It was exactly two weeks to the day of my latest operation. Healing was slow but sure. I felt pretty darn good since my abdomen deflated from all of the inflammation from before and after the surgergy. The incision stayed closed. This pleased me immensely as the incisions from the three prior surgeries had all split open after the staples were removed. This resulted in a VON home care nurse coming to the house every day to clean and pack the wound, sometimes for up to a period of three or more weeks. (I’ll skip the yucky details here for your benefit, gross stuff, trust me) Anyway, incision closed, my hemoglobin has been climbing a bit in the right direction, I can successfully roll off of the couch all my myself. What an accomplishment. Rick will no longer tease me that I remind him of a turtle stuck on my back trying to turn upright. He always finds humour in every situation, we are much alike in this aspect and it has helped us get through the dark, tough moments, days, weeks, months, years. I love this about our partnership. Trust me, I do some teasing of my own, in his direction, all with a loving heart.
So… I had a normal, good day on Tue Oct 9, consisting of television and more television. Healing by doing nothing but keeping my brain occupied. I try to watch cooking shows with a pinch of love and laughter like Rachael Ray and of course Ellen DeGeneres. I got re-addicted to my favourite soap-opera, Days of Our Lives that I’ve watched since I was a teen. Watching the drama on screen sure takes me away from real-life drama. I can’t believe I am talking about t.v., but this has been my life for a couple of weeks. Of course my brain does get distracted thinking about this damn cancer and how it keeps hijacking me. I hate it!!! I hate what it does to me, but most of all, I hate what it does to the people I love.
My appetite had been sluggish since I came two weeks ago from the surgery. Just still feeling “full” all over even though my tummy is no longer distended.
I wouldn’t be seeing Rick at all today, a regular work day for him and then he had to travel an hour to London for a work related meeting. Sucks being home alone. It used to be okay when my furry girl was here with me. We talked a lot. Well I did the talking, she did the listening. We had a rhythm. I miss her presence terribly. I have forever lost my second shadow and still trying to find my way.
In the early evening I started getting chills that started from the bottom of my toes all the way up to the top of my head. Weird sensation, not a cold chill, but a tingly chill. This went on for an hour or so, and then the cramping started. I just continued to lay wrapped in my jammies and blanket on the couch, toughing it out hoping it would pass. Rick arrived home from his long day around 10 pm. I went up to bed and tried to sleep off the pains as I usually do because I am not a pill popper. I hate taking medications. Well, another hour passed with much tossing and turning and increased pain. The cramping was getting more intense, directly under my rib cage, upper abdomen, all across the left to right side of my body. It felt as if my insides were a soaking wet towel and it was getting wringed out. I hated to admit it, but I had to listen to my body. The pains took me right back to December 2009. They felt exactly like a bowel obstruction, when I was first diagnosed almost 4 years ago. “Rick, I need to go to the Emergency Dept”, I said. Not the words you want to say to your partner who has worked his ass off all day and night. He got dressed, I stayed in pj’s and away we went. All the way there I am getting more and more angry at cancer, this monster inside me. I am self diagnosing a blockage or an intestinal twist, possibly a complication from the surgery. I know I have not been over-doing things, remember how much t.v. I have been watching. Damn it! A complete hysterectomy, removal of the huge ovarian mass and now I have to deal with more crap? Enough already!!! Give us a break!
Oh shit, the Emergency waiting room is full of people. It’s going to be hours before we are seen. I asked Rick to please go home to get a good night sleep so he could function at work tomorrow. He refused and stayed with me. The triage nurse takes all my vitals and all levels are normal. I explained to her while doubling over with pains that I had a big operation just 2 weeks ago. Since I cannot comfortably sit in an upright position just yet in a normal chair (from the incision pains) , I politely asked for a bed to lie down on until I could be seen by a doctor, realizing that we will be here all night while doctors tend to caring for all the patients ahead of me. “We have no beds available Miss Roy, I am sorry”.
Rick was seated in the waiting room and I was immediatelyguided to a room to have some blood drawn for testing. It makes me nervous now to have blood taken because I have just had 4 transfusions to replenish my inventory, but I know I had to give them a few vials. Blood is truly a gift of life, I want to hold on to every droplet. The chair is so high and if I could even get on it my incision would hurt and my legs wouldn’t touch the floor. I am not a complainer. Here I am, on my own, been to this rodeo before. Dealing with the incision ouches and dealing with the increased cramping. I admit I am miserable, but I am smart and take matters into my own hands. It seemed at least 10 to 15 minutes before a nurse arrived to take my blood. All I could do was lean against the chair. I’m looking all over the room and reading labels on the medical supplies, pretending I am interested and at the same time trying to ignoring my pains. Still no nurse. I can see a stretcher in the back part of the room, partially hidden behind a curtain. I’m a smart girl, a stretcher classifies as a bed as far as I’m concerned, so I help myself. There aren’t any blankets on it, I don’t care if it’s been cleaned or not, I just need to get horizontal. Mounting myself onto it, wasn’t graceful, but I managed on my own. I lay there for another 15 minutes or so and the nurse arrives. She peeks her head in the door and calls “Miss Roy?”. My reply, “yes, I’m over here laying down”. Her eyes are kind and she says “stay put, I can draw your blood from there”. Another earth angel meeting, she is so nice and calm, and I am thinking about all the patients she has yet to deal with tonight. “You don’t look so well, I’m going to find somewhere quiet for you, I just don’t feel right sending you out into the waiting room”.
We were moved to another area in the emergency dept., behind the scenes. It’s quiet and dark, and the nurse directs us to another bed against a wall in a corner. Rick helps me get on to the bed because I am just so sore. I use his body to brace myself so that I can lay down onto my back gracefully inch by inch to avoid more hurt and strain. Rick has been keeping track of the pain situation. He says they are happening every 3 minutes or so and they last about 20 seconds. We have been in this area for approximately a half hour. There is a women in a bed next to me with a curtain separating us. Her companion says repeatedly to her, I love you honey. I take comfort in hearing that. I am always open to love and affection and I enjoy witnessing with sound & sight when others do the same.
Rick still refuses to go home to sleep. I am glad because I am actually feeling worse. “Rick, please find me something real quick because I think I am going to throw up”, I mumble with a very urgent tone. I don’t even think I got the whole sentence out and a bucket appears at my face. I didn’t have enough time to think, oh shit, this is going to hurt! If you have had abdominal surgery, you are well aware that sneezing and coughing are not pleasant, you feel like your guts are going to fall out. Well vomitting is about the last thing you want to do in this scenario. Oh God, I’m miserable and now starting to sweat. It’s still uncomfortable for me to lay on my side but I do the best I can because I do not want to choke on my own vomit. I haven’t been through all this to exit the world this way. What the heck could I possibly be throwing up? All I had was a little applesauce earlier today. Gross!!! I brace one foot against the wall and lean over. Rick is holding my body down by my legs so that I don’t have to strain my abdomen holding myself sideways. He makes himself a good brace between me and me falling off the bed. I think he has 8 arms because he is also handing me cold cloths and holding them on my forehead and another to clean my face. How he doesn’t throw up himself, I have no idea. He is a survivor! This is not our idea of a romantic evening.
It’s now 3:00 a.m. I have seen the doctor and they have given me pain meds and I’m instantly in a happy place, pain free. A nurse accessed the port in my chest and started a fluid drip, which I later learned would relax my intestines to ease the cramping. As Rick and I are telling the doctor my history, stage 4 colon cancer with liver mets, chemo, radiation, two weeks post surgery, staples still in, 4th operation in 3 years. His page of writing filled up quickly. He called my surgeon in London and woke him up, remember it’s 3 am. I can vaguely hear him talking on the phone to my surgeon. “Xray is clear but not ruling out bowel obstruction or surgical complication”, he says. “Ok, we will arrange for an ambulance right away for patient transfer to London”, he orders. Half hour later Rick is on his way home to catch a few hours sleep. I am transferred to a stretcher, and loaded into the back of the ambulance for a bumpy one hour drive. I arrive at hospital and finally I am more comfortable, I have a private room. I had no idea that I would be staying here for an additional 5 days, but so glad that I listened to my body and went to emerg.
Several tests were ordered over the next few days, CT scans, xray, bloodwork. One test was to extract a pocket of fluid that was trapped below my liver and above the kidney. It was suspected that perhaps this might be the problem for the cramping. “Are you sure you are okay with us sticking a large needle into your side under your liver so that we can extract the fluid and test it?”, I am asked. I replied “sure of course, I have been through much worse”. “Do you mind if a student nurse observes the procedure?”, I reply with a yes. Spencer looked very young like a first year med student. “Are you okay with big needles?”, I ask him. He replies with, “I think so”. I am prepped and draped for the harpoon as Rick later called it. I was brought here on a stretcher and the only thing I had to do was to make my way to lay on my side and remain extremely still. The radiologist guided the needle insertion by ultrasound photos on screen. It is important to remain very still as high risk for puncturing nearby parts. “Well, that’s not what I was expecting to see”, the radiologist states. My eyes roll toward my shoulder as she continues “it was a large blood clot sitting in there…. would you like to see it?”. Without hesitation I replied, “yep, sure”. There it was a big old blob of red inside the end of the needle. “Would you please sign this paper authorizing us to test for cancer & other?”
The blood clot was not cancerous, it was suspected to be left there from one of the prior surgeries, most likely the liver resection. After the procedure I had to remain flat on my back for the next 4 hours, my day nurse Tiffany had to come in to check my vitals every 15 minutes for the first 2 hours and then every 30 minutes for the remaining 2 hours. I didn’t realizae that this fluid extraction could potentially be that harmful but I am glad that I agreed to it. Blood clots are scary. During that time my neighbour and friend, Sher D. had surprised me with a visit. Although the pretty yellow rose she brought in was a cheerful gesture that I appreciated, it was her company and conversation that was the best gift. She held a glass of water for me so I could keep my head flat and wrap my lips around the straw. A visit with Sher guarantees that I will smile and of course a few tears are shed too. She always tells me that I am a source of inspiration for her. What an incredible thing to hear, it brings happy tears to my eyes. I pray inside my head that I never have to let anyone down.
The problem turned out to be that my intestines had paralyzed themselves. They just weren’t working and were stalled. This can happen after major trauma from surgery for example. When I was opened up, the surgeon checked over all my “insides” for any other signs of cancer. I guess our bowels don’t like to be man-handled. A few days of just fluid and bed rest did the trick and I was able to go home. A diet of no fiber was prescribed, applesauce, toast, bananas, and crackers were all I could tolerate without pains, which I hated because I most eat veggies and a lot of fiber. I slowly introduced some greens and good back in and now I am doing great.
This post turned out to be much longer and descriptive than I intended, but by keeping things real, it just may help someone else in the future going through something similar.
Now we just have to wait for two weeks to meet with my oncologist for the official results of the testing of the tumour and bloodwork.
The waiting game is tougher than the physical pain. I want to know what my future holds. Chemo or vacation?