The following Monday I met with my anaesthetist. You would imagine it would be the usual height, weight and standard questionnaire but instead, it was another lesson on the functionality of my tumour and how we need to prepare for surgery. With 10x too much adrenaline being released from this Pheo, there are certain precautions that must be taken. Mainly, for me to take alpha blockers for the week prior to the op to adequately ‘block’ the effects of excess adrenaline secretion and therefore avoid dangerous swings In blood pressure during surgery. This relaxes the constricted blood vessels but speeds the heart rate, so in turn a few days before surgery beta blockers are then introduced to fix that problem. He tells me that during the op he will have a number of upper and downer lines going into me that he will have to adjust constantly in order to keep my blood pressure at a steady rate, even whilst the Pheo is being manipulated and squeezed. I’m not a classic case for a Pheo though, being mainly asymptomatic these days with uncharacteristic low blood pressure. He tells me it will take a while to know what is ‘normal’ for me, so he can identify if I’m misbehaving….therefore he will need to see me a few times prior to the op to take blood pressure readings etc. I listen attentively, the shock of the past few weeks fading as my former assertive self steps back in. I’m so intent on getting this alien out now, and I’m fascinated by the balancing act this man will have to perform in order to keep me safe. I imagine him almost needing to ‘play’ me, like an instrument. I feel very lucky to have such competent professionals dealing with me.
So off I go, tablets in hand. Because of my low blood pressure, he warns me that it’s not going to be a fun week: the meds will make me feel weak, dizzy and possibly quite unwell. But there’s no way around it – no blocking, no op. No blocking, no alien resection. Not entirely true, I would have to wait another week…..but I’m just about sick of waiting and want this thing gone ASAP. Waiting is not an option.
Back to another challenging week at work, punctuated with appointments for more blood tests and scans. Another hideous breath-holding MRI to check my whole body for any spread of tumours. A chest CT to look closely at my lungs – where the tumour is growing into the blood flow of my vena cava, the surgeon is concerned there might be some spread into my lungs. An echocardiogram to check my heart functionality with all this adrenaline pumping around my body.
Thursday comes around and my lovely Dad arrives…..flown in all the way from Spain to be with me. It was supposed to be a surprise but James ended up telling me as a boost when I was feeling low the week before. Just knowing he would be here made such a difference on my mindset. The spokesman for my family and my connection to home at a time when you feel so far from home. My second rock, along with James. I get home from work that Thursday and there he is nodding off on the couch, tired from his long journey. He wraps his familiar arms around me into a hug I will remember forever….like he might be able to hug away all my fears.
By the time Friday came around, the meds were making me feel more than a little ropey, so I took the day off work, resigned to the fact that this would be it now until I’m fully better.
Admission into hospital was Sunday, so me and my two bodyguards trooped off to the hospital in the late afternoon. Sitting in the back seat looking out of the window, my Dad and James chatting in the front, I looked up at the Spring blossoms and new leaves growing on the trees. They looked beautiful.
The nurse takes my height and weight and shows us to my room. Then she gets her BP machine out and looks alarmed when she sees how low my BP is. My Dad, now an expert on this, almost cheers as he sees it – he knows, of course, that the lower it is, the better. My anaesthetist arrives and repeats the process and instead of looking alarmed, he gives me the nod – I’m blocked and safe to proceed – alien resection is go.
After a quick bite to eat out with Dad and James (feeling like an escaped patient with my hospital tag on my wrist)….they go home and I get ready for bed on my own in that little room. Suddenly I feel lonely and afraid….and a little bit lost. I remember sitting on that bed and wondering how the hell I had got here. The stress of the last few weeks hit me and I feel overwhelmed. Is this really me? Is this really happening? That familiar feeling of being on the outside looking in creeps in. I wouldn’t have been surprised at any point in this whole sorry tale to wake up with a start in bed at home and realise it was all just a bad dream. Then the nurse bustles in, breaking my mourning feel-sorry-for-me moment…..and tells me all about coughing pillows. I really don’t know what she’s going on about and can’t focus enough to listen. Probably a good thing, because I’d learn all about them and the hideous pain related to them soon enough. She gives me a sleeping pill and I drift off into a troubled sleep.
The next morning the nurse wakes me. I shower with a special disinfectant scrub and get into a hospital gown. All of a sudden time speeds up and everything’s a-fluster. It’s all machines, checks, anaesthetist and surgeon visits….’ready?’…..as I’ll ever be. Then it’s a sombre silence – just me and Dad and James in that little room waiting for what seems like an eternity whilst they prep the theatre.
Soon enough, another nurse comes in…..I haven’t met her before, dressed in theatre scrubs and telling me in a reassuring tone that she will be the main assisting nurse during the procedure. At this point I thought I would have to say goodbye to my Dad and James……tears already starting to warm my eyes. But then she tells us they can come all the way up to theatre to say bye. Amazing! I love kiwis. This would never happen in the UK.
Wheeling me up on my bed, I look fondly at my Dad and James walking behind me…..my two bodyguards. These two amazing men would help me get through this nightmare that’s about to begin. I start to feel emotion kick in…..and a whole heap of anxiety. Double doors flip open and there’s my anaesthetist, who I feel like I know pretty well now. I hate to admit it…..but when I kiss James and Dad goodbye and the involuntary globby tears start to roll out (I had held it together pretty well to this point), I actually wonder if this is it. This might very well be my last moment of consciousness. I have never had such a heavy heart. Staring my mortality in the face, I have a feeling inside me that words just can’t possibly describe.
My anaesthetist gently takes my hand and tells me I’ll feel a scratch…..then I’ll begin to feel a little sleepy. That’s the last thing I remember.