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Tom Philip’s Journal

Tom Philip’s Journal

Tom Philip has written a journal entitled "Don’t be a man: Do the right thing", which is an ongoing series about living with cancer from Tom’s perspective.


It’s a new lease on life

by Tom Philip

“I’m alive!”

According to very reliable sources (she’s been married to me for 34 years as of last week, and if that isn’t reliable, I don’t know what is), those were my first words as I awoke in the hospital recovery room. I am alive! Three perfect words to utter after undergoing major abdominal surgery.

I made that brief statement about three weeks ago. Apologies for the delay in getting this series back on track, but the operation really kicked the tar out of me.

To recap quickly: after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer earlier this year, undergoing tests, and getting excellent medical opinions from both my surgeon and a regional cancer specialist, I allowed Dr. Basmajian to schedule an operation for late August to remove a malignant tumor from my large intestine.

I say that I “allowed” my surgeon to book operating time because it had to be my decision all the way. Bowel resection … where surgeons literally remove a good sized piece of your intestine and rejoin the disease-free sections (not unlike fixing a broken garden hose with a coupling) … is very serious stuff indeed. But it was my serious situation, just as it could be yours; and your acceptance of the diagnosis, and your granting permission for medical experts to use their skills in an effort to fix the problem, will help prepare you to deal with whatever happens next.

Waiting to actually enter the operating room was the most frustrating part of my surgical experience. I had been told to report to Admitting by 7:30 a.m. that morning to be “prepped” for a 9:30 a.m. operation. Although I had very little sleep the night before, Linda and I followed the instructions dutifully and arrived on time. Directed to the surgical ward, where I changed into one of those ridiculous little blue hospital gowns ( I mean really, folks, the person who designed those things had to have graduated last in fashion school … some dignity, please!), my pre-op routine continued.

An intravenous (IV) catheter was put in my right hand, and both saline solution and a mild antibiotic began dripping into my bloodstream. The nurse introduced me to Mr. IV pole, my “new best friend for as long as you are here.” Vital signs were taken. Another round of blood work. And then I was wheeled to the “staging” area outside the operating theatres, lined up with a group of similarly be-gowned and be-poled patients who had also elected to put their faith in medical science.

There’s always a down side, right? Well, my frustrating surgical experience was the amount of time I waited … and waited …and waited in the staging area, staring at a large clock on the wall. The 9:30 mark came and went. Then the minute hand passed 10:30 a.m. At 11:00, I was still sitting uncomfortably in a wheelchair, with nary a glimpse of either my surgeon or the anesthetist. I asked a nurse, who said she just happened to be “floating” in surgery that day, why this was taking so long.

“Oh, don’t worry dear,” she said, “They’re never on time for surgery.” Nice to know that. So I asked her if she’d mind “floating” back into the operating room to tell my surgical team that my IV friend and I were thinking about going for lunch!

She didn’t speak to me after that; but within 10 minutes, I was ushered to the operating table and less than 10 minutes later I was blissfully in la-la land, waking some four hours later to utter those wonderful words.

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