Jennifer Goodman Linn You Fearless

Surgery Rundown

I am getting a bit better day by day.  I have never been very good at relaxing and these days have been a bit frustrating for me. A typical day consists of a 20 minute "stroll" on my hallway with my Ipod, about 13-14 hours of sleep, a few hours of watching Law & Order/reading, and perhaps a visitor. When the weather is nice, Dave and I go outside for a short walk with Dave acting as my bodyguard, protecting the sore stomach. It is amazing how focused you have to be to not collide with someone on the streets of New York!

All in all, I am getting better every day. The doctors are pleased with my progress and have encouraged me to take it easy for another few weeks and take a lot of painkillers. You gotta love it!

Many people have asked me to explain what the process is for having a surgery like mine so I will quickly explain how it works (with lots of fun pictures to make it more interesting and less painful).

The day before surgery, the doctors make you perform a bowel prep.  For those of you who are not familiar with this process, I will delicately say that you are forced to ingest a ton of disgusting fluids that "flush your insides out."  My tumor was really not happy with the process this time and I went to the hospital a day earlier to be put on some pain medications and relax.  Here I am trying to stay calm, gearing up for my surgery.

The surgeon comes to see you right before surgery, reviews the procedure he/she is about to perform, and makes you sign an official consent form.  You are then walked into the operating room by the surgical fellow or the anesthesiologist. You are placed on a warm, narrow bed, they put some oxygen over your mouth and the next thing you know you are...

In a lot of pain in the recovery room. They keep you there until your pain is under control (apparently I kept saying, "I need more pain medication! and "No, I am not ready to see my husband") and after a few hours, they bring you to your room.  For those of you who say that I always smile, I guess you are correct! I have no recollection of Dave taking this picture and it is shocking to see such a happy face knowing just how much pain I was in!

The first night you are so high on pain medication that you are awake the entire time.  The minutes go by really slowly because you are so wired.  This gets a bit better over time but, in general, you rarely sleep the first few days.

Starting the day after surgery (yes, less than 24 hours after being filleted like a fish), they make you get out of bed and walk. Luckily, you have a "pain pump" that gives you immediate relief up to 6 times an hour if you hit the button (my best friend during my stay, for sure!).  Apparently, in my first few days, I hit the pump over 80 times an hour versus 6...hmm, I guess I was in a lot of pain! Unfortunately, there's a max on the painkillers you are allowed to receive but my negotiation skills are good and the surgeon agreed to giving me a bit more pain medication.  You also have a spirometer which ensures that you are getting air into your lungs and breathing.  You are supposed to blow into the device about 10 times an hour and try to attain a certain level (similar to the "strong man" game at a Carnival).  I was never very good at it but that didn't stop me from trying!

The nurses are great at MSKCC and they make a very painful process a bit easier.  Monique was my walking partner the first day and helped me get around the floor (14 laps is a mile...I was probably averaging a 40 minute mile!)

On day 2, I was happy to have my "NG" tube removed (the funny thing sticking to my nose that stands for nasal gastro tube). The tube is inserted through your nose and descends into your stomach to make sure your stomach doesn't build fluid.  It is extremely itchy and uncomfortable and it is amazing to see just how long this tube is when they remove it (reminded me of the clown car in the can they fit that many feet of tubing through my nose?!?)

My Siamese twin during the 8 days I was in the hospital was my "pole" which is connected to me through my medical port and is responsible for making sure I receive all my fluids (painkillers, saline solution, nutrition etc).  24 hours a day, 7 days a week you are attached to this thing and it is beyond annoying! 

To make the time go by more quickly, we decorated my wall with wonderful pictures of friends and family. And I loved having all of my relatives and my friend's children donate art projects to the wall. A personal favorite was my nephew Ben's excellent portrayal of the Duke Blue Devils winning the 2010 NCAA Championship!  I also had a pretty good view so I couldn't complain.

On day 3 I got to attend the "Look Good, Feel Better" program which is a service that provides women with makeovers and cosmetics while they are in the hospital.  It's kind of funny to feel so horrible but look so good! Check out the picture of me with my mom and dad right after my make-over. Looks like I am ready for the Cancer Ball!

My hemoglobin was low (amount of oxygen being transported through your blood) so I needed a blood transfusion on Day 4. Not a big deal and I felt a lot better afterwards. How appropriate that my blood type is B+ (get it, be positive!)

I also was so fortunate in that as I started to feel better around days 5 and 6, I had some wonderful visitors. If your picture is not posted up here it is more likely because it didn't come out that well and you would have been angry with me if I posted it :)  On day 6, I was told that my stomach was probably awake from the anesthesia and it was time to try eating ice chips.  Luckily I kept them down and was able to move on to water towards the end of day 6.  This is when the surgical team decided to release me from my pole (hurray!) and see how I could do on oral pain killers (note to self: oral pain killers not nearly as good as painkillers through IV).

Chicago Mom came into town and wrapped up my tour of duty for days 7 and 8.  She saw me eat my first meal of egg whites and got to meet Sheryl Crow.  I left the hospital via a wheel chair with a long list of "release instructions".  There were lots of medications and lots of follow-up appointments to make but we were released!  When I walked out of the hospital I was so happy to breathe fresh air. We got into a cab and gave the driver big $ to drive very slowly (every pothole felt like my incision was being ripped open).  I arrived home, took my first shower in 8 days, ripped off my hospital bracelet and made a wish that I would never have to go through this process again.

Stay tuned as I have a wonderful story to share about a "hero" of mine who reached out to me to check in on my status. Later in the week I can also share the pathology report and our "next steps" on this long and winding road!