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This is a real case of what happened to my mum at an age of 87.5 years.
This post is meant for sharing experience and knowledge, readers founding this disturbing should not read further.
Detection – usually when colon cancer is detected, it is at a late stage. My mum discovered it through a series of testing after discovering anemia and shortness of breath. Three stools samples taken on successive days were tested for occult blood – they were found positive. It was at this stage we knew something has gone terribly wrong!
Confirmation- mum stayed in a hospital and undertook a CT Scan which confirmed that there was a tumor of two inches by one inch at the splenic flexure. This was followed by a PET scan which showed that fortunately there was not much spreading to the nearby organs but may have infiltrated to fatty tissues. The horrifying aspect was that the tumor was so big that if it grows bigger ( as all malignant tumors will) it will block the colon.
Immediate Reaction- mum almost thought it wasn’t possible to have such a malignant tumor at such a late stage in her life. She insisted that she would not undergo a surgery. The surgeon who administer the scans thought that she was too old for the operation. He said there was a lot of risks involved and told us there was a 50% chance of mum dying after the surgery. However, he did not advise how we should proceed. Mum thought she has suffered and enjoyed enough in this world, it was time that she should go back to heaven. The fact that she didn’t feel any pain was no incentive for her to do anything.
Search for a Solution – we realized that we could not procrastinate as malignant tumor can grow very quickly; mum’s colon could be blocked in a matter of weeks or months and the cancer cells will spread. We started out searching for suitable doctors / surgeons. All this time, we prayed, mum was the center of prayers. After many searches and consultation, with the help of God, we found a surgeon who is an Associate Professor of the University of Hong Kong and working in a Government hospital. In the consultation, mum felt that the doctor was a very capable surgeon and that he has a lot of confidence that mum is capable of withstanding the operation. Mum was still undecided on the operation. However, when the doctor asked whether mom would consider having an operation when her colon is totally blocked. Mum responded that she would do it if that’s the case. The doctor then queried why wouldn’t mum do it now as there will be a lot less risk than doing it in an emergency. Mom was then convinced with the operation. The doctor asked mum to undertake several tests to assess that she was good enough for the operation. He is an expert in laparoscopic surgery of the colon.
Suitability for an Operation – mum did a ECG on her heart, a chest x-ray to confirm that she was suitable for the operation. Further more an anesthetist was brought in to confirm that her health condition was acceptable for the operation. She has no other illness. So, age is not always the deciding factor.
Prayers – I uploaded a post on Prayers for Mom on the day before the surgery and got over 80 responses saying that they would pray for mum. I thank everybody on the day of the surgery in another post. I am sure that God was with mum all the time during her surgery.
The Surgery – the surgeon indicated that the preparatory work will take 1-2 hours whereas the actual operation may last 2.5 hours. We waited and waited outside the operation theatre. Time passed by quickly and there was no sign of mum being pushed out of the room after 4-5 hours. We were deeply worried. After 6.5 hours, the surgeon appeared from the room and told us that the operation was a success. The tumor was bigger than expected and pressed against the spleen. Because of this, he has to remove it very carefully hoping that it will not adversely affect or damage the spleen. Mum’s tumor was removed together with some of the colon which has some polyps; the remaining colon was reconnected.
The Day After the Surgery – Mum was in good mood, she woke up and was talkative. We realized she was given morphine and other pain killers to reduce her pain in the cuts which incidentally consist a cut of some three inches plus four small holes. That was followed by quite a few days when she did not feel good at all.
The First Few Days After Surgery - she was having a lot of pain, her body was full of tubes – oxygen and bag of nutrients etc. She slept for most of the time and was not in a good mood.
Back at Home – after 11 days total in hospital, she was discharged. She still had some pain in the cut wounds, feeling weak and tired and did not have appetite. However, she is getting better day by day. A month after surgery, she was able to raise herself out of bed, eat and sleep normally. She has not resumed hydrotherapy which she undertook every week before the surgery.
Where do we Go from Here? – with a Stage 3 cancer, it is normal that the patient will undergo chemotherapy after surgery. However, due to mum’s health condition and age, she has decided not to undergo chemotherapy. Is chemotherapy really worth doing at her age? Not sure what we will do next? No more treatment? Consult Chinese herbal doctors? We are still looking for guidance. We hope the Lord would guide us again as He has done throughout the last few months.
Thank you Everyone Again – Many blogging friends and readers have prayed for mom, I thank them very much for their kind thoughts and words too. During the difficult moments, I never felt I was alone!
PS All photos were taken in Jiuzhaigou, China.