Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Undesired Adventure

November 29th, 2016, after a grueling two weeks at Foothills Hospital, Bill takes me home

Posting further about The Friendship Tour and any summer/autumn art adventures have been pre-empted by major surgery. Three weeks ago yesterday I had a tumour, along with the part of the colon it was in, removed along with a radical hysterectomy. Oh and they took my appendix as well.

In mid July my bowel movements became abnormal. Blood in my stool prompted the colonoscopy on September 19th. The scope couldn't get past the mass in my Sigmoid colon. A CT scan (October 6th) revealed a 4cm probable malignant growth. The pathology report was a month in coming back. Although the growth was in my colon its cells were from somewhere in my reproductive system. On 
October 25th, at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre (Foothills Hospital, Calgary) we met with an amazing team of women at gynaecology oncology - everyone but my surgeon. 

October 28th I was given November 15th as my surgery date - a date which is my mother's and my brother's birthday (both deceased). I met my surgeon, Dr. Glaze, ten minutes before my operation. In the OR she asked "Would you like a hand to hold?" I fell in love right there. She held my hand until i went to sleep. At the time of surgery my colon was so inflamed it couldn't be reattached to my rectum so I awoke with a stoma and an ostomy bag. This is temporary and will be surgically reversed in at a later date.

As if the surgery, with a general anesthetic, wasn't tough enough there were countless complications. I contracted pneumonia. My breathing was difficult and shallow so I was put on oxygen for a few days and was given two units of blood.   

A chest x-ray revealed a small clot in a lung. For that, and for six months, I'm daily self injecting Tinzaparin, a blood thinner.  

Fluids built up under the incision. Day five, most of the staples had to be removed to drain the fluid. There was no infection and the sutured fascia deep down in the wound was clean and intact. After that the incision, a great crevasse some 3" long x 1" across and 1" deep was dressed (unpacked and repacked) daily. I was most impressed that both Denise and Laura (Bill took a peek as well) witnessed hospital dressing changes without gaging, flinching or fainting. Since being home a home care nurse comes in daily to change the dressing. The wound will slowly heal from the inside out. 

Taking narcotics for a week gave me nightmares so I discontinued them and took only Tylenol extra strength as needed. During my hospital stay I had a total of three foley catheters. The last one was a constant irritant. As a result of the surgery my traumatized bladder (nerve end damage) rarely voids urine of its own volition. I have to self catheterize to fully drain it. This is called and in-and-out catheter. Although it may take a while I'm counting on my bladder returning to full function. 

When I'd been in hospital for nine nights Laura, with the nursing 14-month-old Everett, flew in from Manila for five days. That was the very best tonic, I really started to improve once I held our baby in my arms.

November 24th, Laura and Everett arrived from Manila

Bill and Denise visited every day. Larry and Avery came often. Hospital food is so abysmal that the family made and brought me delicious soups, breakfasts and suppers.

Most of my crazy kids at the end of my bed.  Missing are Adam and Amira

The final complication was a lump in my esophagus. The first throat scope couldn't get past this. I was given antibiotics and, for three days, was put on a clear fluid diet while the lump reduced. A smaller scope was used the second time. They were able to reach down into my stomach. The problem is simple but annoying - acid reflux. I've never had that before. I’m on a proton pump inhibitor to keep stomach acid from erupting up into my esophagus.  

We were told I'd be hospitalized for 5-7 nights but I spent a full two weeks in hospital. Once all the complications were under control I was ready to go home. The night before being discharged my surgeon came and sat on the side of my bed to deliver the pathology report to me and Bill. The cells of the tumour came from an ovary. Dr. Glaze said that she had got all the cancer out of me. I made her tell me that three times, she said it's “Gone, gone, gone.”  Even so she has recommended a round of chemo to prevent it from returning. This won’t commence until after Christmas.  

Without trying I lost ten pounds from June to surgery and a further seven in hospital. My energy levels are low and I tire easily but my appetite is good, I am eating larger meals which will no doubt fatten me up. For the first couple of days I confess to not caring if I lived or died but after enduring those I wasn't going to cave in. My relentless spirit was back and I'm committed to being completely healed.

Visiting out of the Lilliputian double room 

It was mid afternoon when we left the hospital under a clear blue Alberta sky when the mercury was at a happy plus 7º celsius. I wanted to get a hit of Christmas, to enjoy the decorations at Market Mall. On the short drive to the mall, like a dog with is head out the passenger window, I sucked in the fresh air. At the mall the big girls had borrowed a scooter so I could get around with ease.   

The mall wasn't busy and we enjoyed just touring the aisles, doing a little shopping
I'm not sure who enjoyed this more, me or Everett

Something I really wanted was to have the family photographed, not with Santa, but at his court ...

Look at all those happy faces

We've been home a week now which has made me and Bill feel so much better. Even though winter has struck with snow and frigid temperatures (yesterday's low was minus 27º celsius) we get out walking most days. Although my energy levels are low I can feel my strength returning; every day is better that the last.

The love and energy pouring in from everywhere can literally be felt. To everyone who paid hospital visits, sent healing vibes and prayers, cards and emails of support, gifts, flowers, and mountains of food we are incredibly grateful. Special thanks to the friends who sent in the amazing energy healer, Verna. She's coming to see me at home tomorrow. 

Onwards and upwards. I just know the next adventure will be a great deal more fun than this one!   



  1. Thank you for sharing your amazing journey - so proud of how you have been so positive - Wishing you continued progress back to health.

    1. Thank you Shirley for taking the time to read and for your kind words of support.

  2. I am beyond pleased to be able to read this now and see your progression. That first photo, in spite of the weight loss, shows the smiling (relentless) Alice I know and love. Onwards and upwards as you dance your way through the next part of the journey. Sending you love and all the energy in the Universe! xo

    1. I have only just today Feb. 6th) found all the comments on this and subsequent posts. Blogger changed where they put comments to be authorized. I wondered why no one had chimed in - you especially whom I can always count on. Many tanks my friend!

  3. Hi Alice, I just gathered from a Facebook post by Richard that you were in treatment for cancer, and came over to this blog to read your post. I am sending love and light to you - what a suddenly disruptive diagnosis and treatment! I am glad to hear your energy and zest for life is returning, for your family will be so glad to have you heal well, and have you back with your usual vitality. All the best to you this New Year - I hope treatment is not too difficult, and you are surrounded by friends and family support. I'll be thinking of you and wishing you well. Warmly, Barbara

    1. How nice of you to comment. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  4. Wonderful blog! Just came across it while searching for info on Saskatchewan River Crossing and the Fikowski family, whom I met as a (much) younger tradesperson from Red Deer doing work at The Crossing in 1995. I remember seeing your work at the gift shop, and it left an indelible impression on me. I have never been back there, but am considering it this year. Sending you the most positive energy I can muster during your recovery, and looking forward to seeing new work from you. Much love.

    1. How wonderful of you to find me here Tina. So nice of you to remember my work at The Crossing. It's been years since I supplied the The Crossing. It was a wonderful run and I did so enjoy Mike Fikowski!
      Many thanks for your words of support and positive energy.