1st- 2nd June
Yesterday was the chat with the anaesthetist, where he outlined what was to happen and to take some medical history. He went over the process of the surgery again, the thoroscopy with three points of entry, one upper right and two lower right, one for the laproscope, one for the cutting tool and one for the drain. He also outlined the more major thoracotomy, if needed, with the entry between the ribs and the spreader for that which can do a bit more damage. He told me of the epidural in my upper spine and that this will be used for pain management and will stay for a while after the surgery. After we went to pre-admission and filled out forms again. A very nice lady this time, plus I brought my passport this time so no telling off. The drive back was relaxed.
Next day we drove nice and early to see the kinetherapist to bone up on a couple of exercises I can do before surgery to increase my lung capacity and to do after to aid recovery. On the way we get the local bar in Clegurec to dose up our travel mug with some espressos and from the puzzled looks from the barman and the three men sitting there having their morning beers that has not happened often before. P tells me on the way that the therapist also works on horses which has me wondering whether.he’ll want to be on my back. If so, I hope I get a sugar lump after. Once again, as with all the doctors we have met so far, P gets to look at a fit, young, healthy, handsome (I’m feeling nauseous) man while I get poked and prodded. I’m starting to think God has a plan, revenge for me getting great looking nurses last time. The therapist is situated in Guemene in an ugly Zone Artisanal, it’s only saving grace the boulangerie across the road and the great smells coming out of it. My exercises are based around emptying my lungs as much as possible, filling them back up again. In addition I am to concentrate on using my diaphragm to breathe so I move my chest as little as possible, to help recovery and limit pain. From the nods and grunts of pleasure I am doing them right.
The afternoon is another drive down to Vannes to have an ECG, check my heart is still there and beating. We sit in the waiting room which is underground, beneath Maternity. I won’t say there is a smell of baby sick but something tickles my nose. The sound of babies is all around, pervasive but light. We go in to see Dr Good Times, a greying older man who looks like he has shrunk a bit with age. He may even have been getting smaller while we were there. A great fan of cars, he had a couple of rows of models on his bookshelf and cabinet, Bentleys, Ferraris, a Lamobrghini. He also had various carvings of African animals on his desk. Add to that the rug on the floor and he looked like a candidate for censure from Infection Control. I lay down for the ECG and he used plastic bicycle clips on my wrist and ankle and a series of leads with mini suckers on for parts of my chest, front and sides. P looked askance at all this but it was not until after she told me that using suckers went out with flares a free love. Anyway, for our fee we got and piece of paper with illegible writing on it and a section of graph paper with wiggly lines. Upshot, my heart is functioning normally.
A day between then and today, the 7th.
I awake. It is is early. The only sounds are the birds in the trees nattering, chattering. Every day brings the surgery closer and everyday that burden lies a little heavier across my shoulders. I am scared. I think about what is to happen and whilst I realise the surgery is less than the major trauma I went through with my tongue cancer six years ago there is a difference I find hard to quantify or describe. It is to do with the nature of the intervention. With the tongue the surgery was a removal of a cancer and associated lymph nodes, an extraction if you will. The jaw was cut through at the chin and opened out, my tongue removed and the cancer taken out, my tongue returned. Even writing that makes me goggle now at what was done and I recall the state of my scar with all the clips holding the skin in place, the tube feeding, the pain and discomfort. But that was an extraction, a removal of the beast itself plus a margin. This surgery feels different because it is the removal of a lobe of my lung, a good chunk of healthy tissue is going, a parcel wrapped around Brian the snail and I feel slightly offended by that. I understand the reasoning, they are unsure whether this is the same type of cells as the tongue cancer, even though they look the same means they have to treat it as entirely new, I get that. But it still rankles. I remain positive despite the fear, not in some inspirational quote, let’s write words on a landscape photo, happy clappy kitten up a tree way kind of a way, but purely in the knowledge this has been caught very early (who knew tongue cancer and all the subsequent scans would be useful?), I am in capable experienced hands, I am healthy and fit and I am fucked if I’m going to let some upstart squitty snail get the better of me. Also, it is comforting to know, as I scream into the void and rail against this situation, I have this blog and and least four to five people have an appreciation of what I am going through. Also, despite it not being as uncommon as I would like, at least I can look down on those who only have the one cancer.
This morning we go for my head scan and then admission in the afternoon. This the most worrying as I’m convinced there’s nothing in there and I’ll end up as a Youtube videos of medical marvels. The sickeningly obvious happens when we arrive, P gets to view a tall, handsome, blonde nurse who is working the reception of patients to the scanner itself. He looked about seventeen but P didn’t seem to mind. Because the scan was at eleven and took all of thirty minutes, we have an awkward period of time to wait for admission at four. It’s not worth going home, it would leave us with too little time before we would need to drive back down, plus it would only disturb the dog, who is being sat on by our lovely friends Dan and Kate. Clochette really does love Aunty Dan and Uncle Kate and nothing please her more than to be walked by them or to visit them, where they give her walnuts. She’s a big fan, having grown up with a walnut tree across from us. I think it’s the crunching of the shell she likes more than the sweet flesh of the nut inside. We decide to drive in the direction of Sarzeau and find somewhere by the sea. We end up in Penvins and a lovely little hotel/restaurant with a view of the Golfe du Morbihan and have a leisurely lunch. Afterwards we take a walk along the sandy beach and do a little rockpooling. The sun is out, the breeze is bracing but not too cold. We pootle in the car around to the point where a church sits looking both into the Golfe and out to sea. As it’s Wednesday afternoon, kids have the afternoon off where they pursue sports or interests of their own, outside the usual currculum. In front of where we have parked three groups of kids are having yacht training and sailboard lessons, with varying degrees of success. Some of the kids are quite well practiced in getting their little catamarans out, scampering over the boats like seasoned tars. Some are not so good and we have a fun few minutes watching one kid trying and failing a number of times to even get on a boat. Not only that, his partner, obviously none to pleased to be paired with the klutz, twice speeds off while being slowly chased by a kid up to his waist in the sea, his arms swinging out wildly to try and get through the water which must feels like molasses to him as he struggles. Finally, after stopping to retrieve his hat and cramming it sopping wet on his head, he clings on and hefts himself up, looking, for all his youth, about as graceful as Captain Mainwearing losing his dignity in Dad’s Army.
Back to Vannes and a quick session with the ward receptionist and then I say hello to the senior sister, my friend the nurse who has visited Southend. I am paired with a French gentleman in a two person room, he is also having similar surgery under Dr B (the other Dr B, the second Dr B, not the first…oh, never mind it’ll not make any difference to your reading and this is hardly the BBC news). After a while an aide soignante comes in to shave my chest and to give me a towel and two bottles of special liquid soap I am to shower in tonight and tomorrow morning before surgery. With a electric shaver with disposible blades she shaves my chest, around my sensitive but perky nipples, across my shoulders, both my armpits (ladies, I feel ya, I really do) and a section of my back. She is thorough and careful and slow. After she’s gone P gets me a coffee. After ten minutes the aide soignante comes back, she thinks she missed a bit. Off comes the tee shirt again and she gets to shaving my upper arms. She apologises, I say, “not at all” and she goes. P returns with my coffee, just as she comes back again, she is still unhappy with her work and wants to give me a once over look just to be certain. Off comes the tee shirt again and she pores over my chest and side carefully, feeling for stray hairs and attacking what she finds with her razor. Finally she declares herself satisfied and she leaves. I imagine her now sitting in a darkened room, rocking back and forth, debating whether to return a third time just incase. I fully expect a knock on the door at three in the morning, when I’m at my least able to defend myself from her.
P and I have reached the point where we know it’s time for her to go but neither of us is going to say it yet. We are fortunately interrupted by the porter to take me for my final chest X-ray before tomorrow. Neither of us do well, with a strong hug between us barely hiding out tears. I leave and am gently guided in the right direction as my eyes are a bit misty.
When I return she has gone but has left me a love note to warm my…cockles.
Next comes food! Sorry, that’s actually an exclamation mark, what I need is a grammar mark that represents mild disgust. Take a look at this and tell me the French have the best cuisine in the world:
Tomorrow afternoon I go under the knife and then I am straight off to ‘Re-animation’, which sounds more serious and horror filmy than it is really is. That’s what they call ITU here. On that basis, I figure it may be a day or two before I can get to my ipad and give you an update. Don’t worry if it’s bit longer than that, I’m probably thinking, and for God’s sake DON’T unfriend me!