Cancer Column: Thoracic Park

So, this is it. In twelve hours time, I’ll be on the chopping table for my major surgery and final last hurdle in this never-ending chronicle. Yup, as of tomorrow, I probably won’t have cancer anymore (and typing that makes my fingertips tingle a little).

Obviously, being sat in hospital accommodation the day before a major thoracic surgery is absolutely horrifying and writing about this oddly seems like the only way to distract myself from the crippling anxiety. The surgery is big and the worries surrounding it all just seem to be getting bigger and bigger with each second.

Three to five rib are going to be surgically removed in a chest wall resection. The tumour will then be removed, followed by prosthetic ribs being inserted and a muscle flap being created (with the latissimus dorsi muscle running down the side of my body) to redirect blood flow and protect the prosthesis. Because of a multitude of recent health issues, both the oncology surgical team and the plastic surgery team (the surgery requires two teams) don’t really know what to make the fake ribs with. Originally the plan was to make a fusion rib with cement mesh and titanium plates, but due to my body’s susceptibility to infection, they’re now thinking of using a biological mesh made of, you guessed it, pig skin.

Correct, I’m going to become a real-life, fully formed, human pig-in-blanket.

The surgery will have me on a high dependency unit for a few days followed by a week in hospital with chest drains, muscle drains, catheters and a whole sea of other trauma, followed by two months in bed at home recovering.

Things haven’t been great since my 13th cycle of chemo (proof that it truly is an unlucky number). After said cycle, my immune system dropped and I developed a horrific case of ‘super-pneumonia’ that drove my temperatures up to 40 degrees and nurses telling my friends that they didn’t think I’d make it. Before my body fully recovered, I found myself back in for my final cycle of chemo. Finishing chemo is one of the best feelings ever but with the impending pain and stress, it’s hard to celebrate anything.

Having said that, I’m clearly far too excited to be living life post-chemotherapy and find myself dousing my body is coconut oil and hair growth shampoo every day in hope my hairs will start sprouting up soon.

Of course, after cycle 14, my immune system dropped again and I had to have emergency surgery after forming an abscess somewhere too embarrassing to print in this. The pain from the abscess outweighed all pain experienced throughout cancer, especially when nurses in day surgery deny you pain relief.

The next few months are going to be awful, truly, truly awful. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to check myself into rehab after the amount of morphine I’m going to take, grow to hate my physiotherapists and learn to live as a pig-hybrid but it’s going to be overwhelmingly incredible to say goodbye to Ewing’s Sarcoma.

Cancer has been a gift in many ways. The people I’ve met, got close with and been able to experience their kindness has been phenomenal. I’ve learned so much about myself and others, about humanity and mortality, loss and luck. There’s a hell of a lot I won’t miss, but there are faces and names I truly will. I’ve formed such a close connection with the most amazing set of nurses, charity social workers and patients I won’t get to see as often. This part of my life is completely ready to be put to sleep now.

And trust me, I’m never eating spare ribs again.