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An email from Mom this afternoon.

Hi everyone
I am finally home.

The body is an amazing vehicle. We can cut it open, remove parts of it, moves other things around and it doesn’t cry, whimper and get angry. It just gets on with the business of making us whole again.

Now, time for Percs and a nap! Love Carol/Mom

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Welcome home Mom!!!

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The Devil’s in the Details

First things first – have I thanked you today? Even if I had – it wouldn’t be enough. Honestly I can’t stop saying it – THANK YOU. This has definitely been a team effort and my GOD what a team we have behind us.

THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU

Second things second – there’s been a few mystery text messages with lovely and thoughtful and wonderful messages – from mystery people.  Awkward.  If you’re sending any of us a message in the next few days at least – can you kindly tell us who you are.  🙂

And last but certainly not least, I think I may have inadvertently led you astray.  Things did not go perfectly yesterday.  Yes, we got clear margins, and as that was Goal #1 of the surgery – we’re happy, but we’re not quite in  smooth sailing state of mind yet – so if I made it seem that way, sorry, but what follows will hopefully clear things up a bit.

Yesterday I started with the end – all clear, complete and good.  Today I’ll start at the beginning.

Mom’s surgery was booked for 1:05.  She was to arrive 2 hours before for prep. At about 8:30 she got a call from the office to say there was a cancellation, so really any time she could get there – they would get started. She obviously left immediately.  Getting from Alliston to Sunnybrook took some time, and after some waiting, they took her away to get started at about 12:15.  So not that much earlier, but nevertheless – the sooner the better.

There is an OR family waiting room at Sunnybrook where the doctors come to find you afterward and where you can get updates during the surgery from a friendly volunteer.  Obviously, the people there are feeling a little stressed so its quiet, hot and packed. We were advised that if we waited in the “cool and comfortable” (read: cold and uncomfortable hard chairs) cafeteria they would come find us – and we could check back in when we expected her to be finished.  So we did.  At 3:30 Dad went in to check back, and the lovely volunteer said she knew just where we were sitting and she’d come to find us when needed – should be about an hour.

At 4:00 we decided to give the comfortable chairs a try and at 4:30 we got the update, still in surgery, should be about an hour.

Same at 5:30.

Same at 6:30.

Shortly before 7:30 (I think) the Surgeon (Dr. Calvin Law) came in with his team and gave us the goods.  He started with the end, she’s out. It’s done and she’s breathing on her own. Goal #1 was get clear margins, they were able to do that.  All in all, the surgery was a success.

Everyone exhale.

From the beginning though, things did not go exactly perfectly as planned. When they put her under, the anesthesiologist had some concerns.  Her blood pressure went down.  This can happen for 2 reasons, 1. reaction to the anesthesia (Dr. Law does not feel this is what happened); 2. Reflux of contents in the stomach moving up into the lungs. (More likely)

They had two options, 1. wake her up and stop everything. 2. Wait and see.

They chose #2 because as a team they felt it was not in their best interest to cancel the surgery because “Carol would have killed us” HA! Good decision Dr. Law!!

She did come around and sorted herself out and they continued but it delayed things a bit.

Once they opened, they were able to see that exactly what they were dealing with, and while the CT Scan had indicated the tumour was at the bottom of the stomach, it had actually moved higher.

In order to get clear margins, they had to take her entire stomach.

Goal #2 was to leave her with 40-60% of her stomach, so needless to say – this is not what we wanted.

Mom knew this was a possibility going in. It’s not what she wanted, but everyone was in agreement as to the priority of the goals.

They also took all lymph nodes anywhere close to the stomach, and  her entire spleen.  This was unexpected (in that no one really remembers them talking about this as a possibility before), but because the spleen acts like one giant lymph node and it’s proximity to the stomach – they decide this was the best option. And it seems logical to us.

We were able to see her in recovery last night, she looked really good – her make up was unsmudged by the surgery!

Next steps:

Given the complications with the anesthesia and the length of the surgery, ICU was asked to do an assessment in the recovery room.  They have since done that and she is in ICU.  This means only immediate family can visit her right now.  It also means only immediate family will be given any information or updates over the phone.

Despite not having a stomach, Mom is “fully connected.”  She will be able to eat, but will need to work with the dieticians to learn how to eat and will be doing so very slowly and in very small portions.

Mom will have “dramatic and permanent” weight loss.  So that beautiful new North Face coat she just bought? Likely going to be under the tree for me this Christmas, as are all her new Joe Fresh pants!

Because of the complications with the anesthesia, and her lack of a spleen, she is at higher risk for infection (this is the new Priority #1 for recovery) she will need a series of vaccinations, which she’ll get in the hospital, and a series of boosters which will be managed by our family doctor.

Because she no longer has a stomach, she will need some vitamin supplements by injection – B12 for example – this will also be managed by our family doctor going forward.

Her pathology is not expected to be back for at least 2 weeks, this will help determine what goes in the cocktail for the next round of chemo.

To end on a positive, Dr. Law said Mom is one of the strongest and most positive people he has met.  Tough doesn’t even begin to describe it.  All of the support she has around her is amazing and she will adapt and move forward without a doubt.

So that’s it.  I’ll try to keep everyone as up to date as possible.  We have lots of questions going forward and it’s not the last we’ve seen of Dr. Law and his team – he’s still working for us and was clear to please ask all the questions we need to.  For right now, we’re happy it’s over and happy she’s safely on the other side.

Message from Mom: When Dad told her last night that they had to take all of her stomach; “Fuck”

 

And… We’re done.

Alright everyone we’re done. Surgery is done. Mom is out. All is well.

Collective letting go breath.

So I know I said this would be one step shy of live tweeting the surgery updates, but I can tell you had I live tweeted – this is what it would have consisted of, “Status update from the OR – still in surgery, call back in an hour” and repeat, and repeat, and repeat. For many many hours. To say it was a long day would be an understatement.

Sorry to everyone that may have been freaking out, but I didn’t think “we still know nothing” would be terribly helpful.

We’ve spoken to Dr. Law, who btw has lovely bedside manner. He started with the ending – it’s over and it went well. They have clear margins. And to me that means the Boy was right – as of this moment Mom is cancer free. It got the picture that it was not welcome at our party, and it has fucked off.

So that’s the good news. And for now I’ll leave it at that. More details to come but first – I’m so hungry I need to eat.

Thank you to everyone again for all of your positive thoughts prayers and finger crossing messages all day long.

Love you all.

Or… Not the first OR time

First update – not the first OR time after all.

Wouldn’t want anyone worrying unnecessarily, Mom’s OR time is 1:05 p.m.

So we won’t have an update until later in the afternoon.

Thank you everyone for your kind words and finger crossing.

Looking forward to reporting an all clear tomorrow afternoon.

XOXO

Or… the 22nd

When Mom went to the Surgeon a couple of weeks ago, he told her a couple of things.

1. Absolutely STRICT liquid diet for at least one week before the surgery.

2. The surgery will definitely be either the 23rd or the 25th.

After the pre-op appointment on Friday she learned a few more things

1. The surgery will be at least 3 hours long.

2. Since it will be so long – she will most likely be first – which means starting at 7:45.

3. After the surgery she will be in ICU for at least the first day.

4. The post-op pain management plan is an epidural.

5. The surgery will be on the 22nd… so not the 23rd or 25th.

And the Boy says –  “So on Tuesday, your mom will be cancer free!” 

Yes she will. 

To keep everyone in the loop, I’ll post a post-op update here just as soon as we have something to tell.  Since so many people have subscribed to this little blog – I think this is the fastest and easiest way – you know, short of live-tweeting the play-by-play.

Message from Mom – An epidural? For the first 3, 5 or 7 days? Am I fine with that as a pain management plan? Yes, I’ll take 7 days please. 

 

 

One year… ish.

Let’s take a little break from the big C to talk about a little G.  Gordon.  Gordie Howe. Wee Gordy. The Brown One.  Little Brown Dog. G-dog. Monkey Face.

Can you believe it’s been a whole year(ish) since this little face came into our lives?

When we picked her up - on her new Dad's lap.

Tuesday after Thanksgiving was when we went to go and pick out (but not take home) our puppy. The plan was to go and pick one but go back on Friday so we could spend a sleepless weekend with her rather than start mid-week.  The plan did not go well.  How could we leave that little face there for another 3 days?

A cuddler - yes please!!!

In honour of our one-year puppy-versary here’s five things about the G-dog.

1. What’s in a name?

The Boy and I had been referring to “our dog Gordon” since we moved in together 3 years earlier. Gordon is named after Gord Downey the lead singer of The Tragically Hip – the Boy’s favourite and (until Shred Kelly came along) only band. When it came to actually getting a puppy we had many predetermined variables. Name. Breed. Colour.  Sex wasn’t one of them – we didn’t want to be too picky! Gordon was the only brown (more gingerish really) puppy in her litter.  Her litter-mates were all white.  How could we not pick the one that was different? Clearly we needed the ginger dog.  And so we have a girl, named Gordon.  We have since met a giant boy dog named Kimberley. To each their own.

Puppy's first bath - not a fan

2. When we get a dog….

When the Boy first came home to meet the parents all those years ago he got his first real taste for what it means to have a city dog. He even went as far to say that if reincarnation is a thing – he wanted to come back as my parents’ dog.  I can’t blame him. When we got a dog, he had some rules he wanted in place. Don’t teach the dog to lick your face – it’s disgusting. Must be well behaved. No dogs in our bed. I’m not claiming that I’m any less of a suck with her, but I will say the Boy has definitely let her lick his face, and while she’s pretty good – she did jump up on my lap while we were in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner this weekend.  And as for the latter….

Sleepy Puppy

Gordon sleeps on our bed.  In our bed. And on our pillows.  If your arm is out to the side at all, she will curl herself up in the crook of your armpit and put her face next to yours.  Like a person.  I let her sleep on the bed one night when the Boy was away.  The Boy officially liberated her on March break when she was spade. They say a picture is worth 1000 words.

Nothing Staged About This One

3. The Road.

This might be a little TMI but this dog does not like to poop on grass.  She’s a road girl.  She’s been known to literally stop traffic when she decides it’s time to go. I think this is hilarious. Others have commented that it makes her the most princessy of all the princess dogs in our lives.

No picture of this one.

4. Sock. 

The dog loves socks. Most puppies seem to, but this one has not grown out of it.  She will try and take them right off your feet if you’ll let her. When the Brother taught her the basement wasn’t scary but a wonderful magical place where all the socks get dumped on the floor… it was a good day in her life. A bit of a nightmare in ours.

5. Tragic Flaw.

Gordon has a PIERCING bark.  As I type this she is barking at me because she wants to play and I’m typing.  Despite her lack of English language skills , she’s pretty good at telling you what she wants, unfortunately she doesn’t typically let you know quietly. Only at ear piercing squeeky volumes.

However, despite this flaw, she makes up for it in her only-child suckiness. The best part of a sucky dog, how happy she is to see you.  Gone for five minutes? Back from a day at work? Gone for two weeks? Devastated when you leave… but when you get back

IMG_1267

 

 

Nothin’ Like a Theme Party

Mom is the oldest of 10 kids.  5 girls. 5 boys. Good Catholics. Four of the boys live in Calgary.  One girl in Sault Ste. Marie and  four girls and one boy are spread across the GTA from Horseshoe to Whitby.

Each year the boys plan a golf trip.  They all fly south, Pheonix usually – I don’t really know… *Ahem* the girls aren’t invited.  This year, the boys decided to fly east instead of south – they came home, to make sure their big sister was behaving herself.

Short two... one sicko and one who still lives too far

Short two… one sicko and one who still lives too far.  Also – way to look at the camera Uncle Jim!

And golf.

We had the festivities at Mom and Dad’s – golf and dinner in one location that is also conveniently home to Mom’s bed – the lady does need to nap occasionally.  The weather tried to thwart our plans, but the Boy was there to make sure we stayed positive and golfed in the rain “that was sure to pass.”

It didn’t.

Happy Mom.

Happy Mom.

When most got back from 9 holes – (there’s only so much bonding in the rain we were willing to do) –  we were able to start the festivities, and since nothing says Party like cupcakes and a theme, I took that part on with every last Martha Stewart bone in my body.

The O and M on top were for the littles... we try and maintain some sense of appropriateness

The O and M on top were for the littles… we try and maintain some sense of appropriateness

And that formed the theme for our party.

There were a few other options, but “Nothing gets the family together like Fuckin’ Cancer” was too many cupcakes. And the other options were a bit morbid.

Now you’ll notice in the picture of the 8 that these siblings look pretty related.  And yet knowing that they all look pretty similar we were still found ourselves surprised when mom shaved her head.  As Sista tells it – it was like an out of body experience.  Before her very eyes, Mom turned into her brother.  Sista found herself saying “Stacey? Is that you? We know you’ve been channeling energy our way, but are you somehow sending Uncle Jim in more than just spirit?” There are pictures of the two of them together, of course – but I know what the people really want to see.

Is the reverse was true.  Does Uncle Jim channel his inner Carol?

Surprisingly the reverse - not quite the same

Surprisingly the reverse – not quite the same

I was reading Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls the other day and came across this surprisingly perfect quote on family from David Sedaris:

“Cut off your family, and how would you know who you are? Cut them off in order to gain success, and how could that success be measured? What would it possibly mean?”

A big family may mean a little more crazy in the mix, but I honestly wouldn’t change it.  How could I? If nothing else, when Cancer tries to take one of us for a ride – you’ve got that many more people telling it where to go.

Everybody on 3 - 1, 2, 3 - Fuck Cancer!

Everybody on 3 – 1, 2, 3 – Fuck Cancer!

And to think… that’s less than half of them.

*Update from Mom – She made it! Surgery is booked for the week of October 21. Back to a strict liquid diet for at least a week before which means… I better make really good pie for Thanksgiving.