|Before the surgery, July 2013.|
We knew we couldn't hold our breath while we waited to hear about the surgery, so we poured ourselves into our family and life. Madeline and I enjoyed summer and Jason worked hard at the job that he had taken time away from while on chemotherapy again for the last 6 months, and periodically for the last few years. A job he loved, being the detective at Grand Ledge Police Department. No matter what the outcome, we were looking forward to our future.
It was while Maddy and I were away at summer camp that Dr. Swisher called to discuss the surgery with Jason - a 6% mortality rate, a difficult recovery period, possibly more cancer found at the site - but also that he would do it, and that he, Dr. Swisher, would do it if he were in Jason's place. A good sign. A date was set. Plans were in motion.
Almost too quickly the time came for our travel back to Texas. Jason had to entirely complete chemotherapy, his third round, complete his Avastin, an infusion drug used in conjunction with the chemotherapy, and because he’d developed a blood clot months before, a plan was created for his blood thinning medicines. And I needed to get my classroom & students prepared for my absence. Our trust was again placed in the hands of our medical professionals, and our faith, well, it had to be.
Many of our friends and family came together to help us as well - an online fundraiser was created to aid us with travel, medical necessities, and what we never intended or knew would happen - for Jason to be off of work for many more months than the doctors thought would happen. From the start, it was suggested Jason would be off of work for about 6 weeks after the surgery. Given Jason's lengthy cancer history, his sick days were dried up. We were on unpaid time right off the bat and it was a scary prospect, especially with a seven year old at home. After four years of battling cancer, life was throwing us one heck of a curve-ball!
|After 1st lung surgery, 2011.|
Our time prior to the surgery in Houston actually started off quite nice, a mini vacation for just us two. Aside from Jason's diseased lung acting up, it hardly seemed like Jason was sick. Houston’s September heat bore down on us, but we still walked, caught local transportation to Downtown, and spent time that wasn't in the medical center on dates laughing and pretending life was normal, knowing that after this it would be spent recovering.
Less than a week later, Jason's mom and Aunt arrived for the surgery and we said our 'see you later's' to Jason in the hallway at MD Anderson and he was whisked off to the prepping area. I walked slowly back to that waiting room as if my own heart had been removed - my husband sent back to that cold, sterile surgical room without anyone that loved him gave me a sick feeling and sucked all the breath out of me. Every few hours a nurse came out to update us, volunteer services came out to give us coffee and snacks, and I took deep breaths every few hours as I considered what I’d say to people if he didn't make it through the surgery. It was a torturous 5 or 6 hours while the doctors rearranged the insides of my soul-mate who was again putting his life in the hands of a surgical team, in hopes to finally eradicate the cancer that had been holding him hostage for years.
The events that were actually taking place in that OR as we waited with baited breath in the family waiting room were very interesting, actually. Dr. Swisher, thoracic surgeon, was working his magic on Jason - he opened Jason through his back, stretched his rib cage open, removed a few ribs, then removed his lung, a delicate procedure to be sure, especially given the location of the left lung to his heart. The need to remove the pleura, the lining of the lung upon entering the chest cavity was determined to be essential, as the pleura was essentially "bad" tissue. Jason's lung was diseased, not helping his health in any way.
Dr. Baumann, the reconstructive surgeon, came in once the lung was out. His job was very important and very difficult. Dr. Baumann stretched Jason's back muscle, the latissimus muscle, to use in the reconstruction process. The lat muscle, they explained is used often in reconstructive surgeries - most often in breast reconstructions. In Jason's case it's use was and still is to cover the bronchus that had been cut when his lung was removed. For weeks, Jason needed to avoid large muscle movements, and stretch only slowly in order to not pull that flap off the bronchus. It is interesting to see and feel Jason’s scars and muscle movement after this surgery.
The moment Dr. Swisher came out in that waiting room and let us know he was done I felt a twinge better. When Dr. Baumann’s job was done & Jason was heading to recovery, I slipped into the bathroom & the tears came pouring out. There would be many hurdles in the next few days I knew, but he’d made it off the table.
|4th Birthday, Colon Surgery, 2009|
Jason has had a number of surgeries in the last years, major ones, too. This has been the biggest, the most dangerous, the farthest from home. I was thankful for family with me, but so many worries swirled in my brain - reasons to worry when your best friend, the love of your life, your soul mate, your one and only, the father of your child goes in for surgery - the "what ifs" took over my mind the days before as we prepared for surgery, we were inundated with doctors, procedures, paperwork, signature pages. When the “sign on the dotted line” page came, it was difficult, as it has been always, to consider the complications, advance directives, the possibility of death.
Like anybody, each time Jason goes under the knife, as morbid as it sounds, I have to think about what I'd tell Maddy if he doesn't come home with me, if that “and of course, there is the possibility of death,” complication does occur how would I tell her that Daddy is gone and what would we do without him? We've had numerous conversations with her to tell her Daddy’s cancer is back, Daddy will have another surgery, Daddy has to have chemotherapy again, radiation, and more recently we have to leave to go to Texas for surgery - you’d think I’d have something prepared. So, when that signature line comes up, that discussion rolls through my mind, and my future, my past, my life flashes before me, but each time, the discussion is different. The words just don’t stick, I can never seem to find the right ones.
I hope it’s a sign - a sign that it's a discussion I will never have and, as always, we look forward to a brighter future.