I was blessed that my cancer was found early
(Germantown, MD, USA)
I went on an 8 mile strenuous hike at sugarloaf mountain in Maryland a couple days before my routine endoscopy and colonoscopy and felt great. My GI doctor told me after my procedures that the endoscopy detected a rock hard angry ulcer that I need to get removed soon. He had already placed a call to a surgeon and wanted me to setup an appointment with him ASAP. I knew instantly what it was, my wife and son didn’t pickup that he was talking cancer. I was able to see the surgeon a few days later and had a couple more tests EUS and CT scan that confirmed it was cancer of the duodenum in the third section. This is extremely rare. The additional test results looked like it hadn’t spread but there’s no guarantees until they get in there.
My wife and I went back to the doctors office to discuss a plan of action. I asked if it was an out patient operation. The doctor looked at me like I was crazy and now I know why. The doctor drew a picture of the operation and it was more than a little overwhelming. He asked if we wanted to think about it but in my mind there were no other options. I said no sign me up and let’s go.
I read up on the surgery and what people went through so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.
We arrived the day of the surgery at 5:00am. I really wasn’t scared. I have strong Christian faith and trusted God. We prayed with the surgical team before they wheeled me away and that’s the last thing I remember.
I woke up to a guy playing a fiddle and wasn’t sure if I was really alive. It’s true another guy had just had surgery and was also in a large recover room and it was his son playing a violin. I was relieved to see my wife and brother. The doctor said the surgery went great and I’d be fine.
The initial pain was so bad I could barely keep my eyes open. I was medicated and it still felt like a tractor trailer ran me over and the pain was constant for the next 3 days. I was up and walking the hall the next day and I thought I’m never going to get better but I did recover a little bit every day. I really learned to be patient and not push it. After a couple days I developed complications fistulas (leaks). These are common and I was told it was a possibility. Because of the leaks I couldn’t eat or drink anything for 8 weeks. All food through IVs. After 2 1/2 weeks I got to go home and it took about 2 full months to where I could get around and feel about 75%. Sleeping in your own bed and being at home makes recovery go a lot better.
It was a good 4 months before I was totally pain free. I had 4 surgical drains that were left in for 8 weeks and these were extremely painful every time I moved. At first I didn’t get digestive enzymes (Creon) but eventually I did and they really help. I'm at 6 months since surgery and totally pain free and my blood results are back to pre surgery levels. Faith in God, positive attitude and a loving family made my recovery successful. Bottom line it’s major surgery and it will take time to recover.
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