A post-op debrief

I'm writing tonight from the basement suite, as we've just left Davis at the hospital. He's in ICU overnight tonight so we're both "home" tonight for a decent sleep.

We left him as he had just fallen back asleep again after being awake for a little while. He's been mostly asleep since noon, waking up for the briefest of seconds every so often, to look around, try to figure things out, then close his eyes again.

Except, that is, when Suzanne came back after taking some time away this afternoon. It was intriguing to watch Davis respond to her voice, staying awake longer when she was talking to him, and interacting more, talking a tiny bit and wanting her to pick him up.

Everyone knows the bond between mother and child is unique and amazing; I saw great affirmation of that again tonight. What a beautiful sight to behold.

He's in ICU tonight, but he's very stable, lest you automatically think ICU = "critical condition". He's certainly not going to be running around for a while, but he's doing well for a kid who just had his insides rearranged for 4 hours this morning.

This morning certainly did come early for all of us. We checked in dutifully at 6:30, suspecting that was the hospital's way of ensuring we'd be there by around 7:00, and sure enough, we had a good 20 min of work to do amidst the other hour or so of waiting until the 7:45 start time.

I dropped him off in the OR as I've done before -- and 2 things astound me about the OR (besides all the machines and the general feeling of awe in a place like that): how fast the anastheic takes hold in a little one with a central line in his chest, and the fact that they blow bubbles in the OR to keep him entertained until the anasthetic is injected and he drifts off to sleep. I mean, really - all we hear of ORs is how sterile they have to be, and here they put him to sleep with remnants of bubble on his eyebrow.

To be fair, bubbles are made of soap solution, but still, it's an odd experience seeing a nurse blow bubbles right next to the operating table.

The liver specialist they brought in to monitor and assist was a bit delayed in getting there, so after dropping Davis off at 7:45, the surgery didn't actually start until almost 9:00. Suzanne and I headed out for a few hours to have breakfast and head up to the top of Queen Elizabeth park (a fascinating mountain park right in the middle of the city) for a bit before going back about noon to wait for the end of the surgery.

Davis' surgeon came out just before 12:30 to greet us with a smile on his face: the expression everyone waiting for the ending of a surgery wants to see. He told us things went very well and he was happy with the results.

So they did take the right lobe of his liver, as planned, and with it all of the tumour mass. They sent pieces of it off for analysis as they went, and all the samples came back with no active cancer. Yesterday he had said it could be possible that the lit-up areas of the PET scan could be due to inflammation rather than active cancer cells, and it seems like that may be the case. We may get more details in the days ahead, but in any case, they got all the tumour.

They also took a tiny little spot that was just outside the main tumour, attached to his diaphragm, that was also lit up on the PET scan. That required a very small part of the diaphragm to be cut out, but they were able to repair it without a patch - just sewing it up.

One possible concern was blood loss, as they were essentially taking half the liver out; they told us prior that there was a high probability they would need to transfuse and give him blood. But he said there was minimal loss and they didn't need to transfuse. His hemoglobin levels actually stayed above 90, which is higher than much of his time during his first couple months of chemo.

So all in all, the surgery was definitely successful, from what we can tell at the moment. So now it's just the small matter of recovery. 

The incision was large, an L-shaped one down the center of his stomach and then over to the right side. So that will obviously take some time to heal, and will be the source of some pain. But that's another place where medical technology is amazing. They gave him an epidural, just like many women who are heading into labour (Suzanne's had 4, so she was all, "oh yeah, that's no big deal". Ok, to me poking a needle into the spinal fluid with the risk of nerve damage is at least a bit of a deal, but I defer to the one who knows from experience.).

And it's worked so wonderfully so far that, as far as we can tell, he's not feeling any pain whatsoever. His throat's pretty sore from the breathing tube they had in during surgery, so he's on drops of juice and ice chips right now, and is clearly irritated by his throat, but he's not showing any sign that the surgery site is hurting him.

Amazing. There really just isn't a better word for the kinds of medical treatment and technology we have today. I will never ever take that for granted.

So tonight is all about rest, and the next few days are all about pain management, the incision starting to heal, and his insides re-arranging themselves back to normal.

That last part is the thing I want to end with tonight. For the first time in a long time--likely in his whole life, actually--his insides don't have anything that shouldn't be there. Sure, he's missing half his liver, but that'll grow back (and here I stand in awe of our Creator God who arranged the parts of our body just the way He wanted them to be). But right now, there's no tumour, and there very well may be no more cancer inside Davis.

I'm just savouring that thought right now.

We won't know for sure for a while, and there are still 2 more rounds of chemo planned, but there's a distinct possibility that our son is cancer-free at this very moment.

Savour that thought with me, friends.

And so, though he's hooked up to as many wires--more, in fact--than he was when he was first diagnosed, and though he's acting very much like he did when he was first diagnosed, it's a completely different story now. And that makes all the difference in the world for us. We're not finished yet, but we are worlds away from Dec. 13, and we will continue to take it one day at a time, rejoicing in the strength God gives us for each day as it comes.

And with that, friends, my strength for today is about gone. Thank you to so many who prayed fervently to our Lord for Davis and all of us today. You continue to be a great blessing to us in the midst of this journey.