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!
Jennifer Haubein says
Thanks so much for sharing this personal story. I remember when you were going through this and you really seemed so strong during this time despite everything you were going through. And I agree I met some amazing friends for life through mastermind like you 🙂
I so love your positive attitude as I’m the same way, but also like you said it’s ok to have a pity party just don’t get stuck in the pity.
A quick story of mine that made my stronger. I have pretty severe scoliosis, the curvature of the spine. I was diagnosed with this when I was a young girl and I had to wore a very painful back brace until I stopped growing which was for several years. But I didn’t let it stop me. I still danced, went to camp, dated boys, played basketball and tried to live as normal of a life as possible. I always joked that if someone were to punch me in the stomach they would get quite a surprise.
This is an incredible blog post and thanks for sharing.
Wow Jennifer! You continue to amaze and impress me! As one of the friends I met through masterminding last year, it is incredibly gratifying to continue to know that we can support and help each other:-)
Gosh~how mature you were in your perspective in your teenage years. Not many girls would have had that attitude or perseverance (however, knowing you personally, I’m not the least bit surprised!). Thank you so much for sharing that…it can be very difficult to put part of our personal lives out there; you give me another reason to be proud to be call you friend:-)
Wow, you certainly have triumphed over a lot! I’m still working on my takeaway of my last year and a half…but I will keep you posted. I’m very inspired by you, though. 🙂
Sometimes the take aways don’t reveal themselves right away that’s for sure. It really took me some time to reflect on the lessons that I learned and for me (and for many people I suspect) it’s like peeling away the layers of an onion…I continue to learn new dimensions or have a deeper understanding of myself all the time. The key, I believe, is in the awareness of being able to shift perspective;-) Thanks for sharing…would love for you to keep me posted on your progress. If I can support you in any way, please let me know:-)
Wow! What a whirlwind year! And you know what? I was honored to be a part of your 2009!
During all this, you helped people like me learn to brave our truth, stand up for what we believe is right, and learn to cope with the results of doing so. Thank you!
And by the way, did you know it’s scientifically proven redheads have a higher tolerance for pain than the other hair colors? And we need more pain killers, etc. than average. So you really do ‘suck it up’ better than most.
You know I actually did read that study somewhere (and I believe in that same study they talked about how hard redheads are to “stick” due to our veins or some such thing)…just another thing that makes us redheads so totally cool;-) and…
meeting you…one of the absolute highlights and life changing things to happen to me last year.
And one of those “If or God” type experiences. Had I not been that sick, which caused me to rethink so many things, I would not have gone to the event where I met you, one of my soul sisters.
Gina Parris says
Oh Danielle! What an experience, I got tears in my eyes for some reason when your husband celebrated just spending 16.87 at the grocery store in that time! And why on earth is caffeine withheld during such times?? This is injustice at its finest. Anyway I am so glad that it’s all part of your success story and remarkably, some days I still find myself thinking of you at the most random moments, sending faith, love, healing and strength to your precious frame. That’s all just from little things you’ve tweeted here and there on twitter.
LOL..we still joke around about that…I always tease him about officially taking over the grocery duties…(he has not taken me up on it though!). Thank you sweetie…it has been a true pleasure getting to know you and an absolute blessing to call you friend!
Lori Latimer says
First, I have to say yay to you for being so intuitive and listening to your body when you first got sick. Many people (ahem, like me) would probably ignore it thinking “oh, it will just go away.”
The message in your post is so powerful though. Yeah, life sucks sometimes. Especially when we least expect it, when we “think” things are rocking along just fine.
I was married for several years to a man I thought I’d be married to for the rest of my life. It wasn’t a first marriage for either of us, but it seemed great. For a while. Until I started looking at things I didn’t want to look at for a long time. Things that I realized I could not live with.
So two years ago, on Feb. 3rd, I left him and the home I’d had before we got married. There were a lot of reasons, but he had addiction issues and had gotten us into a lot of debt. And let me be clear – the debt wasn’t all his fault. I got to the point where I figured well, he doesn’t care, so why should I? Not very mature, but true nonetheless.
I’ve been a paralegal in family law for the better part of 20 years, and I work for one of the top divorce attorneys in Atlanta. My ex and I had no children together, not much in the way of assets, but all that debt. Should have been pretty simple to split that and go on about our merry ways.
Ha ha. He hired an attorney who was like a dog with a bone, thinking he would find something (still not sure what) that he could use to stick me w/all the debt. Nine months after I filed, we settled the case and while I did take more of the debt than he did, it was worth it just to get it over with.
So there I was, 49 years old, divorced at a time in my life that scared the hell out of me in some ways. I make good money, but we’re talking debt in the 5 figure range.
Like you, I have days where I’m prone to feeling sorry for myself for the mess I let myself get into. But then I remember all the things I have in my life to be grateful for: my two sons, my little 2 year old grandson, a job that pays me well, a business that I’m starting that I’m passionate about and will allow me to leave my job within the next year or two, and a lot of friends who love and support me. That’s a lot more than a lot of people have.
There’s nothing wrong with having a pity party from time to time. It’s when we get stuck in that place and can’t move forward that causes the problems. You just have to know when it’s time for some self-care, and then get going again.
Gosh Lori~what a story! Just from our interaction on twitter, I know how strong you are and the faith you have in yourself (love that living in 2 places goal you have!). Thank you so much for sharing your story, you are truly an inspiration. We all have those days of feeling sorry for ourselves, and quite frankly, I think it’s a healthy normal part of life. And you’re so right, self-care is critical and the key is to just keep moving forward…because in the end, what’s the alternative? Keep mixing up that delicious life recipe!
John Morgan says
I’m trying to think of a time I’ve gone through something like this. I’m very blessed that I can’t think of anything. I did lose my dog last year. For 10 years he was like our child. It is still very hard for me, but in the grand scheme of things he was just a pet. And he had a great life. I’d take that over something much worse.
What I can say is that these are the moments that matter. We get caught up in trying to make money, hoping no one says something mean about us on Twitter, and stressing about weight, love, and more. It’s all a waste of time. Every second is to be treasured. Every moment should be special.
I’ve always worked hard on creating a business that suited me. I don’t want to do anything I don’t want to do. It’s my life so I live by God’s rules and my rules. No one else matters, although my wife does have a fancy set of rules of her own that apparently I am supposed to go by.
This past year I changed almost my entire business. It’s way more fun now and it was pretty awesome before. My clients are getting more value and they are about to be blown away. I’m also set to make more money this year than the previous 5.
But what I hold special is that I’m at home every day with my wife and son who’s 15 months old. I’m happy when he interrupts me and I’ll never forget these moments.
Anything can happen. As you’ve experienced sometimes we can’t predict what tomorrow holds. I will take your story as another reminder to me to keep living to the fullest. Life is awesome and I’d better enjoy the good times because there will no doubt be plenty of bad ones.
Holy smokes John Morgan! You are my freakin hero dude:-) I love how you have boiled it down to a simple message of treasuring what you have each and every day…AND doing it on YOUR terms…that totally rocks! I’ve always admired your honesty and integrity and yet again you’ve shown why I’m so proud to be able to call you a friend and mentor.
I remember you losing your dog…any loss is hard whether it’s the 2 legged or 4 legged kind, I’ve been absolutely devastated by a family dog’s death, so I completely understand what you’re saying.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me. I can’t wait to see what you have in store for the rest of this year. Most people would say you’re “lucky” to be home with your son (who is absolutely ADORABLE!) and your wife, but the truth is in what you’ve said…you worked very hard to create that lifestyle for yourself based on choices and holding yourself accountable to what you want in your life.
P.S. All wives have those fancy rules…that in itself is a rule! 🙂