Each time I went for my appointment with my surgeon, either my sister, Cathy, or my brother, Dan, and/or my angel, Judy accompanied me (Rule #2). One particular time, however, both Cathy and Judy went along with me to my appointment. It was during this trip, that Judy asked the surgeon, “Can marijuana help after surgery?”
The surgeon responded back, “Absolutely, by all means. But I can’t prescribe it, you have to get a doctor that can.”
That’s when my sister bolted out. “That’s not a problem. My brother was one of the biggest dealers in High School. He still has lots of connections.”
Right after this incident, Judy confided to me that she had watched as my face dropped, turned first to pale, and then to red. I was never so shocked and embarrassed in my life. Thanks, Sis.
Meanwhile moving on …
D-DAY June 5th, 2016 – Surgery
After three months of living on pins and needles the day finally arrived. Strangely I wasn’t scared, it was just another step, but a VERY huge step into the unknown, with a very long recovery.
My boys, Dane and Tyler, took me to Mercy- Scripps hospital in Hillcrest, San Diego and waited until I was in recovery.
After all the Been There, Done That, signing of Consent Forms, getting naked, putting on patient gowns, jabbing IVs into veins, a bit of assurance from the nurses, and a pep talk from the surgeon, I was wheeled into OR.
One of the last things I remember is asking the doctor, “Please, if possible, no colectomy pouch.” He nodded, “I will do my best.”
I added, “May God bless your skills” and then the lights disappeared.
Five hours later I woke up in La La Land. The first thing I saw was the IVs and glare. I looked down and there were Dane and Tyler. I smiled. I don’t remember my mom being there. I looked around. I was in a private room with a real big window that overlooked the A/C cluttered rooftops of the Hillcrest community. Sunshine was a blessing. My body reminded me of the Borg out of Star Trek except with no full-length wet suit. IVs in both arms, monitoring devices planted all over, and a bag to drain the fluids dangled at bedside.
My second smile, No colectomy pouch. Thank you God!
I also noticed my kids had on protected garments and all visitors had to wear them. I later learned, someone had mistakenly put on my health chart, which labeled me, a contaminated patient.
It was a blessing (Rule #5) that God works in mysterious ways. I had a private room all though my wonderful and very memorable visit. (Rule #3)
My surgeon had told me that my stay would be between 5-7 days.
About a day later he walked in and announced that the surgery had gone very well (Rule #5), but that he had found a THIRD tumor.
Oh great, Just what I needed, more challenges!
He added, “In a couple of days the results of the biopsy would determine what stage of cancer there was.”
After a few days, the long awaited biopsy report came in, my surgeon gave me the bad news. I had Stage 2 Colon cancer in my large intestine, Stage 3 in two of the tumors discovered in the CAT, and the other tumor found during surgery; the very beginning of Stage 4 cancer. My surgeon said, if I left this alone, I would have died in six months.
Unfortunately, the 5-7 day stay did not happen; complications or challenges started. Challenge One: My stomach lacked the ability to process fluids, so I started to get bloated. This prevented me from going to the bathroom, eating … and was about to experience one of the most uncomfortable procedures known to man.
Stomach Pumping or Gastric Suction: Nasogastric intubation is a procedure to insert a nasogastric (NG) tube into your nose or mouth down into your stomach. I had the nose procedure.
I procrastinated as long as I could and prayed I could go to the bathroom. Finally, I gave up. I guess this one wasn’t a “Gimme from God.” As my surgeon supervised, two young Asian nurses inserted the tube down my nose. I immediately puked. Again they tried, this time telling me to keep swallowing. (Nope, not going to comment on this. LOL). I closed my eyes, and each time I gulped this plastic tube inched its way down.
I gagged, puked, gagged, puke and puked again, filling up two bedpans of fluid.
Once the tube was inserted and connected to a bag, I was surprised at how much accumulated fluid and stomach product was extracted. For the next three days this was just another WordPress featured plugin (Webmaster humor) I had to deal with. (Rule #3)
Challenge #2: I failed. When I got the “okay” to start eating solid food, the first thing I craved was a BLT and avocado sandwich, which Cathy was so nice to get me. I guess this was her way of seeking forgiveness, for the marijuana comment to my surgeon. LOL! It looked great, and my mouth started to salivate seeing this monster of gastronomical delight. I sunk my teeth in, and immediately started gagging and only managed to have a couple of bites.
It tasted and smelled like old pungent restaurant oil they put in the recycling container out back, which was just the start of more challenges.
Surgery had cause my appetite to vanish. Worse yet, my taste buds had become severely disabled. They could no longer process flavor.
Everything, I tried to eat, tasted, oily, acidly, or metallic. My inability to eat forced me to endure an additional 6-days in the hospital. We all know hospital food tastes bad, but when Jello and apple juice causes you to gag, the concept of “flavor” acquires a whole new meaning. I lost weight fast, which raised a Red Flag to my surgeon.
Faced with what seemed a hopelessly depressing circumstance, I started to get agitated and restless – mostly based on my longing for the comforts of home.
One of the things one must do after surgery is exercise. This helps with getting the body’s internal organs working or to put it bluntly, restores your ability to go to the bathroom.
The first time Mother Nature called, “the nurses cheered as if I just score the winning touchdown. WOW!”
GETTING THE BODY FUNCTIONING
My workout consisted of grabbing a nurse to help me walk around the floor dragging a cart dangling with IVs and monitoring devices. The more times I could do this loop, the more it put a smile on my doctor’s face. It cracked me up because they had these milestones stenciled at each corner, 1/14 of a mile, 1/12 of a mile etc. Everything was going good, I managed to walk the loop twice daily for a few days, but lack of nutrition and the after effects of surgery started to take over. It then became a breath-taking challenge to walk around even once.
I think the doctor saw this, and knowing my desire to leave, gave me the okay, but ONLY under one major condition: I promise to eat, exercise, and put some weight on.
By now, I had lost over 70 pounds. My surgeon clearly put the fear of God in me, saying, “Kip, if you lose any more weight, I’ll put you back in the hospital.” I did not want to disappoint my surgeon, let alone God!
BACK AT HOME, LEARNING HOW TO EAT AND WALK AGAIN
My two angels were a blessings; it was almost like God meant it to be. Judy, who worked part-time in private hospice care, was quite knowledgeable on taking care of ill people. Toni watched her Dad go through chemo and later died. Both girls bent over backwards to fulfill my needs. Judy became my personal care giver. My sister, Debbie, would bring over fresh laid eggs from her chicken coop. And my mom and Cathy, would bring over assorted food and protein drinks. My brother, Dan, would stop by twice a week. Hell, I even got a call from my other brother, Jeff, who lives back east. I hadn’t talked to him in eight years.
I was scheduled for chemo six weeks after surgery. If I did not gain strength/weight, then chemo would be delayed.
JUST TWO “MORE” CHALLENGES
Both of these girls would dub the kitchen, KTZ or Kip’s Testing Zone. And for a few weeks they would put together very simple meals such as, boiled chicken, burger, bread, pasta, canned soups and turkey sandwich with no lettuce or tomato to see if I could eat it. I could not! I was essentially living off of protein drinks. Every time food touched my mouth, I started gagging and spit it out. So I started pinching my nose before each taste as a way of force feeding myself. One time Judy was feeding me plain old chicken broth, as soon as its flavor my lips, my mouth exploded in non-stop puking. She managed to grab the small bathroom trash container, and caught most of my vomit, but the rest splatter all over her. Sorry Judy.
I quickly learned any food that was fat free, artificial sweeteners or processed also created mucho havoc to my intestinal functions. Fruits and Vegetables were taboo. Just a ¼ inch slice of a pear or a chopped cube of tomato and I would be living in the bathroom for 12 hours. The thought of eight hours of sleep was only a dream. I averaged about five hours of sleep a night. The bathroom quickly became the room of priority.
On my third appointment to my oncologist, he was also very concern on my lack of eating, so he prescribed me Megestrol Acetate, a synthetic derivative of the naturally occurring steroid hormone, progesterone. Megestrol is used to treat loss of appetite and weight loss in people with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Megestrol is also used in the treatment of advanced breast cancer and endometrial cancer.
“Oh great, now I’m being treated for breast cancer and AIDs!” I joked to the oncologist. Russians are not known for their humor, but my sarcastic comment put a smile on his face.
He also prescribe Nystop Nystatin Topical Powder, an antifungal medication, often used to cool anal burn by eliminating fungus, which sometimes develops from extensive bowel movements and Proctosol HC 2.5, which is a prescription cream to stop the itching and pain. None of these medications helped much.
Getting back to Megestrol, the doctor said it would take two weeks for this to kick in.
Two weeks? I thought, By that time I would be a skeleton.
That’s when I asked him about marijuana (the munchies), and if that would help. He nodded, and gave the “okay” to use it.
So here I was at home looking at a bong filled with pot and a bottle of Megestrol next to it. I took about 3-4 hits off the bong and a swig of Megestrol and went to bed. Megestrol in the morning and a few hits off the bong (which also helped me sleep) at noon and in the early evening became my daily prescription.
A day I will never forget is when a week later Judy brought home some canned Campbell’s mushroom soup from the 99 cent store. “Lets try this,” she chuckled. “I got it on sale, two for one.”
By now, I was reluctant to try anything. I frowned when she placed a small bowl in front of me. Then we both sarcastically laughed when she also added the bathroom trash container next to the table, but this time it was lined with a plastic bag. She wasn’t going to clean up another mess. (Rule #3)
I dipped my spoon in, placed in in my mouth. I cocked my head–weird—swished the soup around in my mouth as if I was some wine connoisseur, and my eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. Damn, I could taste it! Next thing I knew, I powered down another can of the salty, creamy substance, but this time with oyster crackers. It was heaven and tasted better than any gourmet meal prepared by a 5-star chef.
From that day on I was putting on a pound a day. I gave a high-five to God after each meal.
My next big challenge was exercise. I was so weak that even the 20 steps to the bathroom or kitchen physically drained me of any stamina. The girls always asked me if I needed anything, like water, something to eat etc? I was beginning to feel like a worthless POS!
Not good. I had to jump start my body.
I was so beat up, I could not walk up the stairs to my office. My cell phone and couch become my office. I tried walking the 20 steps to the front gate. I’d get about ten steps and turn back. So Dan brought over his walker and cane; two re-hab items he had used when recovering from hip surgery. At first, just to get up and move the walker in place took me 20 minutes: ten minutes to catch my breath and another ten minutes to prepare myself mentally for the challenge. It took me a very exhausting week just to walk to the front sidewalk and back.
Tyler would come over every day at 7:30 a.m. to help me. Slowly, but at an antagonizing and very, no-gain-without-pain, pace, I was walking to the corner (two houses down). From there, my goal extended to half a block and back. Within three weeks I was walking ¼ mile with the walker. One day I grabbed the cane, and worked my way up to ½ mile. A few days later, I toss the cane aside, thinking, Screw this, I’m going for it!
After seven weeks, I was walking 1-2 miles each morning, gained 20 lbs and finally could walk up the stairs to my office. My doctors were pleased.
I was now ready to conquer six months of chemo. Oh well … this should be a barrel of laughs, but first, my experience with medical marijuana.
COLON CANCER ARTICLES
PART 1 – How I was diagnose and setting up the team of doctors
PART 2 – Removal of the Large Intestine – J-pouch
PART 3 – Marijuana and Colon Cancer
PART 4 – Chemo Treatments and Side Effects