This week’s article is a very personal one for me. It was, exactly (2/21/09), at this time last year, that I found myself in the hospital for a period of almost 2 weeks.
I had already had a rather rough past few months. Some personal issues had me reeling and then during an evening of volleyball, I tore a tendon in my thumb which required surgery and a graft (did I mention that it was my left hand, which is my dominant hand!). Four days before the thumb surgery I tripped and fell while out walking our dogs and upon consultation, discovered that years of sprains had weakened the right ankle to the point of severe instability, requiring a surgical intervention. The long and short of it was surgery October 23rd for the thumb, and when it was strong enough for me to bear weight on crutches, ankle surgery on Dec. 19th.
It was also during that time with all that I had going on physically and mentally that I experienced some major shifts and decided to join a mastermind group starting in January of 2009.
At the beginning of February, I had just gotten back from a mastermind meeting (during which I made some friends for life!), got the cast off my ankle and was in therapy for both the thumb and ankle when I got sick with the stomach flu..(or so I thought)…four days after the flu, I woke up on a Saturday morning (2/21), made a smoothie and about an hour later started having the worse stomach pain I have ever experienced in my life.
I called my husband, told him that I was pretty sure I had appendicitis (hey I ‘ve watched ER a time or two, and felt well qualified to self diagnose!) and that I needed to go to the hospital, (this was around 1:00 in the afternoon). By the time we got there, I was writhing in pain (friends and family can tell you that I have a pretty high tolerance for pain). After 12 hours in the ER, all kinds of tests (the last one being a CT), the ER doc came in and said words that literally stopped my heart…”You have a mass on your colon and we need to admit you.” I remember thinking to myself, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.” At 1:30 am I was admitted and sent my husband home, as he was exhausted and there was nothing either of us could do.
I remember laying there in the hospital bed, on morphine, trying desperately not to let the “C” word enter my brain (and not succeeding very well), and listening to the elderly lady in the next bed telling the nurses to “leave me the hell alone”;-) (funny where you can find comedy). As far as I can remember, that was the longest night of my life. The next day the rounds of doctors and surgeons relayed the good news that it was NOT cancer, but were reluctant to say that they weren’t sure what was going on.
We then began a rigorous round of antibiotics as my blood levels indicated some sort of infection and the next four days passed in an eternal cycle of blood work, medication, poking, prodding, tests and visits from family and friends. All sorts of words were thrown around like Crohns Disease, Lupus, acute appendicitis, and others that I don’t even remember. My birthday came and went and my favorite present was getting the window bed that day (yes I had a HUGE pity party for myself that day). I hadn’t eaten since I was admitted and had zero desire to do so (I could use some of that now!). I was getting sicker and sicker and the doctors couldn’t figure out why. On top of that I was experiencing excruciating headaches that was probably due to the morphine and lack of caffeine (I am a Starbucks queen).
On Wed. (2/25), another CT was ordered and that evening my favorite nurse came in and said that the results showed the inflammation was worse, they had notified the surgeon, and that I should be prepared for the possibility of surgery the next day. (As an aside, I should say that I had a really wonderful team of nurses, nursing assistants and doctors who were so truly caring and kind). I admit, I was pretty worn down by then and cried a lot that night and I know my husband felt pretty helpless.
Thursday (2/26) morning the surgeon came in and pretty much confirmed what we already knew…surgery was indicated and there was no more fooling around. I was about to turn septic and we were at the “this is getting rather serious stage”. At that point it was sort of like a well choreographed Groucho Marx movie (but not nearly as haha funny), people rushing in and out, wires, me mildly freaking out as they were prepping me for surgery because my husband was watching (yea, I know…seriously weird). Being wheeled down to the operating room and joking with the anesthesiologist about getting some relaxing wine and then it was lights out.
When I woke up in recovery I don’t remember a lot other than being absolutely swaddled in blankets and trying to figure out what was on my face (it was the NG tube going into my stomach and oxygen in my nose)…lovely. The week that followed was the absolute miserable of my life physically and emotionally. Sick, weak and absolutely exhausted don’t even begin to describe it. Shuffling around with my shadow (the IV pole) like I was about 150 years old, having IV lines changed every 3 days and the veins blowing out. Not my idea of the ideal 2 week vacation.:-) During that time, I went through 4 roommates and knew the name of every nurse and nursing assistants on every shift. A full week later I was discharged (finally!)
OH! So you wanna know what was wrong with me? I had a cyst on my fallopian tube that got infected; the infection spread and basically inflamed a boatload of endometriosis that gummed up about 2 ft of my colon, which was removed (the technical term is a bowel resection, but I’m rather enamored with “gummed up guts”). As it turns out, the surgeons had never seen anything like it (pretty cool, huh)! It also led to one more surgery (a total hysterectomy) in July. All in all, a pretty full year I’d say!
So I wanted to share this with you for several reasons. One, it gives you a chance to get to know me a little bit better (whether you wanted to or not!). This experience was a profound one for me in so many ways. It gave me the opportunity to repair some relationships and strengthen others. To reexamine my values, purpose and vision (and they needed some work).
I’m so grateful to my husband, it was incredibly hard for him too. While I was in the hospital he got up at 4:30, drove 90 minutes to work, worked all day, drove home, showered, changed, drove the 30 minutes to the hospital, kept my extremely unentertaining self company and did it for 2 weeks. He was and is extremely proud of the fact that he only spent $16.87 at the grocery store the whole time! Luckily for my children we had wonderful family and friends that kept the casseroles and meals coming!
The things that I am grateful for are numerous, but that’s not to say that it’s all pie-in-the-sky either. I still have some ongoing health issues that are, on some days, beyond frustrating, annoying and irritating. On those days, I throw myself a pity party and wallow in misery…as we ALL do and that’s ok! What we can not do is stay bogged down in the misery, the negativity and the “woe is me” mindset!
Life happens…external situations, people and and things that we cannot change or control; BUT what we can control are our thoughts, our perspective, our choices, and what we are willing and not willing to tolerate.
Suck. It. Up. (and then let it go!) Learn from it and move on…that’s what a smart cookie does. I’m one, are you:-)?
Have an experience or challenge you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about it and what your take away was!