(pic: October 31, 2015)
Today is the two year anniversary of Albert's surgery (cancer resection).
On that day, December 2, 2013, we almost lost him. His bleeding required several pints of blood. The tumor was just too big, too invasive, too far into his heart.
The surgery was supposed to take 2 hours. About 3 hours in, the nurse came out and told us that things did not go as expected. She looked me in my eyes, at the verge of tears in her eyes, they were doing all they could for him. And they didn't know how much longer it would take.
Five and half hours later, he had two large incisions, (a sternotemy on his chest, plus an unexpected horizontal one on his side), 4 broken ribs, a severed phrenic nerve, a paralyzed lung, a breathing tube, a chest drain, large portions of active cancer on his heart and was barely conscious BUT he was stable. He made it. The surgeons said they were amazed at his strength, his resilience, his will to live.
If they knew the extent of the tumor before they opened him up, they would have deemed it inoperable. INOPERABLE. It had invaded most of the right side of his chest cavity and was growing out and around to his back. It was getting blood flow from hundreds, if not thousands, of blood vessels. Every other organ on his right side was feeding this tumor. It settled deep into his heart, kept steadily growing until it invaded his right atrium and had grown into the deepest layers of his heart.
The surgeons spent hours disconnecting this tumor from each and every blood vessel, one at a time, cauterizing each thread...one by one. They spent hours meticulously untangling, unraveling, severing the tenticles that reached out for oxygen, for blood, for life.
They did all they could not to open the tumor. But it was massive. They compared it to the shape and size of a flattened football...weighing anywhere from 8 to 10 pounds.
It was impossible to get it all. Chemo would hopefully kill anything that floated away or remained attached to any organs after cauterization. Radiation would hopefully kill anything still attached to the heart...while trying NOT to radiate and kill the heart itself.
Radiation appears to have worked.
Chemo? Not so much.
So here we are today.
Two years later, preparing for the next resection. A microscopic piece of that tumor stayed behind. It has been living and growing on the outside lining of his right lung. In between his lung and his back. By this past February, it had gotten large enough to see on the scans. By observing it and tracking it every 3 months, it has finally gotten to the point where they feel it needs to be removed.
It is still the original cancer, neuroendocrine carcinoma. Which means that the chemo didn't kill it.
And yet, somehow, we feel lucky.
Lucky to be alive, but more than that...
We feel lucky that the original doctors didn't know how bad it was.
Lucky that he was so healthy and his body recovered so well.
Lucky that our friends and family stepped in and took care of us.
Lucky that Albert has a great job and great insurance.
Lucky that we have each other.
Lucky that we get to do this all over again...