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Today's quote:

Friday, July 3, 2020

Two years ago to the day

All trussed up and ready to go under the knife


Very early in 2018 I developed a slowly growing lump on the left side of my neck. Not being one to rush to a doctor unless it's a matter of life and death, I left it unattended, thinking that it may go away.

However, owing to a long history of melanomas from my many years spent in the tropics at a time when skin cancer had not yet even entered the vocabulary, I had in recent years been booked in for six-monthly appointments with Dr McCrossin, a dermatologist from Nowra who regularly visits our area.

April was my next appointment when I pointed out to him this neck growth. He immediately tried to book me in with a local GP in the Batemans Bay Medical Centre where he was seeing me but, of course, no booking could be made for some weeks. I therefore went across to a bulk-billing practitioner, Dr Yong-Xin Shi, who arranged for an Ultra-sound which confirmed an unusual growth requiring more investigation.

A fine-needle biopsy in early May confirmed a well-differentiated keratinised SCC, following which Dr Shi wanted to send me for a chest x-ray. A chest x-ray for something growing on my neck?

By this time I could get an appointment at the Bateman Bay Medical Centre where a Dr Jayanta Kar gave me an urgent referral to Dr Tack-Tsiew Lee in Canberra, a head and neck surgeon, whose receptionist put me on a long waiting list which would have meant that I wouldn't be seen until perhaps June or July 2019. However, a week or two later, I had an urgent call to say that this was not a simple operation but the big 'C' - 'cancer' - and that Dr Tack-Tsiew Lee couldn't handle it anyway.

In desperation I phoned my dermatologist in Nowra, Dr MacCrossin, who squeezed me in at the very last minute for a consultation with a visiting surgeon from Sydney, Dr Kerwin Shannon, who saw me on the 25th, stuck a camera up my nose and down my throat, and confirmed "Urgent action required", but it wasn't until mid-June that I went for a PET scan in Wollongong, after which I heard nothing more.

It seemed I had dropped off the system, and I had to phone Dr Shannon's office twice before I was told that I should come to the Lifehouse in Sydney, a hospital specialising in cancer treatment, for a consultation on the 26th of June with a view to undergoing surgery.

At the Lifehouse, Dr Shannon, a Professor Milross, and a Professor Clark, agreed that I needed urgent surgery but in the same breath told me that there was no slot available for the complicated robotic surgery.

Almost halfway home again, I received another call to say that a slot had become available and could I return for an operation on 3 July?

Back at the Lifehouse, I signed all sorts of waivers which meant if they botched this one up and yet I should survive, I couldn't blame anyone but myself, in addition to which I had to hand over my cash contribution of $11,800 plus swipe my private health insurance card to cover the $3,000 a day at the hospital - which ultimately added up to nine days.



The following morning, they trussed me up and wheeled me into the operating theatre - "See you on the other side!" chortled Cate the good-looking surgical assistant with some ambiguity - , knocked me out, and Professor Clark did the robotic surgery and selective neck dissection.

I don't remember a thing but Padma tells me it took them seven hours, after which they wheeled me into the Intensive Care Unit for a night before I ended up in my hotel-like private room with a feeding tube sticking out of my nose and other catheters hanging out from other parts of my much diminished body.



There isn't much to say about the next six days and night (other than that I would have preferred to be somewhere else), during which I was fed with liquid pain killers every six hours plus some liquid food (can you see me making air quotes around the word 'food'?) The feeding tube was removed on the 9th of July and I was allowed to mingle in the foyer with fellow-patients and the hospital's volunteer-dog.



I was discharged on the 12th of July 2018 with the following summary:

"Mr Goerman underwent transoral robotic resection of left tongue base and selective neck dissection on 03.07.18 for left gongue base p16+ SCC T2 N1. There were no complications and Mr Goerman had routine admission to ICU for immediate post operative management. He received IV Augmentin for 1 week, and diet was upgraded whilst on NG feeeds. NG tube was removed on the 9th July and ongoing speech therapy review for swallow exercises were completed. Mr Goerman was deemed safe for discharge home on 12th July with plans for follow up."

Those "follow-ups" were six weeks of intensive radio therapy, of which more later, and three-monthly, and now six-monthly PET scans, which suggests that I may yet reach my statistical life span of 83.2 years.

Unkraut vergeht nicht!

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