My aunt had her operation on Monday. It was, in a word, terrifying. That is, for everyone except my aunt herself. She was sleepy and pretty much dazed all morning, and I think she was actually kind of smiling peacefully when the orderlies came to take her. My other aunt, my uncle’s wife, and I were on the other hand all pretty much wrecks inside. I dare any atheist and agnostic to remain that way while they–or a loved one–is lying there on a stretcher being wheeled into the operating room. I think my thoughts for pretty much the whole day and night can be summed up into this: “Dear God, dear God, please, please, please, please.”
I am glad and very relieved to say that things are progressing about as well as could be expected. The doctor deemed the operation a success (basically, he took out the endometrium, mammoetrium, ovaries, and the lymph nodes in the area to make sure the cancer has nowhere to spread to; it took about 5 hours), and although we have to wait for the final results, there were no visible signs of cancerous growths, indicating that the cancer was caught at a very early stage (thank the Lord!).
My aunt had a tough time the night of the surgery (hello, painkillers!), but by the next day, she was gingerly walking the halls. She’s been continuing to feel better since then, although things were a bit anxious for a couple of days, because she wasn’t expending the gas they pumped into the stomach for the surgery. She was feeling bloated and uncomfortable, and there was even talk of putting a tube up her nose (I’ve had that done before, and trust me, it is just as terrible as it sounds) before she finally delivered what we were referring to as her “gas baby” yesterday morning. So with that “miracle birth,” my aunt has been able to start eating again, first watery gruel (yum), then porridge, and tonight, she’ll be having her first bonafide meal since last Sunday.
Through it all, my aunt has been handling things with admirable composure. Like I mentioned before, she’s a full-on Catholic, and she’s convinced that God lulled her into a state of peace right before the surgery to protect her. My other aunt–of a more pragmatic kind–thought that the doctors had doped her up with something in the IV, but the doctors told us they didn’t. Who knows? I’m just glad that things are going along okay (we just have to wait for the final analysis results to make sure she has the more common form of endometrial cancer and not the more serious type).
All of this has been a major learning experience for everyone involved. As for me, here are some things that I’ve learned:
1) The female endometrium and mammometrium, once taken out, looks just like a big slice of lasagna with a little tunnel in the middle (the doctor showed us photos of everything he took out in full digital color glory).
2) Staples are even more useful that we knew. They didn’t use thread to stitch my aunt’s stomach up; instead, the cut was stapled shut. They’re gonna take them out before she leaves the hospital; I don’t know how, though, as I can’t imagine they’ll be using the staple-remover tool!
3) Hospitals are a lot like airports. They’re both places full of emotions, people crying, people laughing as they head out, people that are tired and cranky with balled-up joints from being cooped up in narrow spaces. Still, you also see sons, daughters, husbands (no wives, as this is the ob/gyn ward, all the patients are female, and lesbian marriages are not legal in Korea), and friends by the patients’ side helping them in various way. And I’m gonna take this chance to pat myself on the back here, too; it turns out I’m a pretty darn good hospital assistant. Backrubs, fetching water, walking companion, more backrubs (my thumb joints are still sore), I can do it all. I’m thinking of leaving my resume at the hospital…
4) Doctors and nurses should be applauded at every turn, the nice, humane ones anyway. My aunt’s two main doctors and group of nurses have been awesome, but we’ve seen a couple of other doctors for other patients who seem cranky and overworked or just too vague when it comes to dispensing information. Humanity, it’s a very important trait.