Friday, October 29, 2010

7 days on - Look mum no crutches

This has been an incredible week of healing, obviously pretty bleak after the operation but the body is an incredible healing machine and things are looking a lot brighter at the end of the week. Today I walked short distances without crutches, picked stuff up off the floor, walked up some steps, showered myself standing. I can only handle activity for 15 minutes or so but major and continuos improvement. I have had a clear head since yesterday which is probably the biggest advancement. Still on some significant pain killer and these will continue for a few weeks. We have now got them well balanced so no more 'wonderland' or high pain times.

If you are facing this surgery I don't want the above to indicate that this is a walk in the park, it's not and expect a very tough first week and a number of very low points. But these are generally short and sharp and you progressively get your abilities back.

The fusing of my spine and titanium rods cover from the very base (affixed to the pelvis) and comes up to the middle of the shoulder blades (about 40 cms). The rods are firm although independent which I have discovered is important. You can't touch your toes but you can twist.
Funny enough initially it felt like having 2 rods on the inside of your back but now I don't feel them as such. Its like when you go to the dentist and have some work done and initially you feel the changes done and it feels really odd, but after a few days you don't notice it.

The wound and my tummy are very puffy and I have joined the asymmetrical belly button club as it is a couple of cms off centre, otherwise all things are looking good and I expect an earlier release. Key risks are infection and wound healing which is apparently a lot harder due to the recent intensive radiotherapy.

So have flights booked home for Monday afternoon

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Savaii Lagoon, Samoa, Family Pic

Coming to terms with my new body frame work

Titanium (pronounced: taɪˈteɪniəm) is a chemical element with the symbol Ti and atomic number 22. Sometimes called the "space age metal" it has a low density and is a strong, lustrous, corrosion-resistant (including sea water, aqua regia and chlorine) transition metal with a silver color.
Titanium was discovered in Cornwall, United Kingdom, by William Gregor in 1791 and named by Martin Heinrich Klaproth for the Titans of Greek mythology.
Titanium can be alloyed with iron, aluminum among other elements, to produce strong lightweight alloys for aerospace (jet engines, missiles, and spacecraft), military, medical prostheses, orthopedic implants and other stuff.
The two most useful properties of the metal form are corrosion resistance and the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal. In its unalloyed condition, titanium is as strong as some steels, but 45% lighter.
Source: abbreviated from wikipedia. 
(Notice the pronunciation, TAI teɪniəm, TAI was an early nickname and still used by old mates, I like that. Up early and sore but doing really well. Waiting for the drug cart to do its round, have discovered a wireless network and got my ipad going which is very exciting. I don't recommend updating blogs by mobile phone, ciao for now Gary)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Turning the corner

After a few mixed days I hopefully have turned a corner and doing pretty good. i have been showering and walking around on a frame for a couple of days, first day I did to much and was very active and had a very sore night. We sorted out and increased pain meds yesterday and its making a big difference. Physio also sorted me out saying basically to pull my head in and that having a shower and walking to toilet was all I should do in the next few days. Transitioning from the postop meds, where they completely wipe you out, to a mix that makes you feel relatively normal seems to be a bit of a hit and mis affair but they get there eventually. I have got all the tubes and drips out of body which makes things far easier and I like being independent. I was allowed to go on to a light diet yesterday (5 day fast) and started with some delicious eel sushi that Kat brought in. The hospital food is pretty bad. Meet Dr B again yesterday, my sarcoma surgeon and he is very happy with progress. He has sent the extracted material away for pathology testing in Australia and we will get report back in a couple of weeks.
So thing to remember even though you go though some very dark, uncomfortable and painful times is that they are usually short and you get through it quickly; communicating early with your care team helps alot.
So bottom line is I am doing well here and expecting a good day.
Again loving the blog comments, emails and txts, I read them all but don't always have time or energy to respond.
Kind regards Gary .

Sent from my Nokia phone

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 4

Gary had a good nights sleep(so did i).things slowly kicking back into gear.amazing how quickly one adjusts to new environments.burwood is fantastic,gary is getting the best care .everyone likes working here and it has great vibes.great staff from orderlies who are super helpful and friendly,hospital aides who do whatever is needed with a smile and fantastic and competent nurses and drs.we are safe and cared for. I am in the nurses home,it is quiet. We r missing the kids,but gd to have time to focus on gary recovery Good to have some space. thanks for all the support.kat
Sent from my Nokia phone

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day by day

Been napping most of the day and its been reasonably good day, had a bad start today and sick and very weak. They have taken me off food at present due to stomach and nausea issues. Finding it easier to shift around and get comfortable in bed and been out on a walking frame a few times. Taking it day by day and its getting better, enjoying all the blog comments, emails and txts. Ciao and off to sleep. Gaz

Sent from my Nokia phone

Saturday, October 23, 2010

metal man

hi - Dev here,

I caught up with Tai and Kat this afternoon. They're both doing amazingly well. We chatted for a bit then to my utter surprise Tai asked me to push over his walking frame ! Sure enough, he got to the side of his bed, pulled himself up and off he went. He wouldn't have made the finals in Delhi, but it was only 48 hours after a major 7 hour operation !.

He asked me to put up the post op xRays - I think that you'll agree that it's bizarre... in a very good way.

I'll leave it to Gaz to tell the full story, but each image above is half of the wee mans back - so where we had thought they would put in support for the bottom 5 vertebrae, it looks like they did a fair bit more than that.  I found this (mainly coz I wanted to ensure that I spelt vertebrae correctly !) ....

In the human spine (or vertebral column) there are seven cervical vertebrae (in the neck), twelve thoracic vertebrae (to which the ribs are attached), and five lumbar vertebrae (in the lower back). In addition, five fused vertebrae form the sacrum, and four the coccyx

Tai loves the emails and txts (kinda keen on the meds also) - so keep throwing them through.
Gary has been up on walking frame walking very short distances, but doing so well.pain meDs changed today so we are hoping for a better night,it was a bit rough last night.hes napping well today.its been quite a peaceful day.lovely temperature.we had the doors open..fresh air and birds singing. There is a plover near us with three chicks. Kat
Sent from my Nokia phone

Friday, October 22, 2010

I didn't meet a talking rabbit but I think I found wonderland.

Modern pain management is pretty amazing,just push the button, saying that its been a pretty uncomfortable day. Far more metalwork and fusing than expected. Surgery a success and confident that I had the dream team in the operating theater yesterday, apparantly they want me on my feet tomorrow which will be a major challenge but willl take it a day at a time. G
Sent from my Nokia phone

Day 1

Gary doing well.has been 4 xray today not fun. With the amount of metal now in his back new name is iron man .rod and screws from t6 to sacral area. Kat. gary says day very slow

Sent from my Nokia phone

In recovery 

Gary out of surgery and in recovery.surgeon pleased all gone according 2 plan.still waiting to see him.he went in at 9 and out at around 4.the orderlies keep telling me he had the best surgeons in the place.very friendly staff,thanks for all wishes and love keeping me going and gaz will love to c them in a few days.kat

Sent from my Nokia phone

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You've got my back covered!

I am very blessed to have a tremendous supporters team, including by family, wider Whanau, my medical team, my church, my friends, fellow cancer survivors, my colleagues at Enabling and wider business community. Based on the number of hits this site is getting (5,000+) there are probably a few I don't even know yet. I like people and I feel that I have the ultimate supporters team praying, wishing and working for a positive outcome and also providing our family with practical support. Thanks!

Kat and I will be updating this site on progress most days. I Love getting your ideas, comments, well wishes and bad jokes. So keep posting comments including to the old posts. You learn most things in life from others and keen to have your input.

I am going into this operation with complete confidence. Timing is great and I am feeling good in my body, mind and soul to deal with the challenges that the op and recuperation will bring and why shouldn't I; because all you guys have my back covered.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Who needs a Lamina anyway? Details on Surgery 2

Its funny when you are not aware of something important in your life until you need to do without it. Lamina are important parts of your vertebra in your spine (See graphic) and I am coming to terms with having  5 less of them in my body. The surgery this week involves removal of my right back muscle, plus the back right side of my lower spine, approx 15 cms. To strengthen it spine the vertebra will be fused and a metal rod fixed to the back of my spine.

The muscle excision (paravetebral muscles) is significant although I have been less concerned about this. The last operation detrimental impacted this muscle group significantly and I have found recovery to be swift and that the body just copes and reconfigures itself.    

The work on the spine has some greater risks and longer term impacts on recovery and mobility which has taken a bit more to get my mind around. 

The Surgery is this Thursday (21 Oct) at Burwood hospital and will take approx 5-6 hours. I have a crash hot surgery team and absolute confidence in their abilities.

Why do it? This is all in a good cause and will significantly increase my chance of long term survival from this cancer. I think at times with medical treatments you just need to grin and bear it.  Become informed, know the risks, but also heed your medical specialists advise. If in doubt ask your medical guru these  questions: If this was your child would you recommend this option? Is there a better option? What's the next best option and why is it inferior?

So in balance trading a few Lamina for an improved prognosis is a good deal and a no brainer decision. Am I confident in my medical & support team? Yes. Are the risks acceptable? Yes. Will I cope with recuperation and mobility issues? Yes. Will we achieve a positive outcome? Yes.  So lets go for it! 

R&R is good for Mind, Body and Soul, Le Lagoto Savaii Samoa

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Alofa Samoa

Just back from a wonderful family holiday in Savaii Samoa, this is such a wonderful place and I highly recommend. It is the classic hot and beautiful tropical island and you are forced to change your pace to half speed and island time. Mostly spent our time resting, reading and swimming. We stayed at a very nice small resort called Le Lagoto, which sits on a lovely beach and lagoon.

Highlights of trip: Quality time with the family; lovely local people, swimming with turtles, reading two books, tropical fruit, sunsets and stars, swimming in idyllic conditions all the time. Achieving complete rest.

Prior to trip home had become very busy and this break was perfectly timed to get a serious dose of R&R before surgery later this week. I am feeing fit and rested, plus family are in a very connected space.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Talofa lava

Thanks for all the comments, currently at Airport and flying out to a technology free tropical island. So offline for a couple of weeks. G

NED on track. 1 test down. 1 further test and 1 operation to go

Surgeon visit went very well yesterday, All the tests for metastisis (secondary spread) were negative, plus impact and healing from previous surgery and RT is going great. The before and after MRI images are amazing and reassuring. Went through surgery planning a little not much new info, confirmed that they will need to use a supporting rod and fuse the lower spine (approx 15 cm). This will have some long term mobility issues but  I am not concerned about it and will come to terms with it fine. I like Doctor B, he is on our side and working hard for a happy outcome. My surgeon did also say that the stiffning of the spine will result in "my golf handicap going out", so to my golfing friends, bring on the strokes! 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hedge Pruning Peninsula Style

Tree was a 12 metre macrocarpa and we had a lot of fun cutting it down. We subsequently have split the tree and used for a terraced garden. David a new friend and neighbour did the felling and I was just technical advisor "don't hit the chicken coup or Kats garden" and the male model for this Timberworkers calendar shoot.
Its great having lots of energy although I need to slow down and chill out a bit, Samoa is going to be great for that. I will never finish the things I want to do so just need to stop. Flying out today, playing golf and catching up with some Christchurch mates this afternoon and in to see surgeon tomorrow for planning and results of tests. Dev has drawn the short straw and coming along as a supporter. Family coming through and off to the tropics Tuesday.