Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Surgery scheduled: June 17

This afternoon we met with Dr. Douglas Hanto, the surgeon, and his team. He described the placement of the growth in Deb's liver and the plan of surgery. The most likely possibility -- he won't know for sure until he starts operating -- is to remove the entire left lobe of the liver. It's possible that a smaller extraction would be enough, but he doubts it.

That may not be as bad as it sounds. He anticipates a four hour surgery, five days in the hospital, 4-6 weeks of recovery, and three months until "you don't feel like you had an operation". I hadn't been sure that there wouldn't be permanent consequences, so that sounded pretty good.

Naturally, there are all kinds of things that can go wrong -- Dr. Hanto listed them for us -- so any of those recovery targets could slip. But none of the risks sounds all that bad compared to a breast cancer or GIST recurrence, which was what we were picturing a week ago.

Various people have been telling us that livers regenerate, and today we finally got some details: Lobes don't grow back, but the liver in general grows when it's being used to its capacity -- sort of the same way muscles do. So after a month or so Deb would have a normal-sized liver, except that it would all be in a super-sized right lobe. The lobes aren't purpose-specific, so a big right lobe can do everything a complete liver does.

We opted for June 17, which was one of the earliest dates we could get. (This is a situation where we would rather have the surgeon we want than get it done fast.) That blows away our plans to go to the General Assembly of the UUA -- which starts the day we would plan for Deb to get out of the hospital -- so if you were planning to see us there we'll have to connect some other way.

Deb continues to have no symptoms worth mentioning, so we plan to live a normal life for the next three weeks or so.

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