So the big day finally came, July 7, 2008. I spent a very fitful night the night before of course, brain spinning on all of the “what ifs” and “what have I forgotten” things. We had our plan for the kids, We had everything worked out. We made it to the hospital right on time. Everything was running right on schedule and according to plan. For me, that’s always scary as nothing in my life ever seems to go according to plan, even though I try to plan everything to the best of my ability. I just don’t feel comfortable without a plan. It’s highly disconcerting to me.
After the parade of nurses and doctors and anesthesiologists each had come in to talk to me and each explained their portion of the operation, had me sign myriads of consent forms and other documents, started an IV in the back of my hand, I was ready to go. My wife snapped a pic of me waiting in the chair, awaiting my turn in the OR.
Finally my turn came, I kissed Kerry goodbye and was wheeled into the OR. Once on the operating table I only recall a few seconds and then I was gone. The surgery itself lasted nearly 3 hours.
On the right side on my neck there was one remaining lymph node that was over 2 cm in diameter that had extended itself outside the cancer capsule and attached itself to the vocal nerve. Dr. Hunt had to very delicately scrape away the invading cancer tissue from all sides of the exposed nerve to try and preserve it. He estimated that if left untouched, it definitely would have finished infiltrating the nerve and then my larynx within 3~4 weeks. He wasn’t even sure if I would be able to speak until I woke up, so nerve-wracking was that part of the surgery. (No pun intended there.)
On the left side of my neck there were 6 more cancerous lymph nodes, all of which were spreading outside of their capsules and invading the surrounding tissues in my neck. Again, not a good thing at all. Fortunately they weren’t close enough to the trachea on that side or they would have been on the vocal nerve on the left side as well.
Down behind my breastbone were 2 more cancerous lymph nodes of considerable size, also spreading to surrounding tissues. The surgeons went all the way down to my aorta to make sure they got everything out from behind there.
After sewing my new, wider incision back up and inserting a drain to catch the fluids to keep them from collecting, the surgery was complete and it was time to bring me back to earth for a nice gentle landing. Or so we thought.