I had about a week to prepare for my colon surgery to remove the malignant tumor that has blocked at least 80% of my bowel. I was diagnosed on Wednesday and was scheduled for surgery the next Tuesday. Excluding the weekend and the public holiday on Monday, I had only 2.5 working days to settle the pre-surgery preparations for my colon surgery.
What are the pre-surgery preparations? Enough to keep me busy all working days. I scheduled my surgery and completed my pre-admission alongside the insurance application on Wednesday afternoon itself after being diagnosed. Everything was arranged by Sime Darby Medical Center so I just followed the instructions.
Breaking the news to family and friends
The first thing I did after the pre-admission was breaking the news to family and friends. The first time I updated people was the hardest because every time I said the word, the fact that I’m a cancer patient now sank inside me a little deeper. Even until now, breaking the news is still not easy but I’m coping better.
Handing over work matters
I spent first halves of Thursday and Friday doing handover in the office and aligning with my superiors and HR on my medical leaves. I was going to be away for a month; that’s not a short period, especially when I only gave half day’s notice. Thankfully the company was understanding and supportive.
Getting second opinion
My insurance agent arranged for a second opinion consultation because after all, it’s a major surgery. They were about to cut a proportion of my colon out together with surrounding healthy tissues via an open surgery on my abdomen.
It was nearing Chinese New Year and a lot of doctors were already away from work but through my insurance agent’s connection, she managed to secure an appointment with Dr Sandip Singh from University Malaya Specialist Center (UMSC) on Thursday evening itself.
The second opinion consultation confirmed the diagnosis and treatment that Sime Darby Medical Center advised. Dr Sandip was very generous with his time and knowledge to explain to me the entire situation. He reassured me that it’s likely to be caused by genetic more than lifestyle because I’m too young to mess up my body this much. He explained the possible complications that may be discovered during surgery i.e. dilated and weak colon may result in a temporary colostomy bag, unhealthy large colon (my colonoscopy did not assess more than half of my large colon because the tumor obstructed) may result in complete removal of large colon, tumor sticking to kidney may result in shaving of kidney exterior layer. Trust me, I felt like I was going to faint after listening to all the details; it was frightening but it’s good info to know about the procedure that I was about to go through.
Dr Sandip explained to me how my bowel system would change after the surgery and how I should manage my diet pre- and post-surgery. He even helped to book a special appointment with his recommended dietician who was already on leave.
Many people recommended Dr Sandip as well but in the end, I chose Dr Samuel Tay because even though Sime Darby Medical Center was estimated to be about RM10,000 more expensive, it’s more convenient. I had everything scheduled there. My insurance was approved. My medical records were all there. And I have been to the wards and I was comfortable with the environment. In addition, UMSC was not a panel so I’d have to fork out RM25,000 pre-surgery. That’s too much stress when I had only 1 working day left at that time.
Afterall, Dr Samuel Tay was recommended as well and Dr Sandip agreed I was in good hands. I met Dr Samuel Tay again on Friday morning with my mom and RK to clarify on my procedure.
Retesting my biopsy sample
I was taught that if I wanted to be sure that the diagnosis was right, I could request for the biopsy sample to be retested by a different pathologist at the same lab or at a different lab. Sime Darby Medical Center only had 1 pathologist when I asked so I requested the biopsy slices to be reexamined myself at a different lab. I got the slices on Thursday evening but didn’t send to another lab because Dr Sandip was positive the biopsy result was accurate based on the colonoscopy and CT scan imaging.
Consulting a dietician
Thanks to Dr Sandip, I secured an appointment on Friday afternoon with Pn Rozzana, a dietician at UMSC. Before meeting her, she called me the evening before for a pre-consultation so that she could prepare my diet plan before meeting me. She asked me for my vitals and physical activities to calculate a recommended calorie count. Of course, she learned about my condition to plan the diet accordingly.
When I met her, she was a frank and animated lady. She was clear in her communication and detailed in her consultation. She probed my normal diet preferences and patterns before giving me a big load of free samples for me to consume before my surgery, with the objective to maintain (if not increase) my weight and strengthen my body because I was underweight and I was on liquid diet prior to surgery. Post surgery, I would not be able to eat for days and I would be on patient’s diet for a while. I’d share more about my diet plan for colon surgery soon.
It was already end of working day on Friday after meeting the dietician. I was exhausted but relieved that everything was in place. I spent the weekend following my strict liquid food diet plan, updating friends on my condition and preparing myself for the surgery (by relaxing and learning more about the newfound Big-C).
I feel the hecticness of the preparations just my typing them out. Can’t believe there were so many things to rush as a patient.