Saturday, December 08, 2012

41. Recovery (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Self-Catheterization but not really because Ow)

Warning: This post contains many references to my penis. I would have changed the name and called it my neener-nater or my jibbly bits or something, but we're all adults here, right? I mean, except for that one precocious 6-year-old and the dog who has taught himself to read and type, because it's the Internet and I can't see any of you, but mostly, I assume we're all adults.

When last we left our intrepid hero/cancer patient, he was miserable and gripey and just out of the hospital. We now return to our story in progress, where our intrepid hero/post-surgery patient is slightly less miserable, fairly gripey and back from another couple visits to MD Anderson in Houston.

I got home as planned and went straight into recovery mode, which mostly consisted of me lying on the couch in my office and watching movies and TV on Netflix. My cousins in California sent me gift cards to Amazon and iTunes, and I bought all of Legend of Korra on Amazon Instant Video, so Katy and I re-watched all of that. I also re-watched all of Arrested Development, Party Down and Cougar Town Season 2, got up to season four of Supernatural, and watched a few scattered movies, including several Pixar favorites with the kids.

Which all sounds like a great vacation, except that post-surgery, I'm still hurting quite a bit. We had to move the pain pills from 6 hour intervals to 4 hour intervals (I'm working on getting back to 6, currently somewhere between 4 1/2 and 5), and even then I still had a fair amount of discomfort. I also got to come home with a catheter in, which wasn't a lot of fun.

We had a return visit to MD Anderson where they removed the catheter, I was unable to pee, and they put it back in again. Then while home, I had to visit the emergency room in Round Rock a couple times due to some drainage issues with the back end, and a possible infection that we nipped in the bud with antibiotics. Again, I must commend everyone at St. David's Round Rock for being generally awesome and nice and great at their job.

So I had the catheter in for about five weeks and was generally miserable about it. Worrying that permanent damage had been done to those nerves, the bladder, etc. We went back to MD Anderson this week and I asked to go ahead and try the removal again. I was warned that if I couldn't pee on my own, the urologist didn't want to put the catheter back in, but I was going to have to do the self-catheterization, which was, if you'll recall, my worst-case scenario.

The good news is, after a too-long period of anxiousness, I did manage to pee on my own a bit. The bad news was, it wasn't enough, so I did have to learn to use a catheter on myself. The good news is, it's not as bad as I feared, more pressure than pain, and I'm able to do it. The bad news is, I'm still sticking a rubber tube up my penis every 8 hours or so. I do not recommend it.

But I do recommend it more than having a catheter in constantly. For the first time in over a month, I have nothing extra attached to me that I have to carry when I stand up. That makes me quite a bit more mobile and lots happier, and while I wasn't sure at the time, I think I'm glad I traded out from full-on catheter to occasional self-cathereterization. I'm still feeling more than a little pain in places you really don't want to feel any pain, but I'm definitely feeling like this is all a step forward.

We talked to the oncologist at MD Anderson and he concurs with my oncologist here that we'll be doing chemo starting in January to get any remaining microscopic bits of cancer and do general preventative work, even though I didn't have great results from chemo the first time around. It sounds like it may be about six months of chemo, not a lot of fun, but tolerable. He also indicated that there's a high risk of return given the size and advanced stage of my cancer, but we don't really know what that means, and hopefully it just means it may come back in 20 or 30 years. We'll be watching carefully to make sure we catch any return much earlier.

Anyway, we're at about the midpoint of recovery, I'm still in pain and resting and unable to work or even leave the house really, but hopefully I'll be able to get back to a little bit of work before the end of December, go to my friends' holiday party the weekend before Christmas, enjoy Christmas with the family, etc. That's not bad, considering that a couple of weeks ago, I was still in the "not sure this is ever going to end" mode.