Excruciating pain - the nausea came later! It was a pain I had met before, ten years ago. It came in waves that at the peak had me in a foetal position gripping onto the bed head. It was not a friendly pain. It was an enemy that had to be beaten and controlled and mind games were not going to do it.
I had woken with my pulse racing and my heart thumping as if it was going to leap out of my body. I crept put of bed, not wanting to wake the Chief of Domestic Operations, sleeping soundly. Heart rate 100 - that’s what I get to on a treadmill 10/10. Was this the time to call the ambulance? Better not as that will wake the CDO. Do some deep breathing and relaxation and that is when the pain hits.
I’d taken some Panadol on going to bed - aching shoulder and a bit of a grumble in the pelvic area - nothing unusual. That was only two hours ago so more Panadol was out of the question. Search the pills shelf. Nurophen - blocks a different pain pathway - so swallow a couple and crawl back to bed. Doesn’t seem to do a thing so get up and put a heat bag in the microwave, but put it in too long so it is super hot rather than reassuringly warm. Back to bed and try to arrange it so that it brings some comfort without burning. That wakes the CDO who is not pleased until she realises the reason. Out comes another heat bag, put in for the correct time and I curl up alternately holding this to pelvic region or lower back depending on the oscillation of the pain. She find a couple of Panadeine forte left over from two years ago - they are still in date so OK to use. Take them an hour before I should and they knock the edge off the pain. She also discovers a couple of Panadeine, similarly left over and still in date. In four hours I can take them. Heart rate back to normal - 60.
Two hours later I’m on the computer looking up the Better Health Channel on kidney pain. By now the nausea had clicked in and I’m dry retching as I alternate between computer and driving the porcelain bus. It was kidney pain ten years ago when the cancer pushed up into the bladder and blocked the ureter draining from the kidney to the bladder. I’d been expecting something like this since the CT Scan, as part of the biopsy three weeks ago, showed that the tumour was now surrounding the ureter. Had it on the agenda to talk with surgeon and oncologist when I was scheduled to see them in a few weeks time. Four hours was up so swallow the Panadeine. I also remember that in the locked medicine cupboard is some Nurophen-plus, sold to me in error by the pharmacy assistant when I asked for Nurophen. In another hour it will be six hours since taking the first Nurophen. Hang in there for the hour then take a couple of Nurophen-plus. Twenty minutes later the pain is under control. 7 am - not much sleep.
What to do next? According to the Better Health Channel the pain is too low for kidney pain, although they do say it can be lower down. So is it kidney, or the cancer growing and pushing against something else? Do I contact my urologist or my oncologist? Compromise and ring the GP when surgery opens at 8. Normally my GP has a full list and there is up to two days to get to see him - I’m prepared to see any of the partners. But no! Amazingly he has a consultation available at 9. Under the shower into clothes and down to see him. Blood pressure, some pushing and prodding, rereads the various consultants reports, takes note about the CT and confirms it is most likely kidney. Script for some more Panadeine forte and suggests I get in touch with the urologist.
Ring the urologist and good news; it is his clinic day at the major hospital where the CT was done. He rings back; is in front of a computer and looking at the CT scan. Yes, there is some nephrosis and the ureter is distended until it goes into the tumour mass. I have had a cancellation for theatre this afternoon; my receptionist will be in touch. Have you eaten or drunk anything? No - breakfast was the last thing I wanted - a glass of water at 9 am. Well nothing more until I see you at midday. Ten minutes later receptionist rings - bed waiting, theatre early afternoon get to the hospital now!
Usual stack of paperwork at admission, more paperwork with the nurses, more forms to sign, into the hated backless gown, chat with the anaesthetist, sign more forms. Urologist explain what they will try to do, then the warning, if we can’t do this then it will be theatre tomorrow and we will have to open you up at the back and go in that way? Cheerful thought! Wheeled into theatre, needle in back of hand and oblivion.
Four in the afternoon, groggy but pain free. Usual plumbing in and out, urologist tells me it went well, a stent has been insert into the ureter, that was blocked for about 5 cm. So now I literally have plastic plumbing! I’m to stay in overnight to ensure everything OK but get out on parole in the morning. It will have to be repeated every six months. Something to look forward to!
Quiet night. Nurses clearly not used to independent patients who take their trolley pole and drainage bag to the pantry and make themselves a cup of tea, administer their own pills and rearrange room so that the TV can be seen from the arm chair rather than the bed. They get used to it and become very chatty and cooperative.
Next morning, plumbing removed. Good breakfast and then noise. Carrot-top and Blondie have come to collect Papa from hospital.
Still pain free. A few unwanted side effects that I hope are temporary, but if not they can be managed.
Someone was looking out for Sailor.
For the truth is that I already know as much about my fate as I need to know. The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze. Richard Bode First You Have to Row a Little Boat
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.