Friday, September 9, 2011

Looking back - sort of.

Anniversaries for events of the past year and a half are coming and going. Some are carefully marked and some pass relatively unheeded. Facebook now has a feature that reminds you what you were posting a year ago (how long do they keep that stuff?) A year ago today I was talking about chemo. That's an anniversary that I don't care to think about.  I guess I really am no longer too interested in looking back. That's one thing that has been changed by this experience. Let's create new life events and worry less about the anniversaries of the old. After all, the future is much more precious than the past because it has one thing the past cannot have - it has promise.  Having said that....

Looking 'Back': 

I have made a new friend. John was in St. Mary's Hospital the same time as me - and recovering from the same surgery. It turns out that he and I had had pretty much the same experience over the prevous year and a half (diagnosis, treatment options, chemo, surgery, etc.) What a coincidence.

We were introduced in the hospital because we were 'unique' and perhaps we could help each other through our respective recoveries. It worked. We had this whole experience in common. Both of us - and our wives and our families - had been pretty much beaten down lately and none of us really knew what was in store. We had no reference upon which to base optimism (in the immediate sense), so we 'referenced' each other. The doctors and nurses were great and very supportive but they were limited to generalities. They'd say things like; "You can't go home until you pass gas." We understood that this was a milestone in our recovery but what did it really mean to someone who has had two feet of their intestine 'relocated'. And what about this new bladder - fabricated from that intestine - how the heck does that work? This is why we were unique and why we all, I think, felt a little lost.

Another reason was that we had been told - before the surgery - that we may need 3 - 5 days to recover enough to go home. It took me a week and John had already been there 2 weeks before me. How depressing was that. I had insisted that my wife stay with me - she slept on a cot next to my bed - because I was afraid. Would she have to sleep there for two more weeks?

Misery loves company and we were able to find humor in our shared experiences. My spirits were raised because I wasn't having the same complications that were keeping John down. I think John's spirits were raised because I was proof that you could 'really' recover from this and go home.

John and I have stayed in touch and have continued to compare notes during regular phone conversations.  We are finding that one of the things we now share is the craftsmanship of our surgeon - impressive so far - but we have both had some minor problems.  The connection of the ureter from the left kidney into the neo-bladder became plugged with scar tissue. Neither of us has had pain associated with this (an expected symptom of kidney problems according to our urologist/surgeon). Both of us have recovered from the nephrostomy experience and, hopefully, our left kidney's are recovering as well. We are awaiting our follow-up visit with another ultrasound scan and blood test results.

We compare notes and that still helps. These are not things learned during office calls or by browsing the internet.  We are still unique in that even though this surgery is fairly common, relatively few share the particular craftsmanship that went into ours.