Brian had surgery to remove his GIST yesterday. A GIST stands for Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor.
Because he had to be re-admitted on Wednesday morning for further internal bleeding, the surgeon decided it was best to move forward with surgery, though they had yet to receive the initial biopsy results from the scope they performed last Friday. She had originally wanted to wait, because if the results showed malignant cells, operating on it could have been very risky, as the cancer could have seeded throughout the rest of his body. Apparently.
Luckily, by the time they were ready to go yesterday, those initial biopsy results had come back, and it showed that the cells that it had managed to sample from, were in fact benign. And after a few delays (one last lab to ensure his hemoglobin levels were steady enough so that he would actually survive an operation), he was finally cleared.
Those moments before surgery are mildly terrifying. As a patient (because I have been there too), you are doing a lot of inward thinking, praying, hoping. You're happy it's finally happening, but on the other hand, you're also scared of the unknown. It's actually terribly lonely in those moments, even though you're surrounded.
As a family member, it's a different kind of terror. It's a feeling of helplessness that I have never experienced before, because it's me that has always been the patient. The one in the bed. Not the one standing by the bed.
It hurt my heart.
The surgery took about two hours. The surgeon came out afterwards to find Gina, my mom, my dad, and myself sitting in the hallway outside the O.R, waiting..waiting..waiting. In those moments before she said anything, I think my heart stopped beating. She is a hard one to read - her face relayed no emotion. I was prepared to hear "I'm so sorry, he bled out, and there was nothing we could do" or "I'm very sorry to say that the cancer has metastasized into his liver". SPEAK WOMAN!
Instead she said something along the lines of "Brian did very well. We could the tumor out, and it was clean and contained. There was no bleeding. He got to keep his spleen. Now we just have to get the tumor analyzed and await the results to ensure it is, in fact, benign".
I cannot even begin to describe the relief. It's like a damn breaking and all your feelings get released in a huge wave. My mom, who lives and dies for her children, collapsed onto my dad and cried. I had to explain to concerned looking people in the same hallway that it was good news. We gave my mom a few minutes to collect herself, as the crying turned into crazy lady giggles. Phew. Relief is a strong feeling.
We were unable to see him while he was in recovery, so we headed out down the road for a bite to eat at a Thai restaurant. I rewarded myself with a rather large glass of white wine. It was a fine place for a mini celebration.
Brian actually called Gina from the recovery room, using the hospital phone. We rushed back, but only two were allowed to enter, so as the sister, I had to wait in the hallway. Two minutes later, my mom and Gina were ushered out again, and we waited on his ward for the next hour for them to wheel him back up to his room.
Brian has a nasal gastric tube, which goes up your nose, and down to the stomach. It's purpose is to empty the stomach contents, so you don't throw up. Throwing up is bad for abdominal surgery. I had one of those, and I have to tell you, it's VERY unpleasant. It's irritating to the throat, and it's obviously not a natural feeling to have a tube down your throat, so it takes some getting used to.
He's also hooked up to his epidural, saline, a catheter. In other words, tubes and lines everywhere. Unfortunately the epidural, even though it's at an 8, was doing nothing for his pain. So they gave him Dilaudid, which he can administer every 6 minutes. This also was not doing the trick, so he got morphine, as well as Tylenol (which was for shoulder pain caused by something they did to his diaphragm during surgery, a fairly common occurrence apparently). He was given Gravol through his IV, which helped him sleep, and I spent an hour last night timing the 6 minute intervals in which he could receive his pain meds. I didn't want to wake him up, so I pushed the button myself, which is apparently a no-no. But whatever, screw you hospital policy. He's my brother.
He was somewhat lucid, though extremely groggy. I tried to help his shoulder pain by rubbing out the knot, but of course, it's more than a knot, it's a diaphragm issue, which will hopefully resolve itself shortly. After he fell asleep, I just sat there watching him, and was once again transported back to my two week stay in the hospital when I was 28 years old (what is it about 28 in my family?), and I couldn't contain my tears. My heart was hurting so much. It's a scary place to be, wrapped up in tubes, in pain, and not knowing what the next few weeks, months, years will be like. But I never thought I was going to die. That's a whole different ball game.
Clearly, I am here four years down the road, and it's almost like it never happened. I have a rather large scar to tell my tale, and of course my own shady memories of the hospital. But, as I tried to tell him, it WILL get better, and you will be out of here soon. Sleep. Take the medicine. Recover.
Gina spends all night by his side. Since she can no longer crawl into bed with him, she slept in a chair last night. And by slept, I mean, hardly at all. I dropped my mom off this morning to relieve her, and encouraged her to take a bath, and sleep in her own bed. Sleep, the cure for so much. She is a wonderful wife. Brian is lucky to have her in his life. She has been his advocate and his constant companion during all of this. It's not the best way to start out a marriage, but it does say in sickness and in health. Hoping this is the road back to health.
I'm feeling good today. I still have this little pit of fear in my stomach, because we still have to wait for the pathology results on Willard Mitt Romney the Tumor to come back, which could take a week. And, the surgeon mentioned that she is sending him to the cancer agency regardless of the results, so we're unsure if this means he will be receiving cancer treatment regardless. At this time, we don't know what that looks like.
All we do know, is that Brian at this time is tumor free. He's surrounded by love. And regardless of the results, he will get through this because he is strong.
Next weekend is Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for.
And now, for a little humor, something I do best. I've been dying to say "It's not a toomah" for days on end. At least now I can say "It WAS a toomah" (a thing of the past). xo