I have the best friends and family in the world, I really do. I've been getting a lot of texts, FB messages, emails and voicemails all week....asking how I'm feeling, what I'm eating, how I'm doing and if there's anything that can be done to help me. In the interest of saving every single one of my cousins, ward members, friends from home and other assorted and varied persons in my life some time, I thought I'd do another Q & A post and share some of the most basic information with my public.
Note: This does not mean that you aren't allowed to text, FB, email and/or call me after you've read this post, should you have additional questions that weren't addressed, or if you'd just like a more personal conversation. Just be prepared for a delay in return communication, esp if you call. I'm not answering any phone calls right now, because it's really hard for me to talk on the phone. After hours in surgery, with my lungs slowed/stopped, it's really hard for me to get a deep enough breath to support/sustain my voice. Anyone who calls me either gets a text back from me, or a call from my mother. There's also a delay in FB and email, as I'm having a hard time getting my right hand to type. I allow myself to check/answer emails twice a day, tops, because it is time-intensive and incredibly frustrating to have to literally watch my right hand to make sure it stays on the correct keys and types the letters I'm intending it to. (This also explains why I'm not blogging a lot this week. It's exhausting. And frankly, I've got enough going on that makes me tired these days.) If you text and I'm awake, I'll text you right back. If you text and I'm asleep, I'll text you when I either a) wake up or b) finally pick up my phone and notice that I have 24 new texts. (I did not make that number up, folks. It happens.)
So, with that little disclaimer aside, let's get back to the Q & A:
Q: How are you feeling?
A: Like I lost a bar fight. A really bad one. (Note: I've never actually been in a bar fight. I've just seen a lot of them on TV, esp in my recent Netflix run of Magnum PI. And the kind of bar fight I'm talking about having lost is the kind where you get hit on top of the head with a bottle, fall to the floor, and then get kicked in the gut about a million times before TC finally breaks it up.) The pain in my left side is brutal. And it's unrelenting. The bar-fight-sore is how I feel when I'm right smack in the middle of a pain-pill cycle. During the last half hour of the cycle, and for the first half hour of the next, as I'm waiting for the new drugs to kick in, I do my best not to move, because the pain is excruciating.
I have a weird pain my left shoulder. It started when I came out of surgery, and it was assumed it was air/gas bubbles that had traveled and gotten caught during surgery. (I know, that sounds crazy, but it's happened before in my other surgeries, so it's not an unfamiliar pain to me.) When I had to drink the barium on Saturday and promptly vomited into the hospital trash can, I hurt it some more. (I'd thought I might have dislocated it, but the nursing staff assured me that it wasn't dislocated and it was probably just pulled muscles.) When I eat too much or sleep funny, my left shoulder hurts so bad that it's hard to breathe. It's awesome.
For some reason, my right arm won't bend beyond a 90 degree angle. It'll stretch out even with my shoulder, but there's absolutely no getting it above my head without my other arm holding it up. This makes washing my hair incredibly difficult, and let's not even talk about shaving under that arm. (Just don't judge me for looking like an unwashed refugee, should you happen to see me on one of my (very short) walks around the neighborhood.) What I'm saying is, my hair is beyond its normal state of un-washed and I have one (count it, one) hairy armpit. Sexy.
Q: How are you sleeping?
A: Fairly well, considering I have both a fabulous bed and a fabulous La-Z-Boy recliner. At night, I go to bed in my bed, where I sleep for 3-4 hours before the pain caused by gravity starts to hurt my side and abdomen. Then, I toddle into the living room and crawl into my recliner and sleep for another 3-4 hours in a semi-reclined position. I try to take all my naps in my bed, because the rest of my day is spent in the recliner. ... I mix it up as much as I can. I'm just grateful for two really comfortable pieces of furniture. I don't know how I'd do this without both of them!
Q: Can I bring you a meal?
A: Sadly, no, because my current diet is beyond bizarre. But thanks for offering.
Q: What are you eating?
A: A whole lotta fiber: Wheat Thins, Wheat Chex, Grape Nut Flakes, Shredded Wheat, wheat toast, blackberries, blueberries, green smoothies, bran pancakes with apricot puree in lieu of syrup (the best thing I've eaten all week, actually - twice), cashews, very small amounts of vanilla yogurt and one scrambled egg at a time (both of which I'm now cut off of, since I haven't pooped since Monday).
Q: You haven't pooped since Monday?!
A: Nope. And I'm taking between 4-6 stool softeners and laxatives a day - PLUS I'm drinking a hardcore laxative every night. Pain meds = constipation, in a fierce way. I'm super burpy, which hurts like the dickens, but I'm trying to be grateful that gas is getting out of my body, even if it is in a very small (and probably inconsequential) way. ... Just call me Pollyanna, looking for the silver lining.
Q: How long did your surgery take?
A: Five and a half hours.
Q: What, exactly, did they take out of you?
A: A couple tumors (the exact size of which I am still waiting to get a report on), my left kidney, my spleen, a section of my colon and as much of my retroperitoneum as Dr. G could scrape out of me. ... The results of which are the bar-fight feeling I referenced earlier, and an unholy amount of swelling. To give you an idea of the swelling: On my right side, when I lift my shirt, you can see a hollow under my ribcage. On the left side, it's still all puffy and round and my ribcage is indecipherable, even though that's the side that had multiple organs taken from it. ... To give further swelling info that's going to border on TMI (one of the things I do best, to be sure): the swelling goes all the way down to my pubic bone. If I'm lying flat in bed, there's a noticeable difference in size of my left to right lower abdomen. If I push on the right side of my pubic bone, there's little to no discomfort. If I push on the left side of my pubic bone, the pain in excruciating.
Q: Does it get easier to heal when you have the same surgery multiple times? As in, your body gets used to it, so it adjusts and heals faster?
A: No, sadly, it does not get easier to heal as I have the same/similar surgery over and over again. I'm sorry to report that it actually gets harder to heal with each and every one. My body is getting older. Every time I'm under anesthesia for hours at a time, it doesn't do my internal organs any good. And, especially with this surgery, where there was so much more than a tumor taken.... recovery is long and hard. The one upside to having had similar surgeries is emotional/intellectual, in that - on the really rough days when I think I might just die if I have to try and take one more incredibly painful breath - I know that things will get easier/better, if I just hang in there. I know that I'll heal and I'll be able to sleep for more than 4 hours at a time, and I'll be able to sneeze without screaming from the pain, and eventually my bowels will go back to normal and my diet can go back to cake and ice cream with a side of popcorn... because I've been cut open before, and I've healed before. Is my body the same as it was three years ago, pre-tumor #1? No. Multiple surgeries and radiation have done a number on it, BUT I know that in a few weeks time, I'll feel a lot more like my normal self, and within a few months, I'll have my new/old body back and I'll be able to do so many of the things that I'm not able to do now.
So, I guess the long and short of this post is... I feel like crap. I mean, crappy, crappy, crap. Almost all the time. Until my pain meds wear off, and then I feel worse. .... But I know that I'll get better, because I always have. It takes time and patience and a whole lot of tears and work and prayer, but I will get better. Again. I know it.
Recovery is a long, hard road. And there are a lot of things that I have to do by myself. ... But when I lift my head and look around, there are ALWAYS people on the sidelines who love me, just watching and waiting their turn, trying to find a way and an appropriate time to jump in and help me. And for these people (you people), I am grateful. You make healing so much easier than it would be if I truly had to do it on my own. Thank you for helping me, each of you, in whatsoever way that you can. I love you!