Posts Tagged ‘liver resection’

Yes, I can…

April 15, 2011

er name was Lea. She has been working at the hospital for more than 12 years, mostly in the radiology department. I can tell she knows her stuff as an ultrasound technician. She is also from the Philippines. She gets the warm gel and puts a healthy dab on my stomach.  That feels good.

“So they took out your right liver?” She asks.

“Yup. And my gallbladder too. I was first diagnosed with colon cancer in March 2008, then it came back in November 2009 and had metastasized to my liver. In April 2010, after a few rounds of chemo they decided to remove the right lobe. Lately, my oncologist noticed my elevated liver function test and wanted to be sure there are no blockage.”

“They did a good job on your right liver. They managed to save a portion of it including your portal vein. Listen.”

She turned up the volume and I listened to the strong surge of blood flow in rhythmic harmony with my heart beat. Amazing.

This brought up memories of Dr. A, an excellent liver transplant surgeon (see his picture in this post ‘I will remember thee’). I have described his hands as those similar to being touched by God. I am indebted to him and everybody who have helped me come this far.

“Did they take out your kidney too?” She interrupted thoughts.

Huh? Was I robbed of an organ?

“Oh. I found it. It moved since there was a space left when they took out your right liver.” Whew!

She went about looking for my pancreas, spleen, veins, and arteries taking pictures of them along the way. Except for a liver cyst she noted, she did not seem concern. But the doctors will have to make that assessment.

I received the results the following day as I was having my treatment. My wife read the results and told me everything was fine. However, my blood test came back again and my liver function test results were still elevated. This thing is going to bother us. I have learned my lesson not to ignore any signs of abnormality. My monthly chemo treatments constantly reminds me how fragile life can be.

When it is time for my monthly treatment, I have this battle in my mind about the limitation put on me. I can’t get invited to the ultimate dance – a Boston Qualifier. I can’t travel far or meet that deadline. I can’t run fast.  I can’t…I can’t.  It is dangerous to go down the path of ‘I can’t’. So it is a constant ordeal for me. Writing about it helps. Meditating.  And of course, waddling.

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 16, I have been invited to the starter runner for the Novacare Lakefront 10 miler. I feel honored.  I have waited a year for this.  Last year, they invited me to be their starter runner but my liver surgery got in the way.  There is no way I am going to miss this event, come rain or shine.

Thanks to Noreen, Jamie, and the amazing Novacare staff they helped me get back to running when I had ITB problems in time for the 2009 Chicago Marathon. Another set of people I am indebted to!

I will speak about ACS and the fullness of life.  You see, life is full of opportunities once you get past ‘I can’t’.


PS:  As part of the deal, they gave me bib number 1.  Woohoo.

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I will remember thee.

June 8, 2010

Monday, June 7, at Dr. A’s office (liver surgeon)

oc, why did you take out my gallbladder?” I asked upon seeing him for my follow-up consult.

It was in the way (of the liver).” He replied jokingly.

What a guy!  I love him and his sense of humor. This was my second follow-up visit after my liver resection last April 20, and maybe this last time I will see him. No offense to him but I only have one liver left now.

You look good and fully recovered. Let me see your scars.” I raise up my shirt to show him my wound.

I would have looked better if you had worked on my abs too.” I said and he laughed. He points to his belly and said.

Well, before you get it, I need one too.”

Dr. A and me

He said that my scars were healing well, except for one portion.  Pretty soon it will just fade, he adds (like memory).  He instructed nurse Lori to touch up the non-healing wound, then bids me good luck before seeing other patients.  And, just like that, we both move on.

I was happy to see Dr. A and Lori, but sad as well because I know I may not see them again.  Everyday, cases like mine come and go in their offices.  Perhaps some of them worst than mine.  While in the waiting room, I saw a patient with a bag full of medication–a transplant patient.  You see Gods work in their offices.

I am only one of the people passing through their office/clinic, and I am a grateful beneficiary of their outstanding medical skills and kindness. He may not remember me when I see him me in the streets of Chicago but I will definitely remember him, and those who have helped me along the way. Thanks, Dr. A and Lori.

Lori and me


PS: Recovery week is here and I am slowly getting my strength back.  Woohoo.

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I got the call.

April 14, 2010

was out on errands with my mom and daughter yesterday when the call came through.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Bo? This is Lori from Dr. A’s office. I am calling to let you know we have a schedule for your liver surgery.” Lori has a sweet voice that she makes you comfortable right away, but I was still anxious knowing I was about to receive news on my impending surgery.

“Yes?” I hesitatingly replied.

“We have you scheduled next week, Tuesday, April 20 for your liver resection.  In preparation, you need to come in for a physical exam prior to the surgery.  I am trying to get this scheduled for you this Thursday, April 15, but could not confirm it yet.”

Oh…oh.  There it is.  It is chopped liver time.

I should have been ready for this call but when it came, it still sent chills down my spine. It is really going to happen, and that soon too.  They are going to open me up, remove part of my liver, and then I have to heal.  I know I wanted this done, I know my doctor is good, but I still could not help being anxious.

I also notice the change in my mom’s mood when she over heard me talking to Lori about the schedule.  She was hoping that I do not have to undergo the surgery, as if wanting all the distress to stop.  That’s the protective mother’s instinct.  She just kept silent and prayed.

No use backing out now. Thy will be done.

Lori was going to give me the details of my schedule as soon as she can but for my April 20 surgery date, she told me to be at the hospital by 6 am.

It will be another Tuesday event for me.  I am really a Tuesday person (see my previous  posts ‘Tuesdays people‘).  I received the call on a Tuesday and will have surgery next Tuesday, April 20.  When on treatments, I have my chemo Tuesday and recovery Tuesday (see related post ‘Recovery Tuesday is here‘.  I think it is just appropriate to end this with a song from the Rolling Stones ‘Ruby Tuesday’.

‘Yesterday don’t matter, if it is gone’ – Rolling Stones.


Let’s do it.


PS:  I think I will have a barbeque party this weekend and serve grilled liver or pate with red wine.

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It’s complicated*

April 12, 2010

(*Footnote: The title of this post reminded me of the 2009 movie ‘It’s Complicated‘ starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Most often, it is also used as common American expression to describe a difficult predicament/situation.)

As if saying why does life have to be complicated?


ast week Monday (April 5), my wife and I found ourselves in the patient room waiting for Dr. A, the liver surgeon (see related post ‘Meeting Dr. A‘). This appointment was already set several weeks ago to assess the resectability of my liver. The previouls week (March 31 and April 1), I had a series of scans of my liver, chest, and whole body (PET).  The PET scan came out negative with no cancer cells detected, soI was curious to find out what Dr. A would recommend.

“Wow. You look burnt, Dr. A. I hope you had fun!” I jokingly said upon seeing him walk through the door.

He smiled and said “I took in too much sun while on vacation in Arizona.” I suppose you forgot to put sunblock. 🙂 We exchanged further pleasantries and then he got down to business.

“As I had previously mentioned in our last meeting, we have a surgical review team that go through all our cases every Friday, and your case was among those reviewed.  For your case, it was reviewed by the radiologist, oncologist, and surgeon. They reviewed the results of your scans and medical background, and came to the conclusion of surgery to resect the tumors in your liver.”

There it is again. Reality looking me in the eyes. I could not reconcile in my mind why these learned doctors would recommend resection of my liver when my scans were negative. Why? Seeing my apprehension, Dr A. continued.

“I understand that the PET scan shows negative presence of cancer cells. To me this is the litmus test of the resectability of your liver.  The negative PET scan, tells me you have responded to your chemo treatments. If you did not respond to your treatments or your PET still showed positive presence of cancer, it is useless to resect your liver. No point in opening you up when you don’t respond to chemo.  It does not buy you anything.”

Ok. That make sense.

“Also, the negative PET scan results does not mean that your cancer is not going to come back.  For now, nothing can be detected or identified.  A resection of your liver would increase your chances of remission or the cancer not coming back. I know this is a lot to absorb, so you might like to think this over before deciding.”

He gave me other details of how long is the recovery period and if it will be partial or full resection. Right now he is looking at an open surgery to take out the right lobe of my liver. Gulp! Recovery is about four weeks in order for the left lobe to grow and take over. I would have to give up drinking or drink in moderation since I am left with one lobe.

This is complicated, but if you think about it I am being given an opportunity to increase my chances of remission. My right lobe for a better life. It is no different from the choices given up by other cancer patients, like LisaK, a breast cancer survivor of 11 years. Lisa is my yoga-mate and I recently got to know her more.

She is a graphic artist and entrepreneur with her own company (Pisa Design).  Eleven years ago, she was in the same predicament I am in now.  To increase her chance of remission she had a double mastectomy; moreover,  she even went further to have her ovaries removed. Now, how does that compare to me giving up drinking and her giving up up the chance to have kids of her own?  Cancer makes give up things for a sliver of hope of remission.

You have to give up something in order to get something of value. Sounds familiar. It happens everyday, like paying for goods and services; but put this into perspective of something of real value.  It is like giving up something for a chance to smell the roses for many more years, hold hands with your wife or love ones, a chance to see one more sunrise, or a chance to stand at the starting line of the NYC marathon or London marathon. Would I give up a liver for that?

Yes, I would.  It is not complicated.


PS: I would know in the coming days when my liver surgery will be. For now, I being weaned out of chemo toxins in my body. To help in getting rid of the toxins, I am running, cycling, cross-training, and doing more yoga.  Hopefully, I will have an easy recovery from surgery, as well.  I will keep you posted.

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What’s next: chopped liver

March 30, 2010

ecovery Tuesday is here. Woohoo!  Last week’s chemo was uneventful. I am not saying I was not sick from the side-effects but it was just uneventful. No surprises which is the way I wanted coming to this week. My sights are focused towards next week when I meet Dr. A, the liver specialist. My oncologist, Dr. M, is giving me some time-off from chemo. Double woohoo! Dr. A takes over for the moment.

In preparation for the meeting, I started running again, cue in the Rocky music.  I started Sunday by running 2.3 miles@11:28 pace, then yesterday I attended a cross-training class, and today was spinning class or cycling. In between, I did some yoga.  That’s for the physical activity part intended to recover fast. There is also the medical preparation activity, which goes like this;

  • March 31 – chest CT scan requested by Dr. A. This is to rule-out any metastasis (mets) to the lungs. If the cancer has mets to my lungs I will not longer be a candidate for liver surgery.
  • Same date – liver CT scan also requested by Dr. A. This will provide a detailed study of my liver and the locations of the tumors. It will help Dr. A and his team to determine if partially a resection of the right lobe is feasible or total removal of the right lobe to remove the cancer. If the right lobe is removed, the left lobe would take over and grow. It means no drinking or too much drinking. Oh…oh.
  • April 1 – PET scan requested by Dr. M. This will determine if I am responding to chemo and that there are no new tumors. They would compare this my previous PET scan in November 2009 with this new one.
  • April 5 – I meet with Dr. A with all the results of my scan and the ‘verdict’ will be read. Chop that liver! Let’s do it! I just wanted to get this cancer out of me, I want to heal, and be normal again. If I need to give up my liver (and drinking), just take it! Er…just one please.

That’s the plan.  With all this scans, I would be glowing in the dark (from radiation) and blow away the geiger counter. In the meantime, I need to get strong and exercise to remove as much chemo toxins in my body prior to surgery.

My friend/colleague, Art, called today and said I sounded good. Must be due to all the exercises I have been doing. He is working in Portsmouth, UK and he wished that I was there working with him.  Art and I have fun working together and traveling around the world.  In due time, Art, in due time. There are many things I wish I am able to do but I can’t anymore or have been limited. I see others taking for granted what they have, not knowing it can be taken away.  Do take care. Carpe Diem.


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