COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE, HEALING HABITS: Week 3

Complementary medicine and other healing habits I get to try…

complimentary-medicine

The healing power of food

It’s been about three weeks since beginning chemo treatments for this liver metastases I’ve got, and nearly two months since diagnosis. The first two treatments were NOT SEXY. I did not tolerate them so well. Even with making extreme efforts to help each treatment go better, I have not seen any improvements.

It’s the nausea I’m most concerned with. The first two days of a treatment are fine, then when the chemo pump comes off is when the nausea sets in. Then I don’t want to eat or drink, which causes the side effects to be even worse. To start, I began with two prescription anti-nausea meds, plus one that was infused along with the chemo. Then I was prescribed another, I bought two herbal anti-nausea tinctures, fresh ginger, ginger tea and candied ginger. Plus I had the medicinal marijuana oil and vaporizer pen. If any of those don’t work, than the others will, right? None of it seems to work on those nausea days, so then I must wait to be productive until the chemo has settled out of my system.

Starting out, I found it extraordinarily difficult to keep a medication list because it was continually going out of date faster than I could print them out, yet it has been helpful. New symptoms, new supplements, new medications, more symptoms, medications to counteract the symptoms, etc, get it? I surrender! You know when you go to a new doctor office, you fill out patient intake paperwork, which includes a medical history, a list of current medications, etc. My medication list was just too long, so I’ve typed and printed a list of my prescription meds, supplements, how and when I take them, what dose, strength and duration. Now this handy list I print and give to the doctor will help determine which medications will conflict with which.

Also, I was getting stuffed full of pills each day, and how am I to know the ones need, which ones are working? My complimentary care oncologist went over the whole list and marked the ones I could leave out of the regimen for now, and ones that will be most helpful. That took the quantity of supplements down to a far more manageable half quantity, thank goodness.

Other side effects have included extreme fatigue, body aches (flu-like), neuropathy affecting finger tips, lips, teeth, constipation, diarrhea.

Holistic treatments to augment chemotherapy:

support_iv_cancerSupport IV therapy – infusion at Dr. Panutich’s office (my complementary care oncologist), and this contains amino acids, minerals, vitamins. It will do two things: agitate the cancer cells so the chemo acts more effectively, and nourish the healthy cells by protecting digestive lining (which tends to get burnt out from the chemo), muscle strength and soreness, dehydration, immune support.

acupuncture_needles_sticking Out from Feet

Acupuncture & Community Acupuncture

Acupuncture – two sessions per week; one with my naturopathic doctor, Dr. Shaver, and one at a community acupuncture session (Group acupuncture? Really?). After the first treatment, I did not notice a difference. After the second and third, however, I felt very relaxed, pain-free, and I do believe that with the chemo side effects, the acupuncture will work – we’ll see!

Medical Cannabis Oil

Medical Cannabis Oil

Medical Cannabis oil - a really, really potent concentrate of the leaf. Just a dabble of this makes my head spin, and I take it at night when I’m going to sleep.

vaporizer-pen

Vaporizer Pen – Medical Cannabis

The Pen – this is like an e-cigarette, except it is filled with marijuana oil, no nicotine. This should provide relief for nausea almost instantly. Again, we’ll see!

Continued exercise – strengthening, stretching, cardio, meditation. All are keeping my spirits and strength up and allowing me to feel accomplished.

Healing Habits:

I’ve been asked whether I follow any special diet, if I’m taking anything special for treatments, and yes, I am. Mostly, I am pretty moderate, but I do avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar, grains and dairy. I drink some when at a celebration, I can’t get by without some sugar, because it makes me happy. Grains, pasta, etc, I substitute yams. Matt and I harvest from the garden for most of our food. It’s sort-of a non-strict Paleo diet, the goal is to eat nutrient dense foods. Of course everyone has their food fetishes, their “needs”, but this is a good overall lifestyle. Along with the healing food, getting some creative time, some writing, visiting with friends and family, wearing comfy clothes, “getting out”, taking naps, and…

…just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down!

spoonful_of_sugar

WHAT’S WORSE THAN LOUSY? Week 1

Week 1

Man oh man, I want to eat greasy cheese so badly!! But my challenge today is to successfully keep an anti-nausea pill down, and then, maybe some pretzels! Gourmet bliss…

So, since I got on the fast track chemo plan, here’s what’s happened:

port-insertion

How the port works

Wednesday AM: Port placed under the skin on my upper chest.

Wednesday PM: Chemo Class. Almost two hours (!!)

Thursday AM: Infusion of steroids, fluids, anti-nausea med, and chemotherapy drugs. Portable pump hooked up to my port. All told, about 3 hours, plus 1 hour of oncology consult.

Friday: Did fine, exercised in the AM, some afternoon nausea, then went to dinner with Matt & my parents. Getting used to pump and tube dangling at my side making sounds like an automatic soap dispenser every 60 sec.

Saturday: Vomit, walk, eat some, drive to oncology clinic to get pump removed, fluids infused. Vomit again. Home, anti-nausea pill, vomit, sip water, vomit again, another anti-nausea pill, spoon of applesauce, ginger tea, vomit some more. Ok, what am I doing wrong here!!

Boy, did things change in a hurry! I was told at the clinic that the anti-nausea pills help one to feel not so nauseous, but not help with the vomiting. Huh? Oh great. >:-( I guess this will take a lot of experimentation. This, they remind me, is just the beginning. The meds will have a cumulative effect, then I’ll go from feeling lousy to feeling, what’s worse than lousy? Guess, I will let you know!

Matt is very sensitive and feels so sadly that he sees my misery and cannot protect me from it. I cannot reassure him, but I have to say, he is really showing strength, being gentle, unlike his usual exuberant self. It is not easy for a loving partner to stand by helpless.

In the meantime, I could not be happier than to lay motionless all day long in my bed in silence!! Getting taken care of, and dreaming about foods I miss. The little things!

POUR SOME CHEMO ON ME*

*Just a little ‘80’s metal mood. 

First of all, let me tell ya –

Don't get sick in the Fall

Don’t get sick in the Fall

Don’t get sick in the Fall. Everyone you need help from is on vacation then. Just FYI.

Gawd. It’s taken way too long since the diagnosis of the cancer recurrence (Aug 25th-ish) to get a surgeon chosen, get an oncologist and to get started on the treatments. Although I was waiting a whole two weeks for appointments with the oncologists I wanted to meet due to lengthy September vacations (and who can blame them?), luck happened and late last Friday afternoon Dr. Look (my original Portland onc) called to make sure I am getting my needs met. Turns out that HE is NOT on vacation and IS available to start my treatments after an appointment the following Monday.

So today I met Dr. Look for the outlay. He says chemo will be the same treatment no matter which oncologist I opt for. He is also open to collaborating with a complimentary care physician (naturopath).

Regimen:

The combination therapy he described is 3-4 different drugs, Oxaliplatin, 5FU pump, Leucovorin, and I think FOLFOX, too. To infuse all of these, they will install a port, a small device set underneath the skin on my upper chest with a catheter that connects to a vein where all intravenous chemicals/fluids can go in and blood samples can be drawn as needed. I will wear a pump for two days after each infusion (talk about a ball-and-chain), then have it removed for the remainder of the two week cycles. At about 2 months, I take a break from the infusions, and have the surgery, then resume chemo after a healing period. The remaining duration of the infusions will be determined by results from CT scans.

Side Effects:

The first treatment is likely to be the worst, and the first few days, especially, for nausea, neuropathy (tingling and cold sensitivity in extremities, mouth), some hair loss (but not necessarily all of it), diarrhea, anemia, other unpleasantness.

When will I begin:

This Wednesday they will install the port at the hospital, I will go home the same day. Wednesday night I take a class on chemotherapy (!!) – and it’s 2 hours! Ugh, I hope they make it fun, especially since it’s the same day I have the port surgery. Then the very next morning, Thursday, I get a pump hooked up and the first of the infusions at the oncology clinic. Saturday I will have it removed for the remaining two weeks until the next infusion.

I am working out a meeting with the complimentary care physician now, and will post an update on that soon.

So, here goes!get-the-ball-rolling

SECOND OPINION FOR SURGERY

Second opinion brought to you by… Barack Obama!?

Wow, oh, wow. That was a reeeeally long week! There was one week scheduled between the first surgeon meeting and the 2nd opinion, and when you’re not having fun, time does NOT fly by.

So, the 2nd opinion meeting was with a specialist in liver surgery at OHSU, Dr. Kevin Billingsley. First impressions told us we like this doctor. He was very easy to be around, inspired security and confidence, had a slightly different approach than the first surgeon, yet it made sense to Matt and I.

~ AND get this ~

President_Barack_Obama

barack-billingsley

You can’t deny, when you talk with him for a few minutes, that he looks, acts and sounds like President Barack Obama. No kidding! The pictures do not show the resemblance like meeting the doctor face to face, but his manor is direct, attention undivided, he expresses himself clearly and thoroughly, and he has a very friendly personality. What do you think? They could be brothers! Just sayin’. Barack Billingsley… or Dr. Billingsley Obama… Heh, a little fun.

The Approach

Dr. Billingsley’s approach was slightly different from Dr. Sheppard in that he prefers starting out with chemotherapy, a FOLFOX systemic chemo for 1 ½ months. This would zap me from head to toe and get all the rogue cancer cells in hiding. Next, surgical resecting of the liver, and finally a follow-up with chemo. This approach will A) shrink the tumors making surgical removal easier and more effective, B) At surgery time he will be able to see how well the tumors responded to the chemo and change to a more effective regimen for the follow-up therapy, if necessary.

Dr. Billingsley was very reassuring and optimistic about the recovery from this procedure being much easier than the colorectal resects I had done 2+ years ago, because that was a much more complicated surgery, more parts of my system were involved, for example, and there was more risk of infection. With this liver procedure, not only will the liver fully regenerate to it’s original size and function, but the odds are better now (compared to the last time, even) that the cancer will be abolished for good. So, that’s good news, too.

Next, I have appointments with two oncologists, in separate offices, set up for two weeks from now. Honestly, I believe we need more doctors because this waiting-around thing is for the dogs. It absolutely does not fit into my plan!

Both Matt & I feel pretty comfortable with this new approach, and the Dream Team is coming together!

Also, an update on the oncologist in California – he received my formal poison pen letter regarding my missing blood test results that would have warned me earlier of the cancer recurrence, and he called me immediately. He was extremely regretful that the error happened, however he explained that the results were nowhere to be found in his office, and upon ordering a copy from the testing lab, there was no doctor specified on the records for return of the test, so it never got sent and it fell into a black hole, nobody noticed. So it looks like more of a slip-up on the lab’s side. *Sigh* again, water under the bridge, and I gotta make sure that everybody is doing their job!

DREAM TEAM

With every diagnosis, there’s a team…

…of specialist practitioners that come together and integrate their expertise. And there is a period after the diagnosis when you helplessly wonder, “Where do I start? What do I need? How do I find the best people who will get me through this?” and so on. Then you start soliciting your doctors, friends and acquaintances for references to find anyone who can “fix this”. You spend hours online looking up doctor names, methods, remedies, terminology, facilities, on and on. You hear tons of stories of other peoples’ experiences, call and schedule appointments, get second opinions, research more, learn more, and decide on the team. Then you put your head down and go!

 

In 2012, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Matt and I in LA, and my parents in Portland mined our resources and came up with a team at St. John’s Hospital in California. There was:

1)   A gastroenterologist who did the diagnoses and referrals to the other diagnostic exams and to the medical team

2)   A surgeon who would remove the cancer

3)   The radiology oncologist who formulated the radiation treatment and calibrated the Big Machine

4)   The medical oncologist who formulated the chemotherapy and monitored the blood readings.

 

So, that’s at least four individuals who would get me from diagnosis to remission.

 

The team, in my opinion, was excellent. Their offices were in the same hospital, they knew each other and worked together all the time, they all knew where their part ended and the others’ began, each great people with highly expert credentials in their field – just what I wanted! It was very secure structure for me, a first-time cancer patient who was caught off guard in an unfamiliar town. I felt very lucky.

 

Fast forward a few years to the recent liver metastases diagnosis. I had not bothered to change oncologists when Matt and I relocated to Portland because I only needed someone who could analyze and keep track of quarterly blood test results and alert me if anything alarming appeared in them. I was on a 5-year plan to maintain quarterly blood tests, annual colonoscopies and CT scans. I found a GI doctor who would perform the colonoscopies and order my scans.

 

The medical oncologist in California dropped the ball and did not keep track of me or my tests. I missed an early warning four months ago in May, and was very alarmed with the August test results. Again a cancer diagnosis caught me off guard. Matt and I find ourselves in a very similar place as two years ago, scrambling to find the qualified and capable team of specialists for this particular cancer.

 

The dream team for the current liver cancer episode would include:

1)   A gastroenterologist who diagnosed and ordered the other diagnostic exams

2)   A naturopathic physician who referred me to:

3)   A naturopathic oncologist who is expert in helping my body’s strength and pluck during the chemo and surgical treatments, and ongoing needs afterward

4)   A medical oncologist who will formulate and direct the chemotherapy regimen

5)   A surgeon specializing in the liver who will remove the cancer

 

Tomorrow morning Matt and I will meet with the first of two surgeons for strategies to remove the liver nodules. The second opinion will be next Wednesday. Way too long to wait, in my humble opinion! Hopefully a surgery date will come up within the next two weeks. I’ve met with one medical oncologist, one naturopathic oncologist, and will meet a second medical oncologist later in September.

 

Each day has its ups and downs. We are staying very busy and taking it easy when we need. Although it’s been a lot of work, I feel good about what I’ve accomplished so far.

 

Thank you to everyone for the lovely thoughts and offers of help.

GOOD NEWS OR BAD NEWS FIRST?

Which do you want to hear first, the good news or bad news?

Now that I’ve learned definitively that I have a recurrence of cancer in my liver, that I am not “in remission” anymore, that I’m facing a new episode including surgery, chemotherapy, tests, hospitals, nurses, complications, recoveries… setbacks.

“Oh my God – What the FUCK?… I mean… what the FUCK!!?” Chris, my brother-in-law, echoed the disbelief already in Matt’s and my minds when we told him over the phone of the new diagnosis. We saw him and his daughters off to the airport just yesterday, after a weekend of sunshine and great sunset meals and river playing. Everyone one was healthy and fine yesterday. Today is grim business for just us two.

Matt and I have been through this once before. Getting the diagnosis, calling doctors, family, insurance, researching everything the doctors told us for hours and worrying about what’s ahead. The difference is that this time I have WAY better insurance (thank you Obamacare!), being more familiar with the process, we are better at putting the dysfuctional worry aside. Still, at bedtime the worry and unknown inevitably come back in the dark and worms around in our minds for hours.

I always take THE BAD NEWS first:

So the back story is, per doctor’s orders, I maintain quarterly blood tests, coordinating with my oncologist in Santa Monica whom I have worked with for 2 ½ years. I saw him last in January 2014. I also maintain annual colonoscopies and CT (Computed Tomography) scans per my new gastroenterologist’s orders. All have shown good results, and to my knowledge I have been in remission for over two years. Back with the original 2012 diagnosis for colorectal cancer, I had a CT scan reveal two liver cysts which concerned the doctors that they could be metastases from the rectal tumor, yet they could also be innocuous, a normal liver cysts that lots of people have, a reaction to birth control pills or some other chemical, which are unlikely to become threatening. The 2012 PET scan showed that these spots were of no concern.

*Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is a test where a radioactive isotope introduced in the blood stream shows thermal “hot spots” where active cells appear illuminated in the results, whereas CT, or CAT, scans use a large number of 2-D radiographic images to create a 3-D image of the inside of the body.

Last week, during my second annual colonoscopy check-up, I had a precancerous polyp removed from my colon. Nothing unusual or concerning, these are common and easily removed with no further action needed. The CT scan, a few days later, showed two “nodules”, or solid masses, which were new since last year. This result combined with the most recent blood test revealed elevated CEA levels (a cancer marker), caused my GI concern. He ordered a PET scan and recommended an oncologist appointment to discuss the results. Anxiety!

The scan was on Friday afternoon. When Matt and I showed up for the exam, we were surprised to find that it was a full-body scan. Was this a mistake? The spots were on my liver, after all. But it made sense even before it was explained; of course, if the cancer could spread to my liver, then it could also spread to the lungs, the brain, the bones, anywhere. I happily did the PET, then went home thinking, this is all a big joke and they’ll see that it’s nothing! Just the same old cysts, maybe they haven’t looked at this year’s and last year’s scans side by side? I’m healthy and happy in my life now.

Then there was a bleeping holiday weekend and most offices were closed on Friday, and all offices were closed on Monday, and it was hard to get a hold of any doctors or staff to ask questions, even to make appointments. Ok, so I got an appointment with the oncologist for Tuesday, thank goodness. All we wanted to know now was what the PET results were.

liver

The PET showed very clearly hot spots where the two liver nodules were (meaning activity, meaning cancer!!). Do you know how big a liver is? I really had no idea. It’s pretty huge! Anyway, there’s one nodule on the left and one on the right. The one on the left (or my right) is 3x3x4 cm, and the other is 2.5cm.

Holy lordy lord! That sounds really big to me. Considering we are talking one year ago that there was nothing but the cysts, and the CEA level in the blood was not alarming until now, either, these nodules sound really unreasonably large. Listening to what the doctor was telling me, all the worries I’d had during the night over the past weekend were coming back, and as I tried to focus on his words, I was intensely aware of my heart rate and how sharp my awareness was. Especially for Matt, who I knew was sitting next to me sweating outwardly and panicking inwardly.

THE GOOD NEWS IS:

frowny-face-high-blood-sugarThe nodules are compact and “localized” meaning they will be easily removed with surgery, and I will “still have a lot of liver left”, said the doctor. “Oh good!” I thought, although I like my whole liver, ayayay… frowny face.

There are no other occurrences than the two liver nodules.

The cancer has not proliferated throughout the liver, in which case they wouldn’t even attempt surgery, just attack with lots and lots of chemo.

So, I guess for a bad scenario, it could be worse! The recommendation of Dr. Look, the oncologist is to operate immediately to get the cancer out, and then they will know exactly what kind of cancer they are dealing with and will design a chemotherapy for it. This one will likely be systemic rather than targeted, so I’ll be shopping for wigs and warm headwear.

Now, I do have a second opinion with another oncologist scheduled for later this week, so, more to come.

Oh, my poor Matt. When we met I was the perfect picture of health and vitality. I had few needs, was a great friend, partner, lover, playmate, I added value to his life by being his foundation, loving unconditionally and taking care of anything he needed the best way I could. Now I feel like a real bummer! A disappointment. I expected that I would be healthy and strong into old age, take care of my darling husband, my parents, anyone else who needed me, and I’m being taken care of, now, in my 40s. Although I am staying positive, it’s hard not to not go to the dark places.

What the heck is my body doing? This is completely out of the plan! Not that there was a “plan” per se. I feel alienated from my body, like it’s letting me down, mysteriously letting illnesses get in, getting weak. But it’s my body. It’s life. And just when I was getting everything back in sync, seeing a NP, a Naturopathic Physician, who is helping me reestablish an equilibrium with diet and lifestyle, peace of mind, etc. Sometimes, she said during a recent appointment, these diseases are not caused by immediate environment, or just the previous generation or two. These diseases can go back 3-4 generations to the conditions our ancestors experienced and telegraphed through the generations. Also, as was brought to my attention,that the ancient Egyptian remains show evidence of cancer.

Makes sense to me, because how could some of the healthiest people still get terminal illnesses? The answer is, it’s beyond them. This notion, at least, allows me to believe I really didn’t do anything “wrong”, and I can blame my ancestors. Hee hee. Small comfort.

Good news and bad news aside, ONWARD! A new chapter begins.

WOUND CARE

The last few days have sort of normalized regarding wound care for the MEAT FLAP.

wound_care_medical_supplies

Nothing has changed. It looks the same as the first day I removed the dressings to take a peek. The only difference I could see was a greyish creamy matter at one end of the opening. Any changes, to me, are to be regarded with suspicion and concern for more potential complications.

I had put in a call to a resource referred to me by the bedside nurse after my procedure called “Wound Care Clinic”. She listened patiently to Matt’s description of what the surgeon told him to do to care for the incision, then she said, “There are better ways”, like in this whispery, far-off, mystical tone.

“Better ways,” Matt and I repeated looking at each other. Huh. She wrote the contact name and number down on my discharge instructions, and away we went.

Then, after a few days of this seemingly ridiculous routine of Matt performing his interpretation of what the doctor instructed him to do each morning and evening, we decided we needed to see this Wound Care specialist.

florence-nightingale-wound-care

Florence Nightingale

Today Matt and I went to the Wound Care Clinic at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center. The nurse, Sue Wilson, was like a refreshing breeze. She was the Florence Nightingale of Good Sam. She kept reaching out to put a tender hand on my wrist or hand, to express reassurance, that she was truly sorry that I’d had to endure the disease and procedures that I had, and she wants to help as many patients as she can take the complication out of their post operative wounds. There were a number of patients waiting to see her in the lobby.

She listened to Matt regale the story of Dr. Childs and the meso-rectal envelope and the stoma-gone-wrong to the hernia “blow-out” and repair surgery, then the instructions that Dr. Tseng had given to care for the “meat flap”.

Florence, I mean Sue, proceeded to lay me back on the exam table and examine the unbandaged wound. “Well, it looks great,” she said, mildly impressed. “It’s a clean cut, consistent color; it’s been well cared for” (I gave Matt a high-five later). Then she warned me she would clean and poke around to inspect it, that it may hurt. I noted that I don’t really feel hurt with this one. Apparently, in ostomy sites, which this was, nerves are damaged and it’s common that people will not feel pain. (That was our first ah-ha moment. That’s why I did not need my pain meds much after the surgery!)

Then she cleaned inside the wound, and to our surprise, a 5-inch long Q-Tip slid easily into a channel under the skin about 2 inches (Ayayay!). That’s where the infection track went. An infection leaves a trail, like snails do! (Another ah-ha.) Or at least like a train track.

She noted the measurements; how deep the tissue was, how long the incision, how far the channel went…

She then introduced a product that is seaweed (kelp?) -based. It looks like angel hair in a bag. With this, instead of packing with gauze, it helps the tissue stay nourished and it absorbs wound drainage. The name… blah blah, it’s a new one, …KALTOSTAT. Then she loaded brown paper bag of water-proof bandages that I can wear while showering, some Q-Tips, adhesive protection spray (to make it easier to remove the adhesive bandages from my skin) for me to take.

 

The Last Ah-ha

Now, naturally, I think, Matt and I have been gravely concerned about the cleanliness and preparation of our at-home exam table (the bed) and countertop, hands, etc, to avoid any possibility of introducing a whole new infection to the area. Rightly so. When you cut your finger, you use alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls, Neosporin, band-aids for protection, you name it, on the wound to keep it from getting infected. And if you don’t? It gets infected! And the infection gets worse and worse until you do it right for long enough that it heals up.

In this case, that’s not necessary, it turns out!

Sue said, “You can change your dressings every 1-2 days, and if you shower every day, just let the water run over the wound” (??!?). Yeah; just shower like you normally do, and don’t pay any special attention to the incision (?!?!). Soap and water will not hurt anything, it will be good for the cut to be irrigated by the water (!!?!).

Gah? Totally counter-intuitive, no? I knew that the surgeon just knew something we didn’t or he would have given WAY more specific care instructions. So weird.

Other than that, I feel more energy. Kombucha, green tea, lots of fresh turmeric root, ginger, garlic, water… kind of what I usually do, just more of it. I introduced wine last night for the first time in over a week, and I maintain a strict regimen of ice cream after dinner. I can exercise (walking and not too much upper-body stuff), watch Matt work/play out in the garden. In the next few months we will be eating from home-grown bounty!

Anyway, that’s the short story (ha ha) of what’s been up the last few days.

MEAT FLAP

What do I make of this?

 

I posted some graphic photos at the bottom of this. For anyone who has a sensitive stomach, do not scroll down to see these shots.

 

Enjoying a contented, easy day of post surgery rest and relaxation, I had no stress, Matt had made sure I was comfortable and was now onto the work that he’d put on hold to be with me through surgery day. I was being ever so cautious and gentle with every movement so as not to stress my abdomen.

 

He had volunteered to change my surgical dressings, which were to stay in place for 24 hours post-op. Oh, my angelic husband; he was installing an air conditioning unit, and when it came time I carefully removed the dressings which had soaked up a good amount of fluid from the wound. What I found, I just couldn’t comprehend. I thought, “Did the doctor forget to stitch me up?” There was a surgically clean gash about 2-1/2 inches across my abdomen looking at me like a piece of raw, flayed steak, and underneath that, some kind of matted mass of gauze.

 

Matt dropped what he was doing and rushed over while questions were reeling through my mind and my mouth. I didn’t feel so well, and sat on the bed to allow some nausea and light-headedness to pass. As Matt prepped new dressings, he explained that the doctor said that this would be the only way this sort of wound would heal, “from the inside out”, and not to panic, it would be ok.

 

I lay down on the bed while Matt used some rudimentary tools to pull the gauze from underneath the meat flap, which did not want to let go where it was holding on. Oddly, it did not hurt, yet I was in shock from the sight of the gore.

 

Matt turned on my camera phone and handed it to me and said, “We should film this. Here, take some pictures!” Oh, Matt! I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do less… yet, I knew he was right, I mean, isn’t this a once-in-a-lifetime event, dealing with a live wound on his wife’s belly? So I obliged, making a pathetic mug for the camera, which didn’t take much effort.

 

After several minutes of gently tugging, the gauze finally pulled free and Matt finished dressing me with the fresh materials.

“I can’t believe they let me do this,”

he mused, referring to the medical staff sending him home with the responsibility of keeping the flesh clean and alive. I couldn’t either. Doesn’t it seem like something a trained professional should be doing given the risk of infection, or flesh necrosis? It seemed like a big responsibility for my husband to take on for me, let alone for me to do on myself??

Baffled, I am!

The hissing in my ears from the shock of the ordeal finally wore off and I napped until dusk.

I felt better when I woke up, but was extra-cautious of my movements now that I knew I had a meat flap to protect!

~

~

~

~

~

~

Grossed-out

Grossed Out

~

~

~

~

~

~

~

franken-bunny

Yeah, kind of like that!

~

~

~

~

~

~

~

~

~

~

~

meat_flap

Meat Flap

pathetic_mugs

Our Very Most Pathetic Mugs

gauze_extraction

Gross Gauze Extraction

STITCH INFECTION: ABDOMINAL SURGERY RECAP

Surgery for the infection underneath my abdominal skin went as well as it could have yesterday.

Abdominal_Infection_SurgeryMatt delivered me to the hospital and stayed with me the entire time (that they would allow him). He was such a good sport, yet I felt badly that he would have to take an entire day away from his obligations for this little medical hic-up, and worry about me for hours on top of it all. Argh! Well, what could be done?

 

After a fast from midnight building up to the procedure, Matt & I made it to the hospital on time at 9:00am for an 11:00 procedure. The surgeon was running an hour and a half behind, so it was quite a long wait, but no worry, I could catch up on all the wonky politician statements in the voters pamphlet, ha!

 

Then the anesthesiologist appeared. Oh good, I thought, we’re getting close. I just wanted to get home. After the hernia repair, back in October 2012, I remember waking up and fighting nausea for hours. That kept me at the hospital until 11:30 at night when my stomach finally settled. I made sure they would mind the anti-nausea medication this time. Ok, it was a deal. Dr. Tseng came in and reiterated the planned procedure. We told him to go take a break and get lunch, we would be happy to wait until he felt ready (he was 1-1/2 hours behind schedule, for some unknown reason, possibly a stressful one!). He laughed assured us he would.

 

Next think I know, I was in the recovery room (funny, the passing of time). The nurse was buzzing around my bedside and I heard Matt’s voice coming around the corner. All went well, and I passed this test. No nausea to speak of. I ate some ice chips, then sipped some water, then added saltines on top of that. I was out of it, but felt good. About an hour and I took two Oxycodone for some creeping soreness, and got dressed, and we left! It was about 4:00pm; a full day.

 

The doctor had found some extra suture material under the smaller of the two pimples on my abdomen, which would have made it impossible to fight off an infection, then removed some of the mesh from under the larger pimple. He found no tracks of infection leading to other areas under the skin, so was confident he excised everything he needed to in order to vanquish the infection. Let’s hope. Now I will be “packing the opening” with gauze to draw out fluid as the infection drains. The nurse recommended instead that I see a healing specialist who will have some alternative methods of healing the wound. I guess packing went out of fashion? Not too fond of it, myself.

 

I felt some wetness on my clothes and the wound had been weeping through the bandaging and all three layers of clothing, already! I think this is good? My body is expelling the infection? I am not to change the dressing for 24 hours, so I packed on a hand towel and pulled up a fitted cotton skirt to aid holding it in place. I looked as white trash as possible with my hot pink tank top, short, fitted skirt and bulging belly bandages. Ha!

 

It was such a beautiful, sunny day, a good day for recovery on the couch! And Matt stopped at the grocery store to buy some salmon and halibut to barbecue. It was peaceful at home. I snoozed for a while. We watched The Social Network, which we enjoyed. Even though we were both tired, we had a lovely date!

 

Fingers crossed, now we wait and see. Only if the infection does not go away or the hernia reappears will I be back in the hospital.

STITCH INFECTION REVISITED

Infected sutures from my prior surgeries are creating a complication today.

My next surgery happens tomorrow morning.

Let’s back up.

The 3 weeks of antibiotics prescribed to me took care of the infection in my hernia area for a few days. Then it came back. GRRR! Well, I had to expect it would happen that way, as it was foreseen by the fates. So, less than a week after the antibiotics ended, a pimple formed where an old one was. Then over time a redness appeared in the hernia scar itself and grew to a large pimple and opened up again. Ok, we’ve got to take care of this. Now.

My hernia surgeon is not on my new insurance plan, so I scheduled consultations with two alternate surgeons to get their opinions. Their opinions were in agreement on the approach to clean out the sutures and mesh from the hernia repair, thank goodness, and I scheduled a procedure for tomorrow! Rest assured, it should be a minor procedure. My surgeon wants to put me under, so he can really get under the skin and make sure he understands the problem and gets rid of all infected material. Ok, I don’t really want to be aware during that. Very likely that he won’t replace the mesh.

The hernia may not come back, but it could. It could come back tomorrow or it could come back any time in the future. Then it can be repaired – again – at that time. But tomorrow it will be an in-and-out procedure. I will come out of OR (the operating room), then once my vitals prove stable I can go home, probably mid-afternoon, then back to business the next day. Ok, I can deal with that.

The surgeon who provided the second opinion cautioned, a full fix on this hernia could take “a while”. Yeah, I kind of figured. It’s quite amazing how complicated these hernias can be to fix. You could have a handful of surgeons review the same situation, and have a handful very different opinions on how to fix it. There are lots of material and technological options for surgeons to use, and there are a lot of body types among patients. Every patient will respond differently to a chosen treatment.

So, it seems to be a moving target.

Wishes of luck will be appreciated! I will update here once I am out.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 353 other followers

%d bloggers like this: