"Do you know which bit to take out", seemed a reasonable question (if it were not for the fact that the Royal Marsden were involved). In May I had been aware of two lumps in my right lung - one appeared to be a nodule which had been there sometime, never grown and never appeared active and hence was presumed to be benign. The other had appeared recently and was the focus of my treatment. The subsequent chemo had apparently shrunk the tumour and at my most recent scan it was declared 'hardly visible' (which clearly makes it harder for the surgeon to find). When I was finally admitted for surgery I asked the surgeon if he had seen the scans - the response being a less than inspiring "I'm not sure", but at least he did march off to a computer and brought up my scans on screen. Flicking through the slices of the CT scan he could see nothing but a couple of areas of scar tissue, which he suggested were possible remnants of tumours, and then a small nodule further down my lung that I was pretty sure was the supposed benign lump. 'There it is - I'll whip that out", he declared confidently. I profferred that it may be the benign lump that had been there some time but to no avail. 'I'll take out anything I find" was his parting shot. Less than convinced I did try and contact the consultant from the RM but to no avail, leaving me wholly in the hands of a man I hoped had sensitive fingers.
"Make sure the scars match!" My final request to the surgeon prior to him dissappearing off to the production line, sorry, the theatre, in which he plays the lead role. I was second on his list for the day, leaving an awkward wait between waking up and being prepped, made worse by the fact I was nil by mouth and starving. It was almost midday before they came to take me away. I'd already decided on giving an epidural a go this time round (after deciding on patient-controlled morphine last time). The epidural line into my spine was the only one to go in while I was conscious...........
....woke up in the recovery area of theatre feeling remarkably lucid and pain-free. Then dropped off to awake in the High Dependency Unit about 7pm. Previously the morphine dulled the senses if not all the pain. With the epidural I was wide-awake and pain-free! It was working so well they reduced my epidural to half-flow to prevent my fingers going numb. Tough its doesn't work as well for everybody - the chap opposite was in surgery before me (same op, same surgeon) but was crying out in pain. At first I felt sorry, almost guilty that I was laying there feeling fine and he was in so much pain but as the night wore on my sympathy waned - I couldn't sleep because of his moans, poor chap. In the morning I was instructed to get out of the bed into a chair, a feat more easier than last time - the epidural meant I was far more mobile. After a few more lines removed from varying orifices I walked back to my room, unaided.
The surgeon confirmed he'd removed 5 bits of my lung which were sent for pathology tests. He'd had a good rummage (god knows how he managed to get his hands in) and basically removed anything that moved, or felt the slightest bit abnormal. I trust he left me with sufficient to endure a couple of minutes of physical activity at the very least.
It was difficult to gauge how much pain the epidural was masking. The nurses tested the extent of the epidural scientifically by placing an ice-cube on varying points on my back and checking whether I could feel it. Gradually the effect was reducing and the pain increasing to the point where two days later they turned off the epidural pump and swapped me onto morphine pills and two days later I was discharged, my main side-effect being one of constipation from the morphine. Yep, cancer is a pain in the arse!