This orchiectomy is RADICAL!

Tuesday at 6am is a pretty fucked up time to have to be anyplace. But at a hospital to have surgery to remove a testicle through your groin has got to be one of the Top 10 Worst Places To Be At Any Time of Day. The procedure at least has a totally awesome name: Radical Orchiectomy. Sounds badass, right?

The Totem Pole Entrance

We didn’t sleep much the night before, and then were out of bed at 5am to shower, dress, and head in to the Day Surgery wing at Northwest Hospital (aka “The Totem Pole Entrance”). You know how dark it is at 6am around this time of year? Darker than a coal miner’s lunchpail. And it was raining. And we were tired. And grumpy. And scared. Dammit.

We checked Chris in and the staff was very kind and helpful. They walked us through signing away all our rights should anything go wrong (okay, not really, but lots of legalese was parsed and autographed), brought up the question of a living will (do we have to talk about that now??), and then sat to wait for Chris’ name to be called. They have this color coded system where you can track where your loved ones are in the surgical process. Just look up on a flat screen TV in the hallway to find their code number and doctor’s name, and to the side is a color code. They give you a little cheat sheet to reference where they are in the process, such as “Pre-Surgical Admitting” or “Procedure in Process”. They told me they would take Chris back to get him in his gown, get his IV going, and then I could come see him before they wheeled him into surgery.

At this point, we were still praying against all hope that the prognosis was not cancer. No one had called us in the last several days since the CT scan in Friday, and we figured no news is good news. I mean, if they confirmed it was cancer, they would contact you right away, RIGHT?

Day Surgery Unit

Not only have neither of us ever been through any significant health scare or surgery of our own, but my brother had some pretty dire turns of event in his pancreatitis over the weekend and half my heart and mind was carrying that burden as well. And did I mention we got up at friggin’ 5am?! So there I am, standing at my husband’s hospital bedside feeling very vulnerable. I had vowed I was not going to cry at all, as I wanted to be strong for Chris, who had far more reason to be scared than I did, after all! Up walks Dr. Desai, Chris’ urologist and surgeon. This is the first time I am actually meeting the man. He shakes Chris’ hand, shakes my hand, and then without any preamble or even a dose of empathetic tone in his voice, says very matter-of-factly, “So the CT scan confirms that it is cancer, and it has spread somewhat into the abdomen. So we will remove the testicle today and the next step will be chemotherapy or radiation. It will be a tough hill to climb, but this type of cancer is highly treatable. I will refer you to an oncologist and…”

Oh hell, I am not sure that any of this is really accurate. All I heard was “So the CT scan confirms that it is cancer, and it has spread somewhat into the abdomen.” Everything after that is kind of a vague jumble of words and ideas, and the realization that I was not going to be able to hold back my tears I was so desperately trying to spare Chris from having to see before he was wheeled away from me. I rubbed his hand and tried not to look at him with pitiful eyes. I mean, who wants that shit just before surgery?! And I was SO FURIOUS at the doctor for deciding this was the best time and best way to deliver this news. I appreciate that he didn’t want to make the diagnosis sound like the sword of Domocles, but I am pretty sure there is a grey area between “OMGYOUAREGOINGTOSUFFER” and “This ain’t no thang” which would better address the emotional climate of such a moment.

I kissed Chris a few more times and rubbed his hand and my weepy eyes, and off he goes. I settled into the waiting room for a few hour wait. His surgery began at 7:30am, and I wouldn’t likely see him until after 10am. I am glad that our friend Heidi had just introduced me to Draw Something, so my iPad became a great source of escapism for the intervening hours. I watched the sun rise outside the windows, and never once checked their fancy patient tracking system. I just waited.

Dr. Desai

Dr. Desai came out to talk to me as soon as the procedure was complete. Everything went smoothly, and Chris was in the Recovery Room for nearly another hour coming out of anesthesia. Dr. Desai reiterated again that there would be a “tough hill to climb” ahead with treatments, but that testicular cancer has a particularly high survivability rate, and all would be okay in the end. I tried not to hit him.

I sent a mail to family and friends shortly after my post-op chat with Dr. Desai:

“Hello loved ones

Just wanted to fill you in on Chris’ condition. He is out of surgery at this point and in recovery. Just starting to gain consciousness and I will get to see him soon.

The surgery went fine. Though just before they wheeled him in to surgery, the doctor let us know that test results indicate he does have further tumor growth in his lymph nodes/abdomen, confirming it is cancer. That was a very uncool thing to hear then and there, and I couldn’t help but cry which I hated just as they were wheeling him away. But I wanted the results as soon as possible…I guess be careful what you wish for.

The doctor says it will be a difficult uphill battle for a time. He has expedited Chris’ biopsy testing, and scheduled him for an oncologist this Friday. The biopsy results will tell us which kind of cancer it is– one kind will require chemo, the other will require radiation. We should know on Friday and have a plan of attack for the road ahead.

The good news is that he is young and healthy so he will weather the treatments he will have to undergo. The other good news is that this form of cancer is one of the most treatable and survivable. So we have those things going for us. We have good doctors, good insurance, a good job and supportive boss, and of course we have the love and support of our family– both blood family and the family of friends we have been blessed to have in our life. Your prayers/good energy now and in the months to come will be most welcome.

And he will have a wicked scar to boot. 😉

Just wanted to give you the latest info, as I know many of you were waiting to hear. Thanks for your love and support this week.

Much love,
Shay”

Later they wheeled him right past the doorway on the way tot he Day Surgery Unit–kind of a post-recovery-room recovery room–and picked me up on the way. He got his first food and drink since midnight the night before (toast and apple juice) and they kept track of his blood pressure and such to make sure he was coming out of everything alright. He was very groggy and very very sore. The incision was 4″ long, right on his hip (Post-script-see the name of this blog, which was inspired by said incision). So every move–sitting up or down, walking, twisting–was a source of pain. Gently I got him home by about noon, where I sent another update:

“Hello everyone,

Just wanted to let you know the Chris is doing fine and we are home. He’s got one nasty scar as promised, and is still a little woozy from the anesthesia, but we are home with a pack of pain meds and resting up.

As I think I mentioned before, we will know more on Friday when we meet with the oncologist as to what the next steps will be. Your continued positive energy is so appreciated.

Chris will be resting all day today, and will be recuperating the rest of the week and working from home. I am sure he would enjoy a mail or a phone call from any of you. He may not pick up the phone (sleeping/resting), but just knowing you reached out brings smiles. 🙂

Thanks for your love everyone,
S”

Chris was texting some friends before we left the hospital for home, and mentioned he had a nasty incision. One friend said he didn’t want to see any pictures. I was defiant… You’re welcome, James.