Early morning March 1st, I was laying on the table in the operating room. It was about to start. I was having the surgery, finally, and this would be a major turning point in my life. More than just about anything else including the cancer they were about to cut the remains of out of me. They were about to put the mask on me and I looked up into the light and said to God, "I know it's not my decision, but I'm not ready yet. I have a lot to do. It's not my time."
That's the last thing I remember; bargaining with God. Seconds later (to me) and eight and a half hours later I woke up to the rest of the world staring at the ceiling in excruciating pain, filled with tubes, covered in blankets, and with nurses all over me checking every inch of me for blood clots, open wounds, bleeding, and other things. The amount of activity around me was frantic and more scary than going into the OR. One of the nurses saw my eyes open and yelled "He's awake" then they swarmed on me. Dabbing my head to cool me down (didn't work). They took my blood pressure, repeatedly checked my chest, my heart, my eyes. I felt like I had just survived a car accident. Eventually, the activity slowed and they let me lay there. My wife was allowed into the room just to see me and say hi. I barely was able to communicate with a smile. It was 7:30pm. We had been at the hospital for 14 hours at that point. I was tired. I was uncomfortable. I was in pain, and I fell asleep.
That was just the start of the most miserable night of my life.
I woke up a few hours later gagging on dry air. I had oxygen in my nose, and I could breathe but my lips were completely cracked and dried and my throat was so dry it felt like it was detached. In my nose, a massive tube going down into my newly shrunken stomach, which is now located conveniently behind my lungs. Out of my back two more tubes going to drain catching fluid from my lungs. Out of my shoulder another bulb to catch blood from the incision that joined my stomach to the top of my throat. I also had the pleasure of a foley (a catheter) which, my friends, I can only say I do not recommend.
"Water..." I begged. "Please... Water..."
"We can't do that," the nurse said. "We can't give you water."
I started crying. "Please. I can't... I need water..."
She shook her head, wiped my forehead and came back with some ice chips and swabbed my lips. It was a wonderful gesture but it did very little. When the surgical team came by to visit, I groveled for water. "We can't, sir. Not yet. Soon." "How soon is soon?" I asked.
"A few days. Depends."
"NO!" I yelled, although yelling is very generous considering what came out sounded more like shoveling gravel into a metal bucket. I had no voice and I could not fight. I started crying, closed my eyes and fell asleep again. A few hours later, I was awakened by a lot of commotion, only to find out everyone from that recovery room was being moved to another one.
Then, a few hours after that I was moved into Step Down Room 7127, where I would spend the next 10 days.
I will spare you the gory details and crazy things that happened. How I didn't get any kind of water until Wednesday (after having surgery on the previous Friday), how I didn't get more than 4 hours of sleep total over the course of 10 days, how I managed to pull that tube out of my nose in the middle of the night (partially accidentally, partially with an amount of courage most people admitted they wouldn't have) a few days later, how my chest drain leaked nearly every single night, how I ended up with a bed rash that's still plaguing me, how I spent most of my time in the hospital with a non-functional right shoulder, and how after all that and all that mountain climbing, the physical therapist, on Friday, told me "I'm discharging you from physical therapy because there's really nothing left for us to work on." I had, after all that insanity, managed to get back on my feet, without a walker, faster than I was scheduled to.
In the early afternoon on Sunday, I signed my discharge papers and walked (yes, walked) out of the hospital into my wife's car and came home.
Guys, this is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Recovering from this surgery is kicking my ass, and every day I feel crushed and defeated until I stop and asses the improvements over yesterday, and there are some of those every day. I have to keep those in focus because if I don't, the way I feel right now would break me. I feel weak, achy, and tired. I'm about 60% of what I feel like I should be, but things are just too hard for me to do. Simple things like kneeling down to get something out of a closet, or carrying a roll of filament to my 3D printer have resulted in me almost falling. Getting out of bed every morning is a challenge. Not the desire, the physical action of it. Make no mistake, I'm back. I'm not 100%, but I'm here, and either my plea to God before I went under found favor, or He didn't think it was my time but for whatever reason, as of what I know right now... I may be getting my ass kicked but the cancer is gone and the reboot of my life has gotten underway. I have to re-learn how to eat, how to sleep, and so on. A lot of changes are going to be necessary now.
And I'm ready for it. I may be battle-scarred, but I'm not a casualty. That's just not how I roll.