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

1 thought on “Prepping for Surgery – The Appointments

Leave a Reply