Saturday, November 19, 2011

Home now...

Briefly (because I am not up to par and energy's lagging)...

Yes, I am back home. Surgery went well (as far as I know). Recovery was another story. My body apparently was enamored with the anesthesia and didn't want to emerge from that little slumber. And even then, once the intubation tube was removed, I slipped below the normal blood pressure range. I was flooded with additional fluid to help my heart have some volume to pump and thus keep my bp up. I was in recovery longer than I was in surgery, over 4 hours. My sis and her guy R were finally allowed in to see me and tell me that I was virtually unrecognizable. My face was very puffy, including my eyes, and they had to assume that I was who the staff claimed I was. I think that was about 9:30 pm. They wheeled me down the hall to surgery about 2:20.

Sis tells me that the staff kept them very well informed. And the surgeon chatted with them about 20 minutes, as I was being prepped after surgery to head for recovery.

The release time was probably less than 24 hrs following surgery, and we stopped at the hospital pharmacy for meds and then homeward bound.

I stayed at my sis's (actually at her guy's place, where she resides) until late this morning, when I asked them to bring me back to my place. So here I am. Low energy, low appetite.

Have pulled myself off the prescription painkillers, as I am suffering the extreme constipation that is a known side effect. Ugh. Not fun. But the pain is NOT taken care of by the acetaminophen (tylenol) arthritis strength. I may give in and take a narcotic to allow myself a better night, sleep wise.

I am very, VERY bruised and swollen and tender. Swollen beyond my expectations. My "loose" pajama bottoms are NOT loose. Hoping this resolves itself fairly quickly. I will have to go out in public in pj bottoms, something that I am NOT looking forward to. I want my body back!

Okay. Energy's waning, so that's it for now. Hope to catch y'all up in a few days.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lunches and coffee and injections...

Life moves onward...

So I had that little song-and-dance on Thursday to instruct me on injecting the lovenox (pronounced LOW-ven-ox) into myself. This is the "bridge" drug which will give me a different drug to "thin" my blood, hopefully preventing blood clots without causing additional bleeding, both during and after surgery. And as of Thursday night, I discontinued the pills (warfarin) and this morning gave myself my first injection. Not as bad as I thought it might be, but already have a round purple spot from shot #1. That was on my right side, and tonight's (I just completed it) on the left side. The injections must be at least 2 inches from my belly button. It doesn't make me dizzy to do this, but it does smart a bit. I was told to get a "sharps" container to put the discarded syringes in, so I did this. But the darned syringe wouldn't fit through the drop-in spot! The plunger is bigger than the drop-in slot allows. ...the syringe has a shield that drops over the needle after you finish with it, which protects the needle portion. I have been deploying this shield and, for now, just gathering the discarded syringes. I think I will drop off the discarded syringes (what I will have accumulated up til then) at the clinic Monday morning.

Have been trying to figure out if I can snap a photo of me giving myself the injection, but since I need TWO hands to do this (one to pinch up a bit of fatty tissue and the other to stick the needle into the tissue and hold and push the plunger in), you are safe. I don't have a third hand to work the camera. Maybe I can convince my sister to snap one after the surgery!

Had a wonderful lunch yesterday (Friday) with S, a friend from my high school years. A wonderful, warm and supportive friend. She is (and has been for years) a nurse and sometimes gives me explanations on questions I have about procedures. I always feel better after spending time with her. We were apart for years, doing our own things and (in her case) raising a family. Now we live about 30 minutes apart and find we still like spending time together.

ANNNNDDD... I had a "coffee date" on Friday afternoon. Very nice guy and we chatted for about an hour-and-a-half or so. I thought it went pretty well. He lost his wife nearly 2 years ago. We talked about a few people that we (or others) have encountered on these dating services. Old photos (a guy with a BIG belly that was not in his photos), a woman who immediately tried to dictate (telling the man that he should get rid of his motorcycle because SHE thought they were too dangerous), a woman with a live-in boyfriend when she had claimed to be "single", and so on. Nothing dramatic, but some have amusing stories that flesh them out. And those tidbits make you want to be cautious. If I had dated L before he put the "big rush" on me, I probably would never have been in a relationship with him. Seeing someone "on stage" for a few times does help to bring out traits that you may or may not be able to accept.

Tomorrow I have a lunch date with another guy! In his profile, he seemed to have a very good sense of humor, and I like that in a man. The old saying says, "You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you will meet your prince." So here I go again...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mini update

Finally "caught a break" yesterday. I had been dreaded the financial impact of the cost of a drug that I must self-administer before my surgery.

Little background: I have an artificial heart valve, due to scar tissue on one of my heart valves from rheumatic fever and subsequent strep infections. My valve was not doing its job, so it was replaced in 1992. I must take daily doses of coumadin/warfarin, which keeps my blood a little "thinner" than most, so that the body will not respond to this artificial device by forming protective blood clots, in an attempt to "heal" around the valve. I always thought my valve would be an eventual health problem, but this time it is playing a significant challenge in my pre-op instead. I must give myself shots in my gut, twice a day, for 3 days prior to surgery (next Monday is day #1 of this "fun"), plus an unknown number of days after surgery. This drug will "bridge" me to a lower blood-thinning level, one that should protect my heart from blood clots. My poor gut will be sore post-surgery, and I have to stick needles in that post-surgical gut. I can hardly wait.

To top all of this off, the drug is VERY expensive, folks. I had been dreading the portion that I would have to pay for this drug, as my insurer seems to call everything a "deductible". This drug, 20 doses, runs over $1000. I do not have that much extra cash -- and truly, how many DO? Yesterday I stopped at Sam's Club and the pharmacist informed me that I would be paying only $20. Finally, a bit of a break.

Tomorrow, I will have a chest x-ray just before the nurse instructs me on how to do self-sticking. Oh, joy.

Apparently I have the "worst" option of artificial heart valves: the mitral valve can be harder to monitor (for blood thinning) and if the clotting factor is too low, I can throw a blood clot too easily (a stroke); but if the clotting is too high (or thin), I can have internal bleeding which is not a good thing. I had 11 units of blood due to internal bleeding post-surgery, when this valve was put in, 19 years ago.

So, my friends, I hope I have very few complications during or after this surgery. Ideally, I would prefer that the cancer is contained, and that the bleeding or clotting is controlled as much as is possible. I will try to update you following surgery, but that will probably not be for several days.

MORE GOOD NEWS: My surgery date has been moved up! I received a phone call about 30 minutes ago from M, who is the surgical scheduler at the U. Because the surgeon has SUCH a heavy schedule on the 17th (her last patient has a 7 pm surgery time!), one of those patients was offered an alternate, earlier date of the 15th. And bless M, she phoned ME first and gave me this option. I phoned my sis (who along with her guy R) who will be bringing me to Minneapolis for this surgery. Had to leave her a message (they were shopping) and was just starting to key in a text to her, when she returned my phone call and gave me the go-ahead for the earlier date. Can you imagine? TWO pieces of good news. Can I hope for more??!!

Thanks for putting up with my whining! I think I have two "faithful" readers -- or at least two who occasionally post comments. All comments welcome, and thanks to those who "lurk" but do not comment.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A date with ??

I have now been "scheduled" for my surgery. It's for the Thursday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 17th. Naturally, I have a late-in-the-day slot, which I am sure means that I will be logging not ONE, but TWO nights in the hospital. I do not tolerate hospitals and their routines well, with the insistence of the staff on popping in to do "vitals" just minutes after you have managed to squeak out a moment of sleep, in spite of the constant noise just outside your door.

The surgery will be at the U of M (Minnesota), where there is a good-sized staff that specializes in gynecological oncology.

And I want to be anywhere, ANYWHERE but here, anywhere FUN and worry-free. Instead, I can now add cancer to my list of pre-existing conditions. Too young for Medicare/Medicaid, I can only hope that my insurance will cover a fair amount of the expense. I have already heard that "you can't put a price on health" (try telling that to a health insurer and to my fixed income); that "you are strong, you'll get through this" (heard that when my husband died, too -- folks, you need a new catch-phrase). I cry too easily now, but always when I am alone. I was able to plow on, after Greg died. But this... this is just TOO MUCH for me.

'Bye for now. Thanks for reading.