The Whipple's Procedure
I am not going to talk about what this procedure is as anyone who is interested about the procedure can find heaps of info on the Internet about it, rather I will write about what we did and what was our selection process like before she did it, and what happened immediately after the procedure.
1] After learning about my partner's pancreatic cancer condition and what needed to be done about it we have made an appointment with the doctor who diagnosed her. I went on the Internet and have shortlisted the surgeons that we would be happy with to take charge of this procedure. The list of names was narrowed down to only 4. We have made appointments with all of them and when our first preference surgeon said that he could operate on her in 6 days (!!!) we were delighted. We have proceeded with all 4 appointments just to make sure all the corners were covered.
2] No matter what anyone says this surgery is very difficult and very painful (afterwards). We were lucky that the surgeon is among the top 5 in my city and that he has done yet another great job. We are very pleased with his work. He rang me and informed me about the results while she was still in the theater being stitched up. All the too important information was exchanged and I felt great. Not for long tough!
3] In the recovery room where I met her after the surgery I've realised she was experiencing an incredible pain. More accurately it was agony (see "7 days" the movie and you will know what I mean). The epidural and a whole cohort of other painkillers did not work much for about 3 long hours. Then it finally kicked in and the pain went down to 8/10. That was like winning the lottery.
4] The most intense and painful days from our experience were;
- day 1 especially the first three hours (pain 10/10)
- days 2-6 (pain 4-6/10)
- days 7-9 when she was off the epidural (pain 10/10)
- days 10-12 (pain 4-6/10)
During days 7-9 we did not sleep at all. The pain was 10/10 (agony). While some people experience it better than others, she did not. She was not so lucky. But she handled it heroically! I would have died if I had to go through it myself. After being on so much medication (7 diff. painkillers) she started seeing little green people. She was in Matrix! Once the pain was alleviated she felt better. Much better. On a personal level - this was the most difficult part for me. Even more difficult than when I saw her in the recovery room some 7 days earlier.
5] Before surgery speak to your surgeon and INSIST on having the whole tumor saved and safely stored in their data bank. Why? Soon they will be able to routinely analyse it on a bio-molecular level as each patient will have customised post-operative therapy based on their specific circumstance and tumor genome. It can be stored indefinitely at your hospital at minimal or no cost to them. They will keep some cancer tissue anyhow but it may not be enough in case you need it at some latter stage. This was our only mistake. We have not done it. We have assumed the whole tumor would be saved after the surgery so we never posed the question. However, some tissue has been saved as that's the hospital's policy. Will it be enough for further testing? We are about to find out.
6] There has been a remarkable recovery for her. Since she left the hospital. She has been eating very well. Also, regular walks and yoga as well as 2 meditation sessions a day is a part of her daily regimen. Lots of resting in between. I will detail this out in my next post.
7] If you are about to do the Whipple's procedure make sure you have someone close stay with you at all times. Mark my words - you will need all the support you can get. You won't be able to think or talk due to being weak or in pain so if someone else is there for you he/she will represent you on all matters in question. You will need to rest as much as you can.
If anyone needs more details please let me know. As I've turned into a temporary tenant during her stay in the hospital I've sussed out the cans and can nots.
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.