Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Six Days Post Surgery

I cannot believe that my surgery was 6 days ago. Today is Wednesday, August 26th and it is 11:00 AM. I've been up since about 4 AM. Several things woke me this morning.....mostly it seems that some of my drains were leaking. my machines were beeping like crazy, and the nurse came in to take my vitals - all at the same time. Needless to say, I could not get back to sleep. I haven't written since the day before the operation and there is so much I have to catch up on.

Thursday, August 20th: Richard, Aly and I woke up at 5:15 AM. I tried to persuade David to join us, but was unsuccessful. But the 3 of us went to the pool and arrived at the Claremont before the doors opened at 5:45. The amazing thing was how many people were there - it was so wonderful. I felt so supported and loved by a community of people that have truly become my "early morning friends". Even people who don't normally come at that hour showed up! Thank you Charlotte and Frances for the beautiful flowers (and for getting up so early!).

Anyway, I had a great swim. Short (1000 yds), but perfect. I felt strong in the water and swam at a nice, steady pace (thank you Michael!). Then, I took a quick steam and what was going to be my last shower for a long time! We headed to Palo Alto, and got to the hospital right on time, around 7:50 AM. While there is so much I could write about that morning, all I'm going to say is that the surgery was much bigger than expected. It took 5 1/2 hours and I had the big "Whipple Procedure". They took out my gall bladder, my duodenum, and the head of the pancreas. The incision goes across the mid-line of my chest from one side to the other. All I can tell is that it is HUGE! Not sure if I'll ever wear a 2-piece bathing suit again, but really, who cares? I'm here! If I get brave, perhaps I'll post a photo, but for now, let's just say, it's not at all what I had expected, and it makes me very sad. But, hey, I'm alive, and I'm going to be OK.

I'm not going to include all of the details about the surgery and recovery, but here are just a few:
I was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) until Friday night and was them moved to a private room on the 3rd floor.

I must have had 100 wires, drains, and tubes coming out of my body - including an NG tube (naso-gastric) which went up my nose and down my esophagus draining out my stomach - I'm not sure which hurt me more, that tube or the incision - but it was awful - that tube came out on Monday, and I've never felt so happy!

I took my first walk on Saturday morning and I think I walked about 25 times around the corridor.

I developed a severe allergic reaction to something (?) and my body was covered with hives from head toe.

I've received so many lovely messages, and I want to thank you for your kindness and support - it has really been incredible.

Today, the epidural (direct pain block) came out, and I had my hair washed! I'm planning on going outside, and supposedly I'm going to be getting some clear liquids. The doctors say that I'm doing great. I'm trying my best to take things S-L-O-W-L-Y. One step at a time, minute by minute, day by day, be patient, have patience. For those of you who know me, this is very difficult for me. Things that I thought had to be done yesterday, will just have to wait. There are lessons in this for all of us I know, but right now, it is my turn to learn from it.

All I can say is that I'm grateful to have you out there, and if anyone is reading this, thank you for supporting me in my journey.


  1. You are a treasure Susala and an inspiration.
    In China people idiomatically say "man zou", go slow, meaning ciao, don't leave so fast, be cool man. There is a wisdom about going slow that is imbedded there. I am thinking of you and wishing you steadiness and clarity along with health and wellness.

  2. I am thinking of you!!! I have been following your progress through Susan's updates. It's GREAT to be able to "see" you and hear that your recovery is going so well. You are amazing! Take it slowly and I know you will be back in the pool before you know it!
    lots of love,

  3. Susan,
    You look great!!! So happy the operation was a success and that you are on the mend. And yes, I do understand how hard it is to be patient, but as Judith states "take it slows" You are a true inspiration for us all.

  4. Susan, I hope you have taken a moment (or two) just to rejoice in the fact that you are now on the "other side" of the surgery (I know that I have). Although the Whipple was not what you were hoping for, you have already demonstrated that you have the strength and ability to make lemonade out of even the biggest lemons.

    As much as I miss your wisdom and energy at BIHS and BHS, your only job now is mending. I promise that we will hold the fort so that you can take your time to recover S L O W L Y. Judy

  5. We must be on the same wave length, today was my first "good" day since Thursday too. We can do this together! Sending lots of love and healing energy your way!

  6. So thrilled that you had a good day - your progress is amazing. I love you and can't wait till your home and continuing to heal outside of the hospital. I love you. Tamara

  7. hooray! i am cheering you from the sidelines and wish you continued strength and healing. I don't need to wish you love - there is obviously a strong and powerful love avalanche surrounding you and your family. Hooray for that most of all. Love, Lainey

  8. You look fantastic, Susan. You're a truly amazing woman, with the most consistently positive attitude. Wish I could be there with you, but I hope you know that you're in my thoughts and I'm looking forward to the day that I'll see you in person again.

  9. So great to see that healthy looking photo of you, sans nose tube! I totally understand the roadblocks to practicing patience, but also know you and know you will do what it takes...in this case recover at the pace your body demands. See you soon.
    Sending lots of love, Jill

  10. I know how hard it is to be patient, but remember - everything that had to be done yesterday really CAN wait. You will be back at your "normal" pace in plenty of time!

    XXOO, Ellen

  11. Susan, It's a long story, but my wife has had numerous serious surgeries in the last 12+ years and she found out very painfully that she's allergic to the surgical tape. Maybe this is your issue with all of your IV's etc. Ask for hypoallergenic tapes immediately. You look great and keep up the great energy. xo Steve Brown

  12. Oh Susan, how hard it must be for you to hear all these comments about SLOW being good! Not your style, of course. But here's another - slow food is best, and when I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the guides all said, "Pole, pole" (like polay) which is "Slowly slowly" in Swahili. I went to free Tuesday at the Claremont last week and overheard some people talking about you...YOU bubula, you're famous for being an inspiration, even in the locker room. So just keep swimming, "Pole pole" and remember that old axiom about one step at a time (which is exactly what got me up...and down...Kilimanjaro, and will get you OUT of Stanford.) Blessings to you--
    love, peggy

  13. Susan -- I'm pleased to welcome you as the newest member of the Good Life After Whipple Club. I'm sure you will be a standout member as your strength returns. It's of course a club that none of us ever wanted to join, except that it was better in the long run than the alternatives.

    Most of all, my best wishes that your recovery and rehabilitation be steady and thorough. We could both hope for swift as well, but let's start with steady and thorough. And best wishes also for the patience to admire steps forward no matter how small, and faith that you will indeed be better soon. Warm regards,

    Jim Bellows