Getting Ready for Surgery – The Appointments

Today I’ll be talking with you about a few of the appointments that I had to go in for to make sure that my team was ready for my surgery, which was step two of my treatment plan. If you’re new here, welcome to Life as a Cancer Survivor! This channel is here to give you the ups and the downs of what life is like once you hear those words, “You have cancer.” My name is Jelena and in May of 2016, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Rectal Cancer. Make sure that you’ve clicked the subscribe button down here so that you’ll be notified when all of my future videos are uploaded to this channel.

Proctology table
Proctology table

Halfway through radiation and oral chemotherapy was when I had my first appointment with the surgeon. At that appointment he wanted to investigate for himself what the tumor looked like, so he had a special table in the room and I’ve laid face down on that with my butt and my legs hanging off of it, and then the table pivoted up so my butt was up in the air. He pulled out what my husband referred to as “the telescope” and used that to investigate and keep everything open during that investigation to see what my tumor looked like. Um, it was REALLY uncomfortable to say the least since I was in the middle of radiation.

He mentioned at that appointment that a few weeks before my surgery but after all of my radiation and oral chemotherapy was done, that I would need to go in for a tumor marking appointment because the tumor was on the inside of my rectum so when you get, I was gonna get cut on the outside, and they were gonna come in through the stomach so when they do that you can’t necessarily tell where the tumor was so they would go in and they would inject ink and on either side of where the tumor was and that ink would bleed through the walls so they would know exactly where to cut when they got inside of me.

Milk of Magnesia bottle

That procedure was done on September 29th which was three weeks before my surgery. Since it was another procedure where they had to go up my butt I needed cleansed again,but I did not have to do the full colonoscopy cleanse. For this one, I just had to do a low fiber diet the day before and at 10:30 a.m. that day before I needed to take six tablespoons of milk of magnesia. Then the next morning, that morning of the procedure, I had to do two enemas in a row at home and that was all that I needed to be cleaned out. I had to go into the hospital for this procedure so I was getting quite the collection of hospital bracelets already I hadn’t even gone in for my surgery yet.

Two weeks later it was time for my pre-surgery physical. I went into the hospital for that appointment and there was a special like pre-surgical/physical area that I went to. They drew my blood, they took all of my vitals like my blood pressure, and they did an EKG on me. I got a little bag that had this body wash in it which I was supposed to use to take not one but two showers before going in for surgery.

The night before I needed to take a shower, no lotion or deodorant after that shower, putclean clothes on go to bed, and then wake up the next morning, take another shower, scrub very thoroughly, get every nook and cranny, get in the belly button and do the abdominal area really well since that’s what they were cutting into, and then put another fresh outfit on and head to the hospital. I was also written a prescription for two antibiotics to take in the days leading up to my surgery and then of course I had to do another colonoscopy prep. This time the prep was: take four stool softeners the day before and then do that jug of Miralax, a jug of Gatorade and drink that to cleanse everything out.

They asked if I have a living will or an advanced directive at all. I didn’t have either of those at the time so they gave me at least a piece of paper that a form that they had that I could fill out that was a medical durable power of attorney which would designate my husband as the person that could make medical decisions for me in the case that I get incapacitated.

I was gonna be undergoing major surgery, but the doctor’s expectations were that I would survive it just fine. But having the worst-case scenario covered kind of, to me helped ensure that the worst-case scenario would not happen because we were prepared for it. Did you have a will or an advanced directive set up before you went in for surgery? Vote in the poll below and let me know yes or no.  

After that appointment, my husband John and I did have a discussion about what my wishes were in case the worst happened during surgery. For me, since I was only 35 and I had a five-year-old daughter when I was going in for surgery, I basically wanted them to do whatever they could to keep me alive and I did not really care what kind of medical intervention that they needed to do to make that happen. My goal was just to see my daughter grow up a little bit further and I didn’t care what kind of condition I was in as long as I was alive still.

Three days before my surgery I went in for my ileostomy marking appointment with a wound care nurse at the hospital. Just as a brief reminder, an ileostomy is when part of your small intestine is run out of your abdominal wall, you wear a bag over it to collect your waste, and so you’re basically pooping out of your stomach instead of out of your butt. In about two more videos I’ll be explaining what the different ostomies are in a little bit more detail so stay tuned for that.

I would get a temporary ileostomy because of the location of the tumor in my rectum. After the tumor was cut out of the colon and rectum and those two ends were resected, or sewn back together, there was about a 25% chance that that resected site could leak and you don’t want that waste swirling around in your abdomen. So to prevent that complication they give you a temporary ileostomy to give that reconnected site a chance to heal before waste starts running over it again or going through there again.

The whole family came with me to the appointment so they could also see what we needed to do to prepare for the ileostomy. So during that appointment, I was marked for it which meant that they were going to

stomach marked for an ileostomymark a location on my abdomen where they wanted the small intestine to be sticking out. First, she wanted to know where I usually wore my pants so that she could mark my waistband and make sure that the stoma didn’t fall right on that waistband. Then she marked around my belly button, which had been stretched out from pregnancy. And then she went to the right of the belly button and she made that big mark thereof where the stoma was gonna be going.

It was a hopeful location, because depending on what they found once they cut me open they may need to move it a little bit but that was the goal location of where it was going to be. For an ileostomy, it’s usually located on the right-hand side, because that’s where the small and large intestine connect up on in your body. The nurse showed me a picture of a stoma and then she brought out some of the appliances that they carry at the hospital which are the barriers and the bags that you wear to collect the waste, but it just wasn’t making any sense to me at all. Maybe partially because I was really thinking a lot about my surgery itself and that was a big scary thing and my mind just could not fathom or process how part of my inside was gonna stick out of my stomach for months.

I figured I’d be in the hospital for a few days so the nurses there can help me navigate that once it happens. But also, I’m pretty squeamish when it comes to blood and guts so I had no idea how I was going to be able to look down and see my small intestine sticking out of me without getting like woozy or completely grossed out. In hindsight, it probably would have been helpful for me to have at least watched a few videos on YouTube to see what an ileostomy looked like and how the bag changes went. Even while I was still in the hospital that probably would have been helpful. But I didn’t want to be scared by anybody that had had bad experiences so I preferred to stay and the “ignorance is bliss” camp for as long as possible.

That was the end of the appointments that I had, to get ready for surgery. Now I just had to pack my bags and try and rest up for a few days before going in. Mentally, I was pretty scared and I knew the only way that I was gonna get over that fear was just get into surgery and have it so after that last appointment I was ready to go in and just get it over with. In my next video, I’ll talk about all the things that I did at home to prepare for surgery and what I brought with me to the hospital.

If you or a loved one is going through radiation or oral chemotherapy check out my gift-giving video for some ideas on things that you can get that’ll make that journey a little bit more comfortable for you. Make sure that you have hit the like button over here if you enjoyed this video, that you’re subscribed so you’ll be notified when my new ones are posted, and I will see you next week.

*This video was originally published on January 15, 2020

Jelena packing for surgery

Getting Ready For LAR Surgery – Preparing My Caregivers and Packing

Hello and welcome to part two of getting ready for surgery. In this video, I’ll talk to you all about the things that I did at home to prepare and also what I packed to take with me to the hospital. As a stay-at-home mom, I needed a caregiver that was gonna be able to basically take my place for a few days while I was in the hospital. Plus, when I got home I was not really gonna be capable of doing a whole lot so I needed someone to be able to step in for me for a week or two once I got home from the hospital as well.

If you’re new here, welcome to Life as a Cancer Survivor. This channel is here to tell you all about what life is like once you hear those words “You have cancer.” My name is Jelena and in May of 2016, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Rectal Cancer.

Back to all the things at home that I did to prepare for surgery. We had justmoved into a new house a little bit over a month before my surgery so I gave myself the task of going around and trying to get to know as many neighbors as possible. Fortunately, multiple neighbors had daughters that were Maelle’s age, so that kind of made it easy to determine which neighbors were important to tell about what I was gonna be going through. Those neighbors whose daughters were playing with ours were quickly becoming our friends as well so I thought it was really important for them to know what was going on because their daughters wouldn’t be able to come over and play at our house, Maelle would have to go over and play at their place.

Thankfully they were all wonderful about me telling them about my diagnosis and my upcoming surgery and they all offered to watch Maelle whenever I needed some extra rest or if I need to go to any appointments. So that was a huge plus to telling people that were nearby in the neighborhood what was going on.

Since my parents were coming in to visit for two weeks to help out I made them a map of the neighborhood or rather the immediate block around our house and highlighted everybody on that map that knew that I had cancer. Then on that map, I also added in all of the houses where I made friends with the adults and had disclosed that I was going in for surgery and they had offered up to help in any way that we needed. So for all of those families that offered up help, I put all of the family members names and then made a note of who Maelle’s friend was from that list, and then put the full address and their phone numbers on there so my parents could contact them if my parents needed any help, but also in case Maelle went over to their houses to play, then they had a phone number and a parent to contact or walk over and know who to talk to when she needed to come home.

My parents were coming into town with the intention of helping out as much as they could and allowing me to rest as much as possible. They’re very active and don’t like sitting around a whole lot so they were the perfect people to have come in for those first few weeks. I made sure to specifically tell them that we were going to be relying on them to make dinners for us every night while they were here so that they could plan recipes ahead of time before they came out. Since John, Maelle, and I are all vegetarians that made it much easier on them so they had time to prepare and came with handfuls of delicious recipes of things to make while I was in the hospital and when I came home.

If you don’t have caregivers or local friends that are able to bring you meals and make meals for you in those first couple of weeks, I’d highly recommend prepping some freezer meals for yourself so then all you have to do is pull the meal out of the freezer and stick it in the oven and that’s all the work that you have to do so that you’ve got a nice homemade meal.

My parents were also here to watch Maelle for those first few days while I was in the hospital so that John could come and stay with me for as long as he wanted to and not have to worry about dragging an antsy five-year-old with him that really could only last for about a half-hour before she was ready to go at the hospital.

Since they were Maelle’s primary caregivers for a few days they needed to know the address of her school, the hours that she was there, and I also needed to add them to the approved adults list at the school so that they were okay-ed to take her off school grounds. They also came armed with plenty of ideas of things to do to help keep her distracted from how weak I was in the hospital and when I first came home.

A few days before my hospital stay my husband gave me a few gifts to try and make my stay a little bit more comfortable. All these gifts I’ll have listed the links for them in the description below so if you see anything that you like or are interested in, head down there and I’ve done all the research for you. Everything is still working great after two years.

So the first thing he got me were six pairs of slipper socks. So these ones,they are not doing quite as well as everything else because they’re slipper socks, so I walk around in them all the time in the house, we’ve got a lot of wood floors, so some of them have gotten a few holes in them but they’ve held up much better than any other pair of slippers sock that I’ve ever had. But they’ve got the grippies on the bottom and they’re way more comfortable than the hospital socks. Or at least I think so, my cousin apparently loves those hospital socks.

Then he splurged and got me this tablet plus some gift cards to download movies, books, TV shows, whatever I wanted. I downloaded a few books and then I also downloaded two albums of spa music which I would highly recommend because I played those at nighttime to try and drown out the noises from all of the machines and stuff in my room that were hooked up to me. And going down that route another awesome thing that he also splurged and got me were some noise-canceling headphones. He got me some really nice Bose ones which would have been fantastic for the hospital stay except I accidentally left them on our counter the day before my surgery and our cat Charlie chewed through the wire. The wires inside of these are

Bose headphoneslike the sizes of hairs so my dad tried his best to fix them and splice them back together but normal household tools are just too big to try and get these fixed so I didn’t have them for that hospital stay but any kind of nice noise-canceling headphones would be great.

If you’re not quite into splurging on some noise-canceling headphones, just some earplugs to drown out or at least muffle the hospital noise are a good way to try and attempt to get some sleep in the hospital. If you can’t sleep with all the lights blinking, with lights blinking around you a nice sleep mask would be great to bring as well.

One other comfort item that he gave me is this super soft and snuggly blanket. It’s a huge throw and it’s so warm. I used this also when I went to chemo even though they have the heated blankets there I brought this puppy with me. I packed a carry-on bag to take with me to the hospital. In that bag, I packed two or three pairs of clothes to wear while I was at the hospital, haha! I only changed out of the hospital gown when it was time for me to be discharged but for that one outfit that you’re gonna wear when you go home, I highly recommend something with a very loose waistband because they pump your abdomen up with gas to do your surgery, so you’re still gonna be a little swollen from that and you most likely are gonna have some staples or stitches around in that waist area. You don’t want tight pants on that at all. Baggy pants; best choice.

Make sure you pack all the necessary toiletry items like toothbrush and toothpaste, comb or brush, and any of your favorite shower items. The hospital may have some of those but they’re gonna suck and you’re not gonna want to use them. I also brought with me this hilarious book which I got over the summer and I mentioned in my gift-giving video. It was literally painful for me to read because I had like a six inches, six-inchbookincision down my abdomen that was stapled shut so laughing HURT, but I sucked it up for humor because I needed some light-hearted humor. But it hurt to read funny books, FYI.

Last but not least I brought this photo album that Maelle made with my mother-in-law that has pictures of some flowers and then pictures of us from our most recent vacation before I was diagnosed so it was a reminder of happier times and that the misery that I was in during the hospital stay was just temporary.

And now I was as ready as I could be for surgery. In case you forgot what my treatment plan was here’s the link to the video you can click on that or link is in the description below as well. If you enjoyed this video I’d really appreciate it if you gave it a thumbs up and shared it with anybody that you think also might enjoy it. Thank you for watching.

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🎁Links to the items I recommend in the video:

🧦Noble Mount fuzzy slipper socks:

💻Samsung Galaxy S2 8” Tablet:

💆Zen Spa album:

💆Serenity Relaxing Spa Music:

🎧Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones:

💙Cozy blanket:

📘Book I received that was hilarious:

*This video was originally published on January 22, 2020