was shocked at the sight and relieved that my friends were there taking notes… because I was too stunned.
“What’s the size?” I asked, fixated on the monitor.
“Well it’s….” there was a measurement in centimeters in the middle of the screen next to image of the tumor, he started counting down with the mouse… “One, two three, four, five…” that’s where the measurement ended and the length of the tumor went beyond that.
“It looks to be about the size of a small grapefruit”
There was a moment of stunned silence in the office.
A friend of mine asked what stage it is – “stage 3” he replied. He went on to say that, based on its size; it’s about three years old.
That means it formed when I was 42!
Who thinks about getting a colonoscopy at 42?! My biggest worry at that time was if I was pregnant/not pregnant, not if I had a mad polyp in my colon.
As if ready my mind the surgeon said that it started out as a polyp, and then it just grew.
“But… I had no symptoms, no bleeding, pain…anything” I said. Then I told him of the Oprah episode I just by chance watched in which Dr. Oz talked about “The poop discussion”. We talked about that and how lucky I was to have caught the episode, recognized the symptoms and talked to my Dr. about it.
“No joke”, I said to myself.
“Why didn’t I have any pains if it was that size” I asked.
The surgeon explained that it’s the location; it’s on the right side – just where it turns to liquid – so the symptoms wouldn’t have surfaced until it was in the late stages.
He also mentioned that the tumor was pressing up against the muscles of my abdomen, and it’s dangerously close to my kidney – but not to worry – the liver is clear so it looks like it could be saved.
    I was at risk of losing a kidney?! This was just too much information  to grasp.
Although it was still early in the morning… I was already in the mood for a stiff drink.
    Next thing I knew I was laying on the examination table and the surgeon was kneading the right side of my abdomen. “Yes, I could feel it right here” he said.
“Are you busy this afternoon? Can the surgery be done then?” I said half- jokingly. I just wanted this thing out… now!
    The surgeon laughed and said it will be done on the 27th; this was the 16th of January … almost 2 weeks away.
    One of my friends was busy writing everything down; grateful she was doing this since I was in no way capable of such a task.
I remember the physician’s assistant was back in the office talking to the surgeon. Then I went with her to her office as the surgeon said his goodbyes and runs off, followed by my friends saying their goodbyes as they run off to work.
Alone with the physician’s assistant she told me of the next steps and gave me a printout of how to prep myself days before surgery.
“How long will out of work?” I asked
“about a month” was her reply.
Shocked by that answer, I repeated her reply “A month?!, why so long?”
“This is major surgery, your body needs time to heal”
Shortly after I left her office dazed.
    Next thing I remember I was on my way to the garage to collect my compact SUV to drive back to work, trying to absorb the morning’s events.

http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/aspirin-miracle-pill
Dr. Oz talks about the importance of Aspirin & how it helps prevent colon cancer.