Monday, October 10, 2011

I Left My Lobe in San Francisco: Liver Resection

I know many of you want all the details of my liver resection, so I am going to break the description into different sections. That way, nobody is stuck at their computer for an hour, including me, since sitting up isn't that easy yet.

Sunday, October 2nd. Magnesium Citrate. We were packed and ready to go to UCSF - after much angst, my liver wedge resection is on! I had everything important - iPhone, iPad, extra pillows for the car ride home and, of course, Paul Frank Monkey pajama pants.

Add a liberal dose of nervousness, and I had everything necessary for a successful surgery.

I had been told to do some bowel prep beginning at noon and at that point, only eat liquid meals: soup, jamba juice, "anything you can put in a blender." Then, stop all input at midnight. The bowel prep consisted of taking one 10 ounce bottle of magnesium citrate, and then waiting to explode. No enemas, thank goodness.

Clearly, timing is everything, but I'd never done this before so had no idea how to manage said time. I thought maybe I could take the laxative at home and then drive two hours to SF - by then it should have taken effect, right? But after querying everybody I know, the consensus was that it worked too quickly. It would be rather embarrassing if we'd had to stop on the Golden Gate so I could hang my butt over the railing, and I've no doubt the thought of my skinny ass dangling into the breeze might cause enough despair to spur on a suicide or two.

Best plan seemed to be an early check in at our hotel and do it all there, so that's what I arranged.

We arrived a little before 1:00 and went to our room at the Cow Hollow Motor Inn. It was nothing fancy but everybody who worked there was truly nice, plus it was clean, servicable and located next to amenenties, and was only 20 minutes from the hospital. I gave them a link because it was Fleet Week and also the Oracle World convention was in town - and this was the only hotel I called that hadn't quadrupled their rates into the $400.00 range.

As soon as we got in I downed most of the calcium citrate. It was unpleasant tasting but I wouldn't say it was disgusting; more like salty soda. While waiting for my bowels to turn into rocket fuel, I amused myself by reading the Poop Report.

Yes, folks, there really is a website for everything.

I quickly started to feel very sick. I mean, queasy as all get out. Hot, cold, hot again. Nauseated and weak. But, there was no rumbling in my bowels and no signs of lift-off. I still had a couple of ounces left in the bottle but I knew if I drank it I'd puke everywhere, so I hoped what I had in me was enough.

I suggested my husband and son go grab lunch and I was okay to stay in the room. They went across the street to a diner and I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

My older son and his girlfriend showed up and I was still resting on the bed. We chatted a while and I sent them out to find their father.

It was now 3:00, my nausea was dying down but still - nothing.

Everyone came back and my sister showed up. My plan was to play cards or rest with my family in between trips to the bathroom - but I wasn't tripping into the bathroom. I began to get very concerned that nothing at all would happen and my poor doctors would get an unexpected surprise when they cut me open. "What the hell is that?" "Looks like she didn't do her bowel prep, doctor." "Goddamn it, surgery is off."

I imagine I'd have to explain it when they saw me - me coming out from anesthesia, a bunch of masked faces looking down at me. "Doctor, I promise I drank the laxitive. No, I don't know what happened, maybe I'm just poop-resistant."

Worse, I started thinking that the process would begin at midnight and I'd get no sleep at all and I'd still be running to the bathroom when I was in pre-op.

Now it was dinnertime. I wasn't going to go out, because I was fearful I'd get stuck somewhere. I was no longer nauseated though, so I drank the remaining two ounces in the bottle, hoping that would start the brown waterworks. I asked my family to bring me some miso soup and go enjoy themselves. I surfed the net and read about laxitives (which seemed to work instantly on everybody but me) and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

My family came back from their Japanese meal, with two bowls of miso soup. I drained the tofu and seaweed out of it (solids) and sipped the broth.

And, suddenly, it happened.

A rumbling. A rolling. And, a running to the bathroom. worked, seven hours later. The trick is to mix a little magnesium citrate with red miso.

The family watched Storage Wars while I ran to the bathroom every 15 minutes. Then every 30 minutes. Then every hour.

It wasn't violent and it wasn't rocket fuel but it got me squeaky clean, so there was at least one unpleasant conversation with the doctors I got to skip.

By 11:00, I could safely sleep without thinking I'd make a mess, so we shut everything down and nodded off. 6:00 a.m. was just a few hours away.



  1. SO happy to see you here, back where you belong! Love the first installment,

    Els (Amsterdam)

  2. So glad to see you posting - and really happy to know that you are cancer free!

  3. Oh Ann, it is so good to have you back! With your sense of humor intact! Looking forward to tomorrow's installment - take good care friend.

  4. So relieved to see you back and well! I checked every day like a cyber stalker lol. My father had a liver resection in 1999. He was the donor for my mother who had cirrhosis. They divided the family into two teams to care for them and I was my fathers team. I would pack his wet/dry 'mercedes' scar twice daily for weeks. Be easy on yourself these next few months. Congratulations & speedy recovery!

  5. I died laughing when I saw the title of this post - I love Tony Bennett! I am sure he would be happy for you to leave your cancerous lobe in SF!

    And the prep work... could you possibly have any more visitors to your room while you are waiting to clear the decks? Geez! I would have needed complete privacy. haha! I am glad things worked out for you the night before surgery. Can't wait to read Part II.

  6. So glad this part of your journey is over! And thanks for letting us know how things are progressing. I've been checking to see if you've felt well enough to write. You're doing great! Hang in there, and I'll keep you in my prayers!

  7. Jen, I brought a travel candle with me, to kind of give a nice aroma to the room for my family to mask what was going on in the bathroom - I am a thoughtful sort. Here's a tip: don't ever forget matches if you are in the State of California, because you can't find any anywhere. Bums on the street don't have them, they aren't in bars, they are nowhere. Nobody smokes in this state, fires are illegal, so you have to really go on a scavenger hunt for matches and with parking $20.00 an hour, we weren't going to try. The candle remains unused.

  8. I have done the clean out thing two times recently and I swear the dose was too much for me to handle as the fun continued way longer than it was supposed to! Seriously, I'm glad your surgery is done and hope all goes well now. Glad to get the details however you wish to give them and also glad to see your sense of humor is in tact. Heal well.


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