Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Left My Lobe in San Francisco: Liver Resection Story. Surgery

I went feet first through double-doors which automatically opened and closed behind me, like a Disneyland B-Ticket Ride; "Mickey's Hospital World." My gurney rumbled down a hallway, one decorated the length of the corridor with dozens of white coats hanging from knobs. It reminded me of Hell's Kitchen with all the chef's coats skewered on meat hooks and flames wiping away the picture of the cook who'd been eliminated. We flew past Disney's Hall of Coats and then on the left hand side we encountered a line of physicians behind glass scrubbing for their upcoming surgeries. I went through another set of wacky double-doors, and there I was - in the operating room.

And, I have to say, it looked exactly like the operating rooms you see on TV. Everything was gleaming and expansive. Overhead were shining mirrored lights, cabinets glowing with drugs, instruments sparkling on tables, doctors gloved and ready.....

...okay, no it didn't.

It looked like my office storage room, before I make my TAs clean it each year.

Over to the right was my surgeon standing behind a jumbled pile of boxes near a whiteboard, talking to another doctor. There was an x-ray on the lightbox which I thought could be mine but then I saw somebody else's name on it. There were nurses moving around, again behind what appeared to be open boxes, maybe from Amazon or the Home Shopping Network. There was stuff piled in corners, and the shelves were haphazard - it looked pretty ordinary, and kind of like they put an operating room in the middle of a cellar.

The Anesthesiologist explained that they were going to put the epidural in first, and alarmed me by saying this was one of the most painful surgeries they do but the epidural would help. He asked me to sit up and bend forward over the gurney railing, which I did. As all pregnant women know, an epidural is a small tube inserted directly into your spinal canal that drips medicine in to give you pain relief. As they struggled to get the tube in the right place, I became frustrated, because I could hear my surgeon talking about my very own personal operation with his colleague, and it sounded like he was discussing odds and new theory and what was best and giving a lesson on ablation, and I really wanted to hear that. But, the tube wasn't going in properly and the anesthesiology team kept talking to me, each other, and everyone else, so I couldn't hear my surgeon's very interesting conversation.

Tube finally in my spine, they moved me from the gurney to the operating table. They were serious when they said they hoped I had the temperpedic one. (I didn't). I didn't think I'd care very much although I thought a temperpedic operating table an interesting idea. I reminded them about my frozen shoulder, and they said my arm would be down by my side and not to worry. They gave me a hat to put on and then said they would give me medicine to put me to sleep now. They put a mask over my face and I breathed in the plastic scent for quite a while, looking around, blinking now and then.


I began to wonder if I was going to go to sleep, or if, like Michael Jackson, I was immune and was going to have to grab the bottle of propofol and take a slug myself. Had they asked me to count down from 10 (for you surgery newbies, they never do), I would have done so easily - and than then what?

We'll never know because I'm no Jackson, and I did go out.

And, ladies and gentlemen, had I not survived the surgery, those would have been my last thoughts on this earth: Michael Jackson, Propofol, and WTF - when am I going out?

Not exactly profound.

Then they did the operation

I woke up to chaos. It's pretty fuzzy, but I was in the same place I'd been in the morning, which is PACU (Post-Anesthesia Care Unit). It was about 1:30 and I was told I was fine and the operation had gone well. This was the first time they asked me that pain scale question I hate so much, but when your pain is a 10 it's not so hard to answer.

I was in terrible pain, and I know I drifted in and out as they tried to get a handle on it. I don't remember everything they did but they kept shooting me up with drugs, and I don't think my epidural was working, or it wasn't turned on, for quite a while, or maybe that's my imagination.

I have to say that the nurses in that area were quite kind. I shared a nurse with one other person, and she took good care of me. I was unable to move, really think or do much but suffer for the longest time.

Eventually, they got a handle on it and asked me if I wanted my husband. I said I did, but she forgot to call him and I didn't have the knowledge of time passing to remind her. I think this happened a few times until she finally remembered, and by then it was about 7:30. That's a long time to make family wait. I realized they they didn't want my family to see me until the pain was under control, but she shouldn't have forgotten. My sister finally called up and said they wanted to see me now, and that's when the nurse remembered and allowed him to come see me.

As I recovered I also got to see the rest of my family, which was nice, and which I'm sure helped. I was happy to be alive, although considering the pain, not ecstatic. I found out from my husband that the surgeon was very happy with the results he got. He'd told my husband that they had taken all of the left lobe of the liver. They couldn't take the cancerous part of the right lobe because it was too deep and would have been dangerous, but that the remaining tumor was extremely small so they used the microwave ablation tool to burn it off with a 2 inch margin, and he was extremely pleased and felt things had gone as well as possible.

I realized, despite the pain, that I was now cancer-free.

I don't have cancer.

I eventually found out I had to stay in PACU until I told them my pain was down to a five, so the next time they asked, that's what I told them. I was ready to get out of there, I was the only patient who'd been there that long.

That pain scale is all subjective anyway; hell, maybe it was even was a five.

Now that they'd decided to move me to a room the nurse got on the phone with the reservation desk and turned to me and asked me if I'd requested a private room. I said I'd had. Indeed, I'd called a week ago and made that request. I'd been told repeatedly that it was unlikely I'd get one, so I was extremely happy to find that I was, indeed, assigned a private room.

Even in my pain and drug-fueled fog, I was thrilled at that. Nobody else's farts, foul smells, complaints, groans, visitors or endless TV would interfere with my own suffering and healing. I would get to be alone, except for my family.

I couldn't have been happier.

Until I saw the room.....


  1. Oh. What was wrong with the room. My favourite line is "I don't have cancer" . I hope u are feeling well now and i really hope it's a success. Katie31, bco

  2. I'm so glad the surgery is over and that they were able to get rid of those nasty tumors. You are right: they never make you count from 10 backwards.

    Feel better and get better soon.

  3. I love your "I don't have cancer" line too! I'm so happy you made it through and can blog to tell about it! Looking forward to your next chapter.

  4. oh man, don't leave us hanging ;)

  5. Cancer free Ann! So good to hear this. You do have a way with words.

    All the best. You have given a lot of people hope.


  6. Oh Ann, you are cracking me up. Hell's Kitchen, Disney and Michael Jackson in one post. So so so glad to hear the surgery went well. Big hug to you.

  7. SO happy to hear the good news and that you are recovering well! Please keep us updated when you can, but most of all, get plenty of rest! Praying for you!

  8. You. Dont. Have. Cancer.
    Say it again!
    I can hardly wait until I get to work in the mornings so I can read the next episode of "I Left My Lobe in San Francisco".
    Oh, yeah, leaving for vaca in Hawaii tomorrow. I'll have to make do:).
    Honestly a week off reading all my cancer blogs will probably do me good. I'll catch up when I get back!

  9. I do not understand why I am having such a time leaving comments. I like your "I don't have cancer line" too.

    I am glad that your last words were not Michael Jackson, and propofol and WTF.

  10. Yay for no cancer now.
    Boy that sure sounded painful tho :( ((hugs))
    Funny about Michale Jackson...Love reading your posts.
    Oh and I hate that pain scale thing....Ughhhh its a ten..but do you REALLY want to say that....
    Sorry I haven't been around , but my first chemo knocked me for a loop. My Dr put me back on steroids at day 11 after...and I feel like a new person now..and am trying to catch up on my bloggie friends

  11. We are glad to hear the good news of being cancer free! Have you heard about Good Days from Chronic Disease Fund? We are an organization dedicated to assist chronic disease patients. By supporting our organization, you can help us, help them. We want people to have good days again!

  12. Ann,
    I'm sorry you had and probably still have so much pain. I hate those pain scales too. I laughed when I read you told them your pain was a five just so you could get out of there. We often tell people what they want to hear don't they? I remember being wheeled into all my surgeries too and looking around at all the lights, disarray and just stuff thinking, hmm, not so much like on tv. Great post. Keep healing.

  13. getting a bit worried... does anyone have un update on Ann?


  14. For some reason tweet not showing on blog, here are the last one posted 6 hrs ago:

    Sorry I haven't updated in a while - they fatigue they said could kick in - kicked in

  15. Just checking in and praying you're doing ok.
    I had you on my mind...Hoping you're doing well and on then mend

  16. Been thinking of you often and hoping that all is well. Sending healing prayers your way.

  17. "For some reason tweet not showing on blog, here are the last one posted 6 hrs ago:

    Sorry I haven't updated in a while - they fatigue they said could kick in - kicked in"

    Thanks for posting that. I follow Ann's tweets but hadn't seen any of them come up. Maybe my Twitter is just too cluttered.

  18. boy - am i glad i checked these comments - i've been so worried. glad to know others were too, and that you, ann, even though fighting through some ass-kicking fatigue, are CANCER FREE, and were able to let us know you are there, but just a bit snockered. i stumbled across your blog, don't recall how, but am awfully glad i did. you are one amazing woman! i am a caregiver to my husband who has multiple myeloma, and it's been one helluva 2 years - on our 42nd anniversary, after taking me to a fabulous lunch, he was putting something in the front seat of our jeep and heard/felt a loud crackle/snap; it was his femur breaking in half. since that moment, he has had horrific pain, 2 surgeries to rebuild his leg, chemo, then 2 stem cell transplants, and 18 mos. of harrowing physical therapy. there is no cure for myeloma, but he is now in remission, and we are embarking upon life reinvented. reading your blog has given me such a dose of strength and courage - and it's often a toss-up between that and the joy of laughing myself stupid. i feel a little guilty about telling you about our experience, but please know that it's just a vehicle to let you know how much you and your blog means to me. i will keep you close ot my heart, ann, and wish you all good things, most of all your chance to live YOUR life reinvented. warm hugs and a speedy recovery to blow that pop stand and get home. karen


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