With Radiation only days away from starting, my Oncologist requested that a feeding tube be put in before treatment began in order to ensure my body accepted it without further complications. During the consult appointment on April 7th with the GI doctor, she explained that there were several ways to get the tube in; one being the most invasive and a full blown surgery where I would be put under an anesthetic; two, I would be placed under a sedative that put me to sleep, but I would still have some awareness of the procedure; and three, my Oncologist would place it through the use of x-rays. While I was still leary from the last feeding tube placed in my nose after surgery, I processed the information and agreed to go the route of the less invasive…the sedative. The physician’s assistant explained that I could not have anything to eat or drink 6 hours before the procedure and told me to come back April 9, 2010. I followed the guidelines as directed and on the big day, off to Kaiser my father and I went.
I was escorted back into the pre-op area by one of the nurses and during the next 45 minutes they prepared me for the procedure. Two hours later, I was notified that the doctor was behind schedule, and concerned that my father would be worried about why I still wasn’t finished, I asked the nurse to notify him that I hadn’t yet started. My dad was allowed back to see me and we chatted for a few minutes, mostly about the attractive hospital gown I was growing so accustomed to and the multiple machines and IV’s attached to my body. It was all so familiar by now…the poking and prodding…the intimate health questionnaires…even the looks of concern by the hospital staff…the look that said, “You’re so young to have cancer.”
8 1/2 hours after my last drop of food, the nurse finally came to wheel my gurney into the procedure room. Once inside, she asked what kind of music I liked to listen to. Curious as to why she was asking, I said, “Why? Am I gonna be able to hear it?” She laughed and said, “Well, you’re awake right now, aren’t you?” That response made me nervous, but soon I was sleeping peacefully to the tunes of Sade. At one point during the procedure, I heard the doctor speak, “There’s too much, I can’t get in.” Moments later, I was awake and being informed that the doctor couldn’t place the tube as there was still food in my stomach. Frustrated by the notion that I was going to have to do this all over again, I allowed myself some time to be upset but quickly decided to make the most of my last weekend of freedom and enjoyed time with friends and family, watching movies and eating at my favorite restaurant.
I was under strict instruction to eat only a liquid diet the Sunday before the second attempt, which was scheduled for Monday, the 12th of April. I was allowed only water after midnight Sunday and up until 6 hours before the procedure, at which time I was to take a pill that would help my stomach empty any remaining contents. For the second time, my father and I journeyed back to Kaiser where I went through the same pre-op and prayed for an empty stomach.
“Doctor, she’s waking up, should I give her more sedative?” I waited expectantly for the answer, which I just knew would be, “Of course, what are you waiting for? Since when do we allow our patients to wake up in the middle of a medical procedure?” But in my unfortunate alert state of consciousness, all I heard was, “No, I’m almost finished here, she’ll be fine.” I had been here before. Prior to my surgery to remove the tumor, I had a re-occurring dream that I began to wake up during the operation, but no one could hear me, and I couldn’t move because I was paralyzed by the anesthesia. I could feel every cut and I tried to scream, but nothing would come out!
This time; however, it wasn’t a dream, and I really was awake…and this time, the doctor knew I was awake but wasn’t doing anything to stop it. As I became aware of a tube being removed from my throat, I began to gag repeatedly and attempted to concentrate on the nurse’s voice as she told me to keep breathing. The next thing I remember, I was in the recovery area. The nurse moved behind the curtain and looked at me with such sympathy as she said, “I’m sorry honey, you’ve been through so much.” I immediately started to cry as I thought back on the feeling of desperation and anxiety while waking during the procedure and having no control to stop the pain. The events of the past two months came crashing down, and I gave into the sorrow that swept over me. She then asked how I was dealing with everything. I explained, “God has really met me during this time and despite everything, I have such a peace that everything is going to be okay.” The nurse started to cry with me and responded, “Oh honey, I just knew there was something about you. I could feel you just have such a strength about you. May I put you on my church’s prayer chain?” We exchanged information and I thanked her for the support she had given me during the past two hours. The nurse explained that the procedure was a success and that I would have some pain and discomfort for the next 48 hours and to take it easy. She gave me a hug and wished me well in the next step of my treatment.
At that moment, I was overcome with the certainty that even through the smallest detail, the smallest procedure and despite whatever pain I was experiencing, God had strategically placed angels, kind and gracious individuals in my path to remind me of His presence, to watch over me and to help complete His sovereign plan for my life.