Monday, March 3, 2014

And on to the Final Treatment Stage

     Last Monday's (Feb. 24th) parathyroid surgery in Toronto went very well. We drove down in the early morning (the best time to beat all of the traffic) and found our way to the pre-surgery area. We were encouraged by the IV nurse who came, as she shared she is a breast cancer survivor, being diagnosed just one year previous to Beth. Eventually they came to wheel her away and I headed to the beautiful waiting area they have at the hospital. Her surgery was scheduled for 8:00 and the surgeon came to talk to me by 10:30, sharing that everything had gone according to plan. He said that he was able to clearly see the vocal cord nerve so was easily able to avoid that. He told me that he removed the left superior (upper) parathyroid gland and saw that the anterior (lower) one was intact. However this lower gland was quite small, as the upper one with the (non-cancerous) tumour would have been inhibiting its functioning. The doctor said that it could take up to several months before her one remaining parathyroid gland completely takes over regulating her calcium level (that is the role of our parathyroid glands - to regulate the amount of calcium in our blood and bones). Regular practice for this type of surgery is to stay in the hospital for a couple of nights to have your calcium levels closely monitored, which is what happened with Beth.
     She made it up to the floor around 1:00 and was a bit groggy, but feeling okay. Within an hour or so she just seemed like herself, though she did have a headache. We did some walking and got her some yogurt from the Tim's in the hospital. We were kinda surprised that there wasn't pain medication ordered for her yet (according to the nurse anyway) and that they didn't have some of the other pills ready either even though it had seemed to us that all of this was supposed to have been setup when we visited the week before with the pharmacist as part of the preop preparations. It's a good thing Beth is a nurse and that she even did bring some of her meds because we ended up using a few pills from home initially. The previous week Beth had noticed that one of the incisions from her mastectomy had a spot of infection so she went to emergency (Sunday, Feb. 16) to get it looked at and they put her on an antibiotic. It seemed to take a while to get better so she didn't want to be missing any doses of that medicine (it seems to have pretty much cleared up by now).
     So the stay at the hospital was pretty quiet and relaxing. Beth had a nice and warm private room. I came home on Monday night but stayed with our friends Sheila & Bert's at their condo near Lakeshore Blvd. on the Tuesday. We hoped to get away early on Wednesday but they needed to do blood work around noon. The calcium levels were dropping, as expected, but they weren't too low, and she began taking calcium supplements 3 times a day (which has continued, along with regular blood tests back in Kitchener). We ended up leaving the hospital around 4:00, just in time to hit rush hour traffic on the way back home. Still, it was great to finally get back and we ended up having some quick visits with David, Rachel & Lindsay; Josh; and my mom & dad (Alison was working and Joel was still out in Halifax visiting his girlfriend Caora). Overall the whole parathyroid surgery part of this adventure went extremely well and it was pretty amazing to see how quickly Beth bounced back from this. We knew that the surgeon is highly respected in his field and this was confirmed by a doctor who came in to talk to Beth one day - he is a surgeon from Australia and has come to Toronto to work under, and learn from, Beth's doctor, as he has a world-wide reputation as one of the best head and neck surgeons.
     A highlight from this past weekend was that our grand-daughter Lindsay turned one year old on Sunday (March 2nd - yes Lindsay and I share a half-birthday if you know what that is). We ended up offering our house as the party place as both sides of the family adds up to 20 people and we can accommodate that number pretty easily. It was a wonderful get-together and it was so much fun to see Lindsay try to figure out what was going on - from the decorations, to the large crowd of people, all the presents, singing 'Happy Birthday', and of course her first taste of birthday cake! She had a great time (and a much needed nap afterwards).
     This morning (Monday) Beth began the last stage of her breast cancer treatment - radiation. She will be getting 25 treatments spread over the next five weeks. Each session only takes about 15 minutes and we're thankful that they're scheduled for earlier in the morning so that it doesn't break up the day and there's less danger of the technicians falling behind schedule. The first couple of weeks there are no expected side effects but as the treatments progress there may be some issues with the skin burning or blistering and fatigue.

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