In October/November 2011 I was diagnosed with Barrett's Oesophagus which, shortly after, changed to confirmation that there was a cancerous cell present within my oesophagus.
Following an attempt to get rid of the lump endescopically, it was decided that a course of chemotherapy would be required. After that it was proposed that a part of my oesophagus and stomach be removed.
Chemotherapy went fairly well, and I managed to work through the course. There were quite a few times where I felt tired, sick, etc, but my family and work commitments gave me the strength to carry on.
Towards the end of the chemotherapy my feet and hands started to turn red, then sore, then very sore. My feet felt very painful to walk on, and my hands gradually started to shed skin to the point where I could pull big pieces off in one go. Not the cleverest thing to do, as it hurt even more then, but I've always been one to do things like that.
Because of these side effects, the chemotherapy was halted a couple of weeks early; as it turned out, it hadn't done anything to the cancer anyway. I was booked into St James' Hospital, in Leeds, for surgery on the 2nd May 2012.
If my wife hadn't have gone with me, I would have been far more scared, but her presence made me feel that normality wasn't too far away, and the expected two weeks stay wouldn't be that hard.
The surgeon and his team were excellent, showing a level of care and concern that I hadn't expected; this too helped me as I got ready for the estimated 6 to 7 hour operation.
The main thing that I remember about the operation was the stockings, which I hate with a passion, and the sexy paper underwear; wow I must have looked hot!
I woke up very fuzzily on the High Dependency Unit (HDU), to be told that the operation had been completed. I had a nice button to press that shot an equally nice amount of morphine into my body for the pain, and I felt that things weren't going too bad.
A day or two later, following the normal HDU procedure of 2 hourly observations, the surgeon came to see me. Unfortunately there had been a leak, and the stomach and oesophagus that I had left were both infected. I was asked for, and my wife was asked for confirmation, permission to operate again immediately. As the option of not agreeing to the operation was the very great possibility that I would die, I didn't have much to think about. Within a couple of hours I was taken down for the second operation in the space of two or three days.
This time they kept me asleep for longer, and I woke up in intensive care; the only patient there at the time. The nurse was brilliant, and she spent time talking with me until my wife arrived.
The operation had been a success. All of my oesophagus, and all of my stomach had been removed. My favourite saying became 'I don't have the stomach for that.' Possibly not very funny, but I found it quite entertaining, and it was a way of trying to come to terms with the fact that I no longer had internal organs that I'd taken for granted for almost 50 years. When your tucking into a double cheeseburger and fries, who gives any thought to the fact that it might be something that you may not be able to do for a long time in the future?
I spent two weeks in HDU which, due to the fever and morphine, would make a story all on it's own. I had a further operation; a much simpler one designed to aid future reconstructive work. Following transfer on to Ward 82, and another fortnight of recuperation and learning how to operate the feeding apparatus that would provide sustenance for me in the future, I finally left hospital on 2nd June. Although I had received nothing but the highest standard of care, I was very emotional at the prospects of being able to return home.
It would take too much space to describe events in HDU, my feelings regarding my feed pipe, and the gunge that goes through it on a daily basis, as would the love/hate relationship that I have for the stoma bag attached to the hole that I have in my throat; kindly provided during one of my operations so that I could experience liquids.
As I write this, I'm trying to prepare myself mentally for what I hope will be my final operation in just over a week's time. Without wanting to appear melodramatic, or cowardly, I have to admit to being scared. I'm not afraid of the operation, I'm going to be asleep for the vast majority of it. It's more to do with being away from the comfort zone that is home; my wife, my two four year old sons. It's also to do with, what will life be like after the operation to reconstruct my stomach. I'd got used to being fed via my Jejunostomy tube. How will my new stomach affect me in the future?
Only time will tell!