Sunday, March 16, 2008

Convalescencing At Home

First Week at Home ( 12-2-08 ) ( Tues )

Today my family brought me, a 56+ year old woman, home. It's good to be home. My family has taken the trouble to make the downstair's room comfortable for me. My son-in-law has taken my 2 grandchildren to his mum in Pahang. Eventhough I missed them greatly, I understood the reason. My family and close relatives have shown tremendous love and support in caring for me. My sister-in-law would cook the food for me and the family. I just have to rest and get well.

A million thanks to the doctors, nurses and support staff in the hospital for their dedicated attention and care towards me and my daughter. They were very friendly and hardworking. The doctors often asked me about my well-being, encouraged me to keep practising breathing up the balls and motivated me to sit, move and walk. Their bedside manners were so wonderful that they managed to 'get rid of' me in a week's time. I can't thank them enough for getting me back to my home so quickly.

Friends and relatives popped by to see and offer their help. They even brought along some friends who were survivors of stomach cancer. Their ordeal was worst than mine and yet they are now full of life and vitality. One has survived 9 years ago, another 7 years ago (both of them without stomachs : total gastrectomy ) - I admired their courage and was inspired by their spirit and zest for life. Friends are like valuable treasures - they rally around to give help unconditionally and boost up my morale with their laughter, jokes and sensible advice.

For the first few days, I rested a lot. I needed help in getting up and lying down on the bed. I placed a fat pillow to support my back whenever I sat on the sofa. I needed someone to sponge me and wash my hair while I sat on the toilet seat.

Daily my family members gave me physiotherapy, that is "beating" with cupped hands on my shoulders, chest, back especially my middle and lower back which ached a lot.

I took some fish porridge for lunch and dinner (about 1/5 rice bowl amount) In between I drank Enercal Plus (about 50 to 75 ml) I weighed 47 kg (original weight before operation was 50 kg)

My bowel movement for the first few days was sticky guey greenish grey, just like a newborn baby. Starting from Thursday (14/2/08) I took my fresh raw juice concoction. Usually they were an apple, 2 stalks of celery and a carrot. So throughout the week my bowel movement was twice daily.

By the end of the week I could climb up the stairs to my bedroom, just in time to welcome back my grandchildren home. Soon it would be the usual routine of looking after them. The surgeons must have done a good job inside my abdomen for me to recover fast.

Second Week ( 19-2-08) (Tues)

Today I saw that my stool was formed : first part black and then full normal brown yellowish stool. I was happy as it showed that my insides are getting back to normal. My without-stomach cancer friend told me that his stools could never be formed, forever loose and in pieces. Compared to him I felt blessed and grateful to God.
From today onwards my bowel discharge is normal and back to my daily morning habit.

I could sit up from bed easily but I still cannot cough, sneeze or yawn fully - just a little cough will get my insides painful and tensed. A 1/4 laugh also felt so painful. I could eat some "meehoon kuey" soup, scrambled egg and papaya at different times of the day. I tried to eat some solid food every two hours - only a small amount about 50 - 75 ml. In between I drank fluids, clear chicken soup and even some boiled chinese herbs to strengthen my immune system ( 3 pieces puk kee + tong sum, a small handful of kei chi(wolfberry) and red dates boiled overnight in a slow-cooker)

On Friday I got a shock when I found out that I weighed 46 kg - 1 kg less in a week. So I tried to eat more as I was worried. I ate too quickly and I found my abdomen feeling very uncomfortable. Too late I realised that my stomach was too small to take in a lot. I couldn't sit down, so I kept walking up and down the house for more than half an hour. It was a terrible painful feeling.

I remembered the other day when I forgot to eat something after 2/3 hours, my tummy got upset like got wind inside. I experienced the same uncomfortable feeling. I tried to walk about until I burped or belched out air many times. I even drank one tablespoon of Gaviscon liquid.

After these two incidences, I am more careful to eat slowly, in small amount and at regular times after every 2 hours.

Third Week ( 26-2-08 ) (Tues)

I felt much better. I discovered that I can fold both legs and sit cross-legged comfortably. On the bed I could roll from side to side - my right side felt better than the left. There were two lumps one in my left chest ribs and the other inside my left abdomen which felt painful if I lie on my left side.

I took a full bath as I could now bend comfortably and use soap to sponge my skin.

I noticed that there was a white patch with painful muscle underneath on my right upper inner thigh. This lump felt painful and hard. I applied Counterpain cream and massaged it everyday. Slowly, that spot of "lazy sleeping muscle" woke up and got well before I could tell it to my doctor during my next appointment with him.

Every two hours, I would eat some solid food with liquid in between hourly.The amount is very little like 1/2 of a slice of bread and 50 ml - 100 ml liquid. Roughly, my daily routine would be as follows :

  • 7:30am 1/3 bowl of porridge oats
  • 9:00am Fresh juice of raw vegetables or fruits
  • 10:30am Protein snack/Steam Egg/Boiled Egg with toast/Scrambled Egg with Bread
  • 12:30pm Chicken/Fish Porridge or Chicken Rice
  • 1:30pm Protein Drink/Yogurt(Yakult)/Herbal Drink
  • 2:30pm Snack/Cheese and Bread
  • 3:30pm Soya Drink/Yogurt Drink
  • 5:00pm Steam Fish with Tofu,Brocolli/Carrot/Green Vegetables
  • 6:00pm Chicken Soup/Red bean porridge/Sweet Potato Soup
  • 8:00pm Biscuit/Snack
  • 9:30pm Protein Drink(Enercal Plus Milk)

Every morning I took a morning walk around my neighbourhood. When I was in the mood I did some light stretching exercises to tone up my muscles as I found that my skins around my arms and thighs were flabby and loose - no flesh.

For the first two weeks I wore very loose clothing and sarong. The third week I discovered that I could fit into my old clothes as I got back my girl-fiqure shape before marriage. This was the plus advantage of my post-op. Still I am careful not to wear any pants with the waistline near the wound scars. I tried to wear those with below the waistline - the hipster types.

Fourth Week ( 4-3-08) (Tues)

This week was uneventful - just the daily routine. My relatives came and my family brought them out for dinner at the restaurants. I tried to eat some of the non-fried, non-spicy food such as tofu, stir-fried vege and steamed fish. My relatives commented that I ate like a bird's ration. At home I ate a little of the different variety of vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, sawi, lobak, yao mak, etc. and a few slices of fruits like pear slices, apple slices, dragon fruit, banana, and papaya. My weight was and is 45 kg (100 lbs) till now and I try to maintain it. My daughter envy my weight and my slim body figure.

Monday (10-3-08)

Today was my appointment day with Dr Ramesh. He told us that my stomach biopsy is good as the lymph nodes are clear and everything is okay. BUT he is worried that the type of cancer cells I had (poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma ) were aggressive and invasive types. He suggested chemotherapy treatment - 1 month 1 chemo for 6 times. This is to play it safe in order to eradicate the C cells from my blood stream. I was not happy and unsure as I knew that the chemo will kill off some of my healthy cells. Dr Ramesh reassured me and asked me to rest well at home and build up my strength. He will see me in 6 weeks' time. Meanwhile he will consult with another oncologist about my case. He also advised me to have vitamin B12 jabs every 3 months so that my iron and folate acid can be absorbed well into my body.

Dr Ramesh wanted to start a support group for stomach-cancer patients for there is none at present in the hospital. I am interested and agreed to help in any way I can. This blog is part of the reason I write my experiences before my grey cells deteriorate. Hopefully others will find it useful and learn something from it.

The important thing is to listen to the doctors especially after surgery, have a positive outlook, be knowledgeable, trust in God and modern medicine and do everything within one's means to lead and live a healthy life. e.g. Eat healthy food, drink juices, do exercises, meditate, participate in social activities, contact friends, be HAPPY and LISTEN to your body.