Monday, February 25, 2013

Fear? Yeah, I know what that is.

The last few months have been a whirlwind of emotions for me.  A whirlwind of emotions that I didn't know how to handle, and still don't.  I've had a few ups, I've had a lot of downs, and I've even had some WAY downs.  I've been afraid.  I've been scared.  I've been terrified.

It's no secret, to this blog, or anyone who knows me, for that matter, that I've had gall bladder issues for some years now.  I know pain, trust me, I know pain.  But for the last 3-4 months or so, something has just been different.  The pain had become more what I would classify as "chronic", and I was just SO tired and weak all the time.  I just didn't feel like myself, and it made me sad, depressed, and just not sure of life itself. I've had a few people, who really know me well, tell me that I just haven't been myself lately, and I knew it was true...but I didn't know why.  I'd dealt with the gall bladder pain for so long, that I never even thought to associate my depression with it.

And so January comes, and I land back in the hospital emergency room with another "gall bladder" attack.  This finally set into motion the planning stages for removal.  I was SO thankful to finally have insurance and was very excited to know things were moving forward.  But something still just didn't feel right.  Surgery scheduled for February 20th.  My countdown began.

And then the night I've already blogged about happened, and I landed BACK in the ER, 8 days before my scheduled surgery date.  Sitting in the waiting room alone, it hit me.  I was terrified.  Knowing something didn't feel right, I was flat out terrified.

After meeting with my doctor today, here is a quick summary of what had happened:

In the ER in January, they did blood work on me.  At that time, my bilirubin was .6.  Anything below 1 is normal.  So they never thought twice about it.  They assumed I was under another "attack", gave me pain meds, referred me to a surgeon, and sent me on my way.

And on February 12th, when I landed in the hospital, my bilirubin was .9.  Still in the "normal" range, but higher than what it was in January, and this made a red-flag for my surgeon.  That is why she decided to admit me, and do surgery right away.  Upon surgery, they found the blocked common duct, and she thought perhaps that was why my liver was reacting more than normal.  She thinks the block had been there for at least a few months, and that is why I was feeling differently.  My bilirubin was .2 after surgery.  So while the .9 was still considered "normal",  it was almost 5 times what is normal for me.  As she said, I was a "very sick lady".

The weeks following surgery were NOTHING like what I thought they would be like.  I expected to be back to pre-attack condition in just a few days, and that didn't happen.  A combination of Norco, and surgery, and complications there-in, caused serious side effects, and I just hurt.  I hurt so bad I was once again depressed.  I was frustrated because I didn't have any way to explain what I was feeling, both emotionally and physically.  I was mad because things weren't going the way I expected.  I was terrified because I feared the worst.

I've now had to wait 10 days for the results of my liver biopsy.  I didn't know what to expect.  I've never really had a lot of medical problems.  Aside from weight issues, I've been a pretty healthy person.  This was all new to me.  I was experiencing emotions I didn't know one could have.  I began to research different reasons that my liver enzymes could be elevated, and so many things began crossing my mind.  If something did happen to me, who would take care of my kids.  Did they know how much I loved them?  The most extreme thoughts were running through my head.  I was having one hell of a wake up call.

I finally got in to see the surgeon today, and I was sick to my stomach with worry.  I tried to read everyone's faces at the office, for some sort of hint that they knew my bad news.  And the doctor came in smiling, and the first thing she said was "you look SO much better than the last time I saw you.  You look absolutely incredible".  I could just see something in her face that meant good news.  And it was.

I was diagnosed with hypertension in the hospital.  Today, my blood pressure was "almost normal".  I'd lost 20lbs since pre-surgery.  And best of all, my liver biopsy was negative.

And like a feather in the breeze, every ounce of fear was gone. I could breathe. After holding my breath in fear for 4 months, I could breathe.

I know there are people that go through MUCH larger scares than mine.  But this whole situation, the last 4 years, and especially the last 4 months, has been an incredible wake up call to me. My life will change, and I welcome that.  I'm ready to try this again, a little more "health aware" this time around.

There are some personal things going on in my life right now that are going to throw me some severe curve-balls.  Small chapters in my life will be closing, and that saddens me.  And so I'm closing this blog post with a short little reminder note to myself:

Amber, it's okay to be afraid, really afraid, sometimes.  Those who truly love you, will understand, and stand beside you until the very end...because they love you....not just because it's the "right thing to do".

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fireplace Therapy. Who knew?

I can't even believe I'm about to say this, but here goes.

I FEEL FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Finally!  After 10 days of suffering, I feel fantastic!  I managed to tag along to the laundry mat, put my clothes away, and took off to visit my friend Tim for awhile, with the spawn.  (mid-winter break = day off school)

I've been working to restore Tim and Samantha's 100 year old fireplace mantle, but got so sick that I couldn't get over there to do it.  Tim decided to spoil me today, with a heat gun.  He informed me of this on my way out the door, and knowing I have no self control when it comes to the mantel, I grabbed a grungy shirt before leaving.  It wasn't long after my arrival that we decided to just "try it out".  Sure enough, within minutes, I was changing my shirt and diving in.  He made sure I had a chair to sit in, so I didn't over-do myself.  I didn't spend a whole lot of time on it, but it felt awesome just to be back at it.  I've really missed that project, and look forward to getting better so I can work on it even more.

And then we went to dinner, and they treated the kids and I.  It was hard to figure out what I was "brave" enough to eat, but after some texting to my personal chef, I figured it out.  A nice, yummy, chicken dish.  And I ate almost all of it, with healthy, low fat sides.  And here it is, 8 hours later and NO TUMMY ACHES!

We spent some time walking around Sams club, Megabev, and even Walmart.  I am exhausted, but most importantly, I'm not hurting.

I really do think that mantel was just the therapy I needed!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I just want to feel better....

So, I'm sitting here waiting for the doctor to call back.  I finally broke down and called them today.  It's been a few hours short of one week since my surgery, and I just don't feel any better.  As I type this, I honestly feel like I did the day I went in to the emergency room.

And it's frustrating.  Because I hear all these stories of how quickly people recover, and how soon they were back to doing normal every day things, and I can barely get out of bed to dry heave over the toilet for a few minutes.  I don't want to feel this way, I'm tired of feeling this way.  I thought that having this surgery was going to be life-changing for me, and it has...but it hasn't been in a good way.

Pre-surgery, when I'd have a gall bladder attack, they would eventually go away.  I'd have a few days, a few weeks, even sometimes a few months, of pain free living.  I always knew they could and would come back, but I got some sort of break.  I have been in constant pain since I checked into the hospital 8 days 7 days ago.  I'm miserable.  The people around me are miserable, because I can't even get out of bed to socialize, feed my kids, check their homework, take them to school...just care for them.  I have a million things I could and should be doing, and not an ounce of strength to do even one.

I just don't want to hurt anymore.  I'm terrified of what this could be a sign of.  Why are things still not "right"?  Why am I still hurting?  Why can't I eat?  Why don't I have any strength?  I just feel like there is more wrong, something isn't right, and I'm worried about what that could be.

And probably the most frustrating is that I don't know how to express what exactly it is that is wrong.  I just have this constant cramping, aching feeling, in my tummy.  All over.  I haven't been taking the pain killer, for fear of constipation and other side effects.  I know that long term use can cause liver issues, and they are already concerned about my liver.  And so I didn't know if my pain was caused from a need to have a BM or not.  So, I took the laxative they suggested, and waited.  And things happened, and then....still felt horrible.

And I'm frustrated because I feel like people are starting to not believe me that I'm not feeling better.  I'm tired of having to answer the "how ya feeling today" question with "terrible"...but that is the only way to explain it.  I'm frustrated because people want answers from me, and I don't have them.  I'm frustrated, because I want answers, and I can't get them.  I'm just frustrated.  I'm just hurting.  I'm just sick.  I'm just tired.  I just want this over.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Road to Recovery...

So I've been home about 2 days now.  Shortly after getting home, the kids left for their dads for the weekend.  I've pretty much been alone since then, and that really sucks.  I know I've needed time to rest and recover, but  knowing there is nobody else in the house to even get me a glass of water if I don't have the strength to, or just make sure I get to the bathroom without getting light headed again....yeah, that part totally sucks.

I still hurt.  Far badly than I thought I would.  The gall bladder pain is completely gone, obviously.  This is a totally different kind of pain.  Each incision hurts a little more than the last, my muscles ache.  Even standing up is a challenge, because I've been laying down since Tuesday, and my body just isn't used to moving at all anymore.  Getting out of bed scares me more than anything, being afraid my legs will give out, or that I will get dizzy and pass out.

Going into this, everyone kept talking about how "easy" the procedure was, and how I'd be back to myself by the second day.  I really didn't intend to be down this long with the recovery, because "nobody else took that long". I think I was fooling myself, I think others were fooled, not realizing just how sick I was.  The fatigue I was feeling before admission to the hospital is one of the main side-effects that I am now realizing.  I thought I just had no motivation, and I didn't, but there was a medical reason why.  There still is.  I'm just so exhausted, even keeping my eyes open is a major challenge anymore.  The fact that a simple in and out 1 hour surgery turned into a 4.5 hour surgery should be all the proof I need that things aren't "normal" with my procedure.

I've always been a pretty good person at tolerating pain.  I may get whiney at times, but when it comes right down to it, when the pain has been at it's worst, I just find a way to get through it.  And I still continue to do that, I just need to vent about it a little.

And I'm frustrated.  I'm tired of being stuck in the house.  I know it's for my own good, but I need fresh air.  I need to get out and walk around, get some sun on my face, see people.

I need to be better.  I need to see some light at the end of this tunnel.  I need people to understand that not everyone heals the same, not everyones procedure was the same.  It's "ok" that I still hurt, and need a little more time to heal than "so and so that I knew....".

I need a happy pill.  A giant happy pill and some sleep.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A little earlier than planned...

I'm posting today from the hospital.  I've told my story a dozen times, and while I don't mind, I just thought maybe it would be easier to write it all here so people can read it themselves.

So we've known for 4 years that I've needed my gall bladder out.  We know that lack of insurance prevented that.  Finally getting insurance, my surgery was scheduled for February 20, 2013.

Monday of this week, I ate a spaghetti dinner, around 7pm.  Sometime around midnight, I started having another gall bladder attack.  I took 2 Norco and went to bed, "meditating" my way through the pain.  I was up and down all night in pain.  I finally fell asleep around 5am.  When I woke up at 6am, I felt pretty good.  I had a bowl of cereal, still fine.  Around 6:45am, I tried to take a sip of coffee and instantly got nauseous.  I took the kids to school, and had to pull over twice on the short drive home to vomit, and again in the driveway.  I spent pretty much the entire day vomiting  dry heaving, or being ridiculously nauseous.  I couldn't even stop long enough to hold down my anti-nausea medications or pain pills.  I finally broke down and called the surgeon.  At around 3pm, she instructed me to go to the ER, for fear of an "obstruction".

I arrived at the ER around 3:45.  My blood pressure was 170/110.  I was very yellow, so tired I couldn't keep my eyes open, and just overall felt like crap.  3 hours later, they were finally doing an ultrasound.  When they did my blood work, they noticed that my liver enzymes were extremely elevated, beyond that which you would expect to see from "gall bladder issues".  They made the decision to admit me and take my gall bladder out in the morning, sighting concerns with my blood work and liver.  They also thought it best to do a liver biopsy while in there.

Wednesday.  Surgery day.  Surgery time kept getting pushed back until finally 4pm seemed to be set in stone.  I spent most of the day with extreme nausea, and eventually, me throwing up green stomach bile, and blood.  I was sick.  Very sick, and I wasn't happy about it.  I was fortunate enough to have my parents and my friend Tim come sit with me until they took me back for surgery, so I didn't have to be alone.  I know I wasn't very good company, but just having them in the room with me was so very comforting for me.  I didn't feel good, and familiar faces eased my misery a bit.

I'm not sure what time I actually went back for surgery.  It was somewhere around 4:30.  I remember them having me move beds, not an easy task when you are in that much pain, in that many blankets, on that many monitors.  I remember them putting my arms out on boards, and then putting an oxygen mask on me, saying it would help me breathe.  I remember very distinctly thinking that the oxygen mask was going to suffocate me, because it was very heavy, and every time I breathed in, it suctioned onto my face.  I was terrified.

And then I remember waking up to the woman next to me crying for her mom.  Her mom had left, thinking she would be back before this woman got out of surgery, and she didn't.  The woman was SO upset.  I felt really bad for her, but I was thankful I was awake enough to comprehend things going on around me.  But it also meant I overheard her ask what time it was, and the nurse responded with "9PM".  What??  My surgery was only supposed to be an hour, hour and a half tops. Now I was worried.

Soon they brought my parents and Jei back to visit with me.  I was still pretty groggy, and my throat was on fire from the breathing tube.  My stomach HURT.  Turns out I gave them quite a few problems.  While running dye through me, they discovered a large stone blocking my bowel, and it was stuck.  They really had to dig around in there to get it.  They finally used a balloon to inflate the area and get it out.  A few got "lost" in my stomach, but she assured me that they would dissolve and while I'd have some pain, there would be no long term effects from them.  They also did the liver biopsy.

And so this morning, I look like I got stabbed 5 times in the stomach.  I hurt like all get out.  In the doctors words, she isn't surprised I hurt so bad, because there was nothing "normal" about my surgery.  They have decided to keep me until Friday, because of my liver enzymes.  I've been on oxygen overnight, because my pulse ox was very low.  They took that off, but now have me doing breathing treatments to prevent pneumonia. I managed to keep jello down last night, and oatmeal and yogurt down this morning.  So, I'm graduating to a low-fat lunch.  I haven't really eaten anything since Monday, so I'm kind of scared, but I know I need to eat to heal.

And so my saga least one more night in the hospital.  Jei agreed to bring the kids up later so I could give them their Valentines stuff.  I miss them, and am excited to see them.  I'm looking forward to a few other visitors as well.

So if anything else "comes up",  I will update the blog.  Until then, I'm off to sleep....again.

Bionic Legs!  I've heard people talk about how horrible these are, but I LOVE them!
Incision in my belly button.

2 of 5 incisions.  Super glued shut, so no stitches, and I can shower today!


Friday, February 8, 2013

Cut it out!

Who has 2 thumbs, a gall bladder and FINALLY has a surgery date?  This chick!  As of February 20th, I'll not be able to answer that with myself, as I'll only have the 2 thumbs, but not a gall bladder.  After 4 years of pain and suffering, I'm finally having my surgery.  I am beyond excited to have this almost over with.  I feel like making a gall bladder advent calendar, just to help me celebrate the upcoming day!  Instead of candy in each pocket, I'll put Norco, Zofran and Protonix.  When they are gone.... so is my gall bladder!!!

So, I've been itching to cross-stitch.  But all of my supplies are locked away in storage, in Indiana.  So I finally went out and got me enough stuff to get by.  I really like stitching snowmen, and since we are blanketed in snow right now, I decided to stick with the theme and picked up a Lavender Wings pattern called "If I Could Be A Snowman...".  I kitted it all up, and at the end of this blog posting, will be getting it ready for the first stitch.  Here is a picture of the completed design:

If you can't read it, the saying goes: "If I could be a snowman, I don't know which I'd be....all bundled up to fight the chill, or cold and fancy free!" 

I think it's just adorable, and am looking forward to getting started on it.  Maybe I'll feel up to stitching it while I'm laid up after surgery.

I'll leave you with a picture I took this morning.  We had several inches of snowfall overnight, but zero wind. This meant that the snow remained on all of the tree branches, and being outside felt like you were walking through a snow-globe.  It was just incredible.  After taking the kids to school, I actually drove around a little bit and just looked at all the beautiful trees.  I don't normally like anything about winter, but days like today just can't help but steal your breath away.  Enjoy!

Our front yard.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Still got the gall bladder....

Finally met with the surgeon today.  Verdict: yup....I still need my gall bladder out.  Ugh.  I was REALLY hoping that I would have a surgery date when I walked out of there, so I would have something to look forward to, and a countdown I could begin.  Unfortunately, all they said was that they would call me after it was scheduled with the hospital.

And the moment I walked into the door at home after my appointment, I got another attack.  Seriously?  *must remember this will all be over soon*

Good news....????  I have a job interview on Wednesday.  I'm REALLY hoping I get offered the position, because I REALLY need this job!

wish me luck blog buddies!