Most of you know the outcome of the surgery, but I thought I might write out the details as well since there were some fun parts.
The morning wasn't that difficult. Grace and I woke up and went off to the hospital. It kind of just felt like three weeks ago when I went in for a biopsy early in the morning. The guy who wheeled me to the OR and dropped Grace off at the waiting room was like a big gentle giant. Grace called him "the big angel." There was something really relaxing and comforting about him that gave me peace about the whole situation. So waking up early, going to the hospital, and going back to sleep was the easy part of the day.
Waking up again was the hard part. I remember coming out of the anesthesia and gripping the side of the stretcher with all my might trying to say "pain". The only problem was that nothing was coming out of my mouth. Lots of blood and some other fluids were running down my throat. I could hardly breath without gagging, let alone try to control my newly shaped swollen tongue. Eventually they did give me morphine, and that helped a lot.
At some point during the day I was transported up to my hospital room and was told that they thought they were able to get the whole tumor out through the mouth. Praise the Lord for that! It turns out that the tumor was deeper down the throat than they were expecting, so they had to remove more of the rear of my tongue than they initially expected to. So in the end, they removed about 1/3 of the tongue and sewed it back onto itself, then removed all of the lymph nodes on the right neck.
They will do a full pathology analysis of the removed tissue and let us know if the margins are clean this Thursday. The doctor did mention that the lymph nodes on the right side of my neck were quite large. That could mean they were cancerous, but they will know by this Thursday.
I'm so thankful that I had Grace literally by my side through this whole thing. She really just comforted me and worked so hard to keep me focused on what I need to do to get better. Since she knows me so well, she was even able to translate my body movements to the hospital staff so I wouldn't have to spend so much time writing notes to them or trying to repeat the few words that I could say. I cannot express how much of a comfort it was to have Grace by my side in the hospital. They brought a cot in for her to sleep on so she could be with me through the night too.
I was only able to get about four 1-hour naps on Friday night because my pain meds would only last about 3 hours, and they kept poking and prodding me all night. In addition, I had to sleep kind of sitting upright and leaning forward so that all the nasty stuff would drain out the front of my mouth rather than down my throat, which made me choke.
On Saturday night I was feeling really discouraged because of how uncomfortable it was trying to rest the night before, so Grace got some games and said we were going to have a sleepover. So we sat in the corner of the room working on Tangrams until pretty late, and then just fell asleep. That didn't make the night any more comfortable, but at least it made it fun. The only downside of having your wife stay at the hospital with you is that you get to jealously look over at her all night peacefully resting.
I spent most of Saturday and Sunday trying to swallow water, medication, and Ensure. It was so painful those first two days. Each time I messed up, I coughed, and that irritated not only my mouth but the incisions in my neck also. In the midst of all that I learned to appreciate the complex breathing and swallowing mechanism of the human body. When you're healthy, it works just fine and you kind of take it for granted. When something's not working right, you notice really quick. Its just amazing how many precise movements are made by your tongue and throat that you don't even notice each time you swallow.
The night before surgery a man from Bob's church in MN called. He encouraged me and read me Is. 41:10, and I decided to write it on my hand so that I could read it when I wasn't feeling well. The Lord really drew near to me during those long days and nights in the hospital. "Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
Looking back I consistently see the Lord's faithfulness to me. We're definately not done with this trial, but I find comfort in how God has been so faithful to us this far. Surely He will continue to be faithful!
Really early Sunday morning I got a new nurse. When he first came into my room he looked kind of unhappy and was wearing a mask over his face. After taking my vital signs he leaned over and pulled up my shirt to listened to my heart. Then he let out a really wet cough, then sniffled. I thought to myself, great, I'm going to get sick. I imagine he got sent home, because somebody replaced him shortly afterwards.
On Sunday morning the doctors removed the drain bulb from my neck. I was so relieved to have that thing gone because each movement I made was pulling on the wound. A drain tube is a plastic tube that went into the right side of my neck to drain the fluids from the incision. With that tube gone they said I could go home if I wanted to. So we decided to go home.
Sleeping in my own bed was so much better than the hospital bed. I did end up getting a pretty bad cold, though. My fever shot up to about 103 for a while and throughout the day we were able to get it down to around 100 with tylenol. I was a little scared for a while there, but God really just healed me of the cold in about a day and a half. It has added to some of the soreness of my throat, but I'll get over it.
Now I'm home with my family and my parents. Its so wonderful to have everybody in the same house. I'm thankful that my parents are always there to support and encourage me no matter what. My dad left today on a red-eye because he has to work tomorrow, but my mom is staying. Just like I said about the hospital, the only bad thing about having my family by my side right now is that they eat all sorts of wonderful home-cooked foods, and I just sit and watch. Well, now that the surgery part of this cancer battle is over with, lets look forward to how God is going to work in the coming weeks.
Praise God for answering the following prayers:
1) They were able to get the tumor out through the mouth.
2) There were no major complications and the surgery went smoothly. The doctors and hospital staff were also generally very helpful and kind.
3) The Lord provided a lot of encouragement through the difficult times these past several weeks.
4) My fever went away and I got over the cold quickly.
5) I was able to take down all my medications and antibiotics on schedule so far. I am also beginning to be able to transition to a smoothie-type diet.
Keep praying for:
1) Erik Greene - They have stopped sedating him, but he is still in a coma. Praise God that he seems to be responding a little. I don't have an update today, but keep praying that he'll get better.
2) Pray for proper healing of my tongue and that I will be able to speak and swallow properly.
3) Pray that the pathology results will come back negative everywhere.
4) Pray that the cancer would not return.