Wednesday, January 20, 2010
There are going to be at least three of these, perhaps four or even five as I sort out and process everything that is continuing to happen to me. But I want you to know -- while it is fresh in my mind. You need to know this, and I need to tell you. I NEED to tell you.
Some things are going to be alarming. Some will be gross. It is very personal. But I want to -- I insist -- on laying it out for you. This naked, shivering truth.
I had the following three procedures done on the 15th: breast lift, umbilical hernia repair and tummy tuck. Of course most people don't have all three done at once or even at all. I've been thinking for quite a while about whether if, knowing what I know now, I would have done all or most of these things, and whether I would have done them all at once. Today, my conclusion is that I'd still do it. Same way. But there have been many times I've thought of doing things differently in the past few days. Anyway, here's my tale.
I went in for a consultation about six months ago. I was interested in breast reduction, actually, and didn't even know I had a hernia. The doctor took one look at me and said, if we reduce you, you'll end up looking like a teenaged boy. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's not how I wanted to go. Hence I decided to go for the lift. The bottom line, even though, of all three procedures it's probably the one most informed by vanity, the lift is something I want because I've had sagging breasts for twenty freakin' years. I looked middle aged when I was still young. Now that I'm middle aged, I'd like to look young. Or at least younger. Hey, humor me. :)
So I said yes to all three.
Before going to the hospital, I did the following: I packed an overnight bag. VERY IMPORTANT: I included a top and sweat pants that were too big for me. I was a Medium before I walked into the hospital. The top was an old 2X and the sweats were XL. Also, we arranged for my parents to come up on Sunday. This would assure that they'd be around to take over for my husband so that he could return to work, plus he does not drive so they would be able to help with emergencies. And to keep him company and spot him. It's too much work for one person.
We also cooked some bean soup in advance and bought some easy foods like deli sliced turkey and little individual Greek yogurts. I cut up tons of produce for future salads. We were set.
Our expectation was that I would not even stay overnight. Ha! How wrong we were.
Oh yes, one more thing. Because I am looking for work, I arranged for a job interview (an in-person; I had already talked on the phone to the Hiring Manager) for today. Insane.
We arrived early (we walked to the hospital; it's that close). The doctor was there and I changed into the lovely attire they give you. And then the next thing the doctor did was, he grabbed a purple magic marker and marked me up. Lines on my breasts. On my belly. Around my navel. Under the breasts. To the sides of my hips. Purple everywhere.
Then I met the anesthesiologist and signed more consent forms.
I'd like to right now acknowledge all of the amazing people who cared for me: Dr. Richard Silverman (my surgeon); Dr. Derek Keller (anesthesiologist); Tom (surgical nurse); Kaye (ICU nurse); Katie (overnight nurse, both nights); Leanne (day shift, first day, first shift); Jackie (day shift, first day, second shift); Courtney (fill-in nurse, both days) and Kelli (day shift, second day). See all those days? Oh yeah. My plan to be outta there without an overnight stay was, shall we say, overly optimistic.
Back to our story. I signed the forms and they wheeled me in, or at least I assume that's what happened, as things get foggy. Shots in the arm, in the IV line. Lights out. I learned later that Dr. S. did me from the top down. And, for the breast surgery, I was up on my elbows a lot, so they hurt later.
I woke up in ICU. Mr. Jespah was there; so was Dr. S and Kaye. Dr. S told me he'd removed six pounds of flesh. The entire apron of skin around my belly was gone. He had stitched down my abs. I was wearing a soft truss and a kind of surgical support bra. Inside the bra were the ends of two drains, attached and hanging down on the right side. Everything was taped up snugger than a Christmas package.
Kaye kept talking to me. She was unbelievable. She did whatever was needed. Mr. J would come in and out (I don't think he was allowed to constantly stay in the area). Kaye, of course, had to stay. I could hear machines and the other ICU nurse, Carol, talking to the patient in the next, I dunno, area. They aren't really rooms. More like booths, I suppose.
Then Kaye tried to get me to sit up. We were all still of the opinion that I might head home that night (it was getting late, 8 PM?).
If you were wondering about today's blog song and why I chose it, here's why. The song, if you cannot get to Youtube, is The Beatles' "Twist and Shout".
Because that's exactly what I did.
I have never felt such agony. You don't know what your abs do until they hurt like THAT.
Kaye and I tried to move me. I screamed. Ixnay on THAT. I then apologized. She said I didn't have to. I said, I just don't want to alarm the person in the next room. And it's true. I never knew their name or even if they were male or female. But I hope I didn't scare Carol's (the other ICU nurse) patient. Things are scary enough.
The decision was immediately made for me to stay overnight. Kaye called Marco to wheel me to seventh floor West in the Seton wing. St. Elizabeth's Hospital is a Catholic hospital, so the wards are named for various prominent Catholics. Seton is of course Elizabeth Seton, the first American Catholic Saint. I asked Marco if he was an immigrant from Italy. No, Costa Rica. He got me in, safe and sound and wished me well.
DAY AFTER SURGERY
This is where I met Katie, a pretty, young woman, probably in her twenties. It was maybe midnight on the 16th. I did a lot of sleeping, of course, as is to be expected. The first alarming thing was being unable to urinate. Not a happy thing. Not at all.
If you are reading this and you can urinate on your own, I know this sounds silly but, flush an extra time and think of people who cannot. Because, let me tell you, when you can't, it is just awful. Not just the feeling of fullness. It's also the feeling of utter helplessness. Yes, Katie had the unenviable task of having to catheter me.
Leanne took over in the morning. Leanne is the kind of person who calls everyone honey and love and dear. We went through all sorts of pain medications. Oxycontin (yes, that's what Rush Limbaugh is addicted to). Celebrex. Percocet. Over and over. No real relief. I was never truly pain free. They asked me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten, with ten being agony. Trying to move in ICU was a damned 11, I swear. But during the day, even doped up, I was at a six or so.
The urination thing was still at issue. Leanne brought in Jackie. They talked. Then they brought over the Resident on call, who introduced himself and shook my hand with a grip of iron. That would have been fine if I'd been interviewing him. But lying there in a hospital bed, that just hurt like the Dickens. Yes, you use your abs to shake hands. Jackie insisted that I get cathetered again, and they stop this nonsense.
She eventually won out and came up close to me and whispered. "It's because I'm a b----." That made me smile. But no laughing. Because, you guessed it, you use your abs to laugh.
Jackie took over for a while, and was in and out with Courtney. Courtney was another lovely young woman. Jackie and Leanne were both a bit older, maybe my age. I think they were all Massachusetts natives. Mr. J was around by then (yes, for the second cathetering, too, a sight that must have been a wonder to behold). The doctor had been in, too, and his verdict was, I had to pass two tests: urinating and walking (hopefully not at the same time!). If I could not do both, I'd have to stay.
Mr. J left again (he needed to clean house and set up the downstairs couch for me, plus he needed to email my interviewer and tell them I wouldn't be able to make it). I again attempted urination. Sitting there for an hour was just not a fun time at all. But I was otherwise more alert, eating meals and talking with the staff. The phone rang a few times. I talked to my parents and my brother. Eventually Mr. J returned and I again made the attempt (this was on a commode chair so that I wouldn't have to walk much). With the water running in the bathroom, and with a lot of straining and prayer, suddenly there were happy sounds.
Mr. J wanted to gently high five me but, of course, you use your abs to high five.
There was a football game on, and so Mr. J turned it on without the sound. Even though I no longer had a roommate (when I'd first arrived, there'd been a Filipino woman with some sort of lung function issue, and diabetes -- I kept hearing Katie talking to her about her sugar numbers -- but she was gone by then.), the door was open and we didn't want to disturb the other patients. Dinner was served. Good Lord, coconut cream pie. The first pie I'd had in two years. Weird.
Naturally I did not count calories or log a damned thing. I drank scads of water, and the first thing I had after surgery was a small can of diet ginger ale that Katie gave me. Wow. The best stuff I'd ever tasted. I figure my calories were pretty much in line with what I've been eating, since there were no snacks. It doesn't matter.
I finally sent Mr. J home late that night. He needed the sleep desperately; I'd seen him dozing off in the chair.
SUNDAY MORNING COMING DOWN
The next day, my arms were really starting to hurt me. This was because, since I could finally eliminate on my own, I was getting up every few hours to do just that. This involved using one of those things over the bed -- I forget what they're called. But they look sort of like one of an Olympic male gymnast's rings. I'd pull myself up, swing over as well as I could, and then flop onto the commode, do whatever, and then the return trip was harder as the ring was not in a good position. Back and forth, forth and back, over and over again. Since I could not push hard (those pesky abs again!), I could not eliminate much. Hence all of the trips. But, every time I did it, things got better, or I got faster.
Kelli came in, and we decided to do some walking. We took a tour of the floor and then she got me to the Interfaith Chapel (next door to my room), where I read the bible a bit. Joseph and his brothers. I know the story but it reminded me of dreams and their meanings. And my gosh, Jacob's family was quite a blended family. But the Brady Bunch they were not.
I had accomplished my goals. I could urinate and I could walk. It was time to go.
Mr. J of course came for me. The guy who needed to wheel me out seemed to be going fast; that was scary to me. It's odd what you're afraid of, but that terrified me.
We got into the cab. The World's Most Wonderful Cab Driver helped me in. I didn't know the man, of course, and held his hand like a long-lost friend. The ride was short, cost maybe three dollars. Mr. J gave him a ten. Here, keep it all.
Going up about a dozen steps to our home was easier and faster than I'd feared. The open sleeper couch looked amazing. My parents were enroute. I was exhausted and fell into bed and awaited the next part of the adventure.
If this ending seems rushed; it is. I cannot sit still for too long. More to come in a few days. Thank you for reading.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Surgery is today. I have been thinking of it for months, and the day is finally here. It's set for 12:30 and we've got to be at the hospital at 10:30. I'm certain I'll be nutty so this is a shot at coherence.
My dreams have been dominated by visions of losses of control. Not necessarily specifically medically-related, but there is a fear of putting myself into others' hands. I have always been this way. Yes, I am a Control Freak. Know thyself, right?
I put some stock in dreams, even odd and obscure ones, perhaps more than I should, but I do, and it has been that way since I was a scared seven-year-old who thought she wouldn't fit in.
One recent dream was of opening up a mess kit, you know the kind with nesting utensils, and somehow the flat knife was mechanized and spun. Tried as I might, I could not stop it, and I was becoming more and more afraid that it would cut and harm me. Finally, somehow, I took my eyes off the terrifying spinning knife and cast them on the floor; it was the old, ratty, linty carpet from when we lived in Mineola over fifteen years ago. I somehow flipped the wheeling knife over and buried it in the carpet. It stopped, the mechanism jamming due to the presence of the lint. So it was a happy ending I suppose, but it took damned long for the solution to present itself and, in the meantime, fear held my throat and my heart in its grip.
I know that my surgeon is good. I know that the hospital is good. But there is a nagging fear that somehow this will be the exception, and oxygen will fail to go to my brain and I'll become a vegetable. Or that I'll die on the table.
I cannot help these fears, no matter how much I tamp them down with other activities and concerns and thoughts, beliefs and feelings. And, in the meantime, I also am in the position of managing others' feelings. Sometimes it's all too much.
Guitars and major chords tend to soothe me, so I thought of Sugar Ray immediately. And then when I really listened to "Someday", I got it.
I hope that this is not the end, but stranger things have happened and I am mentally prepared even if my dreams are trying to tell me otherwise. So before I go, and before whatever is going to happen, happens, I want to thank you. Because you really have always been there for me. I could not have gotten here without you.
Perhaps I am sentimental, and overly dramatic. Feelings are sloppy and indulgent and don't always make much sense. But I hope that what I feel for all of you has shone through, even amidst the muddiness of my own fears and phobias and idiosyncrasies.
You have always been there for me. If I have said anything at all, at any time, let that be what is front and center, and remembered.
Monday, January 11, 2010
I confess this is a post I sent to a friend who was thinking of quitting. I hope you don't mind the recycling; just thought this one might need a bigger audience. And, by the way, I gained this week. Eh, it happens. On to better things.
Quitting is, well, I suppose we all consider it at one time or another. The trick is to squash that demon. The most powerful force in the universe is inertia. It makes you want to hang out in bed rather than get up and face the world. It keeps you in ruts (it LOVES ruts). It tamps down your enthusiasm. It tells you that you can't.
But yanno something (and you don't know me from Eve but I know from whence you speak/feel)?
Inertia is just a force. It doesn't even have any substance.
But it can be overcome. It means nothing. It is nothing.
YOU are something. You are flesh and blood and bone and will and smarts and heart and kindness and humor and mischief and love and sweetness and about a trillion things that inertia is NOT.
You are YOU. You are better than that. You are smarter, kinder, stronger and more willful.
You are better.
You are going to make it.
Inertia's just some force, dreamed up by Sir Isaac Newton when he wasn't getting smacked in the head with apples.
Well, ole Ike shoulda been EATING those apples. Then perhaps instead of Differential Calculus we'd all be sweating over Nutrition classes and studying the Great Apple Nebula in the Sky.
Okay, so I'm rambling and I'm a little (who am I kidding? A LOT) quirky.
But I do hope you will throw over the inertia, just like you threw over the bedcovers this morning and got up, even though the bed was oh so attractive. The strength to face another day exists in you, and the strength to face another day of trying exists there as well. It just needs a little coaxing, a little love, or maybe a slap on its bum, to come out. That strength DOES have substance.
Let it out there, into the universe, and you'll find that you've got a leash on its collar and it'll pull you along until suddenly you're at your destination.
Don't make it sit. Don't make it stay. Don't make it heel.
Follow it. :)
Monday, January 04, 2010
Every day, in some way or another, I am looking for work. I have had long-term unemployment before, twice. How long term? Is three years long enough? And I've had that twice. Yeah. It stinks. You start to really, really question your value, and not just in the work arena. It messes with your vision of yourself as a contributor to society, as a person of value.
I don't blame all of my weight gain on this but it did not help, by any means. I know I packed on a good 80 or so the first time I had a three-year furlough, and probably another 60 for the second three-year furlough. As for the other 60, eh, who knows? It all happened over the course of two or so decades so it was slices of pizza and bags of papadum chips and real ice cream and of course not working out. Everyone who's reading this knows the drill.
And so I am trying my darnedest to not let that happen a third time. It is not just because of my health although that is a piece of it. It is also because of, let's face it, our finances. We are doing fine but another shock to the retirement fund is not advisable.
Hence I am beating the bushes. I have been to one networking party and today I had a networking call, actually there were two as I managed to finagle a second one with someone I really wanted to talk to. Tomorrow is a networking meeting. Then Wednesday is another networking party (same folks from the first one I went to), then another meeting on Friday. Next week is a job fair, a night at Mass. Innovation and four or five more networking meetings.
Plus there are another five people to call but that will be after surgery. I am tapped. I can't even think about any more meetings or phone calls. Between that and everything I'm trying to watch on Twitter, etc., I'm feeling a sense of losing control. I know I'm doing a lot but it is awfully tiring. Of course some of this is the almost three hours I spent shoveling snow for the past two days. But I'm also just getting a bit wiped by having to be on, and perky. I can do perky and I can explain what I want to do, yet again, to yet another person. That's all fine. And I can also tell I'm online too much, and that's fatiguing me as well.
Hence -- and now that I have made it to the top Spark trophy anyway, a new regimen is in place (some of this is shamelessly stolen from Lab Lover):
* Unsubscribe from any spark mails I don't really read. I don't need the points any more, so who cares?
* Answer blogs whenever I want to, not just two and then be done because that's all I get points for in a day. Answer one. Or none. Or seven.
* No more adding to topics if I have nothing to really say, again, just to get points. Man, I was greedy in the points department, eh? :) Answer topics, or not, as desired and for no other reason.
* No more reading articles that don't interest me, same reason as above.
* Leave teams where I'm not active.
* Continue using the food and exercise trackers. Continue tracking other goals. Continue checking in. Continue contributing to teams as desired.
I do plenty of other things online -- SparkPeople isn't my only source of long-time online syndrome. But it is a piece of it, and a piece I can take care of, probably more readily than other areas (e. g. I can't exactly cut back on moderating my site).
Again, I am rambling, I know. There are really two points to this blog entry. One, I am going to reprioritize as much as I can in order to maximize my chances of finding a job. And, two, some of that means less sparking. For me, though, it will be separating the wheat from the chaff, to only do what I need to, and want to, and no longer be a slave to the points. It feels kind of liberating to write that.
In the meantime, enjoy The Alan Parsons Project.
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