Surgery By The Eights

Eight hours surgery, eight days in the hospital, and eight weeks for recovery (mostly).

I’m half-way through the latter today.

Opened up with a knife front and back–insert “foot long” here–in the final phase of tri-modal therapy that includes chemotherapy, radiation and then surgery, the esophagectomy is a “big deal.”

And I’m doing quite well, thank you.

No infections, recovery on track, and a great report from Pathology.

Eating is well down the road toward its new normal. A good chunk of my old stomach was removed and the pathology report issued while I was still under the knife says the “margin” they took to get all the cancer appears to have been sufficient. But the patched together result is considerably smaller, maybe 25% the capacity of the original, and a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese from Einstein Bros. more than fills the pouch. So I eat to that point, take a half hour break flushing with plenty of liquid as the pouch slowly drains down from the small end, and then finish the bagel.

The surgery cut and shoved some ribs. That means “a deep breath” is out of the question. Can’t be done. A good daily walk helps push this envelope. In the hospital, once around the ward was a challenge but, with the great spring weather in our Phoenix neighborhood, I’m getting close to an hour. Velocity-wise, I’m at “old man’s stroll,” well up from “hit by a Mac truck shamble.”

Other than eating, the other big change is sleeping: on my back with a 30 degree tilt. That’s taking some getting-used-to. This is because the top of the new stomach doesn’t close. It’s basically just an open-mouth vessel, big hole at the top to let food in, and a smaller hole at the bottom to let it dribble into the small intestine. With that arrangement, if I lay it down flat, there’s nothing to keep “stuff” from spilling back out the top of the bag. Hence, the sleep angle.

NASA please note: Zero-gee space flight is off my list, but I’m still available for excursions with artificial gravity.

The only remaining annoyance is a feeding tube. As I worked my stomach from clear liquids through cloudy, semi-liquid and into solid foods, that tube has been used at night to supplement the calorie count. But now that I’m up to eating pretty much anything–in very small doses–I’m hopeful the tube will be removed this week. My weight is down a dozen pounds from pre-surgery and tracking the surgeon’s forecast. The weight loss is expected to continue for another ten or twenty pounds more and then stabilize. Personally, I’m hoping for a sub-200 number. That’d be a 30+ pound loss but the Doc says I should be patient: “Don’t try to get there yet. Give your body time to heal first. Diet later.”

Learning my new stomach is the challenge but I’ll get there. (Ice cream goes down just fine, thank you.)

FYI: The book is about to enter the next development stage of friendly-reader reviews. Hardcopies of the “Preliminary Edition” are in-progress at lulu.com. Following that round of read-and-comment will be a professional ($) review and probably some fairly hefty rework to make the novel a more attractive competitor in the commercial book market. Then, I’ll be soliciting a book agent and, under their guidance, collecting rejection notices from mainstream publishers.

Progress.

6 thoughts on “Surgery By The Eights

  1. Oh Ed, I didn’t realize your surgery was as extensive as it was! Anita said it was serious, but you seemed so healthy and your spirits seemed so high that I just could not imagine the magnitude of the situation.
    Regardless, I am delighted that your surgery and hospitalization went well, and that the pathology report was encouraging.
    I know your lifestyle will require some adjustments, but you can do it! I KNOW you can. You have the positive attitude required, a wonderful, devoted wife/nurse to help you through it, and lots of friends who care. Get better soon!!!

  2. Ed, you are a good writer. The description above is evidence enough. I’m looking forward to buying your book!
    We are so grateful for your healing, and all the good things ahead of you. You are a tough warrior. The fact that you can eat ice cream means all is right with the world. Hug Ms Anita for us.

  3. Ed, thank you for answering so many of the questions we’ve had. I’m so very sorry that you have to manage through this, but your spirit is strong and you put the rest of us to shame.
    AND — you’ve made such progress on your book.
    Amazing.
    You and Anita are still in my prayers.

  4. I have had flat5 bookmarked in my computer as a fun read for several years, mainly for shooting and reloading. I stop by every once and a while to see what has changed. This Mississippi boy has been down a similar road in the past. So glad to see how positive things are going for you!

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