July 2009

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If you are anything like me, you probably seek familiar comforts in times of stress, the pleasures that feel most like home: certain foods, music, books or movies.  As you might imagine, after having my body go through such upheaval and pain, combined with the emotional baggage of requiring so much help from others, this week has been a giant one for comfort seeking.  I’m listening to lots of Iron and Wine, eating knox blox like I did when I was a kid (though now they are a healthier, fruit juice version), and moving through my favorite movies in our collection, Cold Comfort Farm being at the top of the list.

It is a wonderfully witty film about a young woman living in 1920′s Britain.  Both of Flora Poste’s (Kate Beckinsale) parents have just died.  Since she is the sort of woman who isn’t accustomed to regular work (with no desire to try, except to write a novel at age 53), and has a small income from her parents’ estate, she would rather find relatives with whom to live until she gets married.  She sends out piteous letters, hoping to find just the right match, for she’s also seeking a family that’s a bit of a mess, one she can get back into shape.  The letter of response that sounds (and smells) most promising is from her cousin Judith on Cold Comfort Farm.  “We must atone for the wrong done to your father, Robert Poste’s child.”

What ensues is a hilarious romp in the countryside,  filled with a wide variety of kooky characters and scenarios.  First, there is cousin Judith, the writer of  the letter.  She is a gloomy sort, obsessed with her beautiful, libertine son, Seth.   Then there’s cousin Amos and his rather peculiar brand of hellfire and brimstone preaching, shouting,  “There’ll be no butter in HELL!”  to his quivering brethren.   The next of the lot is Aunt Ada Doom, who saw something nasty in the woodshed and refuses to come out from her room, save one very serious occasion each year.  There’s also Adam Lambsbreath, who’d rather use a twig than sully a beautiful dishmop, as well as Rubin, the one who really ought to be running the farm.  Flora uses her particular brand of practicality to make each of their dreams come true while also introducing the concepts of family planning and afternoon tea.

The silly and sometimes outrageous story is only enhanced by the often wickedly clever dialogue.  Here’s just a few of my favorite lines:

“In fact, when poetry is combined with ill groomed hair and eccentric dress, it is generally fatal.”

“It is bad to be dewy eyed among smart people, but you can always secretly despise them.”

“I saw something nasty in the woodshed!”  “Sure you did, but did it see you, baby?”

“Oh Charles, you do have heavenly teeth!”

Oh, such comfort on Cold Comfort Farm!  Thanks for never letting me down.

Hello my friends!

Gosh, it feels so good to be back in blogland!  Now if I could just be in the land of the fully mobile and conscious, that would be grand.  I am not complaining, however.  I feel better with each passing day, requiring smaller doses of narcotics to keep the pain down, while gaining more strength and mobility.  When I first got home, I was popping pills like crazy and had to use my walker (remember that?) every time I wanted to go anywhere, though my trips were mostly limited between our bed and the bathroom.  Going all the way to the kitchen was considered a big feat!

Now, I only need the walker about half of the time,  moving  quite freely on the first floor of the house.  I don’t know when I will muster up the strength to go upstairs, but, thanks to my superstar hubster and guest blogger, I have practically everything I need in our bedroom: a borrowed air conditioner for this hellish weather (107 today, ugh), a boom box, television, lap top, watercolors, books, and snacks!   It’s pretty darn cool, pun intended.

Endometriosis

Since a lot of people have asked questions about the endometriosis that led me to my surgery and this cozy bedroom lair, I thought I’d give a little information about it, and why it was causing so much trouble for me.  In a nutshell, endometriosis is when tissue from inside the uterus migrates elsewhere in the pelvic cavity (no one knows why, when, or how).  It is problematic because it has hormones and a monthly period just like the uterus, only it can’t exit the body like a normal period does, so it stays inside a woman’s abdomen, where it creates adhesions, like scar tissue.  Think about it like this – you spill something on the counter without cleaning it up right away.  When you return in a few hours, you touch the spot and your hand sticks to it, and sometimes even creates a kind of gooey, taffy-like bond.  Only with endometriosis, you can’t wash it off.  The taffy just spreads, connecting tissue and organs that have no business being such close neighbors, and, at least in my case, causing some pretty intense pain.

This is why my surgery could not be completed laparoscopically, and I had to be opened up.  My insides were so thoroughly bound and twisted with taffy-like adhesions that my doctor needed to get inside and carefully cut everything apart.  Thankfully, she was able to do so.  In the process, she removed my uterus (complete with a large adenomyoma), my fist-sized right ovary, both fallopian tubes, as many adhesions as she could, and then zapped the remaining visible endometriosis with a really good laser.  It’s no wonder it took over six hours!

Waves

Being in the hospital was a very emotional experience for me, like I was out at sea and riding a series of waves to shore, to home, and with each wave came a different emotion: gratitude, release, sadness, disbelief, joy, and wonder.  Gratitude -  I survived my surgery.  I was alive, and the healing process was underway.  Release – I am a pretty independent person, but in this situation, I had to, quite literally, hand my body over to strangers.  They fed me, clothed me, bathed me, all with great kindness, compassion, and respect.  Sadness – Even though I had never wanted children, I felt sad that this definitively left that choice out of my hands, though I guess it never really was.   I am not driving this bus!  Disbelief – For my recovery, I was placed in the Family Birthing Center, as the staff there would best know how to treat someone in my condition.  Perhaps this seems a logical choice for someone who has already had children, but for me, it seemed a bit, well, odd.  The lady who can never have children, infertile Myrtle, chockablock with mothers and babies?  This same feeling of disbelief, however, was replaced by Joy – To be in the most precious place in a hospital, to witness those first days of life, the first tiny cries, each beautiful babe swaddled, hatted, and loved by all.  Finally Wonder – There is so much kindness in the world, so many talented people doing their best work, so much love, and I am a living, breathing part of it all.

Thank You

Now it is time for some shout-outs.  First and foremost, to my amazing husband.  Through our eighteen years of  my increasing pain and suffering, he has always been a source of great love and support.  I could not imagine a better partner or friend, no siree Bob.  During my hospital stay, it was the hours he was there that I felt most safe.  Listening to him type away on his laptop or hearing his whispers in the dark, it was almost as if I were home and not hooked to a catheter, pulse oximeter, and an IV.  I was free.

My fantastic doctors.  First, to Petra Caruso, Naturopathic MD.  One of the most kind and compassionate health care professionals I have ever had the privilege to meet, she has been on this journey with me for nearly two years, constantly striving to find new, healthy solutions to make my life more comfortable.  When she realized our options had been exhausted, she recommended my awesome specialist, Dr. Liz Newhall.  Oh goodness, I am ever so pleased to have found her way while on my own.  She is an amazingly talented woman, highly educated in her craft of women’s health, with a heart and humor to match.  After my surgery, when I asked her how bad it was, and she told me that it was one of the worst cases she’d seen in her thirty years of practice, she said, “You would have won a blue ribbon at the fair, no doubt about it.”

YOU, the people of cyberspace, across the street, across town, across the world.  Thank you so much for your prayers, kind thoughts, cards, meals, visits, everything.  I felt and continue to feel so bouyed by all the love being sent my way, so incredibly grateful to be alive!

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Patio Time

Patio Time

Hi all! Colleen was discharged from the hospital yeserday, July 25th. As much relief as I feel having her home I am also extremely grateful for her experience in the hospital. It is absolutely fascinating to see how fast the body heals and changes.

I can’t help but be amazed, grateful, and not just a little shocked at all the external “hook-ups” that had to be connected to Colleen during this time:

  • Catheter – Well, we all have to pee don’t we? (no pun intended!)
  • “Pain Pump” – This particular device delivered morphine directly to the abdomen. I can’t really give many more details about this one since none of the nurses knew how to use it!
  • Blood Monitor – A very strange light connected to the end of Colleen’s finger, this was responsible for measuring the amount of oxygen her blood was carrying around. Effectively, this monitored how she was breathing.
  • Oxygen tube- As a result of the blood monitor going off, additional oxygen was needed for proper breathing, particular during periods of sleep. You know, the little tube under the nose…
  • IV – Ahh, the “intake tube” we’ve all seen in the movies.  I don’t really know how to describe seeing somebody not needing to eat real food and having everything (including medication) delivered ‘on-demand’. “Convenient”, “scary”, “miraculous”, “bizarre”… I could go on and on, but this is certainly one of the most critical components to Colleen being ok, for sure.

Needless to say, I am so happy to see her up and walking around and not needing one of the previously mentioned connections.  I know she has a long way to go before she is 100%, but what she has been through has been fairly eye-opening to me in my little software writing world.

Hematocrit Levels

(Grain of salt warning: I may have the numbers wrong here, but I don’t think so…) We were slightly worried that she wouldn’t be able to come home because of her “Hematocrit Level“. 38% is about average for a woman. Fortunately, thanks to Colleen, her level was about at 42% when she went in to surgery. After surgery it was about 28%… Then 25%… Then 22%…   So, this was the piece that made me nervous during recovery!   Her last test went back up to 25! Yippie!  The doctor told us that this can fluctuate quite a bit due to various factors – drugs, hydration, etc… so a particular number is not critical. Since this can mean internal bleeding, however, it is critical that this number stabilize. Seeing it stabilize was crucial.  I suspect she will have another test before week’s out, but it looks good!

Thanks

I don’t really know what else to say besides “thank you”.  Thanks to everybody who has had a kind word for Colleen, sent a flower, or just had a moment of contemplation about how really valuable the people around you are.

P.S. I probably won’t post as much as I will be quite short on time come tomorrow.  I am hopeful, however, that Colleen will be back to her bloggin self in no time!


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Happy Day

Happy Day

I just wanted to post some status on Colleen.   She is doing very well after having switched to oral medication. Therefore, she is no longer connected to an IV or feeling nauseous  from the constant stream of Dilaudid.

Her “stryker box” has also been removed. A baking soda sized device, this was delivering medication directly to the incision site. Apparently it is fairly ‘new fangled’, and most nurses don’t know how to use it. (We think it stopped delivering anything about a day ago!).  Regardless, “her annoying purse” has been removed. She was forced to have this hanging around her neck.

The vital sign monitor is no longer on her finger either.  Bottom line is that there is just one tiny tube connected to her in case she needs an IV again, but we suspect that will be gone shortly.

She’s been able to walk around a little and hopes to walk out of the hospital sometime this afternoon (with a little help, of course).

It has certainly been an interesting week and, at times, a little scary. It is good to see Colleen feel more like herself (if not still in a bit of pain). All and all she is doing very well, considering what she has been through.

(Editing by Colleen)

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Mount Hood is always a good photo to play with

Mount Hood is always a good photo to play with

Colleen and I are often “accused” of having rose colored glasses on. It used to be something I felt guilty for, as if I didn’t have a grasp on reality. I now view this ‘trait’ as something to embrace since there are many events in life beyond my control.  Sometimes the only thing I do have the ability to shape is my view. Colleen is fond of saying “I’m not driving this bus”, and I agree.

A shift in perspective can be a powerful thing. As I look back over the past year and a half, it has been a little bit of a roller coaster and I thought I would share some of my hospital reflecting…

Colleen’s Surgery

This was a fairly serious body change for Colleen and obviously at the forefront of our lives at the moment. With the amount of endometriosis, it is probably one of the more invasive hysterectomies that a person can have.  (Actually, the hysterectomy was a small part of the procedure.  Think trying to free up taffy growing inside you that has been twisting your organs for 20+ years.)

With glasses: I have a lot of hope that Colleen will feel a good sense of freedom from the abdominal issues that she has suffered with. After all, the whole point is of all this is to make things better than they are now.  I’m hopeful she will enjoy her time in Colorado without having to worry about serious cramping and pain this September. From a “me” perspective, the event has been a great chance to be able to help someone I love who can’t help herself.  It is a great gift to be able to make a difference in her recovery and feel that much closer to her.

Job Changing/Economic “crisis”

I have changed positions three times in the last year, gone from having a large chunk of vacation to having to fight to get a chance to help Colleen for a day or two, and taken a fairly significant financial hit.

With glasses:I now work for a functional company with people I enjoy being around. My commute is smaller. I am not making as much and not as able to save as much, but a good portion of the 401k savings went up in smoke anyway!    My work is much more varied now and I really enjoy this variety.  My boss and colleagues are pleasant and I feel a strong desire to truly help the company I work for grow and improve.  I find myself very content and intrigued with the possibilities that the future holds.

It is certainly not always easy to find a positive perspective on perceived ‘bad’ situations but I have enjoyed the challenge and awareness that comes from the search.

I think I will put my glasses on now and rest near my lovely wife as she does some healing…

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