Surgery No. 2 — it finally happens

Here’s another surgery-day timeline report. We took a vote and it was unanimous — no more surgeries, please!

So we fully expect this to be the last post that chronicles a day for cancer surgery.

Before you begin, I will offer this quick spoiler: It went very well.

8 a.m.: Our day starts at the lab. Jenny must take a pregnancy test. If this comes up positive, there will be an interesting discussion that follows.

8:15 a.m.: We stop by the Mays Clinic Pharmacy to pick up more antibiotics that Jenny will stay on after surgery.

8:30 a.m.: Jenny visits to the Infusion Therapy clinic where they usually administer chemo. She’s here to have them put a new dressing on her PICC line. The dressings we’ve been using are irritating her, and the Infusion Therapy nurses have special dressings and soap that are easier on her skin. We are on schedule to report to surgery at 10 a.m.

9 a.m.: We join Bill and Linda, Jenny’s parents, for breakfast at the cafeteria at the Mays Clinic. Jenny can’t eat, but she seems surprisingly unfazed by the smell of bacon. We all silently wonder if the stress has become too much for her.

The Billy Vessels statue near Owen Field.

9:45 a.m.: We take the golf-cart shuttle across the long bridge to the main building, where Jenny’s surgery is this time. A nice gentleman strikes up a conversation about Oklahoma with Bill and Linda about his time at the University of Oklahoma in the ’50s and the house he still owns in Medicine Park. The gentleman’s wife is at MD Anderson for treatment. During the conversation, he couldn’t remember the name of the great Heisman-winning player who was his student-teacher. I knew who it was — that’s Billy Vessels. That allows with me to share with Jenny how I once interviewed Billy Vessels over the phone while working for the Oklahoma Daily in college. She was not as fascinated by that story as Bill was in the waiting area later.

10 a.m.: We arrive at surgery on the fifth floor of the main building. In November, Jenny’s surgery was at the Mays Clinic. This time, it’s in the main building. I don’t like not knowing what to expect. The pre-surgical process is quite different over here.

Dr. Sarah Gainer

10:30 a.m.: Jenny gets called back. She has a bed. I go back with her. We see Dr. Sarah Gainer briefly. She checks out Jenny and is happy with the look of the skin where we were fighting the infection. That’s a relief to me (and to Jenny, as well, I think). We’ve made a point not to look too closely or really even discuss the infection much for fear that it will come back. But Dr. Gainer says we’re cleared to go forward. I leave the area as Jenny waits. Bill and Linda take turns visiting with Jenny.

Jenny awaiting surgery. She took off the surgical hat to pose properly for this photo.

11 a.m.: I go back to the bed where Jenny is waiting. The anesthesiologist is there. He has already given Jenny a shot to make her loopy. She seems fine, but I know she won’t remember this part. She still has her phone in her hand and she has Facebook open — and she’s typing. Here’s a new rule: never Facebook while under anesthesia.

11:11 a.m.: There she goes. The anesthesiologist starts to wheel her back. Apparently, he doesn’t have a nurse to help him. I get a kiss (from Jenny) — and I get the phone, too (no more Facebook). Bill, Linda and I go to wait on the third floor. And then I get a warm, soggy Chick Fil-A sandwich under the heat lamp in the cafeteria. Why do they put pickles on those? Who really wants pickles on anything? They say it’s a three-hour surgery, so Bill, Linda and I have plenty of time to contemplate such questions.

We waited on the third floor, high above the main entrance for the main MD Anderson building. Notice the volunteer piano player. Much to my dismay, she did not play anything by Billy Joel.

Lunch observation: This place is huge. And there are multiple huge buildings. But it is really crowded. There are no available seats in the waiting room, and there is no room in the cafeteria. There are just a lot of people needing a lot of care. Thankfully, there is always a sense of camaraderie among the patients and families in the common areas and the halls. As Jenny mentioned in previous posts, we don’t talk a lot with others, but you can feel the common struggle. There’s very little crabby-ness in the crowded rooms with long waits. And there’s plenty of reason for people to be plenty crabby.

Lunch observation No. 2: I’m very confident today. And Jenny wasn’t even nervous this time. We’ve been through this before, but it’s still odd how matter-of-fact this trip has been. I also know there’s something to this prayer thing. We’ve received lots of them and can tell people are thinking about us. We’ve received lots of great gestures, amazing gifts and words of encouragement from all over the world from such a wide variety of people in our lives — both past and present.  I’ve written this before, but ‘lifted up‘ is the only way to describe how we feel at times during this journey. Cancer is life-changing, sure, but the journey has helped change the way I see the world.

The pillow pet of prayers made the trip, and it has a ‘Team Jenny’ bracelet with it.

1:35 p.m.: Dr. Gainer finds me in the waiting area. The surgery is over, and she reports that everything is good. The lymph nodes on that side have been removed. Jenny is being moved to recovery now. I will get to see her soon. She will stay overnight and go home tomorrow. Dr. Gainer reports that they will get the pathology report by next week — hopefully by Tuesday, because we have appointments with Dr. Gainer (breast surgeon), Dr. Kronowitz (plastic surgeon), Dr. Stauder (radiation oncologist) and Dr. Moulder (oncologist) to discuss the pathology and the next steps. Yes — that’s a lot of doctors. But we think our trips to Houston will be much, much less frequent after next week.

2:35 p.m.: I go to bother the woman in charge in the waiting room. We’re actually stationed around the corner from the main waiting room area, but I know she knows where we are (she has a map). Unfortunately, though, unlike the previous surgery at the Mays Clinic, my hovering presence has no affect how quickly I get to see her. I guess I’ll just be patient.

2:45 p.m.: Maybe it actually worked. She’s back to tell me that I can go back to visit Jenny. She leads Linda and me to the recovery area and find Jenny resting. She’s not comfortable, but fairly coherent. The words she uses more than anything else in the next 30 minutes are, “It hurts.” After enough pain meds, though, her pain level is reduced. But with all the pain meds and nausea meds, Jenny is really tired and not up to entertaining us much. It between her many short naps, she is able to talk and joke quite a bit. We briefly discuss the Chick Fil-A pickles. I might be alone in my thought-process on the pickles.

4:15 p.m.: Dr. Gainer returns to the recovery room to see Jenny and explain more of the surgery and recovery to her. When she leaves, Jenny makes the frowny face and talks again about how much she likes Dr. Gainer. “It’s too bad that after next week, we won’t be seeing her anymore. She’s the best.

5:50 p.m.: We were all getting antsy, wanting out of the noisy recovery bed area. It’s hard to rest comfortably there. Finally, we are moved to her overnight room. By this time, Jenny is sleeping hard. She’s had more anti-nausea meds, which are apparently working well. She barely opens her eyes as they roll her down the hallways to her room. When she gets to the room, we find out the nausea meds weren’t completely effective — and that complicates the evening a bit.

7:10 p.m.: Jenny now wants to eat. It’s been more than 24 hours since she had a meal. But they have her on a restricted diet because of her recurring nausea. This does not make her happy. So it’s chicken broth for dinner tonight, it looks like. After a couple hours, I predict Jenny will wear the nurse down and get a grilled cheese sandwich. We’ll see. All I know is that tomorrow morning, she’s getting bacon, egg and cheese breakfast taco — even if I have to sneak it in.

But for the rest of the night, it’s going be a lot of this:

Jenny resting in her room.


22 thoughts on “Surgery No. 2 — it finally happens

  1. I’m so glad you are done with your last surgery! I’m believing and praying that this is absolutely the last one! I’m also praying that you do not have ANY complications. I’m so glad that you can start the actual treatment very soon. Alan, I don’t know what your big problem is with pickles. I even ate 2 as a ‘side dish’ with my lunch the other day. 🙂

  2. First of all, I’m so glad things went well! Secondly, pickles are amazing 🙂 Prayers for a good night’s rest and safe travels home. #TeamJenny

  3. 1) Leave my chicken sandwich pickles out of it.
    2) I would have played Billy Joel for you all.
    3) Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Jenny. She’s rocking this.

  4. I like sweet pickles but not dill ones. Chick-Fil-A sandwiches are especially difficult – pickles must never touch the bun or it is ruined!

    Anyway – so happy this part is over. Hugs to you all!

  5. Please confirm she received her breakfast taco! Alan, what do you have against pickles? Hugs to JenJen! (and you too Pickle Hater…).

  6. The faith and sense of humor that Jenny and you have held throughout this process is admirable, Alan. Hoping this new day finds Jenny feeling less pain and ready to be on to the next step. Prayers continue for her and all who love her and give her the moral support she needs.

    P.S. I’m with you: Chick-fil-A pickles are definitely yucky!

  7. You guys are an inspiration. Thanks for the updates. And Al – you’re way off on the pickles. Next time we see you guys we’ll bring a pickle tray and chili w beans…

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