(Editor’s note: Barb Killmeyer was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004. Following surgery and some complications, she had chemotherapy and was given a clean bill of health toward the end of 2005. The following is the last of three excerpts from her personal diary during her experience.)
The next morning Don was there at 8 a.m. to be there while I had the test. I was taken to a room on the same floor as my room – 4th floor, heart patients. My throat was sprayed with something to make it numb. This was extremely difficult for me since I have a very sensitive gag reflex and just getting the tongue depressor near my mouth is a major accomplishment. After several tries they got it numbed. I was turned onto my side and the doctor came in. I was given a twilight sedation so I heard, saw, and felt nothing. A probe was put down my throat to check out the heart chamber. The next thing I knew the procedure was over and I was waking up and gagging out the probe. I wasn’t permitted to eat or drink anything for an hour afterward because my throat was still numb and there was the possibility of choking. We waited patiently until 4:00 and no one came to tell us any results. I had been told that I could go home that day depending on what was found. Finally, Don went to the desk to ask. No one knew anything.
They called the doctor who performed the procedure and she said she had no authority to release me. They then called her associate and he said he couldn’t release me – that it was up to the admitting surgeon. He was called, but was in surgery. At last, about 4:45 p.m. my doctor came to the room and informed us that there was no clot (I wish the other doctor had taken a minute to tell us that earlier!) and that I could go home.
My doctor assured me once again that all the cancer was taken out. But as a precaution I needed to have six months of chemotherapy.
I went home sore and moving quite slowly, but glad to be there. My operation was on Friday, Jan. 7 and I went home the evening of Thursday, January 13.
Recovery seemed to be slow, but Don is a great nurse and took such good care of me. My friends were also so fantastic. I just never knew I had so many of them. I was overwhelmed by all the calls, cards and flowers. Then there were the special friends who did things like provide us with home- cooked meals.
On Jan. 28 I was back in the hospital, this time as an outpatient to get a port implanted in my chest with a tube running to a large vein. Through this port I would get all chemo done.
On Feb. 7, one month after the surgery, I had my first chemo treatment. I have to go every two weeks. On the first day I receive a combination of drugs in a two hour session, then I go home with a bag containing more medicine and a pump which keeps giving me the medicine over a 22 hour period. For several days I have to be very careful about eating or drinking anything cold because the one drug will give me a reaction where I’ll feel like my throat is closing. Don’t want that!! I also have to be cautious when handling cold things because it will make my fingers hurt. On the second day, I return for another two hour chemo session and a refill of “Buddy,” my bag. On the third day, I go back to be disconnected from Buddy. The week I don’t go for chemo I have to have my blood checked. If this sounds like a lot – it is! And I won’t be done with it until the end of July.
Chemo went well. There were two times when they had to postpone it. Once, because I developed a blood clot and again because I had a severe reaction to one of the meds. I hated that because it pushed my end time back a few weeks. There were some strange side effects such as losing the nerves in my fingers and in my toes. But they say it will probably come back and even if it doesn’t, if that’s all I come away with, I’m still very lucky. I was also extremely tired and did more sleeping than I thought possible. I would nap most of the day and still sleep soundly when I went to bed at night.
Fast forward one year and a little. I am a happy, healthy, cancer survivor. I feel wonderful. I’ve been traveling again, in fact one trip took me as far away as Rome. I am taking no special medications. During the chemo my hair thinned a good bit, but I did not lose all of it. It is now back thicker than ever. I will have to be tested regularly for a few years, but that is not a problem. My mental attitude for this past Christmas was one of hope and joy, a far cry from last year.
By Barbara Killmeyer
Barbara can be reached at www.barbarakillmeyer.com.