Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Yes, I Am The Warrior (And Victory Is Miiiine...)

A disclaimer for the squeamish: I may get graphic.

Up with the chickens this morning to get ready for my hemorrhoid surgery, which means I got up early enough to wash and straighten my hair for the occasion. And, in this hellish weather, that ain't easy. Not that I'm complaining! You may recall that I made a vow that I wouldn't complain about my out-of-control hair when I found out I got to KEEP said out-of-control hair. It's just a fact. Of course, my husband had to say, "Why are you bothering to do that?" BECAUSE THE REST OF MY DAY HINGES LARGELY ON HOW MY HAIR LOOKS! Men....

I brilliantly chose to wear a little knit skirt to the hospital, and I am not being facetious here. I do have my moments, and in the end (pahahaha!) wearing a loose garment was ingenious. Kissed my sleeping kids goodbye, and we were on our way to the hospital before the sun was even up.

I love the efficiency of the hospital staff during the entire surgical procedure. It would seriously ALMOST be fun to be there, if it weren't for the reason you were there. The pre-op nurses have you in your gown, tucked into the bed, and an iv started before you know it. The operating room staff literally swarms over and around you like ants on an anthill. And your recovery room nurse is kind and watchful (especially mine, but more on that later).

While one nurse was putting in my iv and hooking up my monitors, the other was going over my health history. She started ticking off everything, which runs the gamut from tonsillectomy to cancer, with c-sections, d&c's, endometrial ablations, cyst aspirations and biopsies, irritable bowel syndrome, a touch of tmj, and nodules on my thyroid (also known as a goiter, but that sounds creepy so I don't want to call it that) in between. She stopped then, turned to look at me, and said, "You look really good for a sick person!"

Dr. Dodson came by then, and about the only thing he said was, "It's going to hurt." He wrote me a prescription for hydrocodone, then asked if I had any leftover pain meds from my previous surgeries. And since I don't like taking pain meds, the answer was, "Yes." I have an untouched bottle of oxycodone and three-quarters of a bottle of tramadol. He said I could use those if I wanted to or fill the prescription. My choice. He did say the same thing I heard in the hospital during the bilateral mastectomy/tram flap surgery, "Keep ahead of the pain." 

I totally scored with my anesthesiologist. His name is Dr. Green, he is darling, and I suspect I am old enough to be his mother, or very nearly so. He was my anesthesiologist for my colonoscopy as well, and if (God forbid) I have to have some other surgery, I am going to formally request him. Personality and bedside manner go a long way with this frequent flyer, and he has both. And knowing how many patients come and go through there, it made me feel good that he remembered me.  After going over my history again, he told me it would be pretty much like last time, only different, with the same end result that I wouldn't remember any of it. For the colonoscopy, he gave me propofol (a/k/a Michael Jackson's "milk"). This time, however, he would need to intubate me. Why, you might ask? Because this surgery would be performed with me jelly-side down. Honestly? I hadn't given any thought to the logistics of how this surgery was going to be performed. And since the mental image of it was so very horrid, I went all Scarlet O'Hara and decided not to think about it today (probably won't tomorrow, either).

Dr. Green broke this to me by telling me that IF something happened and he NEEDED to intubate me, it would be problematic to do so with me face down. He didn't anticipate any issues, however, especially since the procedure itself would only last about ten minutes. Ten? TEN? That's IT? He then went through all the disclaimers associated with the anesthetic in general and the intubation specifically. He looked in my mouth and down my throat, then gave me a grin and said, "Now, I'm not saying you have a big mouth, but I'm not concerned about being able to insert the breathing tube." 

And then I was off to the operating room, where the army of ants was waiting for me. I was eyeballing the operating table and wondering just how very awkward it was going to be, clambering on the table from my cot and assuming whatever hideous position I would need to be in, when someone told me they would start my anesthesia and THEN move me over themselves. Thank you, baby Jesus! (Nothing beats hauling my 10-months pregnant, catheterized self from cot to table 17 years ago. See? I DESERVED this!)

Next thing I knew, it was over and my lovely friend Michelle was taking care of me in the recovery room and fretting over my pvc's again. I could feel a little bit of stinging, but that was it. Quite frankly, the iv in my arm was 10 times more painful. My calves felt as though I had either walked six miles on the Nashville greenway trail OR had had charley horses in each of them, and Michelle said it was probably from the position I was in on the operating table (don't think about it, don't think about it, DON'T THINK ABOUT IT).  I was pleasantly drowsy but very cold, and I was given one of those deliciously warm blankets to snuggle under. I laid there listening to the nurses chat about their dogs, and after maybe an hour in recovery, the husband was brought back to see me and hear my discharge instructions and then it was time to get dressed and go home. 

This is where it gets ugly. 

My sweet Michelle walked me to the restroom to help me change into my clothes, because all the iv solution they had been pumping into me had filled my bladder and I needed to GO. Dr. Dodson had folded several layers of gauze (hereinafter the "toast") and placed the toast in between my butt cheeks (hereinafter the "toaster"). He then taped the toast into place so it wouldn't pop out of the toaster. Michelle untaped the toast and removed it, then said, "Oh! You're bleeding quite a bit. Go to the bathroom and I'll be right back." I had no idea what she was talking about until I sat down to pee pee and saw the floor where I had been standing when she took out the toast. GAHHHHHHHH!!!! Then I peed (like a tall horse on a flat rock), and when I finished, I continued to hear drip drip drip drip. Took a little look-see between my legs and GAHHHHHHH!!!! At least it didn't hurt. Michelle came back with some of those wickedly sexy gauze panties, ob pads and more gauze. She put more toast in the toaster, sans tape, while  I stuck the ob pad in the panties, apologized for turning the restroom into a bio-hazard (she said it happens all the time), and put on my clothes (see why the little skirt was BRILLIANT now?). She took me back to my recovery room cot and called Dr. Dodson, because she said USUALLY patients don't bleed like that. Within ten minutes, the doctor had called, said I wasn't bleeding when he made the toast and that it was probably just the work of gravity when I stood up, and said I was good to go home. 

Since my husband had already been dispatched to get the car when I went to the bathroom to get dressed, he was waiting by the door for me when Michelle wheeled me out of the hospital, dumped me on the curb, and sped away, begging me to never again ask her to be my recovery room nurse as she disappeared inside. Okay, not true. She does push a wheelchair like she drives, but she was an absolute dear, explaining the ordeal with my toaster to my husband, helping me out of the wheelchair, and giving me a big hug (although I'm probably right that she is hoping I never ask her to be my recovery room nurse again). 

Home and enjoying a relaxing afternoon. Minimal pain so far. The bleeding is negligible. I AM a warrior!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pass Me A Doughnut

Joy, oh, joy, it's surgery time again! I asked for this one, though, so I'm going into it with a little different perspective from that little ol' 12 hour surgery of four months ago.

Guns Don't Kill People, Hemorrhoids Kill  People

I have laid in a supply of high fiber cereals, juice, fruit, and milk of magnesia (ugh). However, I refused to spend $20 on a doughnut pillow (although I would spend $20 on REAL doughnuts without batting an eyelash) and will just use a soft pillow from around the house if I need it. 

I spent the afternoon researching and reading testimonials on-line from others who have had hemorrhoid surgery. It hasn't been pretty. Lots of moaning and wailing about all the pain afterwards (mostly from men, now that I think about it), and that reminded me of the blog I read before my first surgery by a woman who had had the same procedure done. SHE whined and carried on and had me TERRIFIED that I was in for quite an ordeal. In fact, she is one of the reasons I started this blog, because I hoped someone, somewhere, would find it instead of (or in addition to) HER blog and see that bilateral mastectomy and tram flap reconstruction isn't always that horrific. 

So, maybe I'm living in fantasy land, but I'm going into the big H surgery with the expectation that it will be uncomfortable, maybe even painful for the first 24 hours, but nothing I can't handle. I am a WARRIOR (or an idiot). Stay tuned....

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kick It To The Curb

In spite of my best intentions, I lost my cock-eyed optimist attitude this week. 

I went to Nashville again to spend time with my friend, Terri. Other than a restless night brought on by killing thirteen (THIRTEEN!) spiders in and around my room in my mom and dad's lake house the night before we left, we had a great trip. We ate at some of my favorite places, listened to some live music, sat up late every night talking, reconnected with some old friends, and laughed until we cried numerous times. I walked miles on the greenway (although it felt more like swimming, the combination of humidity and heat being what they were).

But Tuesday night, I cracked. And by cracked, I mean 24 hours of melting into a puddle of tears that would come on suddenly and that I couldn't seem to control. Of feeling sorry for myself, of wanting backsies. Because sometimes, I want to hide, curl up in a little ball and pull my blankie over my head. And sometimes, I want to run, run fast and far, and leave that bitch cancer behind.

I have worked hard to be the family cheerleader, so that they don't worry about me, and that can be a burden. I'm taking chemo drugs that jack with my hormones, the job I love is about to be cut back to only three mornings a week, it's hotter than hell and shows no sign of relenting, and I have cancer.

My wise friend Terri, who knows me so well and who also knows all about sadness and grief, reminded me that it's okay to fall apart sometimes. That I don't have to be so freaking positive ALL the time.   

But get past it, I will. I can't be kept down for long. Just going to kick it to the curb....

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hot Child In The City

Monthly visit to the oncologist time! First off, let me tell you that visiting a doctor's office in Trailer Town in this heat is miserable.  Those tin can trailers SUCK in this insufferable heat, leaving you hot and sticky and more than slightly damp. And that's for those of us just there for an hour or two. I can't imagine having to work in there and be so NICE to everyone all day. I think the heat would make me snap.

Moving on, Dr. Croy started by asking if I had had any vaginal bleeding this time. I told him no, and that he would have been the first to know if I had had any. He then gave me a fairly thorough going-over, starting with looking in my eyes with his little lighty thingy (and yes, that's the technical word for it. I looked it up.). I need to ask him what he's looking for when he does that, but I'm afraid the answer is he's checking to see if my eyes are registering that I'm bat-shit crazy, and I just may not want to know the answer to that. He went over the side effects list: Hot flashes? Nope. Swelling in either arm or armpit? Nope. Mood swings? Nope (shut up, all of you). Difficulty swallowing? Nope (and not on any of my side effect lists, either - crap! More research needed!). My blood work was fine. My heart and lungs were fine. I'm really a very dull patient. He asked me if I were tolerating the heat all right, the only answer to that being, "No." (The only person I can think of who MIGHT be would be my friend Karen's son, who was adopted from Haiti. And that might be iffy.) He also told me (warned, maybe?) that he would do a breast exam next time. Oh, boy.

Next stop, the infusion center for my Zoladex injection. Same song, second verse from last month's experience, with me waiting 45 minutes for the pharmacy to deliver the goods. Still haven't been asked for my opinion on how to streamline this procedure....

Today, I was greeted by Lauren, the nurse who gave me my very first injection, but Karrie is the nurse who gave me the injection today. I picked the spot to receive the injection, closing my eyes and poking myself until I was sure I found a spot that was COMPLETELY numb this time. Karrie asked me if I had had the same procedure as SueAnn, the nurse I saw last time, and I told her yes, and we even compared incision scars and marveled at our matching belly buttons. I let Karrie know that I tend to bleed after my injection, and that SueAnn put pressure on it for a bit before sticking on the bandaid.

I most assuredly picked the right spot for the injection, because I didn't even feel the PRESSURE of the procedure, let alone any pain. (It's a strange sensation to see a spot on your skin being cleaned with an alcohol wipe, knowing it should feel cold and wet, and not feeling a blooming thing.) When she finished, Karrie smugly announced, "Make sure you tell SueAnn that I didn't make you bleed at all!" And by golly, she didn't!  Karrie also got added to my "favorites" list when she said I didn't have any belly to pinch when she gave me the two shots. Hey, it's the little things....

And that was injection #3. Only 57 left to go. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Practically Perfect In Every Way

Big day this week (not) - my follow-up appointment post-colonoscopy. I didn't really know why there was a need for me to come in for that, as the doctor told my husband that my colon was "perfect" (nice to be perfect at SOMETHING). There was, however, another little matter that I hoped we could discuss. 

When I had my initial consultation with the colorectal surgeon prior to my colonoscopy, I thought this might be a good time to bring up a medical condition that I have suffered from since I was pregnant with a nearly 10-pound baby 17 years ago, a condition readily visible to someone giving me a colonoscopy (anyone following me, other than the ladies who have carried nearly 10-pound babies and know EXACTLY what I'm talking about?).  Yes, finally, after 17 years of putting up with them, I felt it was time to say goodbye to my hemorrhoids. The doctor, however, had different ideas.

When I broached the subject at the consultation, he said he would look during my colonoscopy (how could he NOT?), but he didn't give me much hope. He said it doesn't always work that well, the recovery is painful (try a tram-flap, pal), blah blah blah. So, battered but not beaten, I made my husband promise to convey to the doctor after my colonoscopy that I was SERIOUS about wanting the hemorrhoids removed. And, more importantly, I have met my insurance deductible, so there is NO BETTER TIME to do this.

When I opened my eyes from my Propofol-induced dreamland, the first thing my husband told me was that my colon was perfect. The second thing he said was the doctor didn't think my hemorrhoids were very bad and didn't need to be removed, thereby reducing me to tears and making my blood pressure shoot up (shout out to my recovery room nurse, Michelle - sorry!) and causing the husband to say, "I'm never going to tell you anything again!"

Flash forward to my follow-up appointment. Not only did it seem silly to go in when nothing was wrong with my colon, but there was apparently not going to be any further discussion about the hemorrhoids. But I dutifully went in, answered all the nurse's questions (Pain in your abdomen? No. Bleeding? No. Discomfort? No.) and waited for the doctor to come in. A few minutes later, he came in and pronounced my colon "perfect" (I DO love having a perfect colon. It's a shame that I can't go around boasting about it, social norms being what they are, unless, of course, you have a blog, then you can tell everyone. Whoops! Do and did....).  He then completely surprised me by asking if I still wanted to take care of the hemorrhoids. Do I! Do I!

The doctor told me again that the results may not be exactly as hoped and that there is a lot of pain and discomfort afterwards (I believe I have proven that I can handle pain and discomfort). He hesitated a moment, then said he didn't remember exactly what my bottom looked like, to which I answered that I was fine with that, in fact, completely okay that looking at me didn't conjure up that image. He got out a paper blanket and told me he would step out of the room so I could take off my shorts and undies and he could take a look. (Again, I NEVER seem to be able to figure out when it's a talking appointment and when it's a looking appointment.)

I took off my stuff and put it on top of my purse, which was on the floor next to the examination table. The doctor and a nurse came in, and he sat on a rolly chair and started scooting up to the table. He was bearing left, in the direction of my purse and clothes, so I reached down to kick them out of the way. He stopped me, saying, "I can work around those. I'm used to doing it. This isn't my first rodeo. Now lie back and turn over on your left side," to which I answered, "Well, it's MY first rodeo...." Fortunately, this delightful exam was over in about two seconds, and what he said was music to my ears: "I can fix this." Yesssss!!!

In a weird and twisted way, I have my breast cancer to thank for accomplishing this, because without having met my deductible for the year, it would never have happened. Go figure.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bottoms Up

Colonoscopy checklist:
apple juice, check
four flavors of Gatorade (no Red 40), check
banana popsicles, check
Dulcolax, check
238 gram bottle of Miralax powder, ch---wait a sec....

MY bottle of Miralax powder is 527 grams. WTF? Time for a call to Dr. Dodson's nurse. The verdict? Apparently, the doctor prescribed the wrong amount for me (does he think I've been eating CEMENT?), and I only need to use 238 grams of Miralax. This, however, is easier said than done. How in the hell am I supposed to measure THAT? I live in America. We don't weigh anything in grams. Does this mean I have to do math? 

Fortunately, the major math disaster was averted, because I found a grams-to-ounces conversion calculator online, BUT I was then left with a minor math disaster of rounding off 8.29520 ounces into something measurable. 

I made it to 1:00 on the 4th of July, my very poorly planned Cleansing Day, before I got hungry. And I think I would have gone longer, had I not made the proclamation, "Gee, it's 1:00 and I'm not even hungry yet!" Because as soon as I said it, my stomach started to growl. And I will go on record RIGHT NOW as saying banana popsicles are not filling, even when you eat two of them in rather quick succession. 

At 2:30, I decided it was time to start cooking. I got my four bottles of Gatorade from the refrigerator, pulled out the kitchen scales, and got four little plastic tubs for the Miralax. I measured out 2.1 ounces (well, as close as my crappy kitchen scale can get) of Miralax into each of the four little tubs. Got out a funnel ('cause I'm a THINKER), an 8 ounce glass, and headed upstairs. 

The first little stumbling block was that I had intended to use four different flavors of Gatorade, so I wouldn't get sick of one flavor. What I didn't realize is the bottles I got held 32 ounces. I needed 64 ounces total. Therefore, as with the Miralax, I had twice as much Gatorade as I needed, and unless I did some elaborate pouring of Gatorade into multiple containers, I was only going to get to use two flavors. Crap. (No pun intended.)

Right off, I stuck the funnel into the bottle of Gatorade, poured the first tub of powder in and dunked the end of the funnel into the liquid, thereby completely clogging up the funnel and causing me to spill powder everywhere as I tried to pour it into the neck of the Gatorade bottle from the side of the funnel.

 It was at this point that I realized there was going to be a problem. Now, I'm no physicist, but it became quickly apparent that pouring 2 ounces of Miralax powder into a full bottle of Gatorade was going to cause some product displacement. Fortunately, I figured this out shortly BEFORE the bottle overflowed. Time for a Plan B.

I ran down to the kitchen and brought up a quart sized glass pitcher with what I THOUGHT was a tight-fitting lid. I poured the Gatorade and the rest of the Miralax powder into the pitcher, snapped the lid on, and started to shake it up, per instructions, and Gatorade started shooting out of the pitcher around the edges of the lid. On to Plan C, a Tupperware pitcher with a REAL lid, and I transferred the mixture YET AGAIN and got it mixed without further mishap.

I won't say the Gatorade/Miralax cocktail was delicious, but it wasn't quite as bad as I thought, in spite of how much I detest Gatorade. The Miralax was tasteless, although it left a bit of a film on my tongue. The entire experience was rather underwhelming, which is not what I expected from all the testimonials I received. That leads to the question, "Did it WORK?"

Bottom line (BAHAHAHAHA!!!): success! No walk of shame out of the hospital like my brother had to do recently. The procedure took hardly any time at all, my dear friend Michelle was my recovery room nurse once again, and the best part? My colon was as pink and smooth as a baby's bum. Take THAT, Cancer!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sister Act

"We are family, I got all my sisters with me
We are family, get up everybody and sing."

Let me tell you something, folks, you don't know sisterhood until you've had cancer, especially, it seems, breast cancer.

The first person to (sadly) welcome me to the sisterhood was Marlen, the financial secretary at our church. I had gone to work with a brave face that first Monday after I was diagnosed, but that crumbled when Marlen came down to the preschool to see me. And one of the first Facebook messages I got was from Michelle, another friend from church and another breast cancer survivor. (Interestingly enough, this isn't the first time Michelle has been my cheerleader. She was my recovery room nurse when I had my daughter and had a crapload of complications.) As understanding and supportive as my family was trying to be, believe me, no one "gets it" like another breast cancer survivor.

Not long after my diagnosis, my friend Cindi was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Mostly acquaintances up to that point, she and I were Facebook friends, had several things in common, but didn't know each other all that well. That all changed with her diagnosis. We became bosom buddies *cough*. Sorry....

Cindi and I have spent a lot of time talking since we were diagnosed. I told her what to expect when she was scheduling her surgery, showed her what her new boobies would look like. She calmed me down when I was freaking out about forcing my ovaries to stop producing. Her treatments are much suckier than mine, but I can encourage her and listen when she needs to talk. We are SISTERS.

But SueAnn is teachable
These sisters surface sometimes when you least expect it. Remember SueAnn the Blackmailer, the nurse who gave me my last injection of Zoladex? Another member of the sisterhood. We both had the same tram flap surgery and compared incision scars and new bellybuttons. And not only do we both have NEW bellybuttons, we have the SAME bellybuttons. Remember that mixer that teachers sometimes made you play, where everyone draws a card with either a first name or a last name of a famous person on it and you had to go around the room, checking cards, until you found the match to yours? I'm thinking Dr. Geter might be playing that game with his patients. Just a thought....

And is it odd that I am kind of looking forward to my next Zoladex injection, just so I can visit with SueAnn again? She was absolutely darling (once she got my name right). She's been through the wringer - radiation and chemo - and is cheerful and positive (further proof that a happy heart is good medicine).  And what an inspiration she must be to the patients whom she cares for at the infusion center! Know what? I think I want to be her when I grow up. Gotta move forward, anyway. No backsies....