Cancer Notes: Cats Know These Things


The cats had decided I was going to live last Friday. It took me a day or two longer.

I had my cancer surgery Monday the 14th. Stayed a couple of days in the hospital then made the three hour trip back. Technically, the surgery was a success. I now have no prostrate, a few less lymph nodes, a few less nerves. The pathology shows no cancer. They found some damage from a colon problem I had twelve years ago, and they took that out as well while they were in there.

I guess it was a twofer.

I felt great going in. Like I said all along, I had no symptoms. Dumb luck and an annual physical exposed the cancer, an aggressive, fast moving beast. I felt great right up to the morning they rolled me in and put me under.

After that? It felt like I had had major surgery. Everything from my chest to my thighs hurt. They gave me a morphine drip and it helped, but I weaned myself off fast. I refused the opiods. As much as I hate pain, addiction scares me more. So I got sent home with a bottle of Tylenol. It was like sending in a boy with a pop gun against the Russian army. I hurt. For a day or two I was still goofy from the anesthesia, but I still hurt.

It must have been worse than I recall. The cats, when I entered the house, didn’t leave my side for a few days. That was sweet, and problematic, since my cats love to lay and sleep on my belly.

Yeah, that belly, the one they had just sliced and diced with six incisions, bloated, black and blue and radiating pain. They figured it out. Duke took my feet. Sophia hovered around my shoulders as I lay and hurt.

Friday they left me. Like I said, they knew I’d live by then.

I’d like to report that getting used to the catheter and all the other external plumbing went smooth as silk, but it didn’t. Part of that was my pain, both from the actual operations, and from the gas they had pumped me full of.

Did you know they pump you full of gas to make room in there for the doctor and the robotics work? Evidently everyone but me knew that. My belly, a normalish flatish thing, looked like a pale white sausage ready to explode, and it took days for all that gas to find it’s way out. I don’t think it was happy. It growled and roared it’s way through my system for a few days. I swear, it was like having angry, hungry animals in there. And oh, yeah, it hurt.

So it might have been the pain, or it might just have been our own anxiety. My wife loves me. The last thing she would want to do it hurt me. I didn’t particularly want to hurt me either. But everything we did hurt. The catheter and pluming they gave us wasn’t exactly like the one they taught us on either.

But we figured it out. The pain got better after a few days, to the point where the Tylenol worked, then I weaned that off too. Now I only take it at night to make it easier to sleep.

It’s funny the things you get used to. The pain. Hanging a big ole bag of pea off your leg as you walk. Wearing flannel PJ pants. That last one was actually hard. I’ve never adopted the idea of PJ’s as fashion statement, or even public attire. But after a few days and starting to feel better it was like – “Put on the PJ’s and let’s go out!”.  Had the catheter stayed in much longer, I’d have been going out to the finer Restaurants in this area with my  flannel PJ bottoms, T Shirt and pee bag.

Yeah, I get cabin fever bad.

And dignity? There isn’t any. I am a modest soul most of the time. But that goes out the window when you go in for surgery. Your body is just a thing to do other things to to get you better. Don’t hold any ceremony because they are going to poke and prod and manipulate anything you have to do their job. It doesn’t embarrass them. They are professionals.

And frankly, with the pain I had, it didn’t bother me.

A week out, and I feel better. Better being a relative term. In normal times, I’d tell you I feel awful. My belly is still tender and will be for a time. There’s a whole laundry list of things I have to learn how to do again. Who knows when they wlll let me hold more than ten pounds worth of stuff. (Hey, at least one of my cats weighs more than that!)

But I can walk. I can ditch the flannels. Most nights, I sleep pretty good. Today, they let me drive. There’s a lot more normalcy to be had, but I am pretty grateful for the normalcy I have.

I am still wrestling with my feelings. There’s a lot of them and I process slowly. The past two weeks, I haven’t focused on my feelings. It’s all been about doing what has to be done to get better. Tasks. Dealing with the changes (Each days some pains get better, and new ones emerge.). Next week maybe, as the work of recovery becomes less consuming, I can process the emotions of these past few months from discovery to surgery to recovery. But not right now.

But I do know i am grateful, despite the pain and struggle of the past week. (I joke about it, but it was brutal.). The care and kindness of my wife and daughter, of friends who helped me get things done, hauled away our trash, got our house ready before we came back. Left us flowers and left messages in real life and on the internet.  The cards?

And the prayers! I am such a believer in the power of prayer, and so many of you have been praying for me and my family. Thank you. Thank you so much.

More later.

Be well. Travel wisely,



  1. Healing after a surgery takes time and patience, I am glad you have people to help you, you are loved and blessed, Tom. My prayers on your way, always.

    • We love you Tom and are praising God and the entire complete family friends and acquaintance list who is there by your side literally and figuratively. Animals are people too and they hurt when we hurt. All the best and Blessings.

  2. Cats are amazing creatures. My cat Annie jumped on my back any chance she got. If I bent over to retrieve something from the floor, she would leap aboard and stay there, so I had to walk around hunched over. Well, of course, I didn’t have to, but I did. Then I had major spine surgery and I worried about Annie jumping on me but she never did. She didn’t need to be discouraged, she simply knew, not to jump on my back.
    I am sorry your surgery was such an ordeal. Yes, for sure, it does take away one’s dignity, or rather it makes us aware of how little some things matter. The good thing, though, is that it’s over and you will feel a bit better every day. Just don’t get carried away when you do feel better and strain yourself by doing too much too soon. We all get tempted that way, but it’s better to follow doctor’s orders!
    Feel better, Tom, sending you warm thoughts…

    • Surgery is an ordeal for any of us I think. Mine was hard, but others had much harder. I am just grateful that I am healing, no matter the pace, and for the prayers. Your cat Annie sounds like a delight.

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