How are all of you doing?
My September has consisted of family. When a family member is hit with a health crisis, a family either unites or divides. Mine united.
My brother, C, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the beginning of August. After his summer family vacation to the States, he returned home....and felt crummy and looked jaundiced. Both my mom and my sister commented on it to me after they had seen him. One day at work, he felt awful and a Doctor took notice (C works at a nursing home). The Doctor booked him in for an ultrasound immediately and discovered that one of his bile ducts was plugged. He was booked immediately to have further testing done, had a stent put in to open up the duct and the cancer was discovered on the test results. In a strange way, it was a blessing that the jaundice was the first clue, otherwise the cancer wouldn't have been detected until too late.
To say we were all shocked would be an understatement. My brother is only 42 (...actually 41 when he found out - his birthday was in late August). I felt scared for him, especially knowing that pancreatic cancer is one of the worst kinds of cancer to be diagnosed with. Let's face it -- all cancer sucks. I didn't do myself any favours by immediately googling pancreatic cancer and reading the grim prognosis and stories. Feeling sad and a little angry too, because this is the 2nd time Hubs and I have had to deal with a cancer diagnosis for a sibling. Hubs' brother J was diagosed with colon cancer back in 2008 and passed away in 2010. The most bizarre thing was that J and C were both diagnosed around the same time (August), both were in their 40s, and both had their surgeries a month later, in September. A very strange sense of deja-vu all over again. This is hitting a little too close to home.
C's surgery was on September 12th. He had the whipple procedure done, by a very excellent surgeon here (who, I found out later, is the cousin of one of my work friends, M, another bizarre coincidence!) Very smart surgeon with great bedside manner and took the time to explain everything to us after the surgery was over. The surgery took around 12 hours, epic long. The surgeon explained that during the surgery, a little piece of the stent broke off and got lodged in somewhere, it took two hours to remove it. Mom, my sister-in-law L, and I spent the entire day at the hospital on the day of the surgery, waiting for news....any news. You know the surgery is a go ahead if the surgeon doesn't come out to the waiting room within an hour or two. It was a long day, but C made it.
The next day, C woke up after being under anesthetic for so long and was doing quite well. We were all so relieved! But then he had a bad night. Had to be re-hooked up to a ventilator, more powerful pain meds administered, IVs, tubes. Had a horrible day on the Saturday, C had trouble breathing all day. There were some questionable calls made by the nurses on duty that day. It was like dealing with J's cancer all over again when he was close to the end. The breathing was so laboured. The day became worse. We called in our priest..... It was that bad, we almost lost C. Our family gathered, expecting the worst, praying for the best.
C rallied, and came around. He's been doing better and better every day since. He's now in a post-surgery/post-ICU ward and is not hooked up to any tubes. He has to get dialysis every day as his kidneys are not yet working, he's weak and feels tired, but he's come so far in almost two weeks. My parents and sister-in-law were with him during the day whenever they were allowed in his room at the ICU. I went to the hospital during every lunch break and again most times after work. My sister made multiple trips from out of town to be with him. C heard us talking to him and encouraging him. He knew we were there. We wanted to be there.
My parents stayed at my place as I live here (in the same city where the surgery took place); my sister-in-law and kids stayed at her brother's place, he also lives here (C and his family live 1.5 hours away, my parents live 2 hours away). The daily stress, worry and endless stream of hospital visits, phone calls, work, etc was mentally exhausting, though that's what we do. We make it work, we put others before us who really need our help and support, we do it out of love and care for others, we have faith for a good outcome. I joked to Mom that we should start our own PR firm with all the phone calls and status update emails to family members and friends that we have had to handle, relaying information to people, making sure people are taken care of, making sure things are still functioning at home, making sure we get some rest at the end of the day.
C's recovery is little bits every day. I hope he will get to go home soon. I haven't had much time to read many blogs and write, but thankfully I had Pinterest on my iPhone at the hospital. :) Hope to do some catching up, and get used to our new normal.
What did I learn? Several things. This kind of experience touches you in different and unexpected ways, but one thing it did do was knock me out of feeling complacent in my bubble and to focus on the things which really matter to me.
Hope all of you are doing well.