Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Surgery Journey

I know it has been awhile since I last updated my blog but to be honest I just haven’t felt like doing much of anything. My recovery from this surgery has been a slow, painful process. I have spent my days and nights taking pain meds and sleeping. I am so tired of just laying around; I think I am becoming a good candidate for bed (or recliner) sores!!!!

Our good friends invited us to spend this past weekend at their lake house. We are always excited to get together with our friends, and like camping, I knew I could lay around and recuperate at the lake house just as well or better than at home. (After all, my sister Kim and friends Karen and Carolee were there to baby me!!!) The girls and Wendell had a great time knee-boarding, tubing, and boating. And as always, we all had fun just being together and eating Wendell’s constant cooking!!!!

I will try to start my update of this past surgery "journey" from my perspective now. It will take several blogs to say all I want to say, so here goes…..

Wendell and I drove to Nashville on Monday, June 1, 2009 and spent the night at a Motel to be there early the next morning. We arrived at 6:00am and checked in. Teresa and my Dad arrived at about the same time we did, and I began to have cold feet. They called me back fairly quickly and began prepping me for the surgery. As time passed I began to become more and more uneasy about this surgery. I had no peace. I was to the point of tears but was afraid to back out. I let them proceed. I really believe in my heart now, that it was not the Lord’s will for me to undergo this surgery. I know I should have backed out when I had no peace, because I didn’t, I feel I have suffered physically things the Lord did not will me to go through.

This is a picture right before surgery, cold feet was setting in and I felt no peace.

The surgery lasted about 12 hours. Before my eyes opened in ICU that night I knew they had performed the tracheotomy. I was more afraid of the feeding tube than I was the trach, before surgery, Boy, all I can say is: ignorance is bliss!! People have asked if it was weird trying to breath through the trach, and the answer is no, it was automatic, just like breathing through your nose. The problems arise, I learnt the hard way, when the trach becomes clogged with mucus. When I woke up I had the trach, a feeding tube, a catheter, three drainage tubes coming from my neck and one drainage tube coming from my arm, an IV in my foot, an IV in my arm, a cast on my left arm where they took the blood vessels and tissue, and a clear bandage on my leg where they took the graph for my arm. All in all I felt like I had been run over by an 18 wheeler!!!! To look at me you would have thought my neck or arm would have caused the most pain but surprisingly it was my leg. When the pain meds would begin to wear off it would feel as if someone was taking a blow torch to my leg. The pain was almost unbearable until the pain meds would kick back in.

I debated on whether or not to post this extremely unflattering picture or not. I finally decided if I was going to be honest and tell my whole story, why not?

My arm was positioned back in an awkward, uncomfortable position so as it healed I would have the full range of motion as normal.

This picture of my leg was took about four or five days into the healing process, so it does not show the true effect of how it looked right after surgery.

Well it's time for my hourly nap!!! more later.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Quick Update

It's been a while since Wendell last updated my blog, so I thought I would try to take a few minutes and give a partial update. I, once again, have a lot I want to share but will have to do it over the course of several blogs, because my strength is still not great.

After coming home from the hospital on Thursday night, we spent Thursday night and Friday night at home. For the last 10-12 years we have went on a camping trip to Townsend, (a quiet little town at the foot of the Smokies), with anywhere from 8 or more other families. We always go the same time every year, and make our reservations a year in advance. I had tried to prepare everything before my surgery for this trip in the hope that we would still be able to go. We have a fully self contained camper...beds, couch, TVs, full bath, kitchen... so we don't rough it by any means!!! I was in the hopes that I could recuperate in my camper and Wendell and the girls would still be able to enjoy one of our favorite vacations. So that's where we have been. I mostly stayed in the camper and slept and Wendell and the girls were able to have a much needed and deserved good time. My sister Kim made sure I had mashed potatoes to eat every day, yes I'm back on the potatoe diet again:), and she made sure I had fresh ice tea to drink every day, it was the only thing that refreshed and quenched my thirst. My great friend Karen was there constantly, never going far from my camper in case I needed anything. She was there waiting on me hand and foot!!! I was cared for better by these two than the nurses in ICU!!! And I am not kidding!!!! I have some stories to share at another time. Anyway, THANKS Kim and Karen. I love you both and so appreciate the great love and care you showed me during what time was suppose to be your vacations too!
We went to Townsend on Saturday and returned home this past Saturday. I want to post pics and tell all the details of my surgery, hospital stay, and everything else I have experienced over the last few weeks but I will have to do it in several blogs. I still hope for this blog to somehow be a help to anyone else who may be diagnosed with this cancer in the future, in knowing what to expect along the journey.
So for now I will just say as of today I am still on my pain meds every two hours, I sleep a lot, my face is still swollen and causes me to feel pretty miserable most of the time. I can eat soft foods...potatoes:) and I can swallow to drink and take my meds. My throat is still pretty sore.

Well that's about all I can write for now but will try to start with the details soon. I still very much covet your prayers. Without prayer and the grace of my dear Lord I know I would have given up. God has been good to me. I can't say I understand why, but I still believe His grace will be sufficient for me. I know He never promised me an easy journey but how I cherish knowing He said He would never leave or forsake me and His Grace will be sufficient for my every need!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Home Sweet Home

After 9 days at Vanderbilt we are finally home. We made it in last night around 8:00 p.m. It feels good to be here and able to walk outside without seeing the hustle and bustle of the world, but to live in a peaceful place.

God has sure been good to us. He protected our children, home, business and on and on I could go of His goodness to us.

Debbie is progressing as planned. She is very relieved she does not have to use the feeding tube. She has ate a little today. They gave her some Boost Breeze to drink. They say it will give her the protien she needs to give her strength and proper healing. She is trying her best to get well. Thanks for all the prayers, cards, love gifts, etc... you have given us. It is so true, God is always on time. We love you all and please keep praying for us.

Our next scheduled appointment at this time is with the Oncologist in Knoxville then to Nashville at the first of July.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Feeding Tube

A quick note to tell you prayers have been answered and the feeding tube has been removed. Please help us pray today that she can swallow well and eat. She is very relieved it is out but without being able to do those two things, it goes back in and we come home with it. We love you all and thanks for praying for us.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Today has not been as dramatic as yesterday. She has seemed to feel a little better for the most part of the day. She has gotten some color about her tonight something she has not had since surgery. Her face is not quite as swelled and she was able to walk around the loop in the hall 2 times today. She sure has more strength about her today. She got her bath about 5:00 today so hopefully that will help her rest.

The Dr's felt like they may have had us on too fast of track yesterday so they have slowed down on therapy including swallowing, jaw opening and motion as well as the diet. All the things I take for granite that we naturally do are the things she is currently struggling with. God has blessed us beyond all measure and we don't realize all his benefits until one is taken away. As for going home, that has not really been a hot topic today but I do think Thursday or Friday we should be home.

Visitors for today: Stephanie Megan Jones Teresa Lynn Francis Tommy L. Hurst Thanks for coming and helping out today. Stephanie most of all thanks for taking my chair. LOL

I missed church tonight. I am sure we had a great service. We love you all and thanks for praying for us. Wendell.

Good Morning to you

Well God has given us another beautiful day. A man once said to me, each day is a picture of the resurrection with the rising and setting of the SON. It is quite amazing how God put this great earth together and every thing He created I believe He created with the human race in mind. What an awesome God we serve.

Debbie did not get much rest at all says the nurse. I know they were in here at 3:00 a.m. to change her IV as the old one quit working. She has alot of mucous in her throat and just can't seem to cough much of it up. Please help us pray today as it has been ordered for us to get up and walk in the hall, take small sips of water and maybe the milkshake or frosty. It needs to be a little thicker than just regular juice which reduces the risk of it sliding down the wrong pipe.

Thanks for your prayers. We love you all. Wendell.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The latest before you go to bed

Dr. Netterville and his herd came in tonight and told us that the liquid diet was started too early and that she should not be on any form of smooth liquid other than a tad of water on a sponge. He did say she could eat some milk shake or frosty if she wanted it.

Her face is swelled today but he was not alarmed by that. He says most or all of that will go away. She is much better right now with vitals good and her nerves calmed. She is clean for the second time today as I bathed her again thinking this would give her a better nights rest. She wanted her hair washed so we did that over the sink. Right this moment she is calm and resting. Please pray for a good night. We love you all. Wendell.

Oh by the way, we are not getting out tomorrow as I am sure you figured.

Visitors for today: The one and only Ron Roberts from Huntsville, Al. Thank goodness he was in a hurry and only stayed 30 minutes or so. Thanks Ron for dropping in.


She is still resting pretty good with heart rate up a little (111). They are continuing to give her morphine. Please pray God gives the Dr's wisdom about us going home. After the day we have had, I think it is a bit too early. Thanks. Wendell.

Setting up

She is setting up in the chair right now and just told me she continues to feel miserable. Her vitals are much better right now. She is still resting. Thank you for praying. We love you all. Wendell.


They have changed her pain meds to morphine and they just gave it to her so she is resting. She was able to drink a few sips (very small) of water and tea. They have removed the oxygen and she is less than 100% but they are ok with where it is. Her heart rate is still about 15-20 beats higher than it was. Just overall tough but God is giving us grace to deal. Thanks for praying for us. Wendell.


She is now drinking water out of a plastic spoon. This is a huge improvement from the first time she tried this morning. Please keep praying. Wendell

Eating Sherbert

The therapist has her eating sherbert right now, though very small bites she is eating a little. If you only new what an awesome sight it is when she has not ate a bite since last Monday. I am excited for her. She is a trooper. Thanks for continuing to pray. We love you all. Wendell.

Therapist here now

Debbie is working on her swallowing and is getting a little down right now. She just said some is going up her nose. She is terrified but trying really hard. For those of you that know her well, if it is possible she will manage. Please pray.


Before we try drinking anything else, we are going to get xrays of the head, neck and throat. At this time, she is too scared to try anything else. Please pray as we have many decisions to make. Thanks.... Wendell


For those of you who faithfully follow the blog, I will do my best to update as I can throughout the day. She wrote on the paper a while ago, she don't want me answering my phone. So unless things change, this will be my only means of communicating today. I do not want her excited. Love you all, Wendell.

After the good news.....

We have taken somewhat of a setback with the liquid diet. The nurses came in and tried to give her liquid medicine, which we should have started with water or juice, and needless to say it went down her wind pipe. Her heart rate jumped to 160 (normally 90) her oxygen dropped to low 70's and she became very ill feeling. She is now stable but very miserable. She remains on oxygen and her level is at 95-100, which 100 is where it should be without using the oxygen.

Her face on the side of the surgery and neck has become very hard today. It almost feels like bone it is so hard. She is extremely concerned about that. Many Dr's and therapist have been in today but she is feeling so poorly they are not bothering her because of her heart rate and oxygen level. Her blood pressure is a little higher than usual, yet not alarming.

I'm pretty sure this will hinder us from coming home tomorrow but we continue to trust in the Lord for strength. During the time she was at her worst, the care partner walked in with a card from The Chapman's and the first line read: We know you are in storm but God has a purpose. God is always on time and I am so thankful he uses His people to encourage us along the way. We love all of our friends and please pray for us, today is the toughest day we have had.

Maybe Home Wednesday

The Dr's came in this morning (and when I say Dr's I mean Dr's in a herd) and they seem to think if Debbie can swallow today, they will send us home tomorrow without a feeding tube and she will be able to eat and drink well enough to continue heeling. The dressing on her arm will be changed and she will wear it for an additional 3 days and we can remove it at home or camping whichever.

She says she did not sleep well at all. I would not know because I aired up my mattress and crashed about 10:30 last night, waking up only once in the night and then not again until the herd came in at 6:45. We are excited about the possibility of coming home. We both seem to think that will help her tremendously.

Thanks for your prayers, calls and visits. Hope you all have a great day and please continue praying for Debbie, Granny Adkisson, Bro. and Sister Rose. We love you all.


Monday, June 8, 2009


Dr.s and therapist have been in all day. They are trying to get her on a balanced diet with the feeding tube. They are going to work on her swallowing tomorrow. Her mouth is doing great today. I am so proud of my woman. She is tough as nails and has been through alot. The mental aspect of this whole thing is what I would ask everyone to begin praying for. This is not easy after all of the medications and trauma she has undergone. We have the greatest church family and support in this world. The more I am around this hospital, the more I see some people have noone. That is so sad.

God is GREAT to us. Praise the Lord.

Monday visitors: Pastor and Sister Jones Thanks for coming. We love and appreciate you both. Anna Ruth thanks for my banana nut bread. Will it go to waste?............. ha not one crumb.

Michelle and Connor Johnson thanks guys and sorry Debbie was busy at the time. Always great to see our hometown friends.

Monday Update

The Dr.s came in this morning like a swarm of buzzards and began working on Debbie. They removed her trachea, all drainage tubes and took the large cast off of her arm and replaced it with a much smaller one. She is looking great but still feeling rough. The leg continues to be the most pain for her.

Everyone tending to her says she is ahead of schedule for all she has had done. We attribute that to God's grace and mercy and many answered prayers. Thank you all very much.

Saturdays Visitors; Teresa Ron Wilson Thanks for coming and spending the day with us. Teresa thanks for washing my clothes .

Sundays Visitors: Micheal Steph Jess Tiffany Mikiah Jeff Karen Brian Aaron Thanks for coming and making us laugh. I believe that is great therapy. I wish I knew how to post photos but I don't sorry.

We love you all and thanks for praying for us. Also, please pray for Granny Adkisson and Bro and Sis Rose; we are all thinking of them.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Debbie's In A Room

This is Teresa posting for Debbie. They just moved her into a room about an hour ago and just got her settled in. She is trying to sleep right now, and Wendel has gone to eat. She seems to be doing really well. The doctor said this morning that they will change the trach out tomorrow for a smaller one, which will allow her to breath some through her nose and mouth. If that works well and the swelling is down, they will then see about removing the trach. He said that she would like the smaller one better, because it would allow her to breath through her nose. They will also remove the bandage on her arm tomorrow to check the skin graft, and replace it with a smaller one. Most all of her pain is coming from the place on her leg and her arm. It burns. But the meds are helping. She is doing amazingly well, and will do much better once the trach is removed. She told me that the feeding tube she was so worried about "is no big deal", and has said she isn't even hungry. Please just keep praying for her. I know that she appreciates it more than you will ever know.

Early Saturday Update as to how the day went Friday

The Dr.s have given her a release to be moved to a step down unit when one becomes available but at this time she is still in SICU. She is progressing very well. The only concern yesterday was with the trachea and it stopped up with mucous twice. When that happens she loses her breath and it takes 30 to 45 seconds to finally convince the nurse it needs changed and by that time my wife changes colors. That is very scary for her and myself as well as the family with a loved one in the room with us. They saw her last night and were frightened for her when she was struggling. Please pray for us and that situation.

Visitors yesterday Pappaw Tom, Robbie, Kim, Kelvey and Megan Thanks for coming.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday Update

We have had a pretty good day with the only blunder being an issue with the tracheotomy. She was having trouble breathing at about 11:00 a.m. and it got worse throughout the day. The trachea had gotten clogged with mucous not allowing air flow and as she would tell the nurses they told her she was just excited to calm down. Well, Debbie was insistent that something was wrong so a Dr. came in and immediately found the tube clogged. They have changed it again this evening and she ask that we really pray for her to be able to rest without this problem recurring.

The Dr.s seem to think she may be able to go to step down ICU tomorrow but did not say for sure. I want her where she will receive the best care because she has a lot of healing to do. Thanks for your prayers for us and may God Bless You All.

Lance, please tell Granny we love her and are praying for her. Debbie thinks about her often.

Visitors today: Dad Mom Tiny Thanks for coming.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

3:00 Update

Mom's doing great. It's so nice to spend time with her in the room. She was able to get up to use the restroom and they have a chair ready for her when she feels like sitting up. I can't emphasize enough the difference between now and last time. It is truly amazing.

For those of you who want to know all the little details:
  • Her leg is a bloody mess from where they took the skin graft. It is actually bleeding out of the bandage quite a bit.
  • Her hand IV was leaking so they disconnected it and are using a IV in her foot. She has teeny blood vessels and it's hard for the nurses to find them.
  • She has some congestion. However she is able to cough some of it up through her trach. They are really encouraging her to keep working on this.
  • Her left hand is bandaged in an uncomfortable way. You can tell a little in the photo below. She said her fingers feel like they are asleep but she can still move and feel with them. The doctors had told her she might experience some numbness in this hand.
  • She has a new paper tablet that's she's writing on--and working hard to keep Wendell and I straight on things.
  • She has a wonderful nurse taking care of her today but she's really dreading the night nurse coming back!
  • She didn't sleep at all last night and hasn't any today, so far.

Even though she's not in the best shape, she's been asking about Granny Adkission. And also talking about the patients around her being so pitiful.

Wednesday Morning

Not much has changed since last night. Doctors seem to think she's doing very well. She can't talk but is writing page after page of messages. Let me just tell you, Shes not real happy with a nurse from last night. Other than that she's doing great!

Visiting hours this morning started at 10 am and will last until 5 pm this evening. There may be more to update later.

Pictures from Tuesday

Papaw, Wendell, Bro. Jones

Jess, Punky

Steph, Aaron


Karen, Mrs. Jones

Before Surgery Picture

Debbie, Pappaw

Debbies Bandaged Arm

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Quick Update

This is Stephanie again. We were able to see mom for a while tonight. She is in the surgical ICU. She will probably be in this unit for 3 days. They have surprisingly long visiting hours, with two visitors at a time. Wendell was able to stay in there for 2 hours while the rest of us went in one at a time.

Seeing mom after her last surgery was horrific! So tonight I walked in the room expecting way worse and was pleasantly surprised. She was alert and trying to talk. Actually she didn't stop mouthing things the whole time while I was in the room. Too bad I can't read lips but Wendell was doing pretty well.

Theres something about seeing your mom with a trach and tubes going into her neck that's hard. But I'm still amazed at how well she looks. The inside of her mouth looks amazing. I can't wait to hear what a difference it makes in her speech. I'll post another update tomorrow, along with some pictures.

The Lord has been so good to our family.

Surgery Over

This is Stephanie. Posting for mom again.

Surgery is over, and mom is in ICU recovering. All went well. They clipped her mouth muscles and were able to replace the tissue so scar tissue shouldn't form again. That means she can open her mouth nice and wide. Hooray.

They removed several lymph nodes. They seem to think the one was definitely cancerous. They removed the others as a precaution.

The flap in the room of her mouth looks well. They took muscle and blood vessels from her forearm to reconstruct this. The incision on her arm is 8 X12 centimeters. Then they took skin from her thigh to cover her forearm. There is a lot of extra tissue in her mouth from the flap. The tissue will shrink as healing takes place.

She has a trachea and feeding tube. She will have a feeding tube for app. 7 days and the trachea for 5 to 6 days.

Although none of this is funny, I almost let out a chuckle when the doctor was talking to us after surgery. He mentioned they were doing a sponge and scalpel count. Good to know she'll still be able to walk through the airport metal detectors.

We are in the ICU waiting room. Hopefully we will get to see her soon.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Me & My Speech

I had Punky record this video of my speech so that I would have a record of my speech prior to reconstruction surgery.

7:30 am

One of the Doctors just called Wendell to check on me and tell us what time we needed to be there in the morning. I have to be there @ 6:00am, my surgery is scheduled to start @ 7:30 am.

It is 1:15 pm here now, so I only have 10 hours and 45 minutes to eat everything in sight!!!! (I am not allowed to eat after midnight). I have just, over the past two weeks, got to the place where I can eat most foods. I made Wendell take me to Gondelier Saturday, for the first time since my surgery, so I could eat my favorite pizza and bread sticks. Boy was it good!!!! I have also recently ate a steak, cut in tiny pieces, but great!!! I don't know how long it will be before I can eat solid food again, I have a feeling about the time I am able I will have to start radiation!!! Oh well, at least I won't have to worry about gaining weight for awhile. After today of course!!!hehe!!!! Got to go...... Hershey's Is Calling......and Mayfield Ice Cream Is On The Other Line!!!!hehehe!!!!