My first procedure after my diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer was a sigmoidoscopy under general anaesthetic on the 14th August 2019. Dr Reshma Maharaj performed the procedure. She told me that the tumour was virtually blocking my colon and there was about a mm gap left and that she needed to operate as soon as possible. No wonder I had been in agony for so long!
On the 22nd August, Damian and mum drove me to the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria for my operation. Again, Dr Reshma was my surgeon and she was very comforting to me and put me at ease. I remember getting onto the operating table, it was very surreal, I really had no clue what the outcome was going to be. In the theatre, Reshma asked me what song I would like to hear and the next thing, I was out. I woke up in the ICU and to be honest it’s all hazy. I was so drugged up on morphine, I had a pump which released morphine when I needed it. I also had a drain with a large tube inside me and a bag which had blood in it and a large canula in my neck – I am not very technical and I have no idea what the ‘proper’ names for these are! I had a huge incision starting from my knicker line to the base of my ribs. It was horrific and I am squeamish so you can imagine my thoughts!
Damian and mum were soon w
ith me after I had a meltdown with the nurses demanding they call them! I was pretty hysterical, I blame the medication! Reshma came at some point and told us that she had removed 15cm of my colon and the resection was successful. She also removed a few lymph nodes that were cancerous. The operation was a complete success and all the cancer had been removed from my colon, she told us that I had a healthy colon now with no signs of IBS or any other conditions. I think she said my tumour was around 4 to 5cm, I don’t remember. All I knew was that the first stage to my healing was a huge success. Damian’s family also visited over the three days in ICU and I was extremely lucky to have a family away from home to support me. I was transferred to a private room with one other lady, I spent four days there and was only allowed to leave once I had a bowel movement – basically had a poo. Seven days after my operation, I had a poo and was discharged on the 29th August.
Never having had major surgery, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got home. Mum helped me to have my first shower which was terrifying as my bandage was removed pretty early on and it exhausted me. I had to wear DVT socks for at least three weeks which was the bane of my life. You feel hot with the duvet and cold without it, I ended up having my legs out and body in. I had cold sweats when I slept, I needed a towel to soak up the sweat and changed up to three times a night. I was totally miserable and a terrible patient. Between my mum, Damian and his mum, we got through the worst. I was also on a soft diet which meant lots of mashed potato.
However, two days after leaving the hosptial, I started to have terrible diarrhea and I was bleeding heavily from my rectum. I was getting light headed and I remember standing by the bed telling Damian, I can’t see. Next thing, I woke up on the bathroom floor with Damian shouting my name trying to wake me up, his dad were there too, there was blood all over the floor. Damian’s mum ran to get a family friend to bring the car as well as my mum. Damian told me later that my eyes had gone to the back of my head and I was swallowing my tongue. I can only imagine how scared he must have been. I actually bit his hand, and the doctor told him off for putting his hand in my mouth as I could have potentially bitten a finger off – he had to have a tetanus shot! Back to the drama, Damian picked me up, I was in a night dress which was soaked by that point and as he carried me to the car, I passed out again. I came to in the car as the windows were wide open and cold air was blowing on me, I was on Damian’s lap and I saw my mum. I started crying that I was pooing myself, I had no control of my faculties. Our family friend was riving so fast, and we were at the closest hospital in no time.
I was taken into a room and a nurse tried to take my blood from my wrist (I’m assuming none of my other veins were any good!) I was screaming as she was shoving it in and she couldn’t get the vein. The doctor came in and took blood from my groin, pain free. Two nurses cleaned me and changed me into a gown, I was so embarrassed and exposed throughout the whole situation, my mum told me everything was cleaned up in the car and not to worry. Mum’s always know how to calm and reassure you. I was given an IV in ‘that room’ then transferred to have a CT scan and I don’t know what, so much of it was a daze! Then, I remember being moved to a small private room on the ICU ward, literally big enough to have a bed and machines. Basically, I had lost so much blood that it was at 7 and should be around 11 (what is the measurement for blood?! I couldn’t find it on Google!) Anyway, that’s exactly what I was told! I was given two bags of blood consecutively and spent the night in hospital, I just slept and slept. The next morning, I was given an epilepsy test before being discharged. I was ok after that day and recovered very well with lots of TLC.
Mum left back to the U. K. on the 10th September, we were both sad to say goodbye and little did I know that would be the last time I’d ever get to hug her.
A PORTA CATHETER LINE* was surgically inserted on the 30th October. Damian and I headed back to the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria. I waited in a ward bed for a couple of hours and had to shower with an antibacterial wash. Dr Reshma performed the surgery again. I had general anaesthetic and it was a very quick operation. I woke up and went home the same day. It was very weird to begin with having something under my skin and it was very visible as I am quite slim. Being squeamish, it took me sometime to get used to it but now I barely notice it, apart from when Arabella puts an elbow in it!!
You’d be surprised at how well you cope when faced with challenges, but it if means staying alive, then you just have to deal with it.