Wednesday, May 27, 2009

All my Life's a Circle...

...and I can't tell you why. But some good things are starting to happen, finally. We're moving towards the up part of the cycle, for which I am grateful. For a while, I was wondering if there was an up side to be found.

Jim's been hired to work for, a company that sells performance Mustang parts over the phone. He'll get his own cubicle, make fair money, and work good hours. He's excited, and I am, too. This sounds like it'll be a good opportunity for Jim, and a decent place to work, too. Jim's glad to be done searching, too. He's been trying really hard to stay positive, but I can tell he was worried. They're even fine with Jim taking his fourth of fifth day off of work to be at the hospital on the 8th. The only down side to that is that I'll be spending a lot of time after my operation at the house alone, but I have some friends who will come up and get me juice and remind me to eat.

Speaking of the surgery, I'm a bit frustrated. Because I have two surgeons, I have to sign two sets of consent paperwork. I have to drive to Philadelphia, at least a forty minute drive, to wait an hour or so to see my doctor, to spend fifteen minutes confirming that yes, I know what's going to happen and signing paperwork. It has to be done in person, in the doctor's office, or they won't operate on me. I understand the need to cover themselves legally, but well, I know what this operation entails. I know that it's a serious thing, and I know what the possibilites are. I have already signed off on this, and it just frustrates me to have to waste and entire morning sorting out two pages of paperwork. Weren't computers supposed to make paperwork a thing of the past?

Work has been pretty rough, too, since I'm just being reminded why I hate my job so much. Still, I only have a few days left to deal with all the drama and all the angry people, and then I have eight weeks to worry about other things and get ready to look for a new job again. I can make it! I'm trying to keep using Tylenol to take the edge off of my chest pain while I'm at work, but it's just not doing the trick. My doctor's office gave me something new to try, and I don't think I'm a fan. It still makes me dizzy, and it left me hungover this morning, since I took some not too long before bed last night. I'm trying to control the pain as well as I can, since Melissa the intrepid nurse tells me that if your pain isn't under control before an operation, it's much more difficult to control afterwards.

It makes me a little sad that I've learned so much about pain lately. It has its own language, its own set of rules. You have to learn to talk about your pain, to analyze it. Is it throbbing? Stabbing? Pulsing? How long does it last? Are there triggers? How does it rate? Doctors and nurses ask you continually about pain, they tell you not to be brave or to tough it out. To admit that you hurt and how you hurt. I never make a secret of it when I'm in pain, but it's still strange to talk about pain, to get to know it, to recognize it as part of you. Something about all that makes me feel old.

It's getting a little late, and I should get to sleep soon so I'm rested up for another long day tomorrow. I hope the last couple of days between you and the weekend go quickly and smoothly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In Memory...

...because it was, after all, Memorial Day. And while it's been turned into the first official beach weekend of the summer, and a consumer sales orgy, and an extended weekend, it is still about remembering. Remembering the roughly 4,300 people who have died in the last six years in Iraq. The roughly 1,1oo people who have died in Afghanistan. The countless others who died in Vietnam, in Europe, in Korea, in America, even. We should remember, and we should celebrate them. These people, whether they chose to or not, died for us, for our country, and for our freedom. And all so very many of us do is pack a cooler and sit in the sun. This is a day to be grateful, to enjoy the freedom to ignore the significance. But each of us living here, each of us who can speak freely or who can congregate peacefully, or who can expect a fair trial and believe as we choose, we should be grateful. I hope wherever you are, whatever you do today to celebrate, that you take a moment to realize the enormity of the sacrifice that has gone into our country. These people are gone, but we should never forget. They have helped shape us and protect us. They, not the generals nor the strategists, are the heroes. So, to whomever of you has lost someone, my condolences, and my deepest thanks. I'll hold you in my prayers tonight.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Official Surgery Date!!!

And it's the early one, too! I'm not sure what kind of favors my doctor called in to score the 8th for me, and I may not care to know, but I'm glad, all the same. I'm going into surgery wayyy early on June 8th.

I'm trying to go back to work for the next two weeks, but according to my boss the business is slow and there may not be hours for me. She's checking on some things for me, but I'm not holding my breath. Looks like I might be looking for a new job once I'm recovered. I'll deal with the work drama as it comes, though. I'm trying hard not to borrow trouble. I have enough to worry about as it is, no?

That's about all the news I have for you guys right now, I just wanted to keep you all posted on the medical front.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Waiting sucks...

...Since my doctor still can't tell me when my surgery is actually scheduled for. At this point, we've narrowed it down to either the 8th of June or the 29th. Good times, friends. As soon as I find out, which will hopefully be this week, I'll contact my boss and make arrangements to come back to work for a couple of weeks or a month. I can't afford to be without the income, and there's no reason for me not to go back, at least physically now. Apparently, the major holdup for Melissa, my surgeon's amazing, intrepid nurse, is booking an operating room. Thoracic rooms are special (and crazyfish high-tech. seriously, it's oddly comforting to get wheeled into such a complicated-looking place for surgery) and since we have to do the surgery at a different branch of the hospital to accommodate the neurosurgeon, who we'll probably only need for about ten minutes of the darned procedure, things are complicated. Man, I can't do anything the easy way.

In the mean time, my back is hurting increasingly often, and the twinges in my side are becoming more frequent. I'm only allowed to take low-grade pain killers, and Laslow-Mitford laughs at my Tylenol. When I spoke to my surgeon last, he mentioned that the nerves this tumor is wrapped around are going to be removed. Thankfully, they're sensory nerves, and so I'll have all my usual motor skills and there's no real risk to that. The concern I have is that they're not sure how removing these nerves will affect me. These nerves control a strip of my chest from my armpit to about halfway down my ribs, and there are a couple of possibilities. I could end up numb. There are different types of numbness, from total lack of feeling, to the tingling, uncomfortable type of numbness. The other option is that I could end up in pain. Basically, my back and side may never stop bothering me, and may only get worse. Since the pain has been debilitating a few times already, I'm truly not looking forward to that. But, I'm crossing my fingers, because all of these are only possible outcomes. There's no way to find out what will actually happen until after the surgery.

The other thing I found out is that I'm definitely going to have a frontal incision. What this means is that the incision is going to start a few (maybe two to four) inches below my neck and continue about halfway down my ribs and wrap around to my side. My sternum will be cracked (i get pins to hold me together, jim's jealous, he thinks it's the first step to me becoming bionic) and I will have a lovely, charming scar straight down my chest.

I'm of two minds about my future scar. I know it's frivolous to worry about, but pondering the cosmetic aspects keeps me from worrying about waking up with not one, but two full-sized chest tubes (that was the worst part of the first operation, those things hurt quite a bit), or the possibility that I'll need a second operation (because my lung has been squished for so long, there could be a layer of scar tissue built up that will have to be removed. the removal may happen at the same time, or it may happen later. either way, this will suck quite hard, and require longer use of chest tubes.) or any of the dozen other worries I have. Vanity is much more fun. Much, much more fun.

So, the future scar. I was rooting for a backal incision (that's the technical term, so far as i'm concerned), since that would be easier to keep covered while it heals. On the one hand, I have definitely earned any and all scars I take away from this. They're battle scars, and I'm strangely proud of that. On the other, ewwww! Big ugly scar right on my chest. I'm a moderately attractive young woman. Finding any kind of shirt that will cover me up to the neck without making me look like I'm either being pretentious about my modesty, old, or has a turtleneck (i have a thing about tight stuff around my neck. it makes me flail) can be pretty difficult. And I'm not in the market to make my own clothes. I've decided that I'm going to treat myself to another tattoo, when I get my tax return next year or if I find a decent job before then. It'll be pretty ambitious, and I may drag Momolla out with me, but there's no way to make it cover my whole chest attractively. See, I'm going to get a tree of life, with the words I am never broken down by the roots, and the branches reaching up, hopefully covering the scar. It'll be off-center, more on my side than on my back, really, and I'm kind of excited about that. And a little wary, because I had never really planned on a large-scale tattoo before. And so, I'm opening this up for discussion. If it were your body and your scar, how would you treat it? Would you wear it with pride? Cover it up? Act like it wasn't there?

And that, my darlings, is about all I have to offer you today. I'm all anxious about when I'll hear from my surgeon, so there's nothing else of note going on, except for whatever is eating the leaves on my beans. When I find it, whatever it is, I will kill it. Dammit, something in my garden is going to grow and produce if it kills me and all the neighbors!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tentative Surgery Date...

...I'm scheduled for the 26th, since it will be an all day cut-o-rama of fun for my surgeon. Because of the type of tumor this is (totally benign! i love saying that!) there may be some spinal involvement. So, I might need a neurosurgeon to tag-team with my thoracic surgeon. The surgery will probably take even longer then, but the recovery time will still be the same. I'm aiming for the shortest recovery time ever. I'm one of their youngest patients, that dream doesn't seem too far out of reach to me. I should have a definite date by Monday or Tuesday, so I can start getting things planned and ready to go. How weird is it, I'm looking forward to this surgery like some people look forward to a vacation? I'm double-excited for it, because this is pretty much definitely the cause of the back pain I've been dealing with for so long. Once the alien spine baby is gone, so is the back pain. Plus, breathing again! How cool will 100% lung capacity be? And laughing without coughing when I'm done. Right. That's enough enthusiasm for a week-long hospital stay and a six or seven hour procedure.

One of my Jersey girls, Amy, is planning and hosting a beef and beer event for me. We've got the 30th tentatively set as the date, which means I more than likely won't be there. But hey, that ups the sympathy factor and that means maybe people will be more inspired to donate and help a sister out, right? Roxie very kindly sent over a pair of lovely scarves and a willie warmer (plus a book and some other great presents. man, she's awesome!) Momolla is knitting a shawl, Amy's sister will probably donate some gorgeous earrings, I'm going to whip out some scarves (staying home constantly has me bored to the point of eating my own hair, but it's done wonders for the knitting productivity.) Kate is knitting a couple of evening bags for me and might yet get a landscape done, too. Her friends are going to chip in, too, with some shirts and some art. Jim's dad knows the owner of a bar, who volunteered to shut her facility down for a few hours for us on a weekend, and will cover the cost of all the food we serve. It's incredibly generous, and it means that pretty much everything we make will be profit, which is double cool because profit equals rent and utilities and medical bills for me. My insurance company is swearing I never sent the my paperwork saying this is NOT a pre-existing condition (seriously? do they think i'd just let the alien spine baby chill for a year or two if i knew about it?) and are refusing to pay my hospital bills now. I have to re-file the paperwork, figure out what I owe to whom, and generally make more phone calls than should be necessary.

And yet, none of the paperwork or the phone calls seems like such a hassel, really. I don't have anything else to do. Jim and I talked about it today, and it's just not worth me going back to work for two weeks and then going on leave of absence again (the paperwork wouldn't be done in time, anyway, with the way my boss operates). For one thing, I don't trust my boss to not abandon me by myself for hours on end, which would be bad. I'm not as nappish as I have been, but I tire easily and I need to take breaks from whatever it is I'm doing pretty frequently and I just don't see that happening at work. Plus, working anything less than forty hours would screw up my benefits and that would go poorly. And I'm not up to a full forty-hour week yet. So, I get a vacation of sorts. I'm using the time to knit like a fiend and to spin. I'm starting an Etsy shop so I can have some sort of income, and so that I have something to do with the long, flat things I keep knitting (as a wise knitter pointed out, patterns should be avoided while you're on narcotics. damn, i'm off the narcotics, and i still can't count to two consistently).

In other news, my grandfather (dadums' dad) died a few days ago (he was 93, it wasn't exactly a shock). That makes me sad, but only for Dadums. I've never met my grandfather, so I can't pretend to mourn the man. Somehow, though, that makes me sad. I've always regretted not knowing my exteded family very well, and now I'll never have the chance to know my grandfather. And speaking of family members I'm not close to, one of Momolla's cousins has pancreatic cancer. I'm sketchy on the details, but it's pretty advanced. As I understand it, she's at the point where all they can do is make her comfortable for whatever time she has left. My heart hurts for my Aunt Joan, who's been a grandmother to me, and who I'm sure is hurting, knowing that she'll outlive a child. Her relationship with my cousin has been a bit strained for a while now, but in the end, it's still her child who's hurting and sick. I can't imagine that kind of pain.

So, yeah, my family's been getting a little roughted up on lately. Still, we're resilient enough for humor. Just today, I told Kate she should look into a bubble (kind of like a hamster ball, how much fun would that be?) because the Kifferley family genes aren't kind these days. And Momolla, gracious as ever (hi mom!) was teasing me about her good health. She pointed out that she's made it to fifty with relatively few health issues to handle. I told her that was the kind of talk that warranted an alien baby attack. She refused to be intimidated.

And that's all the news that isn't here at Lake Royersford. Here's hoping that your weekend goes smoothly and gently, and that you get sunshine and the sound of children laughing and bossing each other around. We had about ten minutes of that today before the clouds came back out, I'm hoping for some sun this weekend, or I might turn into a mushroom.

Monday, May 4, 2009

At Least it Sounds Sexy... being the sadly mis-named alien lung baby. Yes, friends, the alien lung baby is actually an alien spine baby. Laslow-Mitford is something called a schwannoma, which is a growth of the cells that make up the myelin sheath, which has something to do with nerves. I'm waiting to hear more from my doctor, so I don't have a very technical grasp of it yet, but this is good news. Very good news. Schwannomas are generally treated with surgery, at the worst I'll be looking at brief general radiation treatments.

Full post when I know more, which should be later tonight or tomorrow. I just wanted to keep you guys all updated. Jim, Coll, and I are heading out to have some ice cream to celebrate. Finally, a conclusion!