Cancer 2, Paula 8; What’s next?

Leaving the hospital while tropical storm Ignacio swept through the Islands.
Thunder and rain.

After Monday’s surgery and three days of recovery, John drove me home from Kaiser Permanente Moanalua hospital through a torrential downpour complete with thunder and lightning. It would have been nice to stay where the meals were delicious, square, and timely; the personnel were kind and attentive; and I had an air-conditioned room to myself. But there’s no place like home.

For this second visit to the operating room in less than a month, my surgeon removed the remaining lymph nodes in the upper right thigh and groin area. It took longer than expected at just under five hours. There was a lot she had to do, such as slice into my skin and fold it back, gently ease out the eight lymph nodes there, stretch my muscle over the femoral artery and nerves, and stitch me back up. My family was there to see me in post op, and I was finally checked into my room by 9:45 p.m. Not only do I have stitches in place, but a transparent tube was inserted to drain the excess fluid into what best can be described as a clear hand grenade. It grosses everyone out, but I cannot deny the fascination I have with seeing what the vacuum is sucking out of me when I measure and log the output.

Buried lead: Dr. Uyeno called me today with the pathology results: All of the eight lymph nodes removed Monday were cancer free! Once again, a moment of silence for the sentinel lymph node that fell on the cancer grenade so that I might live. Does that mean I am cancer free? It might. But because it might not, I will begin immunotherapy once I have recovered from this surgery. No matter how good I am feeling, the therapy must run its course of at least a year. Zen moments. Happy places. White knuckles. Patient family and friends. It could get bumpy.

Thank you for your persistent prayers, thoughts and encouragement. My friends who have survived cancer and personally reached out to tell me their stories were especially helpful through this time: Debbie Donoghue Weller, Meg Lombard Edel, Jerry Penacoli, and JIm LaFond, and a few others. It is so important that people who have been there and done that to share their experiences — no matter what it is. It is invaluable!

Stay tuned for more updates and insights. I always intended to be one of those people who lived to tell, and to be forever grateful as a result.