So it’s been a whirlwind of a week since surgery!
I was released from the hospital on Sunday afternoon (16th) and have continued my recovery at my parents house with fantastic care/support from them and Denise (my “nurse”) 🙂
The general pain from the surgery seems to be lessened every day and I am actually able to start discerning between the ‘types’ of pain that I’m feeling in my abdomen (gas/digestive/incision/swelling/etc/etc). Initially all the pain just seemed to be lumped together into an unidentifiable “blob”.
I am actually eating solid foods as of Sunday as well. Not much variety (slice of turkey, toast, fruit, cheerios, etc), but it’s better than protein drinks and jello! Instead of three square meals a day, it’s more like five or six small ‘snacks’ a day. The hardest part of the recovery so far seems to be to get the digestive tract working again. It’s quite painful, but a necessary evil to jumpstart it again after the surgery.
I started “working out” again yesterday (18th), which really just consists of spending a bit over an hour on a treadmill, bike and eliptical. This looks like it will be about as extensive a repertoire as I’ll have for a month or so.
We had the follow up appointment with Dr. Katz (the surgeon) yesterday (18th) and he continues to be very positive and is extremely happy with my recovery progress so far. He’s adamant that I continue a ‘workout’ regime and has even said that I’ll be lifting heavy again at some point in the future, but it will take time as the major abdominal surgery has made me susceptible to hernias. He also said that I’m able to start back taking daily vitamins and fish oil again. We went through all my current pain symptoms and everything I’m experiencing is completely normal, so there is no concern of any pancreas leakage (which is the largest concern post Whipple surgery).
Now the interesting stuff. We discussed the pathology.
The cancer was categorized as bile duct cancer (originating in the bile duct instead of the pancreas). This will have some bearing on how Dr. V. (oncologist) will determine the ‘next steps’ in regards to chemo (protocol, drug, duration, etc). Dr. Katz did mention that he thought it made sense to continue the chemo treatment in Dublin and that he and Dr. V. would absolutely discuss this with the medical professionals (Dr. Martin and Dr. Geoghegan) at St. Vincent’s.
The ‘margins’ are negative. This means, the boundaries that were ‘cut’ have been tested/stained for cancer and they were all negative. In other words, it’s a bit higher chance that no cancer was ‘left behind’ during the procedure. There is always the chance that the cancer spread outside the tumor area, but that’s the reason I’ll be going through chemo — to make SURE we get anything straggling. After chemo, I’ll be getting CT scans once every four months for the next 5 years, and then once a year for the following 5 years in order to make sure it hasn’t reemerged.
57 lymph nodes where taken out during the resection. Of those 57, 11 actually had the cancer spread to them. Optimally there would have been ‘none’ … but, hey, at least we got them.
I think the most important take away from Dr. Katz is this: I’m now what he referred to as, “NED”. “No Evidence of Disease”. From today on, the plan is to live as such.
Once again, thank you everyone for reaching out. So many of you ping me every once in a while and it genuinely feels amazing to know that you’ve spent a moment hoping/praying for us.
Peace and Love,TEAM COLSON