Today an elderly physician friend of mine woke up with some very mild abdominal pain. He is a stoic man, and never complains about anything – not even the pain associated with a dislocated/shattered hip and multiple bone fractures from a car accident (he was very nonchalant about that event 2 years ago).
So when I heard that he was going to see a doctor about his belly pain – I knew that something serious was afoot. His doctor ordered an abdominal x-ray series, noted a tumor, and sent him to the O.R. within the hour.
In the O.R. the surgeons found a perforated colon (it must have ruptured minutes to an hour or two prior) without signs of peritonitis. There was a cancerous mass (without metastases) that they were able to remove completely. They washed his peritoneal cavity extensively to remove all fecal matter and potential cancer cells and transferred him to the ICU for observation overnight and IV antibiotics.
So far it seems that my friend will make a full recovery – and there is no evidence of remaining cancer, though we’ll need to be vigilant with follow up.
I can’t get over how lucky he was to have discovered the perforated colon within hours of it occurring, that the surgeons took care of him immediately, and that the cancer seems to have been contained and removed. I don’t know if his “luck” was partially due to his physician’s intuition about his own body, professional courtesy extended to him by peers, or that the Canadian healthcare system is not as burdened in his part of the country (Nova Scotia) as it is in others where there may be longer wait times.
All I can say is that my friend is one lucky Canadian!