Tag Archives: stomach cancer

When in Cancer Hospital – Week 2

We didn’t have much time to think about the intensity of the situation once her cancer was diagnosed as explained in When in Cancer Hospital – Week 1. The doctors wanted to get the operation done the next day. She was already admitted in the hospital since past 5-6 days so all other routine check up before the surgery had already been done.

The most difficult part of the whole process was that my mom didn’t actually know what was going on with her. We were too scared to tell her what had actually happened to her. It was partly because we were hoping that her biopsy would somehow be negative and the operation wouldn’t have to be a major one. But her cancer had been confirmed now and there was only 10 or 12 hours left before my mom went in the surgery room. I cannot even explain in words the kind of emotions I was feeling.

Mom would instead tell us not to worry much and she’d be fine after the surgery. She could see the expression on our faces and even at that point, she was worrying more about us and asking us to calm down and she’d be fine. Bua couldn’t stay in the same room as mom that day. He was too emotional and I remember we would take turns to go out of mom’s room and cry in turns. We didn’t want to be weak in front of her. Everything was so uncertain at that time but we trusted in two things:

1. My mom’s strength and
2. Our Doctors

TIP: From our experience, what I feel is inner strength is a great healer. Even if the disease is incurable, being strong will always help you face the situation in a positive note.
FACT: Hope can do wonders, you can endure any pain when there is hope of life.

Looking back and thinking of the situation now, I remember both Bua and me being adamant about getting mom treated. We wanted to give her the best treatment available. And mom never showed any sign of fear(she must’ve been very scared at that time). My mom is a believer. She never stopped believing in her “God” and the power of meditation(she had been meditating since last 6-7 years). So, every night I would read her “Chandi Patth” (versus of prayers of Goddess Durga, it signifies strength and bravery) and “Hanuman Chalisa” (versus of prayers of God Hanuman, it signifies being fearless) while we were at the hospital. I remember she kept on repeating to herself and us that she’d be fine, she really did believe the situation would get better and it was only temporary.

TIP: Pray during times of difficulty and help your closed one connect to God.
FACT: It is only natural for people to turn to the divine power when there seems to be no explanation about the things that are happening. At this point, a source of belief and faith can do wonders. It can help you understand and accept your situation instead of fretting as being positive is always better than giving in to the illness.

On the day of the surgery, mom changed into surgical gown early in the morning. The doctor who was doing the surgery visited us and told us about the kind of surgery she was getting. The doctors had planned for “Sub-total gastrectomy”. To read more, you can start by visiting wikipedia.

The surgery took much longer than expected, mom was taken in for surgery at 8 am and she was in the post surgery ward at 4pm!! After the surgery, we talked to the surgeon and he informed us that they had to perform “Total-Gastrectomy”(total removal of stomach) since the size of the tumor was big that they didn’t want to take any chances. He also informed us that the surgery was successful and he would refer us to a medical oncologist for further treatment guidelines.

TIP: Ask about the procedure in detail so that you will be well informed about the condition of your loved ones.
FACT: Surgery can result in change in lifestyle and diet of the patient, be well informed so that you can communicate with your loved ones with compassion and help them understand and accept the changes.

In the evening when we were allowed to visit mom in post operative ward, she was not aware that such kind of surgery would mean complete rest for weeks and a drastic change in diet. She was not so happy with us for not informing her about what would happen after the surgery. But the fact is, even we didn’t know what exactly would happen after the surgery.

So, let me list down the facts about what to expect after going through a “Total Gastrectomy”

  1. You will need to spend around 6 days in post operative ward.
  2. You will not be able to eat normally until a test is done to confirm that there are no leaks in your gastric track after the surgery.
  3. You will get nutrition through Intravenous Feeding for the first week.
  4. You will need be in complete rest for 5-6 days, usually taking pain killers to reduce the pain caused due the incision made during surgery.
  5. A feeding tube, which will deliver food directly to stomach will be required for the first few weeks until the patient is able to eat normally by swallowing. In mom’s case, she was feed through the tube for around 15 days.
  6. Patient may experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
  7. The food portion will significantly decrease after this type of surgery. 5 to 6 smaller meals throughout the day would be recommended.

At the end of our second week in cancer hospital, my mom’s cancer was confirmed and her surgery was successfully performed.

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When in Cancer Hospital-Week 1

In this post I will talk about our first week in cancer hospital after my mum was diagnosed with stomach cancer. You can find the previous post here.

When we reached Delhi, we already had living arrangements so it was a little easier for us. I will use the name Cancer Hospital for Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital and Research Center as I do not intend to advertise any non-charity organization in particular. I am sure there are other hospitals in India and elsewhere as good as the one where we treated my mum.

We took mom to the hospital on the second day of our arrival in Delhi.

TIP:Usually, if we take a morning flight from Kathmandu and go directly to the hospital, we can get an appointment with the doctor on the same day as well.
FACT:It will reduce the cost and save time as early appointment means early access to treatment.

Since there are many patients from different geographical locations getting treatment at the Cancer Hospital, your accommodation can either be arranged by the hospital(if the Hospital accommodation is still available), if not you can always talk with the family of fellow patients getting treatment at the hospital, they will give you phone numbers of the local agencies that arrange for accommodations around the hospital area.

On the first day we visited the doctor at Cancer Hospital, we showed him the old reports from Kathmandu. As soon as he saw the reports, he recommended some tests and advised us that a surgery would be the best treatment option to begin with in my mom’s case. But the doctor would not perform surgery unless the biopsy results confirm that its definitely cancerous tumor/lesion as seen in the endoscopy report. In some cases, the biopsy results are negative several times but this does not necessarily mean that the tumor in not cancerous. There are hundreds of cancerous tumors that have been identified in the world and the biological structure of cancer cells are diverse and unique, due to this reason, the ink used in the biopsy test may sometimes not trace the cancer cells. So, in case the biopsy tests shows negative for cancer, do not hesitate to ask for repeated biopsy tests so that you can be 100% sure that the tumor is not malignant(cancerous).

On our first visit, we asked the doctor many questions and we were very impatient and worried. But we have to understand that being diagnosed with cancer is not the end of the world and it does not mean there is no treatment available. With proper treatment and care, one can outlive the prognosis and in some cases can even be cured! So being patient is the first lesson we learned, but it does not mean that we stop looking out for the treatment. It is always better to be well informed about the condition of our loved ones and explore every available opportunity for getting the right treatment. The doctor asked us to get our mom admitted the next day and asked us to arrange for accommodation around the hospital as we would have to spend some time at the hospital. At this point we had no clue for how long we would be at Delhi.

TIP: Book an open ticket from kathmandu rather than a two way ticket since the actual number of days required to stay in the hospital can be uncertain.
FACT: SpiceJet is the cheapest option for KTM-DEL-KTM, besides SpiceJet, RA can be another economical choice.

The next day, my mum went through another round of endoscopy, as we did not bring the slides from Kathmandu.

TIP: Always take the slides of your tests when you plan to change the hospital.
FACT:This will reduce the cost of new tests as well and also will spare the patient from going through the painful tests(my mom hated, still hates endoscopy test).

We had to wait for one more day before we got the endoscopy reports, in the meantime, our doctor arranged for surgery as there was definitive appearance of tumor in my mum’s city scan reports. The next day, biopsy report was out and it showed negative(suggesting there was no cancer). But the doctor was not convinced, so he asked for another endoscopy. Again in the second endoscopy also the results were negative. This only gave us hope that may be she didn’t have cancer, may be she would be ok soon and may be the treatment wouldn’t be so harsh, but rather than clinging to false hope, we encouraged the doctor to recommend as many tests as required. Then, the doctor asked us to go to the more advanced laboratory in Delhi and to get samples for biopsy from a more experienced surgeon. Only after this third test in a more advanced lab, my mom’s cancer was diagnosed. It was a vigorous kind of cancer cells called Signet Ring Cell Adenocarcinoma, diffuse type.
You can learn more about stomach cancer here, here and Mayo Clinic.

TIP: Regularly visit the website for Mayo’s clinic to keep yourself up to date about all the available treatments.
FACT: Visit Mayo Clinic website to cross check the course of treatment recommended by the doctor, drugs being used in Chemotherapy and so on to avoid any false method of treatments to be discovered in future.

I will try to write more about our other experiences in the posts to follow.

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