Rectal Cancer & TME
My father was dx'd with rectal cancer in Sept. 06. I have gotten a lot of great information from this site in the months since his diagnosis. I am now hoping that I can get feedback from other members who have received treatment similar to my father's.
I am overwhelmed by the complexity of everything. Forgive me for giving only a limited amount of details in regards to my father's condition and treatment. After 6 weeks of chemo and radiation that started on 10/19/06, my father had laparoscopic TME surgery exactly a week ago (on 1/16/07). He has a temporary ileostomy. He is anticipating a reconnection surgery in 2-3 months. I have so many questions and I would be grateful to get a response to any of my questions.
1) My father is 75 yrs old. We were told by the surgeon that it was not that unusual for someone my father's age to have this surgery, especially since he was in otherwise good health. Now that we have entered the recovery phase, I question the doctor's judgment. His recovery has been miserable and I am certain that a lot of this has to do with his age. Has anyone been through this surgery at this age? Or know of someone who has been through the surgery at this age?
2) The pathology report came back with no traces of any cancer. It appears that the chemo and radiation had completely killed the cancer. I have been told that this is rather rare. It's also rather surprising since we had been told by another surgeon that my father may have a Stage 2 or 3 tumor. Has anyone experienced a similar outcome? This outcome should make us rather happy. It's offset by the recognition that my father didn't even need to have this surgery. This is made even more frustrating by his difficult and painful recovery. It has also been hard for my sister and I since we had pressured him into having the surgery in the first place. My father either didn't want to have any surgery, at all or he was looking into an excision-type procedure. Is anyone familiar with excision?
3) We were prepared for a surgery that would take 3 to 4 hours. It ended up taking 6 hours. The delay was explained to us in a very technical way that didn't make a whole lot of sense. Has anyone experienced a similarly long surgery?
4) As a result of the surgery (and the length of the surgery), one of my father's two vocal chord became paralyzed. We were told that this was not unusual and his vocal chord would eventually recover on its own. Has anyone experienced this?
5) My father's bowel has still not started functioning on its own. As a result, he still cannot take liquids or solids. His stomach is also filling with liquid and gas and causing incredibly painful gas pains. Two times, they had to insert an NG tube in order to drain his bloated stomache. This has been rather uncomfortable for him and is further irritating his vocal chord. We are continuing to be told that his bowel needs to "wake up" from the trauma of surgery and there is nothing he can do to speed this process up other than walking. They have taken an X-Ray to rule out the possibility of a blockage. Now that we are on day 8 of a hospitalization that wasn't supposed to last more than 7 days, we are starting to lose hope. Has anyone else experienced a similar delay in bowel function?
6) Has anyone else felt that the surgeon did not do a good job of preparing the patient and family for the trauma and recovery from surgery? Was this our responsibility to make sure we ask the right questions? I would hate to suggest that the surgeon exploited my father's condition by viewing him as a paying customer.
7) Is anyone familiar with the recovery from open-surgery and how it may compare to the recovery from laparoscopic surgery? Choosing between the two procedures was difficult for us. We specifically chose laparoscopic surgery because we had read that the recovery was shorter and easier. It has been anything but easy and short. Has anyone else experienced similar complications from laparoscopic surgery? I have been told that laparoscopic surgery takes longer than open surgery. I would think that being under anesthesia for more time would cause additional complications. That's what appears to have happened in my father's case. I'm just wondering how unusual this is.
I am sure I will have more questions as my father's recovery continues, but that is all for now. Thanks to everyone for all of the great information that has been posted to this message board.