An Update Post Surgery

The Road to Recovery

Where do I start? Do I talk about the operation and how a team of people tirelessly slaved away, working on my body for 13 hours, making sure that none of the tumour could remain? I wasn’t there for the surgery, so I can’t talk much of that experience, only the fallout afterwards. Do I talk about the stories I gathered as I was taken from room to room, doctor to doctor, fighting infections and numbing the different types of pain that were coming and going? Or do I talk about none of it at all, choosing to look forwards in my life for the first time since last November? “You will go and live your life now,” my surgeon said to me. Were the painkillers numbing my positive emotions too? I can’t even be happy about it; it just doesn’t feel real. My cancer hasn’t necessarily gone – I have to wait for the histology results to find out what comes next. I’m likely going to be back to chemotherapy soon.

It was hard to even think on it all too much for a few days, and I just burst into tears in the middle of the ward when I did. How has this actually happened? There was no version of events in my head where I actually survived this thing. I thought that my role in the world was to be that insignificant statistic who insignificantly died at the hands of a statistically significant cancer. You don’t boil yourself down to a statistic. Neither will your friends and family. Extend out a few more branches in the tree and you are in territory where you are a statistic, another name on a page. It’s how humans process information. It’s how we understand how good or bad something is. It’s how we make arguments about pancreatic cancer being one of the deadliest to have and how you have to be old to even be eligible for consideration. Yet, my surgeon sat and said to me in the most serious of ways, “We aren’t going to perform miracles, Dan. We can only do what we can with what is presented in front of us.” It seems that he has performed a miracle here, or has started the progression towards one.

So I haven’t been told I’m cured yet. Removing the entire pancreas is a good start, and I’ve only ever been told that I have cancer on my pancreas, so maybe it’s a really stupid thing to even suggest that I’m not. I’ve learnt not to assume anything with cancer, so I’m not going to assume anything. I’m almost certain there will be mop-up Chemotherapy, scans, and other bookmarks in the calendar that same carry a familiar type of anxiety. It sounds like the only objective is to get better for a good while though. Another surgeon who was looking after me for a while on the Sunday told me that the tumour would be cut apart the before performing some tests on it. That would help to indicate what the best next steps are in terms of treatment, as well as helping future research.

The headline really is that I don’t have a pancreas anymore. No more ripping on Dan Pan, Penny Pan Pan or Pan Can. This means that I am fully diabetic now and have been learning to interject insulin over the past few days. Alongside my pancreas being taken out, 3/5ths of my large bowel was also removed. Some major arteries were then reconstructed before I was finally put back together again.

I had a strange sensation on the Tuesday morning after the surgery. I’d been struggling to sleep and was overindulging in the pain relief button. It was about 4:30am. As I lay there; watching the nurses walk between their stations and the various beds, checking temperatures, replacing dressing and sitting on their computers reviewing data, I felt like I was in a game. They walked around with lights in their hands and shone them at exact spots for different reasons; because an alarm went off here, because they knew that they checked this this thing every 10 minutes. I started trying to learn their patterns and understand their movement, I was trying to figure out if I could fit in with them. Somewhere in the process, I alienated myself from them, and I sat there listening to the ‘moody’ playlist on Spotify and feeling lonely instead. My bed was in the corner and had a load of equipment next to it.

A few minutes later, the nurse surprise me and came over to get some equipment from the shelves next to me. I hadn’t predicted it. Damn it. “You do a lot for people you know,” I said to her as she filled up a box of various things from the drawers next to me. “We’re just here to take care of people, dear,” she replied with a smile. “It’s 4 o’clock. You need to sleep,” we were back to the games. I told her that I’d lost my headphones a few minutes prior after taking them out to talk to her. We found them together a few minutes later. It was a long night, why not waste a few minutes of her valuable time on my pointless games.

Stories are abundant in hospital, that’s for sure. My dad used to obsessively watch 24 Hours in A&E on tv here in England. It’s a show following the Accident and Emergency department of a hospital for 24 hours. It has everything that a compelling story might have – twists, tribulations, trauma. They don’t need to seek the stories out, only place the cameras in the buildings and wait. They knew that the stories would come from there. We haven’t been watching it so much these last few months. It isn’t so fun when your family is currently suffering from an ailment which affects you, very much centred around hospitals. My dad probably still does, but not when I’m around.

I don’t have enough energy to really speak at length about everything right now. Eventually, I’ll talk more about hospital and all of the challenges that came with it. For now, I wanted to think you all for the messages of support, and let you know that I’m doing well. I’m getting stronger every day and can walk outside the hospital when my family visit. I’m going stir-crazy on the ward and am hopeful that they will discharge me tomorrow so I can continue my recovery at home with my amazing family, fiancée and Lucy dog. The hospital want my insulin levels to balance before taking this final step, and we seem to have achieved this over the weekend.

I’m trying to do my best to remain grateful, but there is a lot of change on the horizon. It’s all very intimidating. I know that being diabetic will just be another thing that I’ll grow accustom too, but combined with the future threat of cancer, recovery from surgery and lack of any pancreatic enzymes in my body at all, it feels daunting. The next few weeks will be an interesting journey through these facets of the illness.

This is also the 100th post on the blog! What a momentous post to coincidentally fall into this milestone! Here’s to plenty more Ebb and Flowing (preferably without all the cancer, but we’ll see).

25 thoughts on “An Update Post Surgery

  1. Keiran Jakeman says:

    Just read this aloud to your mum and Josie. We love you so much. Even a week after surgery, you can still create such amazingly written blogs.

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  2. You’re doing so well and have every reason to be proud of yourself. This is definitely a new chapter, and it can take some time to get used to the idea of the previous chapter truly closing! You’ll get used to the changes and challenges with patience and baby steps. Just make sure to never let a day go by without seeking out its little sparkles! Take it easy, and make the best of your stay at hospital. Coming home is a big step, and the more you can rest and heal beforehand, the better. Take care xx

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    1. Jeanne Moore says:

      Hi Dan, Keiran’s mum here mate. My sister Kath has followed your blogs from the start and has kept me updated as I’ve found it too emotional to read them myself. I’ve read my first one today and I’m absolutely convinced you will come through any hurdles head on and will go from strength to strength . You have so much to look forward to in the future, not least your upcoming nuptials to lovely Anna. Speedy recovery my love and am so looking forward to celebrating with you in September xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Jeanne. Sorry it’s taken so long to respond – I’ve found the blog a little hard myself since surgery. Thank you so much for the lovely comment and for sharing our wedding day with us! I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Your sister has been so supportive on here – she’s been wonderful xx

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  3. Kate says:

    So glad to see a post and your usual humorous comments,keep going but take it easy don’t push yourself too much you are now in a better situation and can look forward wishing you all the best x

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  4. The Lark family says:

    You’re amazing Dan, and surrounded and cared for by amazing people. Be gentle on yourself and embrace your new-normal. Love and best wishes. Xxox

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Daniela Reinero says:

    Hi Dan, I’m writing to you from Chile, i´m so glad to read the surgery was perfomed, and you are doing so well. My dad underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer 7 weeks ago.
    The surgeons removed all of his pancreas, duodenum, spleen, and gallbladder, so these last weeks we’re already best friends with insulin and creon.
    This thursday he will start his 6 months with folfirinox, and I wanted to deeply thank all your posts (which I have read in detail) especially the chemotherapy diaries, they are very useful for our family.

    wishing you a very speedy recovery.

    (ah! I share all your opinions about the stupid pancreas haha)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Daniela. Thank you for your comment and sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. It’s been such a difficult journey such the operation but I’m slowly getting there.

      It sounds like your dad had a really similar procedure to me. How’s he getting on now? It’s such a huge change, isn’t it? Not one that’s easy to adjust to at all.

      I can’t believe he’s doing Folfirinox again. I can’t imagine having to do that again now… I’m going to be on a different regime, but should be starting in a few weeks or so. It sounds slightly easier than Folfirinox, but the oncologists warned me that “it’s still chemotherapy,” so we’ll see.

      I really hope everything is going well with your dad and yourself. Thank you for reading and commenting – it means the world to me, even where I haven’t got back to you in so long (and I really apologise for that)! Take care

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  6. Klea says:

    Like so many others, I am so glad to read this blog. Congratulations on your 100th post and on getting through such a mega surgery. Take it easy and slowly because your with us for a long time now. 🙂 …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw what a truly lovely comment! I’m definitely taking my time at the minute – I’ve slowed down in so many ways. The blog has taken a bit of a hit due to that. I can’t believe how long it’s taking to recover! Thanks again for the lovely comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Dee. Recovery is proving rocky but it’s certainly getting better – I just find myself having to look at it in terms of months not weeks, but that’s fine! Thank you so much for this lovely comment. It really means the world! Take care, Dan

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  7. Bert says:

    Long time listener, first time caller…

    Fuck all the negative thoughts, focus on the positives; it’s out. It’s gone. It will remain gone.

    You’re an outlier lad, with a mental toughness even greater than the legs and lungs you run them marathons on.

    Also, blogging after a Whipple? 100 candid, heartfelt, witty, erudite posts after that diagnosis? During that chemo? I see a career in writing in your very near future.

    Your future.

    You’ve got this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for being a long time listener, and thank you so much for finally reaching out!

      Focusing on the positives really is the best way. The negative thoughts do nothing but plague you.

      Thank you so much for all of your lovely words here. They mean so much and give me such strength, even when I was struggling to respond. I don’t know why I thought the recovery from surgery would be easy but it really hasn’t been! Thank you for sticking with me and again, for such amazingly encouraging words 🙂

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  8. CG says:

    I am so happy to read this. I have been looking for a post for what seems forever. All I can say is one day at a time one minute at a time. And congratulations good for you even getting this far.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you! It really is a day by day thing and it seems to be so changeable how I’m feeling. Recovering from these big operations is no joke. I really thought I’d bounce back in weeks but, of course, that was my own silly ego being far too confident. Thank you so much for continuing to support me x

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you Linnie! I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get back to all the comments. I just felt so overwhelmed, I think, but they’ve helped me immensely and I’ve read them all a few times, when I’ve been feeling low. Still taking me a while to get back to the writing properly but I’m doing what I can!x

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