Well, I had my RPLND on 12 February. Interesting journey and am SO glad that it appears as though the worst is over. I had great news from the surgery. They removed 28 lymph nodes and none were cancerous – absolutely the best results we could have hoped for. I won’t have to undergo chemo unless I have a recurrence – which is less than a 10% chance. There was some discussion as to whether to go straight to chemo based on my initial lab results but the major factors that made me select the RPLND were; 1) possible long-term side effects of chemo (I didn’t want to undergo chemo unless absolutely necessary, 2) Part of my tumor was Teratoma which does not respond to chemo as well as other tumors. I’ll be on an aggressive surveillance program for the next 6 years but that is not big deal.

Getting ready for surgery consisted of not eating anything past breakfast on Monday and consuming 2 bottles of Fleet about 3 hours apart in the afternoon. Let me tell you, Exlax has nothing on Fleet. Went in for surgery on Tuesday morning at 7am and was on the table for over 6 hours. No getting around that the RPLND was pretty horrible, especially the first couple of days after surgery. Fortunately I have experienced that the Lord has blessed the human brain to remember times of pain in sort of a fog, kind of like you aren't sure if it really happened. I opted for an epidural to control and block the pain – I’m really happy I selected that because they basically numbed my gut for the first couple of days after surgery. One of the regular effects of the RPLND is that your intestines shut down for a couple days after surgery (anywhere from 4-7 days). My stomach woke up on the 4th day (Friday). I was able to consume liquids on Friday morning and solid foods by the afternoon. They let me go home from the hospital on Friday evening. I went in the hospital weighing around 215lbs and came out weighing 240. I didn’t eat anything but a very small meal on Friday – it was all from the IVs, pretty amazing. I’m down around 200 now and feel great (I needed to lose weight anyway and the major benefit is that I’ve lost my “love handles”!)

The worst part of the recovery is they kept the tube down my nose to my stomach for the first two days after surgery. Apparrently they had real trouble getting emplaced during the initial surgery and they didn't want to risk taking it out and having to put it back in if I had complications. I couldn't swallow and if/when I did it would hurt like the high heavens. Once they took it out (another painful experience) my recovery really started taking off.

One of the things that really saved me was my IPOD. I went to the library and uploaded 3 books that were in CDs into my IPOD. Those books, coupled with the music on the IPOD, were real life-savers to me. They doctors didn’t want me in bed unless I was sleeping so I spent 15 hours a day in a chair, lights off, eyes closed, resting and listening to the books. I was too uncomfortable to actually read a book and watching TV took too much effort (and nothing was good on anyway).

Even though I felt horrible I walked around the ward 5-6 times a day. I always felt better after walking (although initially it was always tough getting started). Keeping your lungs active was a constant challenge. They give you a gadget to blow in to ensure you keep your lungs exercised. Initially this was always pretty painful but after 10 or so huffs it was amazing to see how much the airflow improved and how much better I felt.

I had my 46 staples removed a week after surgery. I was amazed at how painless it was to have them removed. I didn’t feel anything. In less than a week I was walking around, eating well, and feeling pretty good. Within 2 weeks I was sleeping on my side throughout the night.

I should be back to 100% in a couple weeks and plan to go back to work around 13 March. The body’s capacity to heal is pretty amazing. The docs said I could start exercising 6 weeks after surgery

Whenever I had it bad all I had to do was look at the other cancer patients or through the window to the adjacent ward and see the injured heroes from the war being admitted - it put things into perspective rather quickly. There are so many people that have it so much worse. I can't believe how lucky and blessed I am.