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Peace

I love this time of the year.  Spring, the time of regeneration and growth and color and new life..and thunderstorms.  Amazing, refreshing thunderstorms.  As I type this to you, the Boston Terrorista and I are snuggled up on the couch in our formal living room.  The windows are open and the delicious sounds alternate between fat droplets of spring rain rapidly splashing against the pavement below and rumbly, energetic thunder.  The occasional flash of white-blue lightning pierces through our shutters.  Call me crazy, but stormy nights like these are unbelievably comforting and peaceful to me.  The air smells divine.  The rains nourish the earth and help it to prepare for new growth and the summer ahead.  The winds, cooling, as they usher in this amazing weather phenomenon.  I feel happier tonight and more at peace than I’ve been since the journey of the storm within me began on my birthday.

I saw the gynecologic oncologist today.  I was surprised at the overwhelming calm I felt in the hours before my appointment.  Given Tuesday’s panic and the many moments of sadness and fear in the days prior, I think I expected to be more nervous.  Sad.  Anxious.  My husband wrapped his arms around me and asked me how I was feeling, and I told him I was fine.  No apprehension.  No sadness.  The entire drive to the St. Luke’s Cancer Institute found me knitting trying to knit a scarf on my Knifty Knitter and laughing and happily chatting away with my husband.  Once inside the oncology clinic, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This was like no other doctor’s office I’d ever seen.  Beautiful decor and furnishings, a gorgeous piano, artwork, a beautiful aquarium….books and games and literature filled the open spaces.  Flowers, colors, cancer affirmations…they were everywhere.  As I was completing my pre-appointment paperwork, a cancer survivor’s yoga class was preparing for another session.  Beautiful women in colorful scarves began trickling in for the class.  Seeing their smiles and the bright colors of their headcoverings made me both happy and sad.  Sad for their struggles, but illuminated, happy even, for their resilience in spite of obvious suffering and their bouncing back with laughter and hugs and yoga.  The men I shared the waiting room with, however, were obviously in the throes of active illness and it was unbelievably heartbreaking being in their presence.  One man spoke in such a gutteral, throaty voice.  I was certain throat cancer had claimed his ability to speak and breathe normally.  Another man with a throaty voice passed through on a reclined wheelchair.  Completely immobile, his cart buzzed by us as he thanked the nurse for helping him and assured her that he’d be seeing her again soon.  The most heart-wrenching of all was a very elderly man with a large bandage wrapped around his head.  His face was heartbreakingly disfigured and mis-shapen.  It was if half of his face stepped forward and left its remaining counterpart behind.  Maybe this makes me a terrible person, but I couldn’t stand to look at him.  It just broke my heart.  When his name was called to go back to see the doctor, he turned and walked the wrong way.  His wife had to remind him of the right direction and the purpose for his being in the office.  Absolutely heartbreaking.  And there my husband and I sat, no obvious signs of un-wellness.  No indication of any kind of illness.  More importantly, no conception whatsoever of the pain and suffering and humiliation and heartbreak of cancer.  Those people were brave and beautiful and for each of them, I felt so unbelievably heartbroken.  It was a clear illustration to me of just how good things are for me right now, and how foolishly I’ve been reacting to all of this.  I am sick, but I don’t have cancer.  And I have every reason to believe that I will come through this journey on the other side happy and healthier than I’ve ever been.

The gynecologic oncologist and her staff were amazing.  So, so funny and welcoming.  She was blunt and to the point, which I appreciated.  She reviewed my medical records and we discussed laparoscopic hysterectomy.  She explained that a robot (!!!) performs those procedures in their clinic, and that my size is a concern for her.  The robot, she explained, would have to be able to easily find my cervix on his (her?) own.  She also explained something that just took my breath away.  The medication I am taking, Megace, is the exact same medication she gives to her patients who are in the early phases of endometrial cancer!  In fact, she told me that Megace reverses early endometrial cancer!  I couldn’t believe it.  I thought to myself that if this amazing medication could actually reverse cancer, then of course it could reverse pre-cancer!  She examined me and she and my husband and I had a long conversation afterward.  She explained that she didn’t think I was a good candidate for the laparoscopic hysterectomy, but that she was easily able to find my uterus and feel my organs from the outside in, and she felt certain that she could perform an abdominal hysterectomy on me…if I wanted one.  At this point, she explained, the decision was completely mine.  We could do as my gynecologist initially planned for us to do – three months of the medication, a repeat D&C to see if the hyperplasia had subsided, and a hysterectomy if it hadn’t…or we could schedule a hysterectomy date today and begin preparing for surgery.  After a long conversation, I told her that if this drug is strong enough to reverse cancer in its early stages, then it’s absoloutely worth trying it for the three months and having another D&C.  At this point, I told her, a hysterectomy is too invasive and too risky a procedure, one which could potentially be unnecessary in the end.  She smiled and said that she agreed with me, and confirmed that if she were in my shoes (and knowing everything that she knows about medicine and cancer), she’d make the same choice.  After more laughter and shared stories (and an increased dosage of Megace was called in to my pharmacy), we left the clinic.  The overwhelming feeling I had was one of peace.  For the first time since this entire journey began, I felt at peace.  No more fear.  No necessity of intentionally diverting my thoughts to any other topic(s) I could find in an effort to head off the worried feelings.  Just peace.  The medication I am taking is used to reverse cancer, and it works.  A gynecologic oncologist thinks that I am doing the right thing and would follow this course of treatment were she the patient herself.  I am absolutely, 100% where I am supposed to be right now.  I feel comfort and peace…and like this is actually going to be OK.

I know this has been a long post.  Thanks for reading all of this.  One more thing before I go…I AM DOWN 14.5 POUNDS!  At my first gynecology appointment on my birthday, I weighed myself.  Between that appointment and last week’s surgical follow-up, I’d lost three pounds.  Since the only change I’d made to my diet was giving up all the soda, I was (and still am) convinced that those three pounds were lost along with all the sugar in those countless cans of soda I drank every day.  Today, I am down 11.5 more pounds!  HOLY MOLY!  Looking down at the scale, I was overjoyed and shocked and nearly cried!  So happy.  And proud of myself.  Can’t believe that I did it.  One step, one craving, one meal at a time.  Please pray for me that I’ll continue to have the stick-with-it-ness to keep at this.  And that the peace I feel now will last over these next three months.

Pendulum Swing

I’m really not doing a good job at this “blogging every day” thing, am I?  It’s been a relatively uneventful last few days.  Our monthly “Girls Night Out” was Friday, and I had a wonderful time laughing and cutting loose with my girlfriends (and a gay male friend, who’s really one of the girls deep down!)  It was wonderful watching our daughter’s team annihilate their soccer opponents last Saturday morning.  (I know that team sports are about sportsmanship and teamwork and learning the art and craft of the sport and being healthy, but let’s be honest.  It feels great to win.)  We went out to dinner as a family at one of my favorite restaurants to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary.  I’ve been focusing only on the world around me and not the quiet storm inside my body.  I’ve been keeping busy, and the days seemed to go by quickly.  In all honesty, you’d never have known that I was sick by outward appearances, and I really wasn’t spending much of my energy focusing on what’s going on.  All of that came to a screeching halt this morning.

 I actually think it started yesterday.  Over the weekend, I did some research online in an effort to find some additional healing methods or approaches that I might use in conjunction with my hormone therapy for my atypical complex endometrial hyperplasia.  It was harder than I thought it would be.  I found one study that seemed to suggest that Vitamins C and E and beta carotene had been shown to have a strong deterring effect on uterine cancer.  I called my doctor’s office, and she confirmed it.  So I’m taking Vitamins C and E now and I’m off to GNC this afternoon in an effort to find beta carotene (finding pure beta carotene is harder than it looks.  No, Mr. Pharmacist, I don’t want Vitamin A with 20% beta carotene…I want 100% beta carotene!).  My doctor’s office also gave me the names of three local gynecologic oncologists, as promised, and suggested that I call and see who I can get in to see within a reasonable amount of time.  I think that all reinvigorated the worry and the panic.  You should have seen me at Walgreens last night, desperately comparing brands of vitamins and trying to understand all of the chemistry and IUs and dosages – blah, blah, blah).  When I got home, I felt a little blue, but spending the evening reading with my daughter and having dinner with my family helped.  I was so exhausted…I’m guessing from the worry and the sadness.  Both emotions hit me hard this morning around 5:00.  I just laid in my husband’s arms and cried.  Cried for the fear…the worry about this progressing to cancer…the very probable loss of my fertility…the guilt at this self-imposed condition and the stress it has caused the people I love…the fear of radiation and chemotherapy…all of it.  As always, my husband was amazing.  He reminded me of the good…and there’s a lot of it, let me add…and promised me that he’d be here to catch me when I fell and to celebrate with me when the clean bill of health was finally mine once again and for every step along the way.  I’ve walked around like a zombie all day, alternating between sadness and deep numbness.  Inability to concentrate made working on my audit near impossible.  I called the first oncologist on my list, only to be greeted (?) by an unbelievably rude office assistant.  She wouldn’t even discuss scheduling an appointment with me until she received my file from my doctor’s office.  (Hello?  Help me out, here.  Are we talkin’ next week or next August? I’m the patient here and could really benefit from your kindness and understanding as I’m hurting and worrying inside!)  She was abrasive and ugly and wouldn’t confirm that I’d see the oncologist my physician had selected, and snickered (I kid you not) when I raised concerns about insurance.  Just an ugly, ugly person…and a horrible reflection on someone who, I’m certain, is a wonderful physician.  Off to doctor-number-two on my list.  Her staff was much more friendly and welcoming, and I felt comfortable.  I had my records sent over, and I got a call back late this afternoon from Andrea, the very kind oncology nurse.  I’m in at 2:00 Thursday afternoon (that’s the-day-after-tomorrow Thursday!)  Can’t tell if that means I should panic (i.e., the oncologist looked at my records and, in sheer panic on my behalf, scheduled me right away) or if I should just shut up and be grateful that I got in as quickly as I did.  I felt the fog instantly begin to lift when I talked to Andrea.  I am grateful for this opportunity, and hope that this doctor can give us some good information.  One of the things she’s supposed to tell us is whether or not she thinks it’s a good idea to try for a laparoscopic hysterectomy.  If I have to have this surgery, and I’m convinced that I will, I’d so much rather go this route.  The procedure is significantly less invasive, and the healing time is so much faster.  Please cross your fingers for me that we get good news Thursday afternoon.

I still feel a little residual “ick” – not sure how long that’ll last.  I guess it was “just that time.”  I think it’s normal when you’re going through something like this, especially when inherent therein is a long period of “hurry up and wait” (three months is a l-o-n-g time), for there to be “up days” and “down days.”  Hoping for more of the former and less…much less…of the latter.  My doctor told me not to cry and worry.  Why is it so hard to shelve that worry and not allow it to manifest itself as tearful waterworks?

I Just…Am

After last week’s panic, I tried to re-shift my focus to the positive.  I don’t have cancer.  My pre-cancerous condition was caught early, and treatment has begun to (hopefully) prevent it from becoming cancer.  I have a wonderful doctor and good insurance.  I have a strong, beautiful support system behind me.  I didn’t think very much about what was happening inside me over these past several days.  My dear friend Sara re-made my webpage for me to make me smile.  Work kept me busy, as always, and I moved from project to project and got a lot accomplished.  Our daughter’s soccer team had an amazing first game (tie score, 3-3!).  We went to the off-leash area with our killer Boston Terrorista and had a wonderful time outside in the beautiful spring weather.  I spent the weekend with my husband and our dear friends (both Saturday night and Sunday) laughing and enjoying one another and the shared experience of friendship.  Plans were made for a camping trip (and a spa day for those of us who prefer indoor plumbing and the comforts of home, free of the creepy crawlies).  Shopping was done.  Crochet work on a purse neared completion.  It was a good weekend.  Then came Monday.

I’ve mentioned that two of my friends are battling cancer.  One is doing remarkably well.  The other received staggering news yesterday about her condition.  Another friend of mine has been losing her father for a long time now.  I’ve been so wrapped up in my own selfish concerns that I’ve not talked much with her about her family situation.  I got a chance to do so yesterday, and it’s heartbreaking and awful.  He’s dying and nothing can be done to stop it.  Another dear friend’s daughter (who is a Brownie sister of my daughter) has bronchiectasis and is sick….again.  (No child should suffer like this little girl has.  It’s just awful.)  My mind drifted off to an ongoing conflict I have with a former friend, and the damage it has caused to a group of people who once considered themselves a family of sorts.  All added together, it made for a crummy evening.  I felt awful inside.  Empty.  Why is it that so many wonderful people who have done nothing wrong suffer and endure heartbreak and physical pain, the likes of which many of us won’t ever know?  It lacks justice on every level, and is so incredibly unfair.  I realize that life isn’t supposed to be fair.  No one ever promised us an easy go of it.  I feel incredibly limited in my ability to help the people I love and it makes me sad.  Maybe the answer is just to love and pray…and to let God handle the heavy things for which my hand can bring no healing and my heart can bring no resolution.  Giving it all to God should make me feel better, but it doesn’t.  Hard to let go, I guess, of the human inclination to control and hang on and do-do-do on our own. 

I spent my lunch hour at the office today looking again at information on atypical complex endometrial hyperplasia.  I’m reading good things and bad things.  One study seemed to indicate that there is a relatively high regression rate of complex hyperplasia with atypia (55%!)  Other literature dooms ACEH patients to certain cancer with or without a hysterectomy (I think it said that in 43% of women undergoing a hysterectomy because of ACEH, the uterus was found to have endometrial cancer).  An amazing YouTube video shows what this disorder looks like through the lens of a microscope.  I’m slowly starting to look again at this information, and hoping to remain grounded and strong enough to see it in its true light and to not panic.  I see my doctor again this week for a follow-up, and I have so many questions for her (Will I need another D&C after the three months of Megace?  What else did the pathology report say?  Is there any metastasis of this condition?  Is this because of my PCO?  Will my daughter get it?  You promised me you’d take all the endometrial tissue out.  You did, right?)  I am looking forward to hearing what she has to say.  A little scared, too. 

Please keep my friends in your hearts and prayers.  Me, too.   Thanks.

…And Even If It’s Not OK, It’s Still OK

So it’s 9:58 on Friday evening and I’ve just returned home from a wonderful dinner and evening out with my amazing family.  A fun weekend awaits.  Tomorrow, our daughter’s soccer team has their first game, which was cancelled last weekend because winter didn’t quite get the message that he’d long outstayed his welcome.  Tomorrow night, we’ll be having dinner and an evening out with some of our dearest friends.  My heart is happy.  My snuggly Boston Terrorista is snuggled up right beside me, her left front paw resting against my leg as to say “I’ve got you, Mommy.”  My daughter is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Tooth Fairy this evening (lost a tooth at dinner!), and my wonderful husband and I just laughed as we looked at several online April Fools Day pranks (Google GMail Motion – ha!)  It was a good day.  Productive.  My heart is happy.  Not a trace of Wednesday’s numbness.  I think I needed a day or so to just decompress.  Worry less.  Focus on the beauty. I do not have cancer, and my doctor has every reason to believe that I won’t develop it.  It’s all going to be OK, and even if it’s not, it’s still OK.

I feel so unbelievably foolish about the way I reacted Wednesday.  I lost all perspective and had a very visceral and emotional reaction, tossing aside the screamingly obvious (IT’S NOT CANCER!) and focusing only at what could be (but very likely will not).  I had a long conversation with boss #2 (the fitness buff, who, I have it on good authority, is having a few of her own female problems) and she said something  I wish I’d given more immediate consideration to:

“If you find it necessary to blame yourself for anything, blame yourself for making the decision to go to the doctor when you did.  Blame yourself for getting the necessary tests and treatment.  And blame yourself for, ultimately, saving your life.”

She’s right.  Neglecting my health like that is something I’ll never do again.  In fact, I find myself wanting to do more for other women.  There is absolutely no excuse to fail to take care of your health.  It’s YOUR health.  Your body.  Your life.  To every woman I know: please, please, please go for your annual gynecologic screenings.  The discomfort you feel is nothing in comparison to the discomfort of cancer, which, as I’ve mentioned before, two amazing people in my life are battling as we speak.  If you’re not having regular periods, it’s not enough to isolate the reason why.  Do something about it.  Medications are available that will ensure that your hormones and cycles move as they need to.  To the men who read my blog, please share this post and my story with the women you love.  A routine female examination takes less than thirty minutes, and can mean the difference between wellness and cancer.

Heaven Sends A Hurricane

“In the morning it comes.  Heaven sends a hurricane.  Not a trace of the sun, but I don’t even run from rain.”  –  Sara Bareilles, “The Light”

It’s not a good idea to give me worrysome information and then leave me alone.  This morning when I was getting ready for work (and as my husband and daughter slept), I noticed that I’d missed a few phone calls yesterday.  My Blackberry works when it wants to, and it isn’t always reliable at giving me notice when someone’s left me a voice mail message.  I missed three calls yesterday.  My mom called to check in on me.  An old friend from my grade school days called to tell me that a classmate had died from a heart attack.  And the third message was from Sherry, my doctor’s nurse.  The pathology report from last week’s D&C is in.  As expected, the polyps came back negative and I don’t have cervical cancer.  However, she said, I do have Complex Endometrial Hyperplasia.  I snuck a quick peek at Google to see if I could find any information, and the website I read scared me.  A 3-5% chance I’d develop cancer.  There I sat, Blackberry in one hand and hair dryer in the other, tearfully trying to figure out what exactly was wrong with me.  With hardly any time to talk, my husband awakened and I shared the news.  He, as always, was wonderful.  He wrapped his arms around me and reminded me that I am strong and that I am loved.  And he told me to focus on the 95-97% chance that I wouldn’t develop cancer.  I had to leave no sooner than we began talking (drawback of public transportation: be late and they leave without you).  The whole bus ride in to the office, I cried.  Fear was on my horizon, but the overwhelming feeling I had was guilt.  Guilt at having let so many years go by without taking the proper precautions to keep myself safe.  Guilt at having allowed my polycystic ovary disease (PCO) to go untreated for so many years.  More than anything, though, I felt guilty for being heavy.  Yet again, fat found another way to silently remind me of its unending presence.  Obesity is a primary cause of PCO, and PCO is a primary cause of excessive estrogen in the body, which is the cause for, all together now, endometrial hyperplasia.  I read a lot on the bus, and thanked my lucky stars that of the four pre-cancerous hyperplasias (simple, complex, simple with atypia, complex with atypia), I “only had the second worst” and that the numbers were in my favor.  When I got to work and called Sherry back, everything changed.  She told me that I had Atypical Complex Endometrial Hyperplasia with Squamous Metaplasia.  Come to find out, the diagnosis is much worse than I had initially thought.  The studies seem to reflect about a 35-40% risk of cancer for this type of hyperplasia.  Sherry was less than forthcoming with information, and it was very frustrating talking to her.  In all honesty, I learned more online than I did in our conversation.  In the end, the decision was made to give me three months of progesterone hormone therapy (a drug called Megace) and then “go back in” (Sherry’s words) to test to see if I was still symptomatic.  I asked if that meant another D&C, or if I could have the procedure as an outpatient.  “The doctor wants to talk to you about that at your return visit on the 7th.”  That was her standard response for every question I had.  How thick was the lining in my uterus?  Does she think I may need a hysterectomy?  “The doctor wants to talk to you about that at your return visit on the 7th.”  So unbelievably frustrating.  Please don’t leave me out here hanging by myself.  You’re the one with the information and the knowledge.  Help me.  And I was am still angry at the inaccurate diagnosis, too.  Don’t tell me in a voice mail message that I have a condition, only to tell me on the phone later (and only because I specifically asked what the pathology report said, mind you) that I have something (far?) worse.  As the day progressed, my feelings went from sadness and guilt to numbness.  I can’t help but feel a little foolish, too.  Much like with the D&C…a lot of worry over a simple procedure that zillions of women have had and survived.  Today’s news is not that I have cancer, rather a potentially cancerous condition.  Did we not know that on my birthday?  Why, then, did this hit me so, so hard today?

 I am trying to keep this in perspective and see it as it truly is.   Unfortunately, the numbness is making it difficult.  Maybe tomorrow, I’ll be able to see this more clearly and in the proper light.  In the meantime, I’m grateful that I don’t have cancer.  And I’m grateful for all of you who love me and who want for me to be healthy and happy.  I feel like I owe all of you an apology.  This is all my fault.  I hurt my beautiful daughter’s mother.  I hurt my husband’s wife.  I hurt my parents’ only daughter.  And I hurt someone that a wonderful group of people consider a friend.  I feel so bad.  And stupid.  And guilty.  Color me Catholic – we’ve got the market on guilt.

So Incredibly Blessed

Hi guys.  I know I promised I’d share the story about my surgery yesterday and I will in just a second.  I just wanted to say again…thank you to all of you who have been here with me through this entire process.  The love that you have given me has made all the difference.  I feel like phase one of my journey is over.  Now we wait.  Do I have cancer?  We should know in a week or so.  I know that whatever we find out, I’ll be OK.  There is absolutely no disease strong enough to beat love.  It’s just simply not possible.  Thank you for being in my lives and for lighting my heart up from within.

We were running a little bit late yesterday (oops, supposed to be at the hospital at 8, made it at 8:14! Guess it’s a good thing I’d done all that pre-admission stuff the day prior, eh?)  I wanted to get several photos outside the hospital, but I only had a few seconds to take just these two shots…

My nurse, Susan, was waiting for me.  She wrote my name on the board…

…and strapped an ID band on me…

…and then the adventure began.  A student nurse from the University of St. Mary, Loren, was with us, and she asked for my permission to follow my case from pre-admission to recovery.  Of course, I said yes.  She and Susan were wonderful…made me laugh, kept me focused, and answered all of my questions.  Things went very well.  IV in.  Did you have anything to eat or drink after midnight?  (No)  Do you understand why you’re here today?  (Yes, to remove cervical polyps and endometrial tissue)  Is your name Jennifer G-o-t-s-h-a-l-l S-m-i-t-h?  (ever since I married my husband…just G-o-t-s-h-a-l-l before then) Were you born on February 22, 1972?  (yep) As long as we talked, I was fine.  No tears, no worry.  After the IV was in and we were almost ready to go, they left me alone behind the curtain for several minutes to go in search of the leg stockings they give surgical patients to keep their blood moving and prevent clots.  In those 10 or so minutes when I was alone, the fear came back in a big way.  The wi-fi coverage back there was spotty, so I didn’t really have any connection to the outside world.  It was just me and an IV and a huge “Smile, Kansas City” poster on the wall (when smiling was the very LAST thing I wanted to do)…

When the tears were at their heaviest, the wi-fi kicked in suddenly, like a little gift from God.  I saw two messages of love and support from my dear friends Kerstin and Sara, and I felt instantly reassured and less alone.  Talk about a wonderfully timed gift of friendship.  Finally, Susan and Loren returned, and once the leg bands were on, they called my husband back to sit with me.  My doctor came in and did last-second Q&As with us.  She explained that the hysteroscope was a lighted camera and that they’d be watching everything on the screen.  She knew I was blogging the experience and would try to get pictures for me.  She said that she thought the pathology results would be back in a week or two, and promised to call me personally, when with other patients, she’d wait until the follow-up visit to discuss findings.  She was wonderful, just as she has been all along, and I felt grateful and reassured.  I told her about all of you, and all of the love and support behind me.  And then I said, “Thanks in advance.”  She smiled and as she left, she said, “You did great…in advance.”  Not long after, the nurse anesthetist (Mark?  David?  I forgot his name) and a member of his team came to take me off to the operating room.  A few Q&As with them, too.  He was wonderful.  I told him I was a singer and that the last time I’d been intubated, the extubation was horrible.  I was awake and lost my voice for six weeks.  He promised to use a special gel on the tube, which I can only surmise was to make the whole intubation experience less horrible.  I did later hear him say something like, “She’s a singer, so we need to _____” (didn’t catch all of what he said).  I told him that I was afraid of waking up mid-procedure, and he told me that the likelihood of that is 0.2%, and that’s in patients having significant surgeries, like traumas or C-sections or heart surgeries.  He said that because my procedure was so much less invasive, the chances of it happening to me were even less.  I also told him my fear of how afraid I’d be when I was laying on the table looking up at them just seconds before showtime.  He smiled and reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a little vial of what he called, “happy juice.”  He said that he’d put it in and by the time we got there, I’d not even know it.  I smiled and said, “OK!  Do it!”  Off we went to the OR after a few kisses from my husband.  Honestly, I remember so little after that.  I remember Loren not being gowned and them sending her away, presumably to scrub up before the surgery.  I remember a sweet lady saying hello and introducing herself as my surgical nurse.  I remember an anesthesiologist saying hello.  They had me move from the pre-op bed to the table.  Mark told me to move toward him, and I did.  He said, “Come closer, sweetie.  Move back more.”  When I did so, he asked me to lift my chin back, and that’s where it allll went black.  When I woke up, I was in recovery with Loren and Aaron, my recovery nurse.  I asked them if I was OK and they reassured me that I was.  I was in and out at that point…not really remembering anything other than Aaron’s smile and Loren being at the foot of my bed.  At one point, I heard a conversation Aaron was having, I’m guessing on the phone, with….not sure who he was talking to.  I vaguely remember him saying things like, “No, she’s not cramping.  Two polyps.  She’s doing great.  She’s not mentioning any pain.  She looks great.”  All were wonderful things to hear, of course, and made me feel comfortable and confident letting go of the little strength I had and surrendering to sleep once again.  Not long after, he said something like, “Well, this is where our time together ends,” and he rolled me down to what they call “Phase II Recovery.”  On the way down, I saw the beautiful face of my dear friend Mom V., followed by the handsome smile of my wonderful husband.  Enter Rick, my Phase II nurse.  Wonderful and funny and sweet and just all around amazing.  Coherency began to set in, and my husband explained that the doctor had told him that I did have two polyps and she’d taken them both.  She also told him that when they looked at my cervix, it had already started to dialate on its own.  The reason is because my uterine lining was so thick that it was beginning to descend through my cervix.  I can only imagine how painful and frightening it would have been for me to have seen that come through my body.  (OMG – just thinking about that!!!)  He asked her if this changed the probability that I may or may not have cancer, and she said no.  We knew that there was a lot of tissue, we just didn’t know that there was so much.  All of it was taken out, and all of it would be sent off to pathology for a cancer screen.  She drew him a photo of what a normal cervix looks like…

And what mine looked like…

And what the entire inside looked like with the polyps and the descending uterine tissue…

(I decided not to upload the actual surgical photos because they’re pretty graphic.)

She sent me home with Lortab and Hydrocodone for the pain, and I’ve not needed either.  I’d say it was around 2 or so when we got home, and I slept until 5:45 or so, and then from about 6:45 until 9.  In between naps, I answered emails and caught up on Facebook and took a few calls from family and friends checking in on me.  The worst of the discomfort was the super-grogginess and the minor scratchy-sore throat from the breathing tube.  No violent, narcotic-resistent uterine cramping!  Today, the only pain I feel is the little residual scratchy-ness in my throat.  Still no cramping, and no need to tear in to the super strong pain meds or the narcotics.  I drove today, running a few errands and going shopping.  A dear friend made some homemade Mexican brownies and Ro-tel dip & chips for us, and brought it by today.  My mom, mother-in-law, and Mom V. called to check on me.  I called the office to check in on the gossip and to hear what was going on with one of my disciplinary cases.  One of our Omaha managers sent me some beautiful flowers.  I called Menorah’s Director of Surgical Services to ask where I could send a letter of “thanks” to my amazing nurses.  It was a good day.  I feel like me again.

I am overwhelmingly blessed.  I feel wonderful and now join a long list of women who have successfully undergone this procedure.  It’ll be my turn now to help the next woman who’s facing this fear  Paying it forward, so to speak.  It’s pizza and funny movie night here at our house, and we’re having dinner and a movie with Sara and her family tomorrow.  Celebrating birthdays this weekend in Missouri with my in-laws.  A wonderful weekend of love following weeks of support and prayers and well wishes from all of you.  I feel tremendously blessed to be OK, and to be loved by so many wonderful people.  Thank you for being a part of my journey, my heart, and my life.

One more thing…..if you live in the Kansas City area and ever need surgery, you owe it to yourself to have it at Menorah Medical Center.  The nurses there were absolutely amazing and everyone was so, so kind.

Groggy Blog

Hi guys.  Just wanted to let you know that I am OK.  Surgery went very, very well and I am home safe and surrounded by the love of my amazing family.  I’m still really groggy, so I think I’ll head back for round #3 of post-surgery sleep and share the entire story with you tomorrow, if that’s OK.  Before I go, I wanted to thank everyone today for their love and support.  So, so many wonderful people had a hand in making today’s surgery a success.  My medical team was wonderful, but the love that all of you sent to me was just tremendous and amazing.  All the notes, calls, emails, and a visit from a very dear friend in the hospital…wow.  Just wow.  Knowing that I’m loved gave me tremendous strength, and, as I told my doctor today before the surgery, there’s nothing that can triumph over that kind of love.  Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support and for being in my life.  I promise…the whole story tomorrow.  :)  And now, ZZZ…..

The Night Before…

So here we are – “the night before.”  Oddly enough, I am (almost) completely calm.  It just feels like a normal Wednesday night.  I took the day off today and spent the morning at the hospital doing all of the “pre-admission” paperwork and testing.  I also got a chance to talk with one of the anesthesiologists.  The experience went well and I am really, really glad I went (it was optional, but strongly suggested when I talked to the pre-admissions nurse last week on the phone).  My nurse today was amazing.  Ever feel like you’ve met a kindred spirit?  That’s Leslie.  She was more of a sister than a nurse and we laughed and she made me feel completely comfortable.  We share the “gave soda up for Lent” challenge, although she’s struggling with it much more than I am, sad to say.  Unfortunately, she won’t be working tomorrow, so I’ll have another nurse before and after my procedure (probably Amy, who I did meet today…think of me, only skinnier, older, and with a LOT more energy and bubbliness.  That’s Amy.)  The anesthesiologist asked me a barrage of questions and explained how things would go tomorrow.  Leslie said they’d have an IV in me early on, and the doctor told me that they’d begin giving me sedating drugs on the way to the operating room.  I told him that the part that most frightened me was the nervousness I knew I’d feel when I was laying there “just seconds before” the procedure, with the entire medical team staring down at me.  He said that I’d be so sedated by then that I’d not really even notice.  He also said that the most discomfort I’d likely feel is a minor sore throat from the breathing tube, and perhaps some mild menstrual cramps (which, oddly enough, he said the narcotics wouldn’t help…um, they’re narcotics?  Don’t they help everything?)  He said that if I had any severe uterine pain, they’d send me home with medication.  I did complete a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions and a Healthcare Treatment Directive while I was there…

Basically, I designated my husband (and if he should die tomorrow, my mother) as the guardians of my final wishes.  I also specified that I would want to die naturally if, God forbid, something were to go horrendously wrong and my death were imminent anyway, or if I were to be rendered unable to identify myself or loved ones, communicate, or feed/care for myself.  A lot of additional worry and planning, most likely very unnecessarily, but good to have done.

They did a pregnancy test “just to be sure” I wasn’t “in the family way” (I’m not, although boss #1 is dead certain that no sooner will I get through this procedure than Erin will be a big sister.  Not sure how I feel about that.)  I also had an EKG, which looked great.  Blood pressure looked great.  Heart rate looked great.  Everyone was amazingly kind and I felt great when I left.  How it’ll work tomorrow is that I’ll come at 8:00 and do all of the last-second preparation, one more read-over of the paperwork, Q&A session with my surgeon, and then we’re off.  Two hours seems like a mighty long time, but Leslie assured me that lots will be going on, so it will probably seem to pass by quickly.  Oh, I also learned something interesting…..those little gadgets that they put on your finger to monitor your heart rate will not work if you’re wearing nail polish.  Ask me how I know this.  :)  Thankfully, I was able to chip off enough of my turquoise-sparkly paint to get a good read.  Tonight, I’m to sleep in clean linens (which are in the dryer as we speak) and shower, followed by an all-over body swipe of some two 2% Chlorhexidine Gluconate wipes.  They’re focusing on reducing any risk of MRSA, hence the need for the clean linens, extra cleanliness tonight, and the “no sleeping with pets” rule (Sorry puppy dog!  Mommy will snuggle with you tomorrow when she gets home from the hospital!)  That’s about all….except for my last-second, one-more-question session with the anesthesiologist.  Um, if the narcotics won’t help the cramping, what’s the point?  He basically explained that uterine cramping didn’t respond to the kinds of narcotics they’ll be using tomorrow, which confuses me, but he did say that they’d amp up pain medication if, in recovery, I was in any pain.  That works.  I’ll take it.  Leslie said that although I’m “technically” not supposed to be alone for 24 hours following the procedure, she thinks I’ll be OK for the hour tomorrow night that my husband will be coaching our daughter’s soccer team.  It’s the last practice before the first big game, and I’d hate for him to miss it.  She said to just have him take me to the bathroom before he leaves, and then set me up on the couch with the laptop, the phone, and some bottled water.  Sounds like a plan to me.

Went to school with my daughter for lunch, and spent the rest of the day relaxing.  She had Brownies tonight, and is spending the night with a dear family friend (whose daughter is a Brownie sister and classmate).  She seems amazingly strong and not at all worried for me, which is good.  Just to be on the safe side, I made sure her teacher and day care provider knew what was going on.  That way, if she had a sudden case of the worries and had a few tears, they’d know what was going on.

That’s about all from pre-surgery central.  Thank you again to all of you who have sent your love and support and shared stories about your D&C procedures and who have just been generally wonderful.  Thanks for not judging me for sharing this story with you.  And thanks for just being here.  If I’m not too groggy, I’ll blog tomorrow and let you know how it all went.  If I am, I’ll ask my husband to do so for me.  If you would, say a quick prayer for me and for my doctors and nurses.  Hope to be blogging with you again in 24 hours.  :)

We’re Getting Closer…

Hi Internet. Yet again, I begin my blog in apologetic mode, saying “I’m sorry” for being unfaithful in my posts. This “blog every day” thing is a lot harder than it looks. All is going well and we’re keeping busy. I hope that you are having a good week, friends.

So we’re getting closer to “the day.” When the nurse called last week with her barrage of questions and instructions, I threw in a few questions of my own, mentioning on more than one occasion that I had some apprehensions and worries about what was to come. She suggested that I come in and talk to one of the anesthesiologists, which I’ll be doing tomorrow morning. My doctor also wants to do a pre-surgery EKG on me, so we figured tomorrow’d be a great time. Just get it all done and over with so there aren’t any surprises on Thursday. I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow. The nurse left me with an interesting, comforting thought. An operating room is a highly-controlled environment. People are watching YOU and ONLY you and are focusing 200% of their energies on your well-being and reactions and general state of being. You’re safer in an operating room than you are in your car on the highway. Interesting.

Not much else to share, really. My husband and I caught the Sunday night finale of Big Love last night, and spent significant time dissecting it and trying to tie together all the loose ends. (Why is it that every single time I fall in love with a television show, it goes off the air? Sex and the City, ER, and now Big Love. *sigh*) Soccer is in full swing. The kiddos have their first game Saturday. I’m going to spend Friday night “in” with my amazing family and have a funny movie fest/pizza night and go out Saturday evening with dear friends for dinner and a movie. Sunday, we’ll head about an hour away for a birthday celebration for my mother- and brother-in-law. It feels wonderful to be surrounded by so much love. I feel very blessed.

I guess that’s all from my little corner of the universe. Before I leave you, though, I wanted to share a thought. I saw this on Twitter yesterday and I like it…and truly believe it.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Thanks for being part of my strength and courage these past few weeks.

It’s Getting Easier!

Hi everyone.  I’m sorry I didn’t blog over the weekend.  Hope that you and yours had a wonderful weekend and that your week is off to a great start!

All’s going well in my little corner of the universe.  Today marks day #6 without soda, and I’m finding that I don’t really miss it.  I guess I thought it would be harder this early in the game.  Last Thursday and Friday notwithstanding, this process has really not been anywhere near as difficult as I thought it would be.  I thought I’d find myself struggling to make it through the day, fighting urge upon urge to sneak a soda behind closed doors and away from the watchful eyes of those around me.  But truly, I’m not feeling that way.  I am fine with my bottled water (cold, preferably), and did treat myself to a beer over the weekend.  I know Lent has just begun, but I’m really proud of myself for coming this far.  Keep me honest, guys.  Don’t let me slip!

I’m still in (sorta) “Bring It” mode…still focusing on the positive and holding on to a quietly confident certainty that I will be OK.  In the last day or so, the worries about the D&C itself have crept back.  I know that my doctor and her team won’t let anything happen to me.  I guess I’m just afraid of how I’ll feel going in to it…those last few seconds when I am laying there and everyone’s scrubbed and ready to go and the last few words are said before my drug-induced sleep surrenders me to their hands.  I know I’ll be scared, and I don’t like that feeling.  I foresee tears and a lot of worry, neither of which I’m exactly proud of, but both of which probably render me “normal,” on some level.  I’ve had four other surgeries, all more major than this, and I survived and recovered from each without (significant) issue.  I’m sure this will be the same.  I guess it’s the whole “surrendering control of my body to someone else” thing that’s bothering me now.  I rather like breathing and walking on my own and being conscious and alert and a wholly functioning person.

My amazing husband is coaching our daughter’s soccer team.  Our first official practice is tomorrow.  I’ve spent the evening finalizing schedules and plans and I can’t wait for it all to begin.  Stay tuned for more soccer info, or check out our team’s (very fledgling) website!