Friday, April 10, 2009

I Don't Remember The Party

I think my father was a bit shocked by my choice of medicine this morning. A few puffs before coffee and I’m already glad I haven’t needed the vicodin. I haven’t taken one yet – a few ibuprofen, but that’s all.

That said, I’m sore today. Haven’t had the benefit of lingering general and local anesthesia. But the surgery went well, better than I expected. Better than I feared, might be a better phrase.

I got up yesterday at 5:30am, showered, and smoked my last cigarette in the pre-dawn glow. Birds chirped awake and the breeze was muffled in the trees blooming pale along the street and sky. Not a bad day to have a testicle removed.

My parents picked me up and 7, I found myself changing into a gown and robe at the Portland Clinic, downtown. I filled out some forms with one of the nurses, a guy named Seth. One of the forms required me to answer yes or no to a list of medical conditions; I told Seth that “Bleeding Tendency” would make a good name for a metal band. He agreed immediately and we were on great terms from there on. A quick word with my parents and Seth led me to the OR prop room, where I laid down on a bed, and Seth inserted an IV into my inside elbow.

I joked about the upcoming shave I’d soon receive, saying I didn’t want anyone shaving above the chest. Seth had a moustache that fell from the corners of his lips to his jaw-line, leaving the chin itself bare, and said he’d just shaved his beard. After talking about facial hair, the IV line went in, and we discussed home-brewing beer. Only in Portland…

The operating nurse came in with a few questions and a very attractive smile, then the anesthesiologist arrived. Dr. Shoe, was a big, smiling hulk of a man, a youngish Asian-American or Pacific-Islander – I wish I could be sure, but it doesn’t really matter where he’s from. He asked if I wanted to be completely out – I said, of course I want to be completely out, and when he left to prepare his knock-out concoction, I told him to have fun with it.

I’m glad this all happened fast. It hasn’t given me time to let go to fear, or to think much about the fact I’m having something rather important to me removed from my body. In the long run, though, when I’m twice the age I am now, what will it matter? And right now, if the cancer tests come back positive, I stand a very good chance of beating the hell out of it, considering the best and first treatment is already done. As far as the surgery, I didn’t have much time to worry. Only one day passed between scheduling the surgery and the surgery itself. My urologist and surgeon, Dr. Zusman, wanted to move ahead with all possible haste, and suddenly I find myself in the operating room, hooked up to a tube, with an x drawn on my thigh to indicate the correct operating side for the surgeon.

But, like I said, everyone had been smiling, friendly, and fun, laughing with me and generally putting me at ease. Just before 8am, the operating nurse wheeled me into the OR proper, moved me to a bed with wings to lay my arms out to the side, and Dr. Shoe plugged in to my IV line. He said the initial drug would relax me, and I stared up at the light fixture and -

I opened my eyes to see a post-op nurse and the OR nurse standing by the bed. I was back in the prep room. I looked around and said, “I don’t remember the party.”

Somebody gave me my glasses, most likely the post-op nurse, and I started asking questions. I was lucid, thinking straight, using “big” words and medical phrases. I didn’t feel bad – a bit groggy, but that cleared up quickly. While the post-op nurse talked to me, I reached under the blanket. “Just checking,” I said, “you got the right one.”

A few minutes later, the nurse walked me out to the changing room to change into my own clothes – I told the nurse which locker number I had; it was a test I had set myself to see how well I was coming out of surgery – and soon I was in a wheelchair heading for the waiting room and the car. It was nice to see my brother there. I didn’t talk to Dr. Zusman much. He saw me when I woke and told me everything went well, and that there were no tumor markers in my last blood test. Good news, that. He gave all my post-op instruction to my Mom; she’s an RN, so I’m in great hands.

In the car, the first thing out of my mouth was to ask for a cigarette. Sue me – I just lost part of the family business to a hostile takeover. Man’s gonna smoke.

As I’d predicted to friends the night before, my next course of action was to give my Dad directions out of downtown and to 26. I was that awake, that lucid. I felt no real pain, just uncomfortable. The surgeon makes an incision about four inches long in the groin, just above the thigh, and just below the abdomen. The removal is done this way to prevent any potential cancer from spreading. In this surgery, a fairly important blood vessel is cut, which increases the risk of internal bleeding and the length of recovery time. The stitches are all dissolvable, and there aren’t any bandages, just a strange clear liquid patch that hardens to resemble plastic wrap protecting the incision.

The worst part is I’m a boxer guy, and I have to wear briefs for a week.

Once at my parent’s house, I smoked another cigarette and asked for the phone, calling friends to let them know I was okay. My Mom left to pick up a prescription for vicodin and returned with the milkshake I asked for. I usually never drink milkshakes, but that’s what I was in the mood for – and drinking it was perfect. I hate drugs like vicodin, so I have homegrown alternatives. And for the rest of the day, I laid around, watching basketball, reading books, eating food and smoking occasionally. Same today - read, wrote, ate, and watched the Blazers beat the Lakers. Aside from the soreness, I can't complain. I should get the biopsy results on Tuesday and then I can put this all behind me.

Mike came over for a few hours on Thursday evening and brought me a Tricerahops double IPA I can’t drink yet – that's gonna be a tasty beer. It was good to see Mike, and good to get the positive messages from friends and coworkers through email and Facebook. Friends called my parents while I was in surgery, and friends have called today from Brookings, OR and Alpine, NJ. It’s nice to know I have a lot of powerful support. Thanks, everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Kick-ass job writing about harrowing stuff. I'd be shut up in my mental bunker, wishing for words and wallowing in self pity. Take care, get well, and enjoy that well earned Tricerahops!