Monday, October 29, 2007

The Poop Will Set You Free

Thursday came and went. Butt I didn’t. No gas no turds. Nothing. Friday morning came. On their rounds, the doctors just looked at me with raised eyebrows and said, “well?” I said, “nothing”. They shook their heads and moved on. Deb sat with me most of the day. Nothing. Deb left for the hotel and Annie came by after work. I ate a lousy dinner right before she got there. Annie and I talked for a few minutes and I felt a gurgle. I felt a twinge. I oh, so carefully stood up and headed to the bathroom. I came out doing the crappy dance because I had just pooped!! I was free!!! I didn’t just fart, I was an overachiever! (That was around 6pm, about 10 minutes after two of the young doctors stopped in and raised their eyebrows once again in question.) Annie was my caca muse.
I called Deb and of course, she had just fought obnoxious traffic and had finally arrived at the hotel just as I called her. She got back in the truck and came back to the hospital to get me. I made my escape around 8:30pm Friday night.We spent Friday night and half of Saturday night at the hotel in Ann Arbor.
We came home in the middle of the night because the alarm company called and left a message on my cell phone at 1am saying that they called the police because our alarm had sounded and no one was answering the phone. We got home around 3 or 3:30 am and everything was fine, except our phone and internet connection was messed up. And our front door knob was loose, like someone had jiggled it hard enough to make it loose.
So, last night I locked the deadbolt in addition to the regular lock and now that won't unlock. I'm kind of trapped here, except to go into the backyard and around through the gate and out. We will be calling a locksmith to get it all looked at.
I am still moving slowly. I am still wearing the abdominal binder much of the time. I'm alternating between Ibuprofen and narcotics for pain relief. I keep forgetting to take them before the pain gets really bad. Part of the reason is that sometimes the pain level is fine for 6-10 hours, then all of a sudden, it jumps up. (Or, maybe it inches up and I don't notice it until it is bad, I'm not sure.) I still can't figure out why Vicadin (or Narco) is a big street drug. It doesn't make me high in the least. It barely even makes me tired. Nothing. I do notice that I am in somewhat less pain 30-40 minutes after taking it, but that is it. Having said that, I still probably take it too far and few between because I am paranoid about becoming addicted to it.
Even though Deb does most of the housework, I am getting fidgety because I'm supposed to limit my activity very strictly for 6 weeks after my surgery (5 weeks now) and I can't even take the trash out to the garage. It hurts to bend over, and I don't want to pop the stitches, so if I drop something or if there is something on the floor that needs to be put away, it is hard (or sometimes not feasible) for me to take care of it. I feel lazy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Farting is the Password

The day before yesterday, I was opened up surgically about six inches. The pain has actually been less than what I'd anticipated except that all along the right side of my abdoment I kept getting a major cramp. I got this cramp when I tried to roll onto my left side. I got this cramp when I gried to roll to my right side. Finally, last night, they got me an abdominal binder which helped. It's like a big girdle.

Last night, I fell asleep, but then woke up in a panic attack. I felt trapped like a rat. I kept getting those cramps so I couldn't even sleep on my side as I like to. I had both legs attached to the bed by air hoses that filled and deflated "boots" on my calves in order to prevent blood clots in my legs. I had an oxygen canula in my nose, which attached to the wall. I had a pulsOx monitor stuck to my finger to monitor my oxygen levels. I had an IV sticking out of the port in my chest. I had a wire leading from the pca unit to distribute narcotics to me at the touch of a finger. I had the nurse call light/tv controller at the end of a wire running from the wall to my bed. I had a tube sticking out of my urethra to catch my pee and another one from the wound to catch the drainage. I WAS trapped like a rat. I kept getting tangled up in all those tubes and wires, along with my blankets and I just started freaking out. I ripped off the "boots" and pulled off the pulse ox monitor since I couldn't find the call light that I was sitting on. I let the nurse know that I did that on purpose because I couldn't find the call light. I started to cry when I was telling her that I was freaking out. Of course crying sent me out of this world with pain because of the abdominal cramps. A binder finally came for me.

They got me bound, which sounds like it would feel more confining, but the pain relief was almost instant. They untangled my blankets and encouraged me to put the "boots" back on. They gave me Ativan to calm me down. (I let the Dr. know that I'm afraid of Ativan because when the doctors gave it to my mom, she never woke up again. I explained that I know that she was a geriatric patient and that I know that my fears are unfounded, but they are there. I did allow them to give it to me because anything is better than the panic that I was experiencing.) I was able to roll over on my side with the binder on. I still had some pain, but not too much. I only used the pca once or twice after that.

First thing this morning, around 5:30am, the Doctor pulled my catheter. A few hours later, they pulled my IV fluids and pca pump once they knew that I could tolerate solid foods. Since I hadn't used any narcotics in several hours, we started me on just Motrin for the pain. That lasted for a few hours, but then I started having more pain. And nausea. They gave me Phenigren through my port for the nausea and Narco by mouth for the pain. They both helped, but I was knocked out for several hours. One of my nieces visited me and I was totally out of it, not able to hold a decent conversation or create much of a cohesive thought even. I felt bad.

Finally, after several hours, I was able to wake up. So I walked down here to the isolation area to get on the internet and write on this blog. I am still quite groggy, but they kept telling me that I needed to walk as much as possible. They still want me to fart before I leave.

Monday, October 22, 2007

No more food for me

I just ate my last solid food for a while. As of noon, I can only have clear liquids. My surgery is at 1pm, I have to be there at 11am. Deb and I are going to stay at a hotel in Ann Arbor tonight so that we don't have to get up at a ridiculous time in the morning. I will be admitted to the U of M hospital for 3-5 days, depending upon when I can do certain things. I'm hoping to get out on Thursday, but it may be longer. (I know that people who are heavy like me sometimes take longer to heal or experience more post-op complications than people who are thinner.)

I have to start taking GoLytly this afternoon. I'm looking forward to spending my evening on the toilet.

Deb will be there during my surgery tomorrow. My sister, Mig will stop in for a while also. My friend, Annie, will also be with her during much of the day. Deb will be staying in Ann Arbor until at least Thursday, depending upon when I am released.

Once I am admitted to the 8th floor, I know that there is a room where I can access the internet. If I feel up to it, I may try to write on the blog from there. I'll see how I feel.

This morning, Deb is at her Dr. office, getting her twice weekly infusion of vitamins and minerals. I am watching a young friend who is home from school today. He broke his leg yesterday.

Well, I'm going to sign off for now. See you on the other side.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Eye Can Stop Worrying

I set the alarm on my cell phone to wake me up at 7:15am. And again at 7:30am. And again at 7:40am. I finally dragged my butt out of bed and made it to my eye appointment on time. It turns out that it has been 3 years since I'd been there, I thought it had only been a year and a half or so.

Well, he said that my vision is 20/25. He also said that my retinas look "beautiful", no diabetic retinopathy or other retinal changes. He said that I have SDT (I think), which basically means that my eyes are too dry and that that is why I am having blurred vision. He said for me to use lube for my eyes. (Not like KY, like lubricating drops.) He gave me a sample. I've used them once so far, but haven't noticed any difference.

I can't figure out why my eyes are dry, I seem to have no problem tearing up when I'm emotional. One interesting thing that he said is that more women than men have this happen. He said it is a 5:1 ratio. I wonder why that is. He also said that since it seems to be caused by the chemo for me, it should be temporary. He said to come back in if the drops don't help or if it doesn't get better after a month or so.

I haven't seen this particular doctor before. He is quite a character. Deb and I decided that if he ever needs a second job, he could either be an auctioneer or a comedian. He is very professional, but also outgoing and funny. He dictated the report for my doctor into his recorder and he spoke so fast, I almost couldn't understand much of what he said. That is why auctioneer would be a good second job for him. He kind of reminded me of Jim Carey.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mistaken Eyedentity

A while back, I mentioned that when I got my chemo, my vision got messed up. I believed that it was from the steroids raising my blood sugar too high which in turn messed up my vision. Well, my eyesight is still messed up. Not all the time. The past few days, I have checked my blood sugar during times that my vision was blurred and my numbers have not been high enough to affect my vision that way. When I went to my general practitioner this morning to get a refill on my blood sugar medication, I mentioned that my vision has been messed up since the chemo. I told him that I was going to wait until after my surgery, but before going back to work to go to the eye doctor. He looked at me and said, "don't wait, go as soon as you can because chemo can mess with your retinas". So, once again, my anxiety is coming out. I'm not frantic yet, but I am worried.

I go to see the eye doctor at 8:10 tomorrow morning. Hopefully, it is nothing. Up until now, every eye exam that I have had has actually come out better than the one before. I first got reading glasses in seventh grade. In high school, my prescription was weaker. In my 20s, my scrip became even weaker. The last time, about a year and a half ago, the doctor said that I didn't really even need glasses anymore. I thought it was funny because the closer I got to the age of 40, the better my vision became. For most people, the opposite is true. Now, I'm 5 months from 40 and my eyes are worse than ever.

From New Orleans to Flint by way of South Africa

Sunday, the group of us that went to New Orleans to volunteer last May, did our church service to let the congregation know about our trip. It ran longer ahan we would have liked, but I think overall, it was a good service. I think people were interested in what we were saying. We shared some of the pictures of our trip, along with personal reactions and reflections.

Working on what I was going to say, and reading back throught the journal that I kept, made me fall in love with New Orleans all over again. I was supposed to read some of my journal entries, but instead I took a few of my entries from that journal, and mixed them in with childhood memories and reflections of a recent anti-racism workshop that I went to.

The following is what I said:

I grew up hearing the story of the first time my dad met Louis Armstrong. Pops took my Pop under his wing and suckered him into making his first public appearance. Because of this, I have always held Armstrong in my heart as a hero. One of my dreams, since I was little, was to go to New Orleans to see the place that created such an incredible musician and generous human being.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it before hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated much of New Orleans.

I was, however, honored to be able to experience this incredible place through volunteering this year with others from the UU Church of Flint. I soaked up the jazz from the French Quarter in through my pores at night and I sweated the devastation and anger out through my pores in the daytime heat.

I fell in love with New Orleans just as deeply as I fall in love with Louis Armstrong each time I hear his grainy voice sing to me through my stereo speakers.

Although some people criticized “Satchmo”, saying that he played as an “Uncle Tom” to white audiences, Armstrong fought racism quietly. He donated much of his money to anti-racism activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. He treated people as his equals, including a scared white kid during the early 1950s. Armstrong even refused to play in his beloved New Orleans for many years because of the segregation there, returning only to play in 1965 after the Civil Rights Act was passed.

As soon as we got settled in to our temporary home at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans, several of us took off to the French Quarter. We were led by our new friend and guide, Gabe, who had been volunteering in New Orleans for about a month and a half. We were headed to a bar called “The Spotted Cat”.

Once we got to Frenchman Street, kitty corner to “The Spotted Cat”, a brass band was playing outside to a crowd of one or two hundred people dancing… on cars, in the back of pick up trucks, on sidewalks and in the middle of the street. It was incredible.

As I watched and listened to the brass band work the crowd, I looked around at that crowd. Black folks and white folks were dancing, drinking, and singing together while these very talented young black men rivaled the angels in heaven on their horns. I kept wishing that Louis Armstrong could have been here to see this mix of humanity that he dreamed would come together. I wondered if he would have finally come home after the hurricanes came to devastate the area.

When I talked to people in the quarter, at the Rebuilding Together warehouse, and at the church where we were staying, I learned that there is so much more to New Orleans than jazz and delicious food. I learned that, even though much of the city is segregated, no matter the color of their skin, the people there seem to genuinely care about one another. Neighbors look out for one another, especially the young and the elderly. Something that I heard about again and again was that people were doing everything they could to help their neighbors rebuild and get home while they themselves were still living in FEMA trailers and hadn’t been allowed to enter their own homes for months.

That got me to wondering if people would look out for each other that way here in Flint if a tornado were to strike and devastate our area.

I don’t know.

The segregation in Flint breaks my heart, much like Satchmo’s heart was broken by the segregation of the New Orleans that he grew up in.

A few weeks ago, I attended a workshop here, at the Flint UU, in the chapel. The workshop was run by the cast of the play called “Truth in Translation”, which is about the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa.

I mention this because I believe that Flint, New Orleans and South Africa have a lot in common. All three places are struggling with issues of poverty and prejudice. All three are striving to evolve past segregation toward integration.

New Orleans, for many years, lost a most beloved son, Louis Armstrong, due to the people of that city being too willing to allow the status quo of inequality rule their everyday lives. South Africa, for years, instituted legalized racism resulting in hatred and misunderstanding between people of different skin tones. Flint has maintained an atmosphere of quiet segregation without very many questioning the inequalities.

For each of these places, speaking truth to prejudice has been- and still is- necessary in order to remind ourselves of the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.

Through my dad’s experience with Louis Armstrong, the lesson I learned is that a person is a person no matter the color of their skin, their rank, experience, talent or their material possessions. Satchmo could have left corporal Loubert to face the wrath of his commanding officer when he gave in to cowardice and failed to execute his orders to introduce Louis Armstrong to a bunch of loud, rowdy soldiers. Instead, he treated my dad with dignity and compassion. Satchmo put his arm around him. Talked soothingly to him, then basically pushed him out on stage where he had little choice but to speak.

Louis Armstrong was wise enough to listen to what my dad believed his own limitations were. Then he pushed my dad to go above and beyond what he thought himself capable of.

After going to New Orleans and experiencing the show and workshop of “Truth in Translation”, I have to ask myself: what part do I play in listening to what the people of Flint believe to be our limitations as a community. And: how can I help to push this place into going above and beyond what we think we are capable of.

A Series of Powerful Personal Connections In One Day's Journey

Today, I had my pre-op visit with Dr J at U of M. My surgery date is set for October 23. I will be having a total hysterectamy (including uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes as well as para-aortic lymph nodes). I will be in the hospital for probably 3-5 days. Once I can get off the pain med pump, go potty and something else, I can't remember, then they will let me go.

After my doctor visit, I went to the 8th floor of the hospital to visit a friend of ours who has been in the hospital for a month. We had a very good visit. She had some very powerful insights in how to visit someone in the hospital, including intention, consideration of patient's needs, empowerment strategies and so much more. I'm hoping that she will compile these ideas into a book when she feels stronger.

Once leaving her, we met our niece for chinese food at Middle Kingdom. I am so proud of this kid, I can't wait to see who she becomes. I am proud of all of my nieces and nephews, they are each so unique.

After leaving Ann Arbor, we went to a friend's house and drmmed and ate dinner.

I must say that even though today began with a doctor visit (unforfunately, including yet another pelvic exam), and continued in the hospital, overall it was a very good day. I love making meaningful connections with people, and I feel like I did that several times over. I feel peaceful and grateful to have such awesome people in my life.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Change of Direction

Well, Deb and I haven't made it up north yet. Instead of heading to Cross Village Friday morning, we headed to Hurley Hospital. Deb was doubled over in pain. It started getting really bad on Thursday, and just kept getting worse through the night. She went into the emergency room and after they did a CT scan, they decided to keep her there because she had diverticulitis. So, Deb hasn't eaten solid food since Thursday. They have at least let her have clear liquids since Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, she is sick of chicken broth and jello. We are hoping that they will let her go home tomorrow. She has been getting heavy duty antibiotics through an IV since Friday. She is a much better sport about needles in her arms than I am.

I'm glad that she went in to the hospital here instead of getting to Cross Village, then deciding to go. One doctor said that if she had waited much longer, she would probably have ended up with an abscess in her colon. As it is, they caught it before it reached that point. Inflamed, yes. Painful, yes. Infected, yes. With her immune system, waiting much longer would have been much more serious.

Friday night, I went to a friend's house for dinner and conversation. We had a fire in her chimenea on her back deck. We kept pretending that we were around the fire pit up north, saying "shhhh, do you hear that bear?!!" and "look out, I hear wolves!"

If they spring her tomorrow, we can still go up north for a few days. Keep your toes crossed!