November 26th, 2012
| Survivor: Colon and Rectal Cancer
You're not the first person to be diagnosed, to go through the treatments, or to live with cancer. In this month's column, Myles Beskind talks about the hilarity of going under the knife.
Modern Western medicine has any number of ways of dealing with maladies, with treatments like drugs and radiation. But sometimes the best answer is to cut out what ails you. Fortunately, we have surgeons for that.
Cut Me, Mick
For those of us with cancer, surgery ranges from simple, in-office procedures to remove something relatively easy to snatch, to complex procedures where whole organs are taken out. Here's what they have in common:
Anesthesia - Chances are you're going to la-la-land for this one. A doctor you've never met before will come up to you in the prep room and introduce themselves as the person who stands between you and a scene from a bad horror movie in which the patient wakes up during surgery. Do not insult this person. Compliment them on their choice of scrubs.
Sharp Objects - Scalpels are of course commonly used, but thanks to advances in minimally invasive techniques, sometimes the tools of choice make only tiny little holes. I had 13 inches of colon removed through a 1.5 inch hole in my belly button, which to me is like putting a ship in a bottle, only in reverse.
Fear - You are probably going to have a nagging fear of not waking up from surgery. While this is only natural, it probably makes more sense to fear waking up. Don't get me wrong: not waking up is bad. But waking up may involve pain, nausea, or the realization that they did something horrible to the wrong part of your body.
That last one leads me to a point. If your surgeon hasn't marked where he or she is planning to cut before the procedure, do it yourself, especially if the area in question is something that appears in your body symmetrically, like a limb, testicle, or breast. A big circle or a label saying THIS ONE with an arrow can certainly save everyone a lot of trouble.
A Little Help From Your Friends
When my daughter was 3 or 4, we read a book called Goodbye Tonsils, which explained in terms she could understand, what it was like to get a tonsillectomy. My favorite part was the night before the procedure when the little girl's family got her a cake that read Goodbye Tonsils. We did the same thing for my partial colectomy, only we told the baker it was a going away present for a friend named Colon. The moral of the story - celebrate that part you're about to lose. Send it off in style!
You know how all those people said, "Let me know what I can do to help"? Well, here's their chance. Depending on the surgery, chances are you're going to need a few days or weeks before you can do some basic things on your own. Grocery shopping, kid schlepping, laundry laundering - these are all things that somebody else can help you do, so let them!
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