The surgeon comes to see me after the surgery. An intern accompanies him. She is tall and willowy and has a faint accent that renders her exotic and appealing. They are both smiling. “The surgery went well ,” he says. Now we wait for the pathology report. That will take one to two weeks, and will let us know whether the cancer has spread. We’re going to keep you here for a few days until your bowel wakes up. Intestines are weird. They don’t like to be disturbed and go to sleep after surgeries like this.“
“Could you see the cancer? Did it spread? Was it in my lymph nodes?” He is patient with me. “I don’t know. The way it works is that as I remove tissue, a runner takes it to the pathology lab and they examine it. I removed everything I told you I would remove. You may or may not have a reaction to the lymph node removal – some times this can cause a swelling in your legs that may be permanent, may be temporary – or may not happen at all.” He checks my wound. “Looks good!”
To me it looks ragged, messy, crude, as though he had used a serrated knife to slice through my abdomen. There are no external stitches or staples, just a long row of butterfly bandages sealing the wound. Under each one is a smear of dried blood. I prefer not to look at it.
My stomach muscles have been severed; my intestines and bowel are asleep. On the second day after the surgery I am so dizzy I cannot even turn my head without feeling waves of nausea. Maybe it is the Dilaudid. Maybe it is just the overwhelming trauma my system has just borne. By the third day I am starving and eat with relish when the aid brings my first real meal. My guts are not ready for the onslaught.
Close Up of Sleeping Intestines:
In the mean time my room is festooned with flowers. Friends and family visit and bring books and get well cards. One friend brings a multicolored striped ski cap for the anticipated hair loss. I am touched by this.