2023: My Cancer Scare

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My niece and I left without a set date for the surgery but knew it would be soon. My mood grew worse as I spent time alone with the fact that surgery was imminent. The roller coaster was running flat out. I began to consider saying to hell with it and just dying rather than being hospitalized for a week with major surgery. Finally, I set on a Stoic practice of dealing with obstacles. There were many things that seemed insurmountable like my being laid up and home alone after the surgery. Instead of worrying, I began to prepare by getting tasks done in advance so there would be little I needed to do to look after myself after the surgery. As I became better prepared, the stress eased a bit, but I was still worried about the surgery to remove my kidney.

Finally, the day arrived for the surgery in mid-August. I had to report to the hospital by 6 am on a Monday. My niece came over Sunday night and stayed overnight to drive me to the hospital in the morning. We found our way to the pre-op waiting room. Promptly at 6 I was called in to pre-op. I got undressed and into a hospital gown and my niece took my bag with my clothes. The two hour wait went by quickly, and it felt like a blur when I was wheeled into the operating room. The mask was placed over my nose and mouth and in moments I was unconscious.

The next few days were hell on earth. I was in and out of my mind from the painkillers and had a catheter in. The surgeon came to see me, but I remember only a little of what she said except that it had gone well. There was not much pain but coughing and stretching hurt. I could not figure out how to operate my cellphone to call anyone to talk to in my confused state. I did make a call to my best friend’s voicemail but my message to her was unintelligible. For the first few days I was on a liquid diet, but I had no appetite anyway. Gradually the mental fog began to clear and the catheter was removed. That had me peeing in a bottle, then in a day or so being helped to go to the washroom. A therapist came in once a day to get me up and using a walker.  I felt I was clearer-headed but physically still a wreck. My unsteadiness on my feet had me wondering how I was going to get home. I had to climb two flights of stairs to get to my apartment.

By Saturday, the hospital arranged for a walker to be delivered to my apartment in preparation for my going home. They also put me in touch with a patient transport company to take me home and have their men carry me up the stairs in my building. That turned out to be quite a challenge for the four men as I weigh a little over 300 lbs. With a great deal of effort, and no complaints, they accomplished the task. Once at home, I began to feel better almost immediately.

Sunday morning, I was still in a bit of pain but felt so much better mentally. I began to phone people to tell them I was home and I found myself talking with a great deal of energy but tiring out quickly. This went on for a couple of days. I took it easy, not lifting anything heavy or straining myself for about six weeks. I have felt fine since then.

In early December I went back for more CT scans and then just before Christmas, I had another appointment with the surgeon. She said I was cancer-free and my one remaining kidney was functioning well. I returned to see the surgeon in April. What I remember most about the whole experience is how well I was treated by family, friends, and the healthcare professionals. Everyone was kind and patient and helpful where they could be. I am back to reading my books about Stoic philosophy and trying to deepen my experience of it. I learned a lot about myself during this experience; my strengths and weaknesses and that I had come through. 

Man with walker

author
Harry Kuhn facilitates a creative writing group oriented to the homeless, those at risk of being homeless, or those who have been homeless in the past. He has approximately a dozen stories and essays published in a variety of magazines and professional journals, as well as having earned a professional certificate in creative writing from Western Continuing Education. Most of his stories are memoir but he also does some fiction.
3 Responses
  1. author

    Kara1 month ago

    Thank you for sharing your story Harry. Well done.

    Reply
  2. author

    Catherine Campbell1 month ago

    Your stress just radiates from this recounting, Harry. Well written and it will be helpful for others going through similar experiences.

    Reply
  3. author

    Yves Bureau4 weeks ago

    This was an inspiring piece. It was generous of you to share your experience. Thank you.

    Yves Bureau

    Reply

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