The Surgeon

We had our appointment with the surgeon on Monday. That meant waiting the entire weekend until we knew more what was going on. After telling the kids it was time to start telling other people; family, friends, church.

One of the first people I called was my mother. I have to admit I have never been good about telling my parents things. There was also the fact my father had just died in December and we had the funeral the first weekend in February. We had a wonderful celebration of his life, but it was very hard to say goodbye. I had my own emotions about that to deal with plus my cancer and now I had to tell my mother. I did not know if either of us could handle it. I took the direct approach and the conversation went almost exactly like this:

“Hi mom, this is Steve. I have some news for you. I have colon cancer.”

How is that for easing in to the bad news? I certainly could have given her a little warning. Maybe start with the fact I had a colonoscopy. Then move in to the report came back with some bad news. They found a tumor and it does not look good.

We talked for a little bit. I asked her if she would have some support. The church had been good to her since Dad’s death and they would continue to be a source of support. She had good neighbors as well.

A few weeks later she would tell me my news kept her from dwelling on Dad so much. I guess that is a good thing. Nothing like a little cancer to get your mind off your troubles.

Monday came and we went to see the surgeon. What we had learned is he is supposed to be one of the best. Neighbors of ours, doctors, told us he was good. A friend had him take out her gall bladder and she really spoke highly of him.

He walked in and he seemed young. Not Doogie Howser young, but younger than me. At least his eyes were still good and his hands steady; but I wish he had a little more experience.

He shakes our hands and sits down. He opens the chart to review why we are there. Then he looks up and smiles. His first words to us were, “So, which one of you has been on the internet looking up colon cancer?”

One thing that is critical for doctors to do is connect with their patients. They have hundreds of patients and it is impossible to do 100% of the time. There are doctors who do not even try. But with those words he connected. We knew we were in good hands.

We asked questions. He drew pictures. We discussed the surgery, the recovery and post surgery treatment. We discussed percentages, he avoided direct answers. The surgery would be laparoscopic. There would be two small incisions on my belly through which he would rearrange my insides and bring the affected part of my colon to the center. There would be a small vertical incision on the lower part of my stomach through which they would pull out my colon. Then, just like a hose, they would cut out the part with the tumor and stitch the two ends together. Everything would go back in place and the colon and lymph nodes they removed would go to pathology. If the cancer penetrated my colon wall and affected any of the lymph nodes then I would have to have radiation and/or chemotherapy. If it did not penetrate the colon wall then there would be no further treatment.

When the conversation was over he asked to make sure he had answered all our questions at this point. He knew we would have more questions as time passed but he wanted to make sure he had addressed everything we needed to have addressed.

We left his office with all our questions answered and a date for surgery, April 15.

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