Saturday, October 22, 2005

out, about, and going home soon

Somehow I still can't believe it actually happened, even though I now have this huge incision around my neck. I also have a drain, which is kind of icky, but DH is a total trooper and is taking good care of both me and it. (I suppose that's kind of the same thing.)

Surgery took about 4-and-a-half hours. Since I had to repeat the procedure names about 12 times pre-op, I now know them by heart. I had: a complete right neck dissection, a central compartment dissection, a superior mediastinal dissection, and a bilateral paratracheal dissection. Doesn't that sound creepy? Now that it's done I can handle rattling that off a lot better. Anyway, the dr said he found a lot more cancer than he expected even from the ultrasound and the CT scan, so it is a very good thing I had this surgery now. I don't really like to think about the alternatives so I will just move right along...

I woke up in recovery feeling pretty OK and able to talk right away. I couldn't move my right shoulder or upper arm, but my hand and forearm were OK. Later that evening I could move both my shoulder and upper arm. Now the only numbness I have is along my right jawline, and my right ear. It's weird. I do have swelling on the right side of my neck, and I'm sure that has a lot to do with the numbness. Plus the poor nerves have been shocked all to pieces, I'm sure.

The staff kept a watchful eye on my calcium levels and my parathyroids seem to have come through OK. Even so the endo has bumped up my calcium to 3 grams/day. I had thought that I was only doing 1g/day before surgery but then I looked at the bottle and realized I was taking 2g/day, so no wonder I was low post-op -- I missed my 2g dose on surgery day.

Now I will tell you something you probably won't believe, but the food at MDA is quite good. There is a "room service" menu and you can order anything you want (depending on what diet you're on per dr's orders, of course -- but I was on "normal diet as tolerated"), so I had some pretty decent meals. One of the drinks they offered was peach nectar, which is a favorite so I had that more than once. Hey, if you can't indulge post-op, when can you? I also had some really amazing homemade granola with plain yogurt, which I think may be one of my all-time favorite breakfasts.

The nurses were terrific. I probably had 10 different people working with me between recovery and my room, and they were all very kind and helpful. And especially good about keeping the good pain management drugs flowing. Speaking of which, I am doing well there with minimal pain and only taking Celebrex for now. I have some hydrocodone (heavy duty stuff) to take if it gets worse, but it does make me feel very loopy. I don't sleep right on that stuff either -- I took one last night and drifted in and out until it wore off, when I finally fell properly asleep.

The physical therapist came in to see me and gave me my shoulder-strengthening exercises, and was amazed at my range of motion. I knew there was a reason for taking up yoga and swimming this fall. I have been a good girl and already done one rep of my exercises this morning.

So we had a late breakfast and now DH is seeing about our transportation to the airport tonight (our flight leaves after 8PM) and also about getting a duffel bag or something, because we have a lot of stuff we didn't anticipate getting -- both paperwork and supplies for caring for my drain. We need another bag! But all will be OK.

I am tired and my right arm feels like I played tennis all day with it. My incision around my neck is probably 9 inches long but doesn't hurt (yet) as the nerves are still shot, I'm sure. The surgeon placed the steri-strips perpendicular to the incision so the effect is one of a fringed collar. It would be funny if it weren't so freaky looking. I hope it doesn't scare the kids!

DH says he doesn't notice the swelling in my face but I do. All in all I don't look too bad considering what I went through, and I certainly feel better than I expected to. I am still nervous about the flight home but really looking forward to getting there. I know with DH I will be all right even if I have a little more pain or discomfort, it will only be for a short time.

Thank you everyone for all your thoughts and prayers. It has really been a tremendous help. This will probably be the longest update for a while since I know my mom will not let me sit at the computer for this long at home (hee!). That's OK, I'll pop in with little updates when I can. I'm doing well and going to be fine, both dr and physical therapist say back to normal activities after 4 weeks. That'll go by very quickly.