Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Surgery and Staging

After 2 days without solid foods, the last 8 hours with nothing at all, I checked into the hospital for surgery scheduled at 9:00 am on April 9th, 2007. I happened to see a friend, Kirsten, who was checking in at the same time for surgery on her spine. We did our bloodwork together and waited to be called to the pre-op area together. After about 15 minutes of waiting, I was called to pre-op.

The pre-op area was a room in the basement without windows that had a large nurse's area in the middle with several people working and a bunch of smaller rooms lining it with curtains as doors. Each room had a hospital bed, a chair, and some supplies.

I followed a nurse to one of the curtained rooms that had a piece of paper with my last name handwritten on it. She told me to take my clothes off and put them in a plastic bag provided for me which she called "a nice piece of luggage". I did that and hopped into the hospital bed. She came back quickly and put a heated blanket on me. I noticed there was a picture of a field with some flowers about 4" by 6" on the ceiling directly above me. Someone must have put it there to meditate on. She left and another nurse came in. The new nurse asked me a lot of questions about my health and sat down to put my IV in. She tried twice in the bend of my arm with no success...and a lot of pain. Then she tried on the top of my hand after putting some anesthetic in it to numb it up. It took several tries to get that one in too. My whole arm was purple!

After about 15 minutes, my mom and my fiance came in to sit with me until surgery would start. In the meantime, I walked to the next room over where Kirsten was getting set up too. We hugged and asked eachother if the other was scared and we both said "yes". I went back to my room and met with the anesthesiologist. He told me what he expected to happen when they put me to sleep. Eventually it was time to go to surgery. I said good-bye to my family and a nurse wheeled me off to the OR on the same floor just down the hall. I remember starting to feel really happy on the way to the room, getting inside the OR and things just going blank almost immediately.

When I woke up I was in a recovery room with several other people yelling and writhing, and some nurses running around. I was in intense pain. I could barely speak. Through my post-surgery fog I could see that Kirsten was in the bed to my left. She looked good and was fully awake. I heard screaming from the man to my right. He was yelling about his leg and how much pain he was in and to make it stop. It scared me a little. I felt like I was in an army medical tent after a bombing. The clock was directly in front of me, and I think it said 1:30 pm. A nurse came to my bedside when she noticed I was awake and asked me if I was in pain and I sort of sobbed "yes". Dan came in to see me and I don't remember what we talked about, just that I hurt. The nurse gave me something to make me feel better and I faded back into a deep sleep.

I woke up again a few hours later and they started wheeling me to my hospital room. I saw my mom and Dan sitting outside my room. The transport people who wheeled me to my room told them to stay outside while they moved me to my hospital bed. They told me how to move over. I was in terrible, terrible pain so each movement was breathtaking. I needed to do it slowly, but apparently one of the transport nurses needed me to move faster so she grabbed my legs and just shoved me over, saying I needed to do just do it. I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW BADLY THAT HURT. I hesitate to say this, but at that moment, I began to wonder if dying might be better than that pain. I groaned an awful groan and began to panic. The transport nurses left and my mom and Dan came in. I was crying because of the pain, but it hurt to cry so I was trying not to.

A new nurse came in and showed me how to work my morphine pump (yay!). I quickly learned that you could push it every 6 or 7 minutes so I just watched the clock and pressed it as soon as I knew I could for the next few hours. That first night was a total haze but I do remember the deep, dark depression I sunk into at that point. I also had a panic attack or two.

I was hooked up to so many machines that they moved me to a larger room the next day so all the equipment could fit. I stayed in the hospital for 5 days. During my stay they also performed a fine needle aspiration on my thyroid to check for cancerous cells. My doctor and her assistant came to see me a few days later too. They came with a huge entourage of nurses. They told me that they didn't find any cancerous cells in any of the 40 biopsies they took from my abdomen and that everything looked very healthy. However, I was still going to have to undergo chemotherapy because of the size of the tumor that was removed and the rapidity with which it grew. Even though they didn't find any cancerous cells in my abdomen, there was a chance the tumor shed before it was removed and some cancerous cells traveled to other places in my body.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Velcro Head

My head has Velcro.

It attaches to pillows,

and sometimes hats too.

The Last Lecture