Surgery at last - Total Groin Dissection

On June 6th, 2008 i was finally having my surgery. I'd been told that I'd have quite a large scar and that it was quite likely i would get a condition called Lymphodema, basically swelling in the leg because the 'drainage' is being taken away. I don't know if i didn't take the information in properly because i just wanted to get those cancerous lymph nodes out of my body or it wasn't explained seriously enough but i definitely knew all about the swelling later.

My Kauri stump after the infection.
The black marker pen shows how far down
the infection was going
After surgery, back in my room, i woke up groggy and in a lot of pain. The pain medication i was receiving was dulling the pain but not completely getting rid of it but i wasn't too worried because it was early days and i thought I'd feel better the next day. Well the next day was worse and i got the first real glimpse of my leg which now resembled a Kauri Tree! It was huge! It was three times larger than my other leg and the scar...I'll give him quite large! The bloody thing went from my inner thigh to my hip bone! Holy shit it looked like I'd done a round with Jaws. There were two drains coming out from below the wound itself helping to drain excess fluid away and a tubigrip support bandage from my toes to my groin as well but most of all i could not get over the pain. I couldn't actually feel the surface of my thigh but beneath that was excruciating. Every time i moved the shooting pain was unbearable and when i needed to go to the toilet...i cried and cried. I'd have to make my way to the toilet before i actually needed to go because it took so long to get out of the bed. I'd have to get a nurse to hold the leg as i shuffled to the edge of the bed and then slowly we'd turn and she'd lower the leg to the ground. Then as i would stand up a sharp pain would shoot through my groin and down my thigh which was so bad i would end up wetting myself because i couldn't focus on the pain and the bladder at the same time. It was awful. Walking itself was a mission too. The leg weighed a tone and with the nerve pain and pulling pain i couldn't lift my foot off the ground so i found myself shuffling and dragging the bad leg. Thinking back to that now still makes me shudder. The doctors would come round in the morning, have a look, discuss my case, ask how i was and go again so i guessed it was normal. I hadn't seen Dr Andy since the surgery at all so i guess his job was done. One doctor, an American or Canadian chap, who was always so happy and chatty came flying into my room one day and said to me

"you're a 5%'er"

I looked at him with a puzzled look on my face but smiled until he said,

"only 5% of people that have their mole removed more than 13 years previously, have a recurrence" then he chuckled and walked off.

I tell you now, if i could have got off that bed i would have chased that happy chappy down the corridor and thumped him. I didn't want to be his exciting 5% case study. Tosser! I just wanted to know that the cancer was gone and for the pain to ease.

So then came Friday. The morning discussion team had come round and told me there was no way i was going home because my drains were still draining too much fluid. I wasn't glad to be in hospital but i was still in so much pain i really didn't mind. Then an hour later in walks Dr Andy the surgeon.

"you're going home today"

I told him what the previous team had said about the drains and he said he was going to take them out anyway and send me home. I got the impression he needed the bed but i thought, well you're the doctor. So he had one of the nurses remove the drains, measure me up for a tighter support stocking instead of the tubigrip they'd been using previously, sorted me out with pain relief and phone numbers if i had any problems and sent me on my way.

Just over a week later i was back at John Radcliffe outpatients with a seroma on the inside of my thigh.  Basically its a fluid collection that can appear after surgery and is quite common. Mine was the size of a tennis ball and looked like i had a dropped bollocks. They syringed off the excess fluid and sent me on my way.

the infection coming to an end
Another week later I could smell a sweet odour everywhere i went. My wound wasn't leaking, i didn't have a seroma but i commented to mum how it smelled like gangrene. After working in a operating theatre i knew what this smelt like but i was feeling fine and in actual fact i was just starting to feel well again, aside from the obvious effects from the surgery. Then that night i woke up bursting to go to the toilet. As i got out of bed i noticed the temperature had dropped so i closed the bedroom window and got back into bed. An hour or so later i woke up freezing cold and shivering but just thought there must be a cold snap that night. I felt fine but to be on the safe side i took my temperature...37.8 'C. I'm normally floating around the 36.5 'C mark so i took some paracetamol and snuggled back down under the duvet. Thirty to forty minutes later i couldn't stand it any longer. I could have cried i was so cold so i got out of bed and put my big winter dressing gown on and socks and got back into bed to give the paracetamol a little bit longer to kick in and then all of a sudden that was it. I felt awful. i started sweating profusely but shivering at the same time and could feel myself getting strangely groggy and dosing off. I took my temperature again and now it was 39.7 'C. I woke Andy and told him to call the hospital but they just told him to call an ambulance to take me to A&E. As you probably guessed i had an infection. This lead to another week in the hospital on my birthday. Some I.V antibiotics and a couple of syringes of fluid out of the seroma and i was right as rain again. Apparently even though an infection is unpleasant it helps to bind the tissue around the wound and seroma preventing it from collecting fluid again. Wow! Isn't my body the clever one.

Six weeks later was my post op appointment. My leg was still huge and still painful but i had resigned myself to the fact that this was how it was going to be from now on so just get on with it. Andy and I walked into the appointment room and one of Dr Andy's registrars were there. She looked at the wound and the swelling and was happy with what she saw and was ready to let us go until i said

"i assume you got it all then?"

She gave us a strange look and asked if anyone had given me my results yet? Bearing in mind I'd seen her the week of my surgery, she was the one that drained the seroma and i saw her again when i was readmitted with the infection. I told her i hadn't and she tried looking them up on the computer then asked us to go back to the waiting room while she tracked them down. All i remember thinking was 'what a bloody circus'.

Half hour later we were being called back in but this time to a different room with a large desk and chairs. Behind the desk was the phantom Dr Andy who i hadn't seen since he released me after surgery. He proceeded to apologize that no one had discussed my results with me and said he was pleased to tell me that only 2 or 4 (i can't remember now) of the lymph nodes had been effected and that the cancer had not gone through to the lymph nodes. I looked at my Andy because i could feel a big but coming and there it was...

"BUT, the cancer has spread from the nodes into the surrounding tissue"

Whack!!! There it is again. That hypothetical 4x2 plank of wood hitting me round the head. All i heard was cancer spread! Dr Andy then proceeded to tell me what would happen next. Trial drugs, chemotherapy, radiotherapy...but all i heard was cancer spread!

My beautiful scar three months post op

1 comment:

  1. nice arse ;) lol....o lisa, you do know how to turn an aweful situation in to a right laugh...i love you for it :) xx