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Archive for the ‘My Liver Cancer’ Category

So tomorrow is the day.  I’ve been having trouble sleeping the past couple nights, so I doubt I’ll even bother trying tonight.  We have to get up about 2:00 or 2:30 in order to get everyone out the door and to Ochsner by my 5:00 a.m. arrival time.  Maybe I’ll sleep on the way down there…maybe I won’t.  Regardless, I’ll get all caught up on my sleep in the next few days LOL.

I’m not really nervous, not yet.  I’m dreading it though.  I know its going to hurt like the dickens and that the recovery is really gonna stink.  Previous surgeries, I’ve had my big blue recliner to recuperate in…and sleep in for the first couple weeks back home.  But, it finally bit the dust, and the recliner I have now, when new, was comfortable, but it was extremely cheap too and now ITS getting broken down.  Ahh well, I’ll figure something out.  I may just have to get someone to drag me out of the bed every morning 😉

My cats won’t leave me alone.  Gilda is shy and somewhat anti-social…I have to pick her up to get her to sit in my lap at all.  Even she is hovering around me.  I can reach out right now and touch any three of them at a moment’s notice.  I’m sure if Perry were inside he’d be hovering too.  They know something is up.  Maybe I’m more stressed and nervous than I realize.  I’m going to miss them while I’m in the hospital.

I’m choosing to look at this as just another surgery, and I’ll come out on the other side just fine.  The alternative still worries me a little, but I’m doing all I can to pray and get back to where I need to be…I can’t do much else about that because what will be, will be.  I do feel good about the surgery…just not the recovery.  In one sense, knowing pretty much what to expect as far as the pain goes kinda sucks.

So anyway, I’m just trying to get things ready to go, but I know I’m forgetting at least a dozen things in the process.  I was lying in bed at 2:00 a.m. last night, making a list on my iPhone of what I need to take.  I’d be lying if I said I wanted to do this, but at the same time, I do want to get it over with so I can get busy with recuperation.  I just want it all over with so I can come home and enjoy what’s left of the Christmas season.  Its my favorite time of the year.  And yes, if I end up with a protracted hospital stay, I WILL have a Christmas tree in my room.  Lights too.  I’ll make it happen…Amazon is an amazing, wonderful invention 😉

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All of you who are Christians know the old saying…”If you died tomorrow, would you go to heaven?”

Since getting the first news of my cancer returning, I haven’t cried.  I haven’t stressed.  I’ve felt like its all going to be ok.  The stress I’ve had and the few tears I’ve shed so far have been for my kids, mainly, but overall, I feel like everything is going to be ok.  I’ve talked to my girls, who are taking this diagnosis really hard, and reassured them that no matter what happens Monday, I’m going to be ok.  I told them even if I don’t come out of that operating room, I’m going to be just fine.

The truth is, I don’t know what to believe anymore.  I lost my faith for a time after my stepdad Jay died.  I was so angry at God that at times I even questioned His existence.  Deep down though, I always *knew* I was just acting like a pouting child, trying to get my Father’s attention by denying Him.  The anger really didn’t last long, but it was still there, and something I still feel guilty about.

When I carried Ruby, I never got mad at God.  I prayed like I have never been able to pray before or since.  I had a lot of trouble praying for her at first, because I felt like it was a selfish prayer, but I got over that and prayed and prayed, cried, begged, pleaded with Him for my baby.  After she was born, and I could see evidence around me of how she’d touched people in her very short life, I was sad, even depressed a little, but I was ok.  However, along about what would have been her first birthday, I wouldn’t say I got mad exactly, but I was extremely bitter.  My health was continuing to decline, I couldn’t do any of the things I used to be able to, I could see the babies born around her birthday crawling, walking, cooing, looking oh, so adorable, and I wanted my baby.  I started realizing that when I went to church, I couldn’t focus on the message, all I could do was think about how much pain I was in sitting there, wondering what was for lunch, just weird stuff that would pop into my head.  I kept having to force my attention back to the pastor (who is a very good pastor by the way), and I was getting frustrated.  I couldn’t pray anymore.  I didn’t feel like I could ask for anything for me because again, it was selfish.  When I’d try to pray, my mind would wander.  I realized it was Satan trying to keep me away from God, but I couldn’t seem to do much about it.

I began to slip…I started letting swear words drop more and more often.  I got mad easier, at little things.  I deliberately got into arguments with my mother when she tried to preach to me.  For the most part, I quit “praying” altogether, although looking back, I realize that I never failed to thank Him every day…when I was able to climb out of bed, I’d say a quick “Thank you, Lord,” or something similar.  Whenever anything good happened, I would do the same thing.  So I always felt like He was still in my life, if not directly in front of me.

Since the cancer returned, I haven’t really been able to pray much.  I’ve said a few, “Thy will, not my will” type prayers, and a couple times I actually prayed that He would deliver me from the surgery and everything would be fine.  But I felt guilty…not worthy.  I don’t feel like I’m where I need to be.  People have assured me that it doesn’t matter, that He understands because of what I’ve been going through, that I was truly saved, therefor I’m going to Heaven if anything goes wrong…but honestly, its not the way I was raised.  I believe people can and do backslide.  I’ve been told that if you backslide, you were never truly saved to begin with.  I beg to differ.  I KNOW I have been saved in the past, and I KNOW that I have backslid, more than once.  I believe in God wholeheartedly…I try to do what’s right with my life, and I try to be a positive influence to my kids.  But I make mistakes…sometimes big ones.  This whole past year and a half haven’t been pretty.  I can’t seem to figure out what I really need to do to get back to where I need to be.  Justin thinks I’m holding myself to an impossible standard, but I’m not…I know I’m going to make mistakes.  I can’t explain it, but I almost feel as if God has turned away from me with my inability to pray and focus on that prayer, to the exclusion of all else around me.

Its something I’ve struggled with for months, but I pushed it aside because I was still firmly believing in God and his ability to answer prayer and provide miracles.   This morning however, I got scared.  I had one of the worst nightmares I’ve ever had, but recounting it, its so rediculous.  I believe it was a message from God, although not as powerful a message as I received in 2006.  Perhaps it was more of a warning, a reminder, I don’t know.  All I know is that at the worst part of the dream, I told myself, “This is a dream, wake up now,” and I woke up.  The first thing I did was thank Him that I’d woken up.  The next thing I did was wake Justin up and ask him to pray with me.  As he was hugging me and waking up enough to pray, I managed to mumble, “I’m afraid for my soul.”  That man, I do not deserve him.  He prayed for me for over 30 minutes.  I was mad, because while I was praying along with him, my mind kept wandering.  I looked at the clock several times.  I cried a couple times.  I again had trouble focusing on the prayer, the nightmare, whatever message God may have been sending me…my brain started to rationalize the whole thing.  I started coming up with excuses, and that made me madder, and being mad made me have even more trouble praying.  I know I’m ADHD but dang, I’ve always been able to pray until about 3 years ago.

Basically, I’m not sure where to go from here.  I’ve been staying out of crowds because I can’t risk getting sick, and flu and everything else is ripe this time of year.  I’ve been hesitant to go to church, because I think that people will say “She’s only coming because she has cancer again.”  My brain will NOT let me stop thinking all these things.  I just want peace.  I think part of my problem may be that there’s a part of me that hopes I WON’T come out of that operation, because I’m so tired of constant pain, constant disability, constant nausea, constant weight fluctuations.  Its all just getting to be so much.  Everyone thinks I’m so strong…after every surgery, I don’t cry, I don’t even complain much.  I grit my teeth, get back on my feet ASAP, and do everything they tell me to do.  Admittedly, I do ask for the strong drugs after surgery.  I’m afraid to take too much pain medication here at home because of the history of addiction on both sides of my family, but in the hospital, I give in to the relief because its controlled.  I’m sure it doesn’t make sense, but it does to me.  Anyway, I’m not strong.  I’m very weak.  I don’t like this…I don’t like not being able to enjoy my kids and my life.  But…I deal.  Still, it makes ending it all a very attractive prospect.  I would never commit suicide (there’s the whole “hell” thing), but drifting away on anesthesia, well, it doesn’t sound all that bad.

So, I’m all over the place.  I need prayers, lots of them.  I want to be able to find peace with God, with myself, with my health.  I want to be able to “pray without ceasing.”

I know we can’t always get what we want, but I feel like that’s something I need.

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I know I haven’t updated the blog…its been too difficult to sit still and focus.  On the one hand, I’ve got so much to get done before surgery…on the other, I don’t WANT to do any of it…as if it will delay the inevitable.

The board of doctors finally decided that they want to do the surgery.  The oncologists were the lone holdouts, because this tumor hasn’t been diagnosed as malignant, and won’t be until its biopsied.  However, a needle biopsy could do more harm than good…IF the tumor is encapsulated (all but one of my tumors have been), a needle puncturing it could release cancer cells into my blood stream, which I don’t have to tell you would be a bad thing.  Even if its not encapsulated, that wouldn’t be good.  Its almost completely blocking the inferior vena cava, so regardless of whether its cancerous or not, it has to come out.  The problem, as Dr. C explained it, is that this is a first for them.  The size and location present problems that they’ve never had to deal with.  He explained that instead of having Plan A and Plan B, they need to go in with Plans A, B, C, D, E, etc.  So much can go wrong on the table.

I asked him what was wrong with me, because I’m not terrified.  I told him I’m more worried about the painful recovery than the possibility of not waking up from the surgery.  He laughed a little, and said that I might be a little numb to it all because for me, its just another surgery, that I’ve been dealing with it so long, been sick for so long, that its hard to put it into perspective.  I suppose he’s right.  Still, I look at everyone freaking out around me, and wonder what the heck is wrong with me because I’m just rather blase’ about it all.  I know from experience that about 30 minutes before the surgery, I will get anxious and nervous, but for right now, I’m more laid back about it.

My surgery is scheduled for November 26th.  I have to be there at 5:00 a.m.  All three of the kids are going to miss school to go…they want to be there until its over, however it may turn out.  I’ve decided that they can be…if they go to school, they’d be pulling them out of class to tell them I was in recovery and ok, or heaven forbid, to tell them I’d died…either way, when they get called out of class to find out, they’d be worrying themselves to death, so I think its best that they be with family, whether it be good news or bad.

It still bothers me that my status as a cancer patient knocks me off the organ transplant option.  Even with a family member willing to donate, they won’t do it because the cancer makes me a bad risk.  The problem is, my cancer isn’t that huge a deal…when its metastasized, its been small tumors that they caught quickly and removed.  Its not a situation where its spread and I’m sick from chemo or radiation.  The only organ impacted has been my liver, and its healthy as can be, and had no recurrence of tumors at all in over six years.  I did have a tumor on my right adrenal gland last year, and it and the gland were removed, but my right kidney itself was fine.  I guess I’m a little biased, but I don’t see that I’m a bad risk for a transplant if the blood loss during this surgery stuns my liver or kidneys to the extent they don’t “come back” after the blood flow is reestablished.

People look at me, and they don’t see that I’m this sick.  Other than the protruding belly and the liver spots on my face, I look good.  When I wear makeup and cover up the spots, I look REAL good.  I get around fairly well most days, and I don’t sound weak or anything unless I’m having a really bad day.  If it weren’t for Dr. C, they probably wouldn’t have caught this for that reason alone…I don’t “look” sick, so I must be fine.  Dr. C has been with me every step of the way over these past six and a half years though, and knows my history, so he’s stayed on top of things.

I’m not afraid, not yet.  I’m not even really all that concerned.  Maybe its blissful ignorance, but I’ll take it.  I do get stressed out, thinking about the recovery.  I know from experience how painful its going to be, and Dr. C telling me this will be my worst surgery yet doesn’t ease my mind much.  He stressed again at our last appointment that they may have to crack my chest…that until they get in and see where everything is situated, scar tissue is, and the ease of access, they just won’t know.  I”m not a really tall person…I’m only 5’6″, but my height is in my legs.  I have a very short torso…another thing that may make them crack my chest.  Ugh.  I’ve seen Dad and friends recover from heart bypass surgeries…it looked really painful.  I do NOT want to go there.

I’m doing a lot of praying, but I feel hypocritical about it.  Why do we pray so hard when we face something that might kill us?  I pray all the time, sure, but I don’t think its as ernestly as I’ve been praying the past couple weeks.  I don’t really know what to pray for.  “God, please heal me” seems so shallow and self-serving.  Asking Him to see me through this trial also seems selfish.  The truth is, I’ve forgotten how to pray for myself.  I’m very self-conscious and always feel like everything I’m saying is for affect, and not sincere.  Then when I start over, trying to be more sincere, I feel like I’m not fooling anyone.  My mind never stops, it never lets me have any peace, but constantly fills me with self-doubt and loathing.  I’m trying to place it all in God’s hands, but letting go of that control is a very difficult thing to do.

I don’t understand why these things keep happening to me.  I made a lot of mistakes in my younger days, true, but do those mistakes warrant this?  Its been one thing after another, ever since 2006.  It just never stops…I never get any peace.   I don’t know what its like to just relax…my brain is always working overtime, I’m always stressed and worrying about something.

This is one reason I haven’t updated my blog.  I feel like I’m constantly whining or complaining.  I feel like maybe I’m talking about it too much, making myself the center of attention too much.  Boy, those “friends” several years ago really did a number on me…when I worry about whether to update about my health and ask for prayers or not because it might make me look like an attention-seeking drama queen, even though I KNOW that I really do need those prayers…well, it just sucks.  I shouldn’t care anymore, but for some reason, its something that I can’t seem to let go of.  Yet another thing I need to pray about, if only I could find the right words.

So that’s it…this is where I am right now.  Where I’ll be in a couple weeks…I guess we’ll see.

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To cut to the chase, my cancer has returned.  I have a large tumor in my vena cava, the large artery that goes into the heart.  They’re going to try to remove it surgically, but because of the size and location, it might not be possible.  My previous surgeries have complicated things…and clamping the vena cava to remove the tumor could cause liver and kidney failure.  The kidney isn’t such a huge deal because I have two of them…they might have to remove one if they can’t get it to come back when they release the clamps.  However the liver is a big deal, because if it fails, I’m no longer a candidate for transplant because of the cancer.  If it fails, basically I won’t wake up.  They’re going to try to go in through my chevron scar on my abdomen, but might end up having to crack my chest.

If they get in there and can’t remove the tumor without killing me, they’ll close me up and I’ll recover from that surgery.  There is a chemo-type drug they can give me that will slow the progression of the tumor, but won’t kill the cancer…it will just give me a little more time.  Regular chemo and radiation therapies won’t work because with this type of Hepatacellular Carcinoma, it doesn’t respond to those treatments.

Justin asked him what would happen if we did nothing.  I didn’t ask that because I’d already figured it out and didn’t really want to hear the answer anyway.  Dr. C said that if we did nothing, the tumor would continue to grow, until the vena cava is completely clogged…then I’d start having organ failure, and eventually die.  He couldn’t give us a time frame because they don’t know how fast the tumor is growing.  The tumor could spread to other areas and organs.  The time frame to operate, he feels, is relatively short.

When he asked what I want to do, I told him I want it out.  I understand the risks…basically its a risk I’ve understood for every surgery they’ve knocked me out for…but this time there’s a real possibility I might not wake up.  They have to clamp the vena cava in two places to remove the tumor and that part of the artery, and replace it with man-made tubing or whatever…to be honest my brain was processing so much at that time I forget what he called it.  The only places they can clamp it “safely” are right on the margins of the tumor…and he doesn’t know until he gets in there if he’ll have room to cut if he clamps there.  They can clamp a little lower and a little higher, but that presents even more problems in regards to blood flow.  The liver has three veins…one of mine is missing from when they took 80% of my liver in 2006.  The other two will be cut off during the clamping if they have to clamp lower than they’re hoping, so liver failure is a real risk.  The scar tissue from the multiple surgeries is pretty bad…he described it as a large pack of tissue…and my intestine is looped up and attached to my deformed liver (it works fine, but it looks pretty funny because of the way it regrew).  Both of those things present a problem as far as easy access.  He doesn’t want to crack my chest open if at all possible, but until I’m on the table and they start cutting and poking around, they just won’t know what they’re looking at.

They also might lose one of my kidneys…I couldn’t really tell from his rough drawing which one…but now that I think of it, I think its the left one…meaning I’d lose both adrenal glands too because they removed the right adrenal gland last fall.  Kidney failure is also a possibility from the vena cava being clamped, but they’re not too worried about that if it happens…I suppose because of dialysis and such.  He’s most concerned about my liver and heart.

I’ve never seen Dr. C so serious and reticent about giving information.   He didn’t joke around with me much, and we usually get him to crack up at least once every time we see him.  I know I should be stressing out and freaking out, but I’m not.  Maybe its still too new…shock…but I honestly feel like things are gonna be ok.  Everyone has cried but me…something has got to be wrong with me LOL.  Well, Bekah hasn’t cried, but she doesn’t know the seriousness yet.

Jared and Katie took the news really hard…they both cried before the football game last night.  We told Bekah I had to have another surgery, a really bad one, and she got the “freaked out” look on her face that she gets (its mostly acting), then asked us something about Christmas.  Aspergers sucks sometimes.  We’ll have another, more serious talk with her (if we can) before the surgery.

I need to scrape up the money to get to Arkansas and make peace with Dad.  I want to look him in the eyes to see if he truly is sorry and has learned anything, or if he’s just saying the right words.  If he’s just saying what he thinks I need to hear, I’m done.  It may seem harsh, but I’ve tried with him so hard for the past several years…and right now, I have to focus on my kids, my health, my family.  I want to give him the chance though, just in case I don’t make it out of the surgery.  That’s the type person I am.

I also need to work on letting go of a lot of bitterness I’ve been carrying towards others for the past four years.  What happened when I was carrying Ruby was awful and shouldn’t have happened, but I also have to accept some of the responsibility for it.  I let it happen, and I handled it poorly.  I took a lot more blame than I should have, because I was trying my best to smooth things over and keep the peace…when I realized that wasn’t working and probably would never work with those particular people, I blew up and overreacted…that didn’t help my position very much at all.  The stress just got to me, and I let myself down with the way I did things.  I have to forgive them, and more importantly, I have GOT to find a way to forgive myself.

I’m a Christian, but I’m not where I need to be with the Lord.  I’ve had a really rough past couple of years…my faith has been questioned and I’ve said/done some things I’m not proud of.  I don’t feel worthy to ask God for anything anymore.  I prayed so much when I was carrying Ruby and after she died…I had a really strong faith.  I don’t have that anymore…I know God is still there, but I’m no longer sure how to talk to him.  I did a good bit of praying last night after we all went to bed…but it was very difficult and I felt somewhat silly, trying to explain to God why I wanted His help, but didn’t feel like I deserve to ask for it.

So that’s basically what’s going on.  Keep our family in prayer, please.

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It was brought to my attention recently that none of my online friends have ever seen my scars from almost two years ago…and while I’m really embarrassed, I figured what the hell. I have 3 kids to explain the stretch marks, and the heart meds I’m on have caused me to gain 14 pounds in the past 3 weeks, so I’m flabbier than I was 3 weeks ago. Still…while I find my abdomen horrible to look at now, I have been told that I need to look at it as a blessing and not a curse. Hard to do.

Anyway. I warned ya…

 

Notice the three round scars in a diagonal pattern running from the lower left on up…the first and third ones are drain holes, the middle one (to the side of my belly button) is where I was touched with a latex glove during one of my surgeries. The surgeons admitted it was an accident. It made a horrible, thumb-sized wound at the time, but now is a red bubble. The little dots above and below the partial chevron incision are where internal stitches worked their way out and I got staph infection in the process. I still to this day have stitches pop through the skin now and then and make bad marks. There are two other drain scars, but I couldn’t show those because one is in my bikini line and one is in my chest, just underneath my right breast. Ya’ll REALLY don’t want to see those…TRUST me!

Also, you may notice my left ribs have more definition in the picture than my right ribs (the lower part of the ribcage)…they almost had to break ribs to get the tumor out, and to this day, my ribcage is misaligned.  My surgeon and other doctors said they really can’t fix it without more surgery, and that’s not guaranteed.  When I lie flat, my left ribs stick up a full inch or more higher than my right ribs.  Its very uncomfortable too, and if I’m lying on a hard surface like an exam table, pressing on my left ribs causes incredible pain.

But…I’m here 😉

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Read Parts 1234, and 5 to catch up on this series.

I went home on Wednesday, April 19, 2006…43 days after going in for a single surgery and a hospital stay of “4-6 days”. The trip home took an hour and a half, and I almost couldn’t get up my front steps when we arrived. I parked myself in my recliner, and that’s where I stayed. Mom stayed with me for a few days while Justin was at work. I was unable to do much for myself.

The first problem arose immediately. I couldn’t eat. Nothing could tempt me enough to force it down. When I did manage to force a few bites, it came back up. The day after I came home, in desperation I asked Mom for a peanut butter sandwich. I figured the peanut butter had protein, and that was better than nothing. I managed to eat 1/4 of it, and it stayed down. Over the next couple days I worked my way up to managing a half of a sandwich at a time. Mom went home to care for her things that had been ignored for seven weeks, and I was on my own during the day. I continued to get weaker and weaker.

One week to the day of my return home, I made the trip back to the hospital. I was passing out and had lost another 12 pounds. I was emaciated. I couldn’t walk to the bathroom by myself. I’d been sleeping in my recliner because I couldn’t lie in the bed due to the pain. I was the sickest I’d been for a while. My kidneys…well there was no output…we’ll leave it at that. I went back to the TSU unit, where everyone was dismayed at my appearance. Still, I managed a good attitude, and was only there for a few days…I went home again on Monday.

I continued to improve, with creative uses of phenergen and my pain killers to manage the pain enough that I could get up and around, and manage to eat. Peanut butter sandwiches were my dietary staple for weeks. I was determined not to return to the hospital except for my checkups.

In June, I started driving again. Until then, I was too light-headed and weak to risk it. Once I realized I *could* do it, I started to improve rapidly. Being able to get out and get around did a world of good for my depression. I also started getting up between 4:30 and 5:00 every morning to cook breakfast for Justin. It started out with just biscuits…I couldn’t sleep, he was in the shower, and I thought to surprise him. Let me preface this by saying I did not cook much, and when I cooked breakfast it was a treat. By the time I had those simple little biscuits rolled out and in the oven, I was shaking from exhaustion. I’d never been prouder in my life. Justin was amazed…he ate every bite, and those were truly terrible biscuits. I know, because I tried to eat one.

I determined I was going to do better…and put red beans on in the crockpot while he was at work. That night he had supper ready when he got home. He was surprised again. I felt so good about pleasing him, that for the next several months, I cooked almost every night (once in a while I’d let him get pizza or take us out), and cooked breakfast almost every morning. There were a couple times he let me sleep because he thought I needed it. After I chewed him out, and cried about it, he started waking me up if I didn’t get up on my own. My breakfasts progressed from crummy biscuits to full spreads, and sometimes something like eggs benedict or beignets. We started the day together as a family, and we were all incredibly happy. I was still very sick, but doing this little thing like cooking made me feel so much better.

In October I went back into the hospital for a week. I was having severe chest pains and shortness of breath that caused me to almost pass out. They finally ruled out my heart, but weren’t sure exactly what was going on. It took another CT scan before they realized my right lung was partially collapsed. My liver had regrown “weird” and was on the wrong side of my abdomen…my stomach had been pushed down and around, and my intestines up and to the right, twisting my diaphragm and partially collapsing my right lung. There was nothing they could do to correct this. I had another few rough weeks, but in November I managed to go back to work. I’ve blogged about that, so I won’t go into detail here.

I deal with my pain on a daily basis. My life will never be the same again…I can’t do the things that I once could…I can’t walk as far or as fast…I can’t run…I can’t be active like I once was…but yet, I’m here, and I can experience life, with all its joys and heartache, and I fully intend to experience it to the fullest, with God’s help, guidance, and grace. Just pray for me that I can continue to see the benefits and not dwell on the bad parts.

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Read Parts 123, and 4 to catch up on this series.

My third surgery took place on March 29, 2006, twenty-three days after my first surgery. I went in very depressed and terrified. My last thoughts as I was going into la la land from the “happy drug” were of my family, and a prayer to God that He’d take care of me.

This is, to me, the best experience in the hospital. I woke up from my surgery, a LOT sooner than anyone was expecting. My first thought as I was coming up from the anesthesia was “Thank you Lord!” I just KNEW I’d been healed, I knew everything was going to be ok. I was happy…I was warm…I was in pain but that was in the back of my mind. I opened my eyes and saw the unit of blood hanging on the IV rack…it didn’t even phase me. I was to learn that I’d had to have two units during surgery, and that was my sixth total unit hanging up there. My next realization was that I was NAKED under my nice warm blanket. What the heck?? I looked around, saw a man in a white coat standing there, and yelled at him “Why am I naked??” After he recovered from his shock (remember, I wasn’t supposed to be awake yet) he laughed and told me all surgeries were done nude. Do WHAT?? I always assumed they just pulled that gown up out of the way. Somehow knowing you were lying up there completely exposed was just…weird and uncomfortable to me.

Turns out he was a surgical resident who’d watched my surgery, and was checking in on me. Apparently, a HUGE number of residents were there for my third surgery. I was a big deal for this hospital…I’d already beaten the odds in several ways, and people I didn’t even know were concerned for my recovery and probably more than a bit morbidly curious as well. He was really nice though, and we talked for a while. He couldn’t give me specifics, but he called for my surgeons to come in. They did, and everyone was shocked and amazed at my lucidity. I was raising myself up on my elbows to talk to them until they raised my bed a little. I was completely clear-headed, and while I was in a lot of pain, it didn’t seem to *touch* me much. God Himself had touched me and I could feel it oh so clearly. I get goosebumps writing this, just remembering back to that day.

I realized I was back down to two drains in my abdomen. Over the next few days, I watched those drains like a hawk. I was still having to empty them every few hours (yes, we had to empty them ourselves into a marked container, then write down how many CC’s were collected), but I could see a dramatic decrease day by day. I was ecstatic.

During my first surgery, they’d put a central line into my neck. They pulled it out the second day, thinking I would be going home soon. Oh, if only they’d left that line in my life would have been so much easier! After my third PIC line failed, they attempted another central line. A resident tried it, and finally after an hour of torture, I pushed him away and said “I’m DONE with this!” The supervising surgeon attempted to talk me into letting him try and I refused. To this day, “Dr. D” (the resident) is one of my favorite people up there, but with me he was always really really nervous (they told me it was because I was such a serious case) and he hurt me a lot in the early days. When he tried to run my central line, he kept running into blockages…and the whole process just hurt me so much I couldn’t bear it, even with heavy doses of dilaudid and phenergen running through my veins at the time.

The afternoon of my third surgery, the surgeon returned with Dr. D (I forget the surgeon’s name but I can see him clearly…) when my thumb IV blew finally (it’d lasted around 24 hours…a new record for me). Radiology refused to touch me again for another PIC line, and he wanted to try one more time for a central line, with Dr. D assisting/observing. I started crying and refusing, but he talked me into it. He promised me that if I raised my hand to signal it was hurting, he’d stop, back out, and they would try to find veins in my feet and legs instead. He had that central line in place within 10 minutes, and the IV saga was ended then and there. That central line lasted until I went home, over three weeks later. Let me tell you, if you know you’re going to be in the hospital for a while, go for a central line!

When they brought me back to my TSU room, only a couple hours after going to recovery, I moved myself into my bed from the stretcher. I’d done this every time, but it didn’t hurt as bad this time. None of my nurses could get over how well I was doing. To say it was a night and day difference is an understatement. I had nurses and surgeons alike telling me it was evidence to them of God working. I went into that surgery with a very poor prognosis, and I came out of it a different person. That afternoon, I was up and walking the floor, albeit only a short distance.

It would be another three weeks before I would come home, but I knew that corner had been turned. I was still on a constant dilaudid drip, so the days passed in a blur for me. I went for daily ultrasounds, and CT scans every 2-3 days. I had bloodwork drawn twice a day. My hormone injections were cut down to three times a day, and finally, the week before I came home, they were stopped altogether. I was on intravenous feeding this entire time, and still allowed nothing more than ice to eat. Mom and Justin cheated a few times and gave me a bite of hamburger here, a piece of Butterfinger there. It stayed down. I was not hungry at all, even though they told me I would be…God provided there as well. I had the urge to eat, not from hunger, but from habit, and the ice satisfied that.

My goal was to be home by Easter. My surgeons told me it wouldn’t happen. I was better, but I wasn’t THAT much better. Easter came and went, and I started slipping into depression. I pulled out of it, but that was the beginning. My next goal was to be home for Jared’s 12th birthday, on April 7th. That didn’t happen, so I called Wal-Mart, ordered Jared a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and had Mom pick it up and bring the two oldest kids to the hospital for a sleep over. They stayed the night down in the family waiting room, sleeping on the couches. We had a huge birthday party in my room for Jared, and all the nurses and some of the doctors came in for cake and ice cream. Ice cream? Yep. When they found out what was going on, they brought in dozens of cups of different flavors of ice cream. That brought tears to my eyes. Jared was beaming. He was still sad and worried though. The next day, my ex-husband and his wife and her parents came to the hospital from Houston to pick up the kids for Spring Break. My ex couldn’t hide his shock at my appearance, and was especially concerned when my mom and Justin told him that I looked a LOT better than I had. He and his family were so kind to me…it was nice.

The day after they left, I noticed my scalp was itching on the left side. Not too bad, but it bugged me a bit. Then my face and ear and neck on the left side started itching. I asked Mom to see if they could get me some benedryl…I thought it was from all the meds and such…at different times, I’d had to have benedryl during hospital stays because of allergies. They gave me some benedryl, and a couple hours later, Mom noticed I had red blotches on my face and neck on the left side. She called the nurses, who thought maybe it was from scratching and gave me some cream to put on it. I slept for a couple hours, and when I woke up it was burning pretty bad. I called Mom to come look (I did NOT scratch yet thankfully) and she almost screamed and hit the button for the nurse. I had gone from a red rash type appearance to blisters, and they were all up the side of my neck, face, ear, and into my hair, all on the left side. I went into quarantine. I had the shingles. They felt it was because of the stress I’d been under. For the next three weeks, I had to go through yet another inconvenience. It wasn’t terrible…it was just like icing on the cake to everything else that had happened. I started getting even more depressed.

My husband’s birthday was April 17th, and I missed that goal too. By this time, a psychiatrist was seeing me daily, and I’d been put on Lithium. They had to stop that and switch me back to Lexapro and Rispardal, because my legs started having terrible spasms and my depression worsened. I’d told them I didn’t do well on Lithium, but I guess they needed to see for themselves. I still had a positive attitude for the most part, but my bipolar was beginning to act up in that I was having my mood swings again, and they were really drastic ones.

That day they put me on a liquid diet. The next day they stopped my intravenous feeding altogether, but I was still on a liquid diet. I was STARVING once they stopped my IV feeding, because the liquid wasn’t doing it for me. Still, it was progress so I didn’t complain.

On Wednesday, April 19th, they let me have solid food for breakfast. I was thrilled. I couldn’t eat more than two bites. My stomach didn’t know what to do with the food. I tried to eat more, and it came back up. Let me tell you, throwing up after you’ve had major abdominal surgery three times in as many weeks is NOT a pleasant experience. Just before lunch time, my surgical team came in and asked if I wanted to go home. I should have said no, instead I jumped on the chance.

To this day I look back at that as the worst decision my doctors made while I was there. They knew how depressed I was getting, they knew how desperately I wanted to go home, and they let that sway them. For 43 days, I had NO food whatsoever except for maybe two meals total. I’d had liquid meals for only two days total. My body wasn’t prepared for me to go home yet…but home I went.

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