Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Captain's Log - Star Date:

Boy oh boy, am I a lucky jack?
The Doc told me yesterday
That I was "bang on track"

Your operation to cut out glands
It went really well, and
We ended up with lots in our hands

In all we removed there was no cancer
So as far we can see
We have killed of the invading chancer

So it time for you to go recover
With monthly check ups
To give us all some cover

Well can you please take my feeding tube?
I suppose I can arrange that, yes
And out it popped with the aid of some lube

So while that leaves yet another hole
It seems, for the moment
That I am once again whole

Tho' don't feel like trumpets or big celebration
As my thoughts turn to those
Who are still on the treatment rotation.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Rubber ear

One funny side effect of having some cut a large flap in your neck is that the nerve ends round about it don't work so well in the weeks (and, possibly, months) after.

So, combined with the odd situation where, post-radiotherapy, I get stubble in a little diamond shaped area around my chin, which is surrounded by an almost completely baby smooth area, I've now got feeling down one side of my face and neck, but not down a fair bit of the other.

This explains why it wasn't sore get unzipped, but the funniest bit is my right ear, where I can feel the front little but of cartilage, but then anything beyond that feels sort of like that pins'n'needles feel you get if you sit reading you book in the toilet too long (boys) or sit with one leg folded under you for too long (girls).

To my hand its like a rubber ear and to my ear its like I've only a very faint feeling, which is mighty odd when you try and put an earphone in. It must be like trying to put one in someone else's ear; you need to use both hands to direct the plug into the wee hole rather than just being able to guide it in with one hand.

Still, mustn't grumble, could have an unwelcome lump instead.

Next stage is back to the 'joint consultation' this coming Tuesday, where I should hear from the full range of medical disciplines and find out what they found in the flesh, lump, muscle and vein that got the chop.

Papering over the cracks

Well, two weeks of zipneck came to an end on Friday when the Practise Nurse at the GP Surgery popped my staples out. (Image courtesy of Keir Klics)

She counted them first (24, and nowhere near her record of 50). I asked if they hook under like normal paper attaching staples - "oh, yes - just the same, so I have a special tool to get them out". To be honest it was painless - there's a good reason for that - and her tool looked like a wee pair of scissors that kind of slip under then open to pull the little blighters apart, before lifting and separating.

Only wee issue, which I'm sorry to say that you can't see from the photo, is that "your wound hasn't bonded very well at the front". Remarkably, most of it seemed to fold neatly inwards and leave an attractive line down my neck, except the bit at the front - which must have been where I was oozing from immediately after the op -"where there is a small gap, and I think it needs held with these paper stitches."

So, I've got some paper over the gap for a few days and I've to lay off the exercises in case my head falls off.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Home Stationery

After revealing my drainage issues on Tuesday & Wednesday, offers flooded in from people with good plumbing contacts. Though thankfully my other downpipe dried up overnight Wednesday and I was unplumbed on Thursday.

More of the same from the fairly feisty Staff Nurse "just you take a deep breath and I'll....jeez is this one even longer...". Still, drains out, cannula out of hand and then able to have shower without bits of kit to bother about. Luxury. Well, relative luxury of an echoey wet-room shared with the 6-man and just the odd streak of the red stuff to mop up.

So home Thursday PM and having pulled the final dressings off today, here's a cleaned up photo showing my stationery supplies since I know that some of you enjoyed the first one so much!

ps Next week should see the start of a new spot the drain hole competition, open to the eagle eyed who can win a gift wrapped length of plastic tubing and a short course in staple removing.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Numbness and Nerves

After my oozy night, early move and plumbing operation, I was just dozing off when I was aware of the magic curtain closing as three new nurses who announced that they were from the brilliantly entitled 'pain team'.

Was this the masochists nasty nurse dream?
Or were they simply from a mis-named team?
The latter I'm afraid my fetish fad friends
They simply wanted to supply drugs for pain avoidance ends
I'm not sure yet what happened to the tramadol promised
When I answered "I'm too numb to tell to be completely honest"
Soon off they all went with cheery wave
As the physiotherapist appeared my shoulder to save
Could I try to do this, and could I maybe do that
Exercises in a smock - must have looked a prat
Good news though too, about my movement in fact
The surgeon had left my shoulder nerve completely intact
So exercises 3 times a day for months to follow
To make sure I can cope after a muscle was hollowed.


So Tuesday came and Tuesday went
Those Nurses are really heaven sent
They mopped my ooze through day and night
Not moan to be heard about their messy plight

I lost count of the time my neck was re-covered
Then on Wednesday morning a dry drain was discovered
Not sure if this is what prompted the change
But soon it was time for a ward that was strange

Quite soon a Doctor was doing the round
And confirmed the 'drain 2' judgement was sound
I'd a sudden lift, then dawning sensation
How would it feel on drain extrication?

But not worry, its just an everyday chore
Said the nurse as she asked "have you had one before?"
Just you sit there now and take a deep breath
And she tugged out some tube about 4 inches in length!

What the L?

Though some parts have been caused to swell
And you can't really see the full shaped L
I captured a photo of the fine stitching job
Achieved whilst under the surgeon's spell

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

More Stitches Than an Arran Jumper

Tuesday 13th

Woke, slept had blood mopped up and made use of several bottles through the night.

Couldn't really get out of bed due to wooziness, drip full of drugs to my left and two bottles attached to tubes running from my neck on the right.

The tubes it seems are my 'wound drains' and are the measure of when I'll get home. Too much drain means I'll just be stayin'. One of them is oozing though and so I made a bloody mess of my smock and bed. Socks were OK.

After new dressing, porridge, new dressing, Dr's round, then new dressing I was allowed/sent to the bathroom whilst they cleaned my bed.

Quickly de-smocked I finally got a look at the giant inverted L Guy had cut for me and the lovely stitch work that any seamstress would be proud of.

And, well, that's it so far, except for a new dressing that's about 3 inches square held on by a 5 x 4 sticky pad Photo if I can manage it!

More tales of recovery later...

Smocks, Socks and Bed Hops

Monday 12th

After water only breakfast, got to SJH in good time for my morning chop. But an amazing array of bed changes going on meant I was able to enjoy daytime telly between 8am and roughly 11.25am. My nice clean bed came with the usual operation smock. And, a new pair of highly fashionable socks.

The socks it seems are to help prevent DVT as I would be lying still for up to 5hrs during the Op. Plain white knee length with a gap between the toes for ventilation, if you must know!

Bit of a queue outside the theatre meant I had a few minutes chat while they "cleaned up the previous one". Discussed today's music choice and was told that there would be a wee air bed too that periodically lifted them up to keep them moving. All very clever. Before I knew it, the sound of Guys' Motown Surgery Selection was fading fast and next I knew I was waking in the recovery room around 7pm.

After a wee wait due to a tad queasiness I was wheeled back to my ward, but to a different room. Seems the first rooms gender designation had changed while I was a way and all the blokes I was with earlier were scattered round this new one having had their Ear, Nose or Throat sliced, diced or spliced. Too dopey to see what mine looks like, but I could feel admiring glances...

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Cool Guy

Well, I said I'd be back soon and here we are again.

Though the post-radiotherapy month of nothingness seemed long, I guess it just blip for someone of my grand old age and when it came to an end, boy did things start moving again.

Over the past two weeks, I saw the dentist, who could give me a filling if I didn't mind. Mickey Mouse one it was with no anaesthetic and then she asks if I could see the hygienist. Of course. Tomorrow? Jings! Well, bit of a bump back to earth here with lessons on tooth brushing, advice on cleaning between teeth (with new tee-pee brushes, which are weird) and strong advice on the need to comply if I want to keep my teeth in a post-saliva existence.

Two days later and I'm back again for a chest/neck CT scan (with contrast!). Nae bother really, the contrast being a dye they can follow through your system, which I guess helps spot unusual blockages on the way. Understanding here was that I'd get results from the scan the following Tuesday at the 'joint consultation'.

The joint consultation was kind of where it all kicked of in earnest back on October with a large cast of experts from: ENT, dentist, oncology etc. Surprisingly though, Anne and I were simply met by this one guy; the surgeon.

His technique reminded me of some managers' approach, with an opening gambit asking me why I thought I was there!? Eh? Well, to get the results of my scan and confirm that surgery is going ahead.

Well, pretty much he said, but there's no real 'result' from the scan, though, yes, he would be going ahead with surgery on 12 April. You see, the scan is never really conclusive and in actual fact his experience shows that they will go ahead with surgery and then find that in up 45% of cases, what they have removed was completely benign. Great.

What about complications? Ah, well, Guy usually asks his students which items (apart from the glands that have to go) from neck muscle, nerve running to shoulder and jugular vein can safely go. It seems there are plenty of other veins, he'll take the muscle round about - "which will leave your neck a little uneven", but the nerve is important for neck, shoulder movement and he'll look to avoid damaging that completely. Goodness.

Oh and he'll try to make squiggly incisions, not because he can't make straight ones, but apparently they'll help healing as shoulder movement may put too much tension and pull open a straight wound. Beard?

Topping this was his advice on recovery. The oncology guys reckon I'll be in for two days? Erm, yes, two days minimum, maybe more like four, it just depends on how well the 'drains' work on your wounds. Yes. Drains.

And, after that? Oh, could be 6-8 week I think, because your still recovering from radiotherapy, which is a pain for us surgeons, and the operation takes 5-6 hours - a long time under anaesthetic.

If radiotherapy doesn't help surgeons, why do they do it first? Really doesn't matter to me says, Guy, I'll chop out just as much whether I operate before or after - just to be safe!

I guess that's great, and there's nothing else to do but pack my PJs and slippers and get to St John's for 8am tomorrow!

Gory details to follow in a few days...