Category Archives: Operation

Removing another alien blob

Standard

image

Thursday 2nd July

Following my Month 18 check-up for the Combi-Ad clinical trial that I am on for malignant melanoma, a ‘mole’ on my arm was deemed to be suspect. Today we had a 250 mile round trip so that the hospital where I go for treatment could remove it.

The procedure took about thirty minutes to cut away the offending blob, then closed up with both internal and external stitches. I didn’t really feel anything, as I think quite a lot of anaesthetic was injected around the mole to begin with. I have about a two and a half centimetre scar, and will have to wait up to three weeks for the results. I have to have the stitches out in seven to ten days.

So there we have it. Cross fingers for a good outcome.

On the way home we stopped by the cemetery to see you. We talked for a while about what I had had done, in the same hospital where you were born, just over thirty years ago. So many memories came back to us.

I wish you were still here so we could talk with you properly, and to have a cuddle. I do miss those.

Love you forever.
xxxxx

image

Dad’s op

Standard

Tuesday 26th May

This morning your Dad had to go to hospital for an operation to remove a cataract. It was straightforward, and all went well, but I had to sit in the foyer waiting. A couple of hours, watching the comings and goings of staff and patients. And I thought of you all the time.

This was the hospital where you had your first CT scan, and they found the brain tumour, sending us off to the bigger hospital as a medical emergency. That was back in November 2014.

So many ‘What if…’, ‘Why…’, ‘I wish…’ and ‘If only…’ thoughts were going round and round my head.

I was pleased when I was eventually called to go and collect your Dad, and we were able to drive away. Our next stop was to come and see you, but Dad forgot about the instructions the surgeon had given, and when he bent down to touch your cross, a sharp pain was felt behind his eye. He swore, then apologised to you for his bad language. You would have told him off.

Dad sat down for a while and held his head back, allowing the pain to go. It was peaceful, bright and sunny in the cemetery, and the sound of songbirds filled the air. We simply like being near you, talking and tending to the flowers.

Tears flow as we think of what might have been. If only………

Lovely boy.
Sweet Angel.
xxxx

Month Twelve of my Clinical Trial

Standard

Monday 15th December

Two days of tests for Month Twelve.

So this is it, the end of the ‘Drugs’ part of the clinical drugs trial, for the adjuvant treatment of stage three malignant melanoma.

For twelve months I’ve been taking pills in the morning and again at night. I do so hope they haven’t been a placebo, but the real thing, as supplied by GlaxoSmithKline for the Combi-Ad trial.

We arrive in Exeter mid-morning on the Monday, do a little shopping, then I begin the tests. A CT scan, followed by a cervical smear, finishing with an Echocardiogram.

All is completed by 5pm, whereupon I go to find my husband and son who should be waiting in the cafeteria. But no sign of them there. I phone my husband who tells me that my son has had a ‘funny turn’, and has fainted. They had been making their way down to the car to get some fresh air when my son collapsed. I caught up with them in the corridor: doctors, nurses, upset husband and a frightened son.

My son is sitting in a wheelchair, answering all sorts of questions. My husband is visibly shaken too. We are told we must go to A and E for my son to be checked out. (He is on day fourteen of his chemotherapy, and is attached to a small pump delivering bleomycin through a line in his chest. Testicular cancer with progression of tumours in his brain and lungs).

We sit and wait, with my son lying on a bed, for just over three hours. We think the collapse was due to tiredness and dehydration. Since starting chemo, my son has not enjoyed drinking his usual fruit juice or cold drinks, complaining of a nasty metallic taste in his mouth. All he can manage are infrequent cups of tea and a little water every now and again. It was rather scary for him, and for us.

After observations and an ECG are done, we are allowed to go. Arriving at the hotel just before nine at night, we make our way to the restaurant across the car park. Just before we reach the entrance, son is very sick, so we about turn, return to the hotel, order a delivered takeaway, and finally eat dinner just before 10pm. Truly a long and difficult day.

Tuesday morning, and I’m back at the hospital seeing the dermatologist first. A full body skin check and a feel of lymph nodes. All seems normal, no problems, see you in three months.

We then drive to the main hospital to meet with my trials nurse. Mini meltdown follows when she asks about my son. She has met him on a number of occasions, and has got to know him quite well. Cuddles and kind words of comfort are followed by bloods, temperature, weight and blood pressure checks.

I then move on to a different department for an ECG, somewhere else for an eye exam, finally to the oncologist for a chat and the dreaded rectal exam.

And there we have it, twelve lots of four weekly visits, numerous scans, examinations, pokes, prods, and pill pots has come to an end. What follows now are three monthly checks for the next two years. I know the intense monitoring has been worthwhile. It may have been intrusive, but at least I feel I have been proactive in trying to do something to look after my body.

We drive home from one hospital to yet another, dropping my son off in Truro for his next round of chemotherapy. We stay a while to have him settle in, then my husband drives me home only to turn around and return to the hospital to be with our son.

A very long and draining couple of days. My drugs trial is over, but my son’s chemotherapy journey has just begun.

Post-op ~ Day five

Standard

Sunday 17th November

Just woken from my morning sleep!! Zzzzzz.
Wash and teeth soon after six.
Brekkie at eight.
Snooze at ten.
Mmmmmm.
Dressing to be re-done tomorrow.
Doctor’s rounds.
Party bag of drugs.
Discharge letter.
Then escape.
Complete with dangly bag and drain.
Then back in a week to the plastics clinic to see my surgeon for a review, possible drain removal, and maybe results.
A lovely quiet afternoon, spent reading the Sunday papers, dozing and drinking tea, was then followed by a ward change.
We were hoping for a peaceful night’s sleep! Last night was very disturbed, with a very disoriented lady up and down, lights on and off, sleep-talking.
Myself and another patient have now been moved to a much noisier ward, right by the reception, phones going, buzzers beeping, conversations chatting, bright lights glaring.
Oh well, give me the drugs and I’ll be flying my kite, high, high above the clouds!

Post-op ~ Day four

Standard

Saturday 16th November

Well, the doctor on rounds this morning looked like he was off to the car boot sale, not to review patients on the plastics ward! Jeans, sweatshirt and trainers; casual in the extreme!!

Anyway, it looks like Monday is the Discharge Day combined with a change of dressing. Yay!!

Not sure yet when the drain will be removed, we’ll have to wait for the fluid to amount to less than 30 mls in twenty-four hours.

I don’t mind waiting a couple more days, am in the best place, and still feeling quite painful ~ drugs administered every four hours dull the soreness.

Had my ‘plumbing’ sorted out this afternoon, with another 60mls drained away. Looks very ungainly when I visit the bathroom ~ there is this view of a bloody plastic bag, swinging between my thighs!!

Making a fabulous fashion statement ~ I don’t think so!!

Post-op ~ Day three

Standard

Friday 15th November

Today starts much the same as yesterday ~ up soon after six to be wheeled to the loo, quick wash and clean teeth.

Doctor’s rounds at nine, and the registrar speaks about the drain, and the possibility of antibiotics.

I have the tube to the draining bottle cut much shorter, and a collecting plastic bag stuck over the end that is sticking out.

I am supposed to be more mobile, so spend the morning in the bedside chair ~ but everything is most uncomfortable. I last for about a couple of hours, and then I manoeuvre myself back into bed. Sore, stiff, painful, plus I’m worried that by sitting up straight, I will be squashing or pushing the wound in on itself.

After lunch, my husband and son arrive for afternoon visiting. A beautiful bouquet, grapes, magazines and newspapers, plus a whole lot of talking, cuddles and kisses.

After dinner I start a course of antibiotics, take multiple pain killers, have my evening injection, and for the very first time, I walk myself to the bathroom. Yay, I’m now an independent patient; no more pressing the call button and having to wait for the nurse, complete with wheelchair. I can go on my own!

The evening ends with many phone calls and messages.

And breathe, the healing process is well underway.

Post-op ~ Day two

Standard

Thursday 14th November

A much, much better night’s sleep! I think I’m now used to my calf wraps noisily contracting and releasing, plus I got the hang of the morphine pump button, and was better able to control the pain throughout the night.

First thing in the morning I am so happy to clean my teeth and have a wash ~ almost back to feeling normal ~ well, slightly refreshed then!

Doctor’s rounds this morning, and I see the registrar whom I had met on the morning of my surgery. He wants to take away the morphine pump at lunchtime, and have the pain controlled with less strong drugs ~ better for the body really. He also mentioned that my consultant plastic surgeon had suggested I could go home as early as Friday, but that would be dependent on the wound, swelling and drain. With an analogy to wine, he said the fluid collecting in my bottle started off as red wine, then rose and finally white wine. At the moment I’m producing a nice colour of claret! Ha ha.

The blood nurse was my next visitor for another sample ~ however, as I had just pressed the morphine button, she would have to wait five minutes!

Just prior to lunch, a melanoma specialist doctor came for a chat. We spoke about the trial, and ended up by telling me I had a really difficult decision to make. But, I had to be selfish, and make the decision for me, and me alone; not for the purposes of the trial, nor other patients. Just me, and the implications to my life and my family. She also told me not to let the hospital staff push me out early ~ tomorrow is probably too soon to go home!

At visiting time this afternoon, I meet with two lovely people that I ‘know’ from Facebook. A closed group, but within it, so much support, advice and friendliness. We chatted as if we’ve known each other for ages! A superb surprise, and as an added bonus, a box of Maltesers!

Next stop is a terrific Skype session with my husband, son, girlfriend and young puppy. This phone is an absolute godsend, keeping me in touch with so many people around the world.

As I’m finishing up my evening meal, my wonderful plastic surgeon pops in to see how I’m doing. His plan for tomorrow is to make the drain shorter, remove the bottle, and attach a smaller, more manageable plastic bag, that I can monitor myself ~ oh yippee!!

Post-op ~ 24 hours later

Standard

Wednesday 13th November

Well, I didn’t really sleep much last night; what with the calf wraps contracting and buzzing almost every thirty seconds, observations and medication checks hourly, the gentle noise of five other patients on the ward, and the dull throb of pain down my left leg.
Having not been to the loo since 8am on Tuesday morning, I decided, before all the lights were dimmed, to give it a go at 11pm. So many tubes to undo, the drip following along on wheels with the morphine and the oxygen nasal spectacles, plus the drain bottle, filling up with blood. I slowly managed to manoeuvre myself from the bed to the chair. I was wheeled along to the bathroom and lifted onto the toilet by two nurses ~ one male, one female ~ one’s dignity is in very short supply!!
I wake from a doze feeling much better than yesterday, but still very, very sore and swollen ~ making good use of that morphine pump!!! I had two bits of cold, brown toast this morning ~ my first food since Monday afternoon!!! And it tasted surprisingly good!
The ward is lovely and sunny, nice and quiet, and all the staff are fabulous. I’m still wearing the very fetching hospital gown that I put on yesterday morning at 7am ~ all sorts of tubes and drains sticking out of me, means I cannot put on my own (brand, new/bought for the occasion) nightwear!!!! Ho hum.
Throughout the morning various medical teams visit my bedside. Firstly ‘Doctor’s Rounds’ at about nine, where a registrar wants me to give up the morphine pump and make do with paracetamol and ibruprofen ~ hmmmm, I don’t think so!!! Not yet a while anyway.
The next visit was from the blood nurse, who needed a sample to check my red and white cell count, renal function, and whether I have a tendency towards anaemia.
Following that, the Pain Management Nurse visits my bedside. I need to be weaned off the morphine eventually, taking a combination of paracetamol, ibuprofen and tramadol, but there is another syringe of the morphine waiting for me tomorrow!!
The lovely anaesthetist also pops his head around the curtain to see how I’m doing, wanting to know how I have recovered from the general anaesthetic, and how much pain I’m in right now. He is genuinely concerned and interested in my well-being.
Later in the afternoon the Macmillan nurse, whom I met after my SLNB procedure popped round to say hello. She also gave me some information on a drugs trial for Stage 3 melanoma patients. It would be a double blind trial ~ neither you, nor the doctor would know whether you were getting the drugs or the placebo. The drugs involved are Dabrafenib (a BRAF inhibitor) and Trametinib (a MEK inhibitor). Only 55 suitable people from the UK will be chosen to take part in the trial.
I have a couple of weeks to think about putting myself forward, for one year’s worth of COMBi-AD. Yes, no? Do something, do nothing? I need to talk to people, read a lot more about it, weigh up the options. And then there are the side effects ~ pretty serious side effects. I will need to think very carefully about this one.

The Operation

Standard

Tuesday 12th November

I arrived at the hospital at 7am (a little early), but straightaway looked after by a nurse who took my blood pressure (whoa ~ far too high, but understandable!!!!), tested blood sugar, and an ECG.
I then met with the anaesthetist, my two surgeons, three nurses and two medical students ~ blimey what a team!!!! And the students only looked about fourteen.
The anaesthesia went in at 8:48am, and the next thing I knew I was waking in recovery at midday. No shakes or crying this time.
I am now in a ward, hooked up to a morphine pump, have been through three bags of intravenous saline, wearing nasal spectacles delivering oxygen, my legs constantly being moved and vibrated on an electrical pad (guarding against DVT), and have had various pain relief and anti-coagulants delivered. Oh, and the little drain bottle is tucked under the bed.
Haven’t really had a look at my leg closely; all I have is a white dressing over the scar, which can’t be more than 15cm or so, and then the drain poking out, a bit lower down.
Oh, and I’ve also been very sick!! Most unusual for me. But I’m now feeling so much better!! Haven’t eaten anything yet, nor been to the loo. Hmmmm. But my blood pressure has returned to normal. All of the doctors and nurses here are amazing ~ kind, caring and so attentive. The ward is such a calming and friendly environment. If you have to have 110% trust in the people who look after you, then this place ticks all the boxes. If all goes to plan, I should be out Friday/Saturday/Sunday.

Surgery

Standard

Tuesday 10th September

Well, that was a long day!!

We arrived at the ward 8:15am. I was taken down to Nuclear Medicine for dye injections 9:30am using Teknesium; I am able to watch the trace on a screen, as the radioactive dye makes its way to the lymph nodes. Three of the little blighters are identified, A, B and C. I am duly marked with three black felt-tip crosses. I am made to wear a really bright yellow hospital bracelet indicating that I am radioactive, toxic, glowing nicely!!! This remains on for twenty four hours.

I walk down to theatre for my operation at 2:30pm; I remember the anaesthetist tapping the vein on the top of my left hand, inserting the cannula, then the cold fluid making its way through my system. The walls and the ceiling become fuzzy and out-of-focus. I’ve gone.

I come round in recovery, shivering and crying. This is not a comfortable feeling at all. More medication is needed to take the edge off my pain, then I’m back to ward at 5pm, and discharged a little after 7pm.

I had three nodes removed, and have a very small dressing. The nurse told me that because a plastic surgeon had carried out the op, I wouldn’t be able to see any stitches; all nice and tidy. Having had loads of pain relief I slept really well that night in the hotel.

I go back to the Plastics Clinic in Exeter on Monday, must wait about two weeks for results, and will be booked in at Plymouth for another CT scan. Have also been signed off work for two weeks.

Feeling not too bad at the moment.