Thursday, August 30, 2012

Things are Getting Better

Today I had my check up with my primary doctor.  I have never in my life needed to use the term primary care physician until the past three weeks, and suddenly it's become an incredibly normal term.  As I said, today I had a check up.  I was told by the floor doctor at Swedes that he wanted me to see my primary care physician about a week after I was sent home from the hospital just to check in and make sure things were going smoothly, and he also wanted me to have some blood drawn so they could run a couple tests.  I was not excited about the labs, but I scheduled the appointment like he had asked.

I got up this morning, and my mom and I went to the doctor.  (Now that I think about it, I am realizing I haven't driven in at least three weeks...I hope I remember how after all of this is over...)  I'm not sure what all I was expecting, but I was a little nervous.  After going a full week without having anyone stabbing me with a needle, I was not looking forward to having to do that again.  I have a sincere phobia of needles, and though it's gotten a tiny bit better because I had to have blood drawn so regularly at the hospital, I am still pretty terrified of them.

Thankfully, my favorite nurse, Susan, was there to take care of me this morning.  She asked how everything was going, and could tell simply by how I was walking and talking that I was feeling quite a bit better.  I had quite a shock when she weighed me: I have lost 16 lbs since I initially got sick a couple weeks ago.  I don't recommend severe pain, gall stones and pancreatitis as a way to lose weight, but this is still probably good for me.  The low-fat heart-healthy diet is doing it's job too, so I am looking at this as the one benefit of all this insanity.

When Susan got me into the actual room for my check up, she asked about the medications I was on, and I told her I was on some painkillers and omperazole (which takes care of the acid levels in my stomach, which is a huge help and keeps me from wanting to throw up).  I told her I was down to my last pain pill, and that the one really bad thing about this was that the painkillers have been what's helping me actually sleep at night.  She looked a me and said, "There's no shame in asking him to refill that order.  You don't need to be in a lot of pain."  She ended up telling my doctor that I should get a refill, and, glorious day, I ended up with the pain meds I need so I can sleep at night while I'm still healing.  I am so grateful for that.  I don't take them much during the day anymore, but at the end of the day, when I am worn out, everything hurts.  This will make life much easier and help me keep healing.

Dr. Breck came in shortly there after, and I asked him if he had seen my MRI results yet because I still hadn't seen them.  He was pretty surprised by that, but pulled them up right away and explained everything to Mom and I.  I told him how frustrated I was with the doctor's I met at the hospital and how no one had told me what the MRI had said or answered my questions clearly, so he cleared a lot of things up.  The best one was him explaining why every doctor that came in said the word "cancer."  The gastroenterologist (GI) doesn't believe that I have cancer.  He thinks what the radiologist (who read the MRI and got the whole cancer mess started) thought was cancer is simply an ongoing issue caused by the pancreatitis and gall stone/bladder issues.  This is the same thing that Dr. Breck thought and had talked to me about with ultra sound back at the beginning of this.  It was wonderful to hear him say that it really doesn't look like any of this could be cancer, but instead that everything can pretty much be traced back to issues we are already working on healing.  I still do have to go back and see the GI doctor and have another CT scan (blah) just to make sure everything with my pancreas is going alright and to see how my liver is doing at that point.  Hopefully when I see him in a couple more weeks he will have good news for me.

I also got a work release notice, so tomorrow I get to go back to work for a couple of hours.  Dr. Breck said I just need to make sure I take care of myself and don't wear myself out too bad.  Thankfully my job is pretty low pressure, and tomorrow I will mostly be getting envelopes ready for statements and getting a little reconciliation done (yes, I already called the office and got this set up).  It will be nice to feel like my life is a little closer to normal.

Dr. Breck is a wonderful doctor, and I am so grateful that I am here instead of anywhere else dealing with this.  It would probably be very hard to have my questions answered otherwise.

The labs weren't too bad either.  Dr. Breck's office has a wonderful lab tech named Terry.  Mom and I went in so I could have blood drawn for a couple tests that will just let them know that my blood sugar levels are normal and my kidneys are functioning just as they should among other things.  Terry knows exactly how much I hate needles, but she found a vein without any trouble, only stuck me once, and I barely felt it.  She kept asking me questions about my surgeon and this whole situation until she was done, and told me to make sure I don't let the surgeon get away without answering all my questions when I see him next week.  She was wonderful and made the whole process a lot less scary then it normally is.  I am grateful.

I had several people praying that today's appointment and labs would go smoothly, and they did.  I am grateful, and God did all that I asked of him and more today in this.  Things are definitely getting better.

Why my Mom is the Coolest

A picture of my mom from a couple winters ago.  My dad took this.
My mother's birthday is today.  Because I have been sickly and have barely left the house in weeks, I do not have a gift for her yet, but I will be writing her a lovely card this afternoon before she and my dad get back from running around Rockford for her birthday.

My mother is amazing.  This summer she has shown that again and again and again.  Don't get me wrong, I have always been amazed by my mother and have felt God has blessed me with the best mom in the world, but this summer, as you have heard, has been a bit of a crazy one for me.  During all of this, she has never failed to lift me up, pray for me, and do all that is within her power to help me out.  My mom is an incredible woman.

I have been thinking about that a lot today, for obvious reasons, and I thought I would share with you some of the reasons my mom is so incredible (these are in no particular order):

  1. She is always there for me.  Through everything I have dealt with this summer, be it boy trouble (there's been a lot of that), physical pain, financial worries, lots of crying, frustration, sickness, and anger...she has never left me or failed to listen.
  2. She always finds the time.  As you can imagine, me being as sick as I am (and have been), there have been a lot of appointments and tests to go to.  My mom has never once complained about having to drive me anywhere, and she's had to take off a lot of work to take care of me.  She even drove me to an appointment this morning and went with me in to see the doctor and to the lab when I had to have blood drawn.  She never fails to make time for me when I need it, even if that means postponing something she had planned to do.  She is wonderful.
  3. She always makes me laugh.  There has been so much in the way of stress and worry and...well...bad feelings this summer, but in spite of all of those things, my mom always makes me laugh.  It could be because we have the same morbid, twisted sense of humor, but she always finds a way to make a bad situation (no matter how bad) seem hilarious exactly when I need her too.  It always makes life easier to handle when you can find something to laugh about, and she really helps with that.
  4. She helps me see where God's at work.  Today on the way back from my doctor's appointment, my mom pointed out the beauty of the timing for all of this to happen.  Sure, there's never really a good time for your body to decide that it hates you, but honestly, the timing could have been so much worse.  I was still at home, so my family could support me and help take care of me.  I am working for a company that was willing to be understanding of my predicament and let me come back to work even though I've missed so much time.  My mom is working for a company run by a wonderful woman who is friend's with our family and was more than willing to let my mom off or move her hours around so she could help me with whatever I needed.  There's been so much lately that God's done that I may not have seen if it hadn't been for her helping me see it.
  5. She loves me so much and tries to make sure I never forget it or doubt it.  My mother is, and always has been, an incredible mom.  She takes the time, does the little things, pays attentions, is always willing to help, prays, helps me to understand all this complicated medical junk, and always tells me she loves me.  She is a great mom.
  6. She always fights for me.  There have been many times over the past few weeks that I have been scared or confused or didn't know what to ask anymore, but my mom has been willing to step in and help me ask the questions I didn't have the strength to ask or to fight for whatever I needed from my doctors.  She has always been willing to stand up for me when I needed it, but I don't know if I have ever appreciated that as much as I do now.  I could not have done a lot of this without her help.
God has really blessed me with a wonderful woman of God as my mother.  She is amazing, and I truly hope that as I get older I become more and more like her.  

Happy birthday, Ma.  I love you, and I hope you never question that.  May this be a fantastic birthday for you, and I hope that there are many more beautiful years ahead.  You're wonderful.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

God's Got This

I've been thinking the past couple of days about a lot of different things.

God has been very at work in my life and my heart.  I know he's always there, but sometimes I let life get busy enough that I forget to see where he's at work.

As I told you in a previous post, I've been very sick.  It's been a very challenging summer, but the past couple of weeks have been the worst.  I let go of someone I loved, my body betrayed me, and I thought I was going to have to put aside my dreams yet again.  It was tough and it was terrifying, but God works for the good of those who love him, and he tends to take all those things that I don't understand and untangles them.

I've spent a lot of time asking God to take from me my unbelief and help me see his faithfulness and love.  I've spent a lot of time reading my Bible and asking God to help me see the light at the end of this tunnel.  It's been a rough couple of weeks.

The beautiful thing is, God came through for me.  He always does.  He showed me that I am so loved.  I've had people I never expected to care ask about me, pray for me, get their whole church to pray for me, and ask if they could do anything to help.  He let one test lead to another to help my doctors figure out what was causing the real and worst part of my pain, and they're helping me fix this issue.  He's given me amazing friends who call and text and visit and encourage me.  He's shown me just how incredible my family is through their concern, the little acts of kindness, the phone calls, the texts, and my immediate family's willingness to eat a low-fat heart-healthy diet (even though I think they would prefer to eat normal food most of the time) without any real complaints.  I've gotten all kinds of cards and words of kindness.  The support is overwhelming.

picture by C. Ballard & J. L. Montgomery
I spoke to my office yesterday and was told that as long as my doctor says it's okay on Thursday, I can come back to work as early as Friday.  I would get to work however long I felt I could handle, so I won't have to worry about making myself overly tired.  This means I'll be able to earn a paycheck again, and that will give me a great deal of peace.  It still won't cover everything, but it will do a good deal to make me feel more at ease about the whole situation.

This also helped me see that though it may take a little longer than I wanted it to or hoped it would, I will still get to go to Ohio.  I am not going to have to abandon my dreams.  God will get me there, and Amber and Jake have been wonderful about keeping me excited.  Amber keeps talking about the things we'll do when I get there.  I need to pick a paint color for my room, and soon we'll be learning to knit and cooking together and trying to be a bit healthier about everything.  I will get to see Nikky and Yan and Conor on a regular basis.  So many people I love and so many things to look forward to.  My dreams are still going to come true.  God isn't asking me to give up my dreams, but to trust him with them.  I think I'm slowly learning to let him handle this.

And yes, I did give up someone I love, but I am learning, I can still wake up every morning and find the good in the day.  He was my world once, but he isn't anymore.  God's got my heart, and he's healing it quite nicely.  Better things are yet to come, and I'm going to trust God that some day in the not too distant future I will find myself in love with someone who won't walk away, but instead will love me right back.

God's got this.  It amazes me.  Despite all the craziness, I am falling more in love with God and life every day.  Today will be beautiful.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Saga: Blessings & Curses

Underwater Leaves by Jon H. Cheatwood
It's been a little while since I've written anything, and this time I actually have a valid excuse.  I have been (still am) incredibly sick.

About three weeks ago I scheduled a doctor's appointment because someone finally suggested that all the pain I was having, that I had been thinking were just crazy muscle spasms due to all the issues I had been having with my sciatic nerve, were actually being caused by my gall bladder.  So I called the doctor and made the appointment.

The next night I found myself up at 1:30 in the morning feeling like death.  I ended up ending an 18 year streak of not throwing up that night.  I started throwing up at 1:30 in the morning and didn't stop till probably 9 or so in the morning.  Anyone that knows me that throwing up is right up on the scale with needles as far as things that I both hate and am terrified of.  It was a horrible night.

I ended up moving up my appointment to that afternoon, and after speaking to my doctor, he got me some anti-nausea medication called Zofran (which is typically used for cancer patients going through Chemo, if that tells you anything about how lousy I was feeling) and set me up to get an ultra sound of my gall bladder, liver and pancreas.

So I spent the weekend feeling like I was dying, and ended up having to get off the Zofran because I had a really weird reaction to the medication.  That made life exciting.  My dad got to watch me completely fall apart because when I called the doctor's office to ask about the meds they told me I should go to the ER, and that scared me.  My dad, instead, had me call one of my best friends, Heather, who is going to nursing school to talk about the whole thing.  She helped me figure out some meds I could take to keep my stomach in check until I could actually talk to my doctor.  It made a huge difference in my outlook and helped me calm down exponentially, though she probably didn't realize that at all (thanks, Heather, you're the best).

My folks left to go shopping and I took a long nap.  When I woke up, my folks were back and my wonderful father had a gift for me: neon colored socks with hearts all over them.  They were perfect.  My mom told me later that when he saw them he told her he was going to buy them because he was hoping they would make me smile.  They hadn't seen me smile much in about 3 days at that point.  The socks worked.  They were so bright, and they were from my dad.  It was hard not to smile about something so sweet and small.  My dad is the best.

The rest of the weekend was pretty lousy because I was in so much pain.  Thankfully I didn't throw up anymore after that first night, but eating became really hard to want to do at all.

Tuesday I went and had my ultra sound.  Wednesday I found out I needed to have a CT scan because they had seen a couple spots on my liver that they couldn't identify, and they had seen gall stones, so I was going to need to have my gall bladder removed.  I was also told I needed to have a follow up appointment with my doctor so that I could be checked out after having the bad reaction to the Zofran.

I spent all Wednesday on the phone trying to get everything lined up to get my surgery done and the CT scan scheduled.  It was a nightmare because the surgeon couldn't see me until September 10th.  When you're in that much pain, all you end up doing is crying.  Or at least I did.  Between the price of all this and the length of time and all the tests and the fact I needed more tests because something else was was a long day.

Thursday, Joel moved to Augustana for his freshman year of college.  I slept most of the day away.  I am so proud of Joel.  Honestly, what an awesome brother!

Friday, I went to the doctor and he explained that they wanted to get a better look at my liver because he just wanted to make sure everything was okay.  There was a very small chance the spots could be cancer, but he didn't believe they were dense enough.  After talking to him I felt much better, and he explained everything with the gall bladder, and told me I was fine after the Zofran.

I spent the weekend feeling sore, but feeling a little more hopeful.  Not only did I have the CT scan on Monday, but my doctor had gotten me in to see a surgeon that next Wednesday so I was moving along much better.

I don't know if you've ever had a CT scan, but the junk they make you drink is lousy.  I got lucky and they premixed it for me and it was an orange flavor that wasn't too bad.  It just has a really weird consistency, and you're not allowed to eat or drink anything for something like 14 hours prior to your scan, so I spent a lot of time wishing I could drink water.  And hoping I would never ever ever have to have another one of these.

The CT scan itself wasn't too bad except that I had to have an IV for it.  Thankfully I had a really wonderful nurse who made absolutely certain she could find a vein, and it was the least painful needle experience I have ever had.  She was really great.  It made life a lot less scary.

I was thrilled when we were done at the hospital and I got to come home and sleep.  Life was going alright.  I was hurting, but not too worried. doctor called.  He said there was something wrong with my pancreas and that he wanted me to go to the ER.  He said he was going to call ahead so they would be expecting me.  Then he said he was going to call my mom.  I got off the phone with him and started crying and couldn't stop.  I didn't want to go to the ER or have anymore needles or have anyone else poking at me or have anymore tests done.  I wanted to take a nap.

But naps were not to be.  Not yet.

My mom came home and drove me up to the ER.  Thankfully I was smart enough to pack up my favorite blanket, toiletries, my Bible, iPod, my phone charger and a book.  I had a feeling they weren't going to let me leave which just scared me more.  Hospitals have always freaked me out, so this was a terrifying experience to walk into.

My dad met us at the hospital.  He said the ladies at work had kicked him out of the bank when he told them I was going to the ER.  I'm glad they sent him.  He made things seem a lot less scary.  I ended up in the ER for roughly 6 hours from the time I checked in at the desk until they finally told me they were going to send me up to a real room so they could do some observation.  They had determined that I have something called a psuedocyst on my pancreas which just means there is a pocket of water that has formed between my pancreas, the wall of my abdomen and my stomach.  It's causing a lot of pain, and my pancreas was swollen and they wanted to check on that.  The whole time I was in the ER I was told I couldn't drink anything because of the tests they were running on the blood they had already drawn (did I mention how much I hate needles, especially when I am already feeling sick to my stomach?).

They got me upstairs and checked in around 11 pm.  The room was nice, and my nurses were wonderful.  They told me I still couldn't have anything to eat or drink, but one of my nurses' told me she would bring me ice chips.  She was wonderful, and they made all the difference, especially since I was still pretty dehydrated from having to fast for the CT scan that morning.  My folks stayed with me until about 11:30 when I told them to go home because they had to drive home separately and they both needed to go to work in the morning, and they both looked like they were going to fall asleep.

As I said, my nurses were great, but one of them did draw blood at 4am.  Again, I am TERRIFIED of needles.  It was not a great experience.  It became the first of many, many times I would have blood drawn.  I ended up having an MRI that day (Tuesday) as well because they wanted another look at my liver.  As of now (almost a full week since the MRI), I still don't know what the results were.

I spent from Monday night till the early part of Thursday afternoon in the hospital.  During that time, I had my blood sugar taken at least twice a day.  My fingers have just recently healed, although I can still see where they pricked my fingers.  I got really good at dealing with that.  My nurses knew how freaked out I was by needles, so they talked through the whole process which did wonders.  They learned to do the same thing when they were drawing blood.  They also got use to me crying.  I did a pretty good job of holding it together, but when you're exhausted and on a lot of medication and scared because every doctor that comes in gives you little to nothing in the way of explanation as to what is happening to you and keeps throwing out the word cancer like it's no big end up a little rattled and terrified and emotional when they tell you they're going to take blood for roughly the 8th time in three and a half days and no one seems to know what they need all this blood for.  They did tell me that I have pancreatitis and that they couldn't do any surgery on my gall bladder until my pancreas heals a little bit.

They still haven't told me what's going on with my liver, but I was told I need to have yet another CT scan in roughly a month.  I hate CT scans.  I never want to have another one, but hopefully my regular doctor will be able to tell me why this is necessary and what the heck my MRI results were.  I just need to understand what is going on, and doctors at the hospital are pretty worthless for that.  Well, that's not entirely true, the doctor that takes care of the whole 9th floor at Swedes was pretty nice.  He tried to answer my questions and was very kind, but I still hated that whole process.  It was scary all the time.

The good parts of being in the hospital (because there are some): all of the nurses were wonderful.  They showed up as soon as I needed them and would do everything in their power to make my life easier.  They were wonderful angels.  I had some great visitors.  Morgan and Adam came to visit me on Tuesday and sat with me for a couple of hours.  Morgan brought me this adorable bright colored and crazy patterned frog and a big "Get Well" balloon.  It was beautiful and the nurses all loved it.  It brought a lot of color to my room, and it was much in need of that.  Kayla sent me the first of the Hunger Games books and a note.  I got a couple notes, several phone calls, and my family came up every evening to sit with me and bring me whatever I needed.  Kathie and Hilary came on their lunch break on Wednesday which was really nice and completely unexpected.  Broke up a very gray day that I was very tired of.   Morgan brought our friend Alyssa and her little girl Kaylee up on Wednesday night (I think), and Kaylee ended up loving my dad.  Morgan brought me more books.  Morgan was been my angel in all of this.  Such an awesome friend.

Thursday they sent me home with some pain meds and a prescription to help with the pancreatitis.  I was so excited to be home and away from needles.  I have bruises all over my arms from needles.  I still hurt, but I am healing.  I spent the whole weekend taking a lot of naps, and doing a lot of nothing.  I am now on a low-fat heart-healthy diet until I get my gall bladder out, and my wonderful family are all participating in this with me.  They make my life so much easier.

Jay came to visit me on Friday night, and that was great.  He had a lot of things dumped on him because all of this still has me extremely stressed out.  Especially everything with my liver and the fact that I have no idea how I am going to be able to financially recover from all of this (and yes, I HAVE applied for assistance through the hospital).  I am grateful for his willingness to listen, and deal with my fears.  He's a good man.

Sunday, my family didn't want to wake me up to go to Sunday School, and I ended up waking up just before church was supposed to start, so I missed church.  I have every intention of being back next weekend.  My mom said she just couldn't justify waking me up when she knows I need the sleep to heal, and I have just started sleeping through the night.  The amazing thing  was that I got a big envelope full of get well letters from my kids in my Sunday school class and my fellow teachers.  The cards were beautiful, even if the glue was still wet on some of them, and I loved every single one of them.  My class is wonderful.  It made my day.

I slept through a lot of yesterday afternoon, and slept pretty well last night.  I am going to be calling my office tomorrow and see if there is a way I can come in part time for awhile.  Hopefully things will go well, and I will get to actually do some work.  It would be nice.  I could make a little money, and then come home and take naps like I need.

Anyway...I go to the doctor, as I said, on Thursday for a check up (maybe I didn't say that...this is a long post, it's hard to remember anymore) and to have a couple tests run to make sure everything is healing smoothly.  I met my surgeon while I was in the hospital.  I am sure he's an excellent surgeon, but he seemed a bit like a cold hearted weasel as well, so I'm not terribly excited about going to him for my consult.  On the other hand, if I go in on the 5th and he tells me they want to do surgery soon, he may be my new best friend. I just want to get this thing out of me and keep healing.

Please keep praying about all of this, and I will attempt to do a better job of keeping you posted on what is going on.  Life is a bit of a crazy mess, but God is definitely showing me again and again how blessed I am with the amazing people I love and who love me.  I'll get through this.

I love you.  Thanks for being there.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Not Dead Yet, Heart's Still Beating

Ah, such a fool I am.
Such a fool.

Heart, picked apart
the pieces strewn across the floor
That's what I have been 
waiting on
but this is new

This heart is in a million pieces
But this heart is beating 
held together.
Tied together,
held in place

Love hasn't left me yet.