Yesterday was one of the longest days of my life (and my dad's too). I had to have him at the hospital at 5:00 a.m.; certainly not an easy feat with my mobility-challenged mother in tow.
I crawled out of bed at 2:00 a.m. yesterday (Monday) after laying awake for hours, staring at the clock, wondering if it was time to get up yet. Sleep just never really came to me. We went to bed early - 8:00 Sunday night - but I just laid there, listening to the chimes on the knockoff grandfather clock sound every 15 minutes from the other side of the wall. I heard my parents talking in low, hushed tones, trying to stay quiet in case I was already asleep. I could make out the heavy notes of sadness in my dad's voice through two sets of closed doors, and knew they were laying there side by side in the dark, too afraid to fall asleep and let a new day begin.
So yes, literally, it was a long day. I was awake from 3:00 a.m. on Sunday morning until 8:30 p.m. on Monday. Almost 42 waking hours straight, fueled on nothing but two Cokes and half of a soggy turkey sandwich from the hospital cafeteria.
But it all came out okay. 2-1/2 hours of surgery turned into almost six; but the surgery staff kept us updated through the entire day. We knew when he was put under anesthesia, we knew when they cut his chest open, and we knew when they got the tumor out. I can't say enough good things about them, and have a deep appreciation for all they must go through in a day.
Once Dad's incision was closed and Humpty Dumpty was put back together again, the surgeon came out and talked to us for over half an hour. He was accommodating and kind, answering all of our questions with grace and patience. I see why Dad was drawn to him. He was confident without being arrogant or condescending, and gave us the impression that he knew all along that everything would be fine.
And it is. They didn't have to break any of his ribs, so his recovery should go quite a bit faster. And the tumor hadn't attached itself onto his heart wall yet. Luckily (!!!) there was a layer of fat insulating his heart, which prevented the mass from getting anywhere near his aorta. Also, he believes they caught the cancer early, as the malignancy itself wasn't anywhere near 6cm across. Apparently his bronchial tissue started collapsing around the tumor while it was still very small, making the mass look much larger on his chest films than it actually was.
They ended up removing his lymph nodes as a precautionary measure, and had to take the whole lower lobe and a small strip off of the upper lobe, too. But the surgeon doesn't believe it will affect his lung capacity at all, since dad had already altered his breathing with the tumor and damaged/dead bronchial tissue still in his chest.
Dad was fully awake with an hour of coming off the ventilator, although he was in a lot of pain while they worked on getting him the right dose of epidural & IV pain relief. Apparently trial & error doesn't only work for parenting - the world of medicine is now taking the same approach! ;) He was allowed a little ginger ale & some crackers early this morning, and was able to eat some oatmeal, a muffin, a cup of peaches, a cup of pears, AND drink a cup of coffee and more ginger ale at breakfast. So yeah, I would say he's doing okay.
He was crabby last night, as to be expected. He was exhausted and in pain and only wanted to sleep; but the critical care nurses had to keep waking him up to check his blood pressure, temperature, and oxygen levels and make sure that his chest tube was properly draining. By the time Mom & I arrived back at the hospital this morning, he was sitting up in a chair and had walked a circle around the nurse's station - a fantastic feat, all things considered. He fell back asleep while we were visiting, so Mom & I snuck quietly out the door to let him rest.
However, his snooze was short lived. The nurses came back in & checked on him, my brother finally showed up for a visit, the surgeon came around to see him, and they moved him from critical care to a "normal" hospital room. I went back to see him around 4:30 this afternoon, and he was just so damn tired. He was cold and wanted a blanket; and when the nurse brought him a warm blanket, he snapped at her (he didn't want a heated blanket, goddammitanyway). The respiratory therapist gave him a nebulizer treatment but failed to watch for air bubbles in dad's drainage tube when he coughed (to check for any air leaks in his lung), and dad called him an "incompetent boob" and let him have it. The nurse came in his room to check his blood pressure, temperature, & oxygen saturation and he snapped at her because she didn't tell him all of his numbers. We were trying to watch the (dismal) Rose Bowl and he kept nodding off; so I quietly got up, drew his curtains, turned off all the lights, turned off the television, and closed the door behind me so he could finally. just. sleep.
He doesn't want any visitors until his drainage tube & his central line are out, so I'm also in charge of giving the family "permission" to see him when he's up for it. Apparently I'm not only the chef and the chauffeur, I'm also the gopher and the family gatekeeper! :D
But after all of this, the surgeon really, truly believes that he will be fine. That he caught the cancer early enough, before it was able to spread beyond the point of origin in his lung. That he won't need supplemental oxygen. That he won't need to go through radiation and/or chemo. That dad will be able to drive in two weeks and resume normal activity in four weeks.
He's just so, so fortunate that his stars were aligned and everything fell into place for him. Instead of being at stage 3 cancer with only a year to live, he will hopefully be cancer-free and and able to carry on for many, many years to come.
And for that, I am so thankful and welcome 2013 with open, smiling, benign flabby arms.
Edited to add: Thank you for taking the time to read what I write. In some strange, indescribable way, it makes me feel a little less alone during my moments of sadness and loneliness. In return, I wish you a happy, healthy 2013 and beyond; filled with laughter and love and goodness and hope.