Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tom's in the Hospital, but it's okay . . .

It's been so long since I posted here. I've really missed writing. But life is giving us lots of ups and downs, and I've not been able to write.

Tom is holding his own. After suffering from intense back pain, he went in last week for a pain consult. That's where we learned that his spine cancer has moved into five vertebrae, causing him agony. Walking more than a dozen steps was impossible. We knew he had some cancer in his spine, but it's grown considerably.

During the pain consult the surgeon, realizing that Tom was in such dire need for pain relief, switched his next day's surgery schedule around, making Tom his first surgical patient of the day. U of M docs are so wonderful! He felt he could help Tom; late that same night he was reviewing Tom's MRIs, and called us around 9 pm at the hotel to confirm that Tom was scheduled the very next morning.

Unfortunately, when Tom arrived at 6 am they discovered that his breathing was so impaired that they couldn't do the surgery. Instead they tapped his lung to allow his lung to expand, and then scheduled him for the pain surgery the next day. That required that the surgeon again re-arrange his schedule, but he did and Tom received the surgery.

This special pain surgery is so really cool it's almost unbelievable. Cancer had eaten away at the interior of four of his vertebrae (the fifth showed only the very slightest signs of cancer), so what the surgeon did was inject four of them with cement. It's the same cement used for hip and knee replacements, and it fills in the void where the cancer is, thereby strengthing the vertebrae. It's not a fusion - his spine is as flexible as ever, and he bends and moves much better now, with little or no pain. But this cement also has an element of heat to it, and apparently kills off the painful nerve endings that were so debilitating. It's four days after surgery, and he can walk again.

Except for the breathing issues . . .

Tom isn't out of the hospital yet. We've been here eight days while they try to help him with his lung problems. The sac around his lung keeps filling with fluid, and he's been tapped three times to lessened his discomfort. He says it's like having a tie-down strap cranked as tightly as possible on his chest. He's been on oxygen since he was admitted. He can't walk to the bathroom without being out of breath.

Right now we're waiting for the options the thoracic surgery team can offer. They've evaluated him, late last night (U of M doctors work around the clock, apparently), and we're soon to find out the results. In the meantime, he's resting comfortably, and I'm knitting constantly . . .

Thank you for all your prayers. God does listen, and all your prayers count. May you receive back all the wonderful good wishes you have sent our way.