After two weeks of convalescing at home, I discovered that Thomas Edison, that great inventor and philosopher, was decidedly wrong on at least one point. There is a substitute for hard work, and it?s called rest.
When people undergo colon surgery to remove cancerous tissue that could, if ignored, threaten their very existence, the procedure is major and invasive. One of the logical outcomes of having a bowel resection is that most of the patient?s energy, for an average period of two to three months after surgery, is directed at healing those parts of the body that have been radically cut and resewn.
My lovely wife Linda drove a ?cranky and miserable? me home from our local hospital after my backside had impressed its beds for eleven days. I?m sure some of the nurses were glad to see me go, and I suspect even my surgical ward bed groaned a sigh of relief when I left it for the last time.
The surgeon simply said it was time to go home and take care of myself.
?Don?t overdo it,? he said. ?This (healing) will take time, so don?t be surprised that even the simplest routine will be tiring.?
I think I listened to that advice. I know I was nodding as he spoke, anxious to be on my way home. For the first time in nearly two weeks I was dressed in something other than the ?gap? gown, and ready to roll ? literally. As my surgeon left the room, a nurse stood by, wheelchair at the ready. It would be a first-class and hasty exit.
The very first thing I discovered after passing through those hospital doors was that I was absolutely incapable of getting into our car without help. Oh, I shuffled to the car, and insisted that I did not need Linda?s assistance, thank you, to do something as simple as get into a vehicle!
Did I mention that I was cranky and miserable? Linda figured it out pretty fast, but then she?s used to it.
About five minutes, and a whole lot of groaning later, I was belted into the front passenger seat, with a warning from ?she who must be obeyed? to ?sit there and keep quiet until we get home!? No problem there, lady. I used up all my energy just traveling from the hospital entrance to the front seat of my car. Linda even fastened my seat belt, because I was just too tired to do it.
For one of the few times in my adult life, I was not in control of what I would do. It had become a clear case of what I could do, and the amount of energy that activity would take. The cancer was gone; but, in some ways, it was still having an impact on my body.
That first day at home, I had four, one-hour naps. It seemed that I would no sooner be nicely planted in my favourite living room armchair than complete exhaustion would overtake me, and Linda would help me back into bed.
The number of naps dwindled to three, then two a day over the first two weeks of home recovery, and my energy level appeared to be increasing daily. Still, a walk around the back yard, the simple act of taking a shower, or chatting with one of our kids by phone was draining. That armchair had replaced the hospital IV pole as my new best friend!
Less than a week after leaving the hospital, I returned to have the staples removed from what had come to resemble a foot-long, purple zipper running down my torso. That trip, plus the waiting time in Ambulatory Care, plus the 20 minutes it took to remove 24 staples, because of some minor problems, was the single most exhausting experience I have had in my life. Maybe it was time to check back in?
?That?s you all finished,? said the staple-pulling nurse. ?Now go home and get some rest.?
Truer words were never spoken!