My Battle With Cancer
Part 3: Surgery

The Surgery

29 May 2005
Mum, Dad and I travelled to Christchurch for my surgery which will take place tomorrow. This time Dad took a week off work to be there for my surgery as well as having Mum travel up. Dad drove up so that we had a car in Christchurch and Mum and I flew up. Dad left for Christchurch in the morning so that he could pick us up for the afternoon flight. We had tea at Cobb & Co and then it was straight down to the hospital for admission. After being admitted through Christchurch Hospital A&E I was taken up to the Orthopaedic ward, once I had seen a doctor I was given the all clear to go out of the hospital on leave for the night but had to be back at 8 in the morning. This time round we are staying at Davidson House since Ranui House was full. We were in a separate cottage that was fully self-contained with its own bathroom and kitchen facilities.

Final shot of the tumour
A final shot of the lump before it was removed, it was originally much larger than what you see here.

30 May 2005
I was up and out of bed at about 8am so I could see the doctors on their ward rounds in the morning. Before we left for the hospital a nurse on the ward called to say that I am "Nil by Mouth" as of midnight last night so no breakfast for me this morning. We were running late heading to the hospital and I just told mum and dad not to worry as the doctors are never there when they tell us to be and if they are we should just make them wait for us since we always have to wait for them.
Mum, Dad and I all spent the morning just waiting and waiting around the day room at the hospital, I had the surgeon, Doctor Beadle, come and see me and explain where he will be making the incision and how much of the bone will be going he then drew an arrow on my right arm pointing to the surgery area. During the morning I was moved to a single room and then at 12:30pm I was given the instructions to undress, put on a gown and get into bed as it was now time to start the surgery. I was wheeled down to the surgery in my bed. There wasn't much of a wait until I was taken into theatre. In theatre I had all of the team introduce themselves and tell me what they would be doing today. Then anaesthetic was then injected into me through a line that was injected into me and it was a matter of minutes before I was asleep.
I was told the operation was expected to take between 2 and 4 hours but it is more likely to be 4 hours, the operation actually took 6 hours. After I finally woke up in recovery I spotted a clock on the wall and the time was about 8:30pm. I woke up to find myself in a bit of pain and I was told to use the morphine pump attached to me if I felt any pain. I can remember vomiting before I had fully regained consciousness. I had tubes going everywhere from me and a machine was constantly monitoring my pulse and blood pressure, these were removed before being taken back to the ward. When I arrived at the ward Mum and Dad came in, they had been waiting around the hospital all day for me to come out of theatre, they didn't stay long but I was pleased to be able to say to them that the operation went really well.
On return to the ward I can remember joy in mind knowing that the surgery was over, I had survived the surgery and now hopefully the cancer had been removed. At around 10pm problems began, I needed to use to the toilet and since I wasn't mobile to walk down to the toilet I was given a bottle to urinate into. The problem was that nothing was coming out; my bladder was so full after trying and trying I had no luck I was actually prepared to try and wet the bed because at least then I would get the flow started. I kept on ringing the bell to get a nurse come and see me but no one would come. When a nurse finally did see me she was left with no choice but to insert a cathedrae bag into me, this seemed to solve the problem.
I managed to get to sleep ok that night for at least a few hours but was woken by the nurse at around 2am to have my temperature checked. The nurse checked the log on the morphine pump and she pointed out hadn't pushed the button on the pump enough, it is kind of hard to press the button on the pump when you are asleep and besides I was in that much pain so didn't see the need to press the button to release more morphine into my body.
The nurse checked my temperature and found I was over 39 degrees. When I am having chemo I usually have a blood test taken and I am treated with antibiotics straight away, if my temperature goes over 38. All the nurse did was give me a paracetamol and open the window to try and bring my temperature down, really all the nurse was doing was just masking the symptoms not treating it and making me shiver. Most of the night I lay in the bed with my light left on and still awake, since the nurse turned on the light in my room and I couldn't get out of bed to turn it off. A doctor came and saw me at 4am to take blood. I told him I have a Hickman line and he would not remove blood from this, he thought that taking blood from this line might damage it never mind that fact that this is one of the things a Hickman is used for.

31 May 2005
I spent most of the morning trying to catch up on the sleep I didn't get the night before and had no such luck. With the nurses station across the corridor I could hear them talking and laughing and not answering the bells when a patient needed assistance, keeping me awake. Mum and Dad came in during the morning and spent an hour in the room waiting for doctors to show up, I eventually had to ask them to leave as I was so tired but most of the morning I had people in and out of the room. My temperature was still above 38 and every nurse was determined to either open a window or bring in a fan to try and lower the room temperature.
In the afternoon I was moved to an isolation room, this is the only time I have ever seen a room with its own shower and toilet at Christchurch hospital except in the Bone Marrow Unit. Since my temperature was still above 38 and the room was warm the nurse turned off the heater and opened the window. In the late afternoon I had afternoon tea brought in, this was my first feed since the operation but at the same time the X-Ray team came in with a mobile X-Ray machine and I wasn't allowed to finish my afternoon tea. It is like we spend so much time waiting for staff at the hospital but if they want something done they don't like waiting for us. Later Mum and Dad brought in my tea and I spent the evening resting up, my temperature had now fallen down below 38 but it may have been the paracetamol I was taking that caused this.
At around 2am again a nurse came to check on me and give me a dose of antibiotics, another check of the temperature and once again it was over 39. So for two hours I lay in bed with my light left on and I was so tired I slept with it on for a while. I made the suggestion that they look at the antibiotics on a card the oncology ward gave me, what I would normally be given if my temperature was above 38 after chemo but there was no way they were going to listen to my suggestion. At around 4am the pump started beeping so a nurse came to fix it and then turned out the light to allow me to get some sleep. Only 5 minutes later the pump started beeping again, I pressed the buzzer and got no response so I kept on pushing the buzzer every few minutes with no answer I even resorted to holding the button down for a few seconds. When the nurse came to see me she had a go at me for constantly pressing the buzzer and told me I only need to press it once and they know how many times I have pressed the button, it is obvious the ward is under staffed or the staff are just lazy.

1 June 2005
I spent most of the morning trying to sleep but didn't get much sleep with doctors and nurses popping in and out of my room all morning. My temperature was still above 38 but seemed to be dropping. The nurse removed the oxygen supply that was going into my nose as my oxygen levels seemed fine now but later in the day was forced to put it back on as my oxygen levels dropped. Doctor Beadle came in to tell me that he was pleased with the result of the surgery and he hopes all of the cancer will have been removed from the site, if not radiation maybe done later on in my treatment. He then instructed the nurse to remove a draining bottle that was attached to the area that was operated on. This bottle was there to drain any fluids around the site after the operation. Mum and Dad came to visit in the afternoon and asked the nurse when I will get some sort of wash as I hadn't had a shower since before the operation and my face was still covered in iodine. The nurse just said she would get the evening nurse to wash me at the same time the occupational therapist comes to see me.
After Mum and Dad left I had a visit from Bridget Robinson, I was told that the oncology team were now waiting for a histology report to find out how much kill there had been in the lump. Once the results are in the oncology team can then make a decision about how to treat me next, I may be able to finish my chemo in Invercargill and if radiation is involved possibly Dunedin but if I have to go to Dunedin it would just be better to go to Christchurch since no planes fly to Dunedin and we would have to drive up. I was told that chemo will restart in a few weeks after my shoulder has healed but they don't want to leave it too late and allow any cancer that may still be in my body to spread.
The occupational therapist arrived and managed to get me sitting up and out of bed. They then made me sit in this uncomfortable chair and have me shiver since I had no top on, the window was open and heater still off. I only stayed in the chair for about 30 minutes and then went back to bed where it was warmer. Mum and Dad returned in the evening with some McDonalds for my tea, the nurse saw my tea and told me that I shouldn't be eating that sort of food in hospital and I should be eating WeetBix instead (who eats WeetBix for tea?). I explained that I eat what I can eat; she obviously eats McDonalds given the size of her. I wasn't allowed to eat my tea until the nurse had given me the wash I had been waiting for the past 2 days. I then asked if I could use the toilet and I was made to use the toilet chair sitting right by the door and in full view of anyone that walked past and I was in no state to pull the curtain on the door of the window since it was on the other side of the door. I finally got to eat a reheated tea at 9:30 as the nurse didn't have time to reheat right away and Mum and Dad had gone home. My temperature fell below 38 and from here on stayed that way. I was taken off the morphine pump since I didn't seem to need it that much and I now rely on paracetamol for pain relief. The fluids going into my body were also stopped.

2 June 2005
After a bit of a sleep in over the morning I was able to have a shower but I had to have the nurse do this for me and afterwards dress me. I am starting to feel a bit better now and I can get myself out of bed to use the toilet but it is a bit of a struggle. My appetite is starting to improve again but I still don't have the energy to sit in a chair. I was given an injection into my stomach to prevent myself from getting Deep Bone Thrombosis, I asked how long I would have this for and when I found out it would be for the next few days I asked to have a sub-cut line put in but the staff weren't prepared to do this and they thought it was unnecessary. Later I found out, from a district nurse in Invercargill, the reason they cannot use a sub-cut line is because the injection cannot be done in the same spot each time, I am sure the staff in Christchurch could have told me that instead of just going off at me.

3 June 2005
I woke up during the morning and lying in bed started to get hallucinations, on the reflection of the TV screen in my room I could see people standing behind my hospital bed and then it felt as if someone was trying to strangle me. I am still uncertain as to whether I dreamed this or was awake. I have been told the effects of the morphine can cause hallucinations. In the late morning I had the nurse come in to help me undress but I actually showered myself and after the shower I managed to dress myself with assistance from the nurse. I had Alistair, an old mate from polytechnic, come and visit me in the afternoon and we were able to sit in the day room and talk since I felt like sitting up if I was in a lazy-boy. Today was the first time I had left my hospital room in days and finally as a result I started feeling better. At tea time I managed to walk down to the hospital cafeteria and have tea but there wasn't exactly much I could eat on offer. I managed to eat with my left hand since my right hand is not functional.

4 June 2005
Since it is a Saturday I was able to sleep in all morning with no interruptions from anyone. For the first time all week I had a cleaner clean my room. In the afternoon I was allowed out of the hospital and I spent the afternoon at Davidson House with Mum and Dad and managed to eat better away from the hospital. I walked around the supermarket with Mum and Dad to get some food for tomorrow's lunch and tea and found my shoulder and back were in quite some pain after walking around but I felt much better after having paracetamol at the hospital.

5 June 2005
I had another sleep in all morning and quite a wait before I could get some assistance to undress and take a shower. Once again in the afternoon I went back to Davidson House. During the afternoon I was very tired and almost fell asleep but seemed to get through the afternoon fine.

6 June 2005
Today is Queen's Birthday so once again I tried to sleep in the morning but there were some doctors that needed to see me and wake me up, I also had to have nurses come in and ask if I had the cordless phone I was ready to throw my cell phone at one of the nurses since they kept on coming into my room and asking for the cordless phone. I sat with the buzzer on for over an hour waiting for a nurse to help me undress so that I could have a shower. When the nurse arrived I actually managed to dress and undress myself with very little assistance from the nurse. In the afternoon I was able to once again go back to Davidson House and I was allowed to stay quite late as now the IV antibiotics have stopped and I am just on oral antibiotics.

7 June 2005
In the morning I decided I was sick of waiting to be undressed for a shower so I managed to undress myself by myself and take a shower and then dress myself. We were now ready to go home since Dad was supposed to go home yesterday but managed to take an extra day off work and needed to go home today. Doctor Beadle was not coming in today so there was no way I would get a discharge even though Mum and I spent all afternoon at the hospital waiting to be told this. I was given leave in the evening to go back to Davidson House for the night.

8 June 2005
I had to get up at 7 in the morning so that we could go back to the hospital to see the doctors in the morning, oncology wanted to see me as well as Doctor Beadle.
Doctor Beadle finally arrived just after 11:30 and after looking at the wounds was convinced my shoulder was healing nicely and that I could go home. I had a chance to view the wound and saw it had been stapled together. Doctor Beadle told me that I was to use the computer and PlayStation heaps as therapy for the right arm, can't complain with the doctor's advice at all. The Occupational Therapist queried me about my situation at home and made a referral to have an Occupational Therapist from Southland Hospital come and visit me. I am not allowed to drive until my arm is out of the sling. I was also supposed to see oncology today but was advised by Doctor Beadle that if Oncology don't show up by the time we have to leave the hospital for our flight then Oncology had simply missed out.
We left Christchurch in the afternoon and after arriving home I was straight on the computer since Broadband Internet had finally been installed on my parent's phone line after months of waiting to have this installed at my parents place. I find I can use the laptop the easiest since it is easier to use a mouse track pad than a traditional mouse since I can't use the computer with my right hand right for now.

10 June 2005
I had the Occupational Therapist visit this afternoon. The Occupational Therapist established that I was perfectly capable of getting in and out of the shower safely so do not need any equipment to aid me with this. I will however be getting a transfer bench which I can sit on and use when having a shower following the days after my chemo. A transfer bench to sit on would be beneficial as often I don't have the energy to stand up in the shower after chemo.

13 June 2005
The District Nurse came to remove the staples from the wound. Mum started counting the staples removed and counted at least 48 staples but there would have been more as the district nurse threw the staples into the bin and many fell out of the bag. Mum still has these staples in a container today.

About to have staple removed
This is me about to have the staples removed from the wound. The tubes on the left hand side of my body is the Hickman line.

Same image but zoomed in
The same imaged zoomed in on the right shoulder where the lump and staples were.

16 June 2005
I had a call from the District Nurse to say that chemo will restart on Tuesday and that this time I may have treatment here in Invercargill. The nurse came in later in the day to do a blood test. I will have the treatment in the oncology day unit as there is no dedicated oncology ward at Southland Hospital and then in the evening I will be transferred to the medical ward.

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My Battle With Cancer

Part 1: Being Diagnosed With Cancer Life Before CancerThe DiagnosisTreatment Begins
Part 2: Induction Treatment Chemotherapy Cycle: 123456
Part 3: Surgery The Surgery
Part 4: Consolidation Treatment Chemotherapy Cycle: 7891011121314
Part 5: Life After Cancer Removal of the Hickman Line20062007 - 20102011 - 2016