I got my diagnosis on June 8, 2016 and my surgery, a total thyroidectomy, was scheduled the following week, June 15, barely three weeks since my initial checkup after feeling a slight neck discomfort and a swollen lymph node. Things were really happening fast…
When I first met with the head and neck surgeon whom my endocrinologist referred (that was on June 10), she asked me when I wanted to have the surgery scheduled. I quickly discussed and agreed with my husband then I told the surgeon, “as soon as possible”. Part of it was that I knew majority of the cost will be shouldered by my health insurance, then the rest I had faith would be covered and taken care of. But more than the cost, I didn’t see any point to delay the procedure if that was the best treatment option for me. The feeling of discomfort was increasing as the days go by, which made me more anxious, and I badly wanted that thing out as soon as possible.
I got the marching orders from my surgeon after that appointment. This involved a lot of paperwork plus getting a clearance from my endocrinologist as well as a cardiopulmonary clearance since it would be a major surgery. I had four days to accomplish all that plus make sure that personal bills, errands and work stuff were all sorted out and endorsed before I go under the knife. I didn’t want my husband to have a hard time figuring things out by himself while I was in recovery. And, the day of my surgery is also payday so I had to make sure our people get paid! So, my work was cut out for me.
Now, this is the harder part, for both me and my husband—getting our minds and hearts ready for the procedure, and the life after that. I’m so thankful to have a life partner who’s ever supportive and loyal, my bestest friend who’ll always take my hand and walk, or even run with me, through life’s stormy days and sunny days. I also know that as I was still trying to absorb and cope with everything that’s happening (and happening really fast), my dear hubby was also doing so for himself whilst being strong for me at the same time, and I knew how it felt like because I was in the same position when I first found out that my mom had breast cancer. It was our faith—individually, together and in each other—that really helped us prepare for the battle ahead. I talk more about our faith in this post.
After getting everything prepared, it was time to finally get myself admitted in the hospital a day before the surgery. I’ve gone through the admission process several times in the past whenever either of my parents were hospitalized but this is the first time I myself was getting confined. There were other firsts for me—first time to have an IV drip inserted in my vein, first time to undergo a major surgery.
Since my heart, mind and soul were prepared—I had peace. So, I had a good meal, a good shower and a good sleep, with my dearest baba by my side.
Game on. It was June 15, the day of the surgery. I woke up early since they’ll wheel me out at 6am in preparation for the surgery scheduled at 7am. No breakfast for me since I had to fast prior to the surgery.
The hospital orderly and nurse arrived on time, transferred me to the stretcher, and wheeled me to the operating room, with my husband closely following us. The nurse injected something to make me feel sleepy. However, since I was very curious of what the OR (Operating Room) looked like since it was my first time to enter it, I was wide awake! I wanted to see and observe everything before the anaesthesia puts me to sleep.
My husband held my hand and we said our ‘I love you’s’ and ‘See you later’ to each other before they wheeled me into the sterile area of the OR.
When I was finally inside, I saw that there were other rooms there and it was already so busy early in the morning. One room looked like a mother just gave birth, and we passed by an incubator for a baby. I heard a baby cry before I got wheeled into my own operating room. The OR staff started doing all the prep work, transferred me to a narrow operating table, “arranged” me physically—my hair, arms, etc.. The anaesthesiologist arrived and he explained to me his part in the procedure, and reassured me that it’s gonna be alright. There were also several medical interns in the room who interviewed me to find out more about my case. I was in a university-run hospital after all so I expected that (thank God I was covered from chest down; well that was when I was still awake, I didn’t know if that was still case after the general anaesthetic knocked me out… I hope so!) When my surgeon arrived, she said, “Sleep ka na”. As soon as the anaesthesiologist put the anaesthesia mask on my mouth, I instantly got knocked out. The last thing I saw and remembered was the clock right in front of me. It was 7:30am.
When I woke up, I was groggy. I tried to look around and knew I was in the recovery room. I learned afterwards that it was nearly 2:30pm when I woke up; seven hours had passed since I”slept”. I had no dreams; it was a very deep sleep that seemed to have lasted just a couple of hours. I finally knew what it was like to be under GA.
I noticed that I had a nasal cannula for oxygen and other tubes attached to me. My neck, chest and back felt sore, but not really painful. I closed my eyes again and tried to rest. The nurse approached me knowing I was awake, updated me on my status and told me that they’re preparing to bring me back to my room. Several minutes after (after enduring the very noisy staff in the recovery room, which I found very insensitive), I was finally wheeled out of the OR and back to my room. I was looking forward to see my baba!!!
So we got to my room. I saw my husband, and as soon as our eyes met, we said (I whispered—yes, I could whisper!) to each other, “Hi baba, I miss you”. What a delight and relief to finally see him!
The only part I hate here is that the hospital orderlies forced me to transfer myself on my own from the stretcher to the bed. I tried to explain that it was very hard for me since I just came out of surgery and my stitches might open (and it took a lot of effort to do the explaining since I can barely talk), but they insisted that it is hospital protocol and part of patient recovery, blah, blah, blah. I ended up doing it because they forced me to plus I badly wanted to transfer to my bed already, but I was very, very stressed and physically exhausted afterwards. I told my surgeon about it when she visited me a couple of days after and she said that they could’ve just lifted and slid the blanket under me onto the bed, which was exactly what I thought and hoped they could’ve done. So in case you experience this and still have the patience, insist that they slide you onto your bed; otherwise, call for your nurse to do so.
WARNING: The next part contains an image that’s not for the fainthearted.
While I was in surgery…
I found out from my husband that while I was in surgery, he got a call and was asked by the surgeon to meet her at the OR because she had something to tell him. Of course, that got him concerned. So he went there only to find out that the surgeon was still inside. He waited, and waited until about 30 minutes had passed before she finally came out. She told him that the surgery was successful, and that she was quite surprised to see how big the tumor was already inside and it was very “makapit” (held very close to the surrounding muscles and tissues) so she had to dissect a bit of neck muscle. It was growing backwards, towards my spine already. She’s glad that it was already removed before it did more damage.
*My post about the first 72 hours post surgery is coming soon!
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