Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hospital Fun (with a capital F U)

Well, I got out of the hospital on Tuesday last week.  I survived the internet withdrawal only because I didn't have enough brains left to even bother searching down a login to get into the hospital's patient Wi-Fi.  Honestly for hospital stays this one was pretty good.  Other than being scared and crying as they were putting me on the operating table, and one nurse who, while not incompetent, didn't have the time of day for me except when she wanted to boss me around, it was a comfortable stay at least.

The crying was expected.  I knew it would happen.  One of the helpers in the operating room even gave me a squeeze and said that I was in good hands.  I told them that I knew that, but honestly the faster I was under, the faster I would stop crying.  The next thing I know I'm waking up... and puking.  I guess as soon as they started bringing me out from under the anesthesia I was puking unconsciously.  Seven times before I remember even doing one.  Gah.  My body doesn't like the drugs.  Then off I go, wheeled to my private hospital room.  $40.00 for a private room so I can rest when I need to, room service 3x daily, and all the drugs I need?  Sign me up!  The drawbacks, the blood test pokes done 2-4 times daily.. in the back of the hand for lack of another free space.  Still have bruising from all the pokes...

All the nurses I had were great.  They were using their skills in pillow organizing to help me get comfortable, they listened to me and my concerns, gave me different options for pain management, and the nursing assistants were there to help me get up and walk because movement does speed the healing process a bit.  I say all this but for one exception as previously mentioned.  The exception, the Un-Nurse, didn't seem to have the time of day for me, and when presented with her when all the other nurses were wonderful, the differences were glaringly obvious. 

For example, I would ring if my pain started to come back, sometimes I would make it to the allotted 4 hour interval, sometimes not.  Even if it wasn't yet time to give me some medication, a nurse would come and let me know when I was due next and would see if they could do something else to make me comfortable.  Not the Un-Nurse.  One time I knew that I was due for medication within the next 15min, and I knew it for a fact because I'd had another puking spell, taken some meds and gone back to bed by 5:30am.  So I rang asking for my next dose at 9:15an.  30min go by of me fading in and out of consciousness and trying to ignore the pressure that's coming back into my neck.  I ring again and they say again that they will send my nurse over.  10:00am comes around, the pressure is still building, and she finally bustles in the door and says, "I can't give you your medication until it's due."  I think I told her that it was due over half-an-hour ago, but it may have been inside voice because this is a very tired, zombified Shanna during the hospital stay.

On the Saturday morning after my surgery, she was my nurse and suddenly she's in my room and saying, "Okay, time to take that catheter out!  I want to see you up and walking!"  Now at this point I had gotten up a total of 2 times to take a short walk; the first to the door of my room and back, the next to get out of my room and walk two doors down and back.  That's it.  Plus, I was feeling dizzy and faint a lot of the time before I had my surgery; now it was doubled. 

I started arguing with her, telling her that I'd only gotten up and walked twice, and I was dizzy.  She starts saying that it has to come out because I need to get up and walk around, that if it stays in I could get a bladder infection, and that if they needed to help me to the bathroom every hour that they would do so.  I start thinking about how it takes her at least 20min to answer any call and I'm panicking.  I tearfully argue more with her, saying that I was just going to go for another walk (which I was) and then the Nurse Assistant (NA) was going to give me a sponge bath, so could we wait till later.  She just looks at me with disdain, and says, "Fine, but it's coming out before the end of my shift."  Exit stage right.

Gah.  So I did do what I said, and as soon as I was done I closed my door and napped for 2-3 hours, because I was exhausted.  I didn't see hide nor hair of her.  Even when I called for more pain meds she sent another nurse, saying she was busy.  Perfectly fine by me.  She finally came in at 2:45pm to take the catheter out, just before the end of the shift.  This time I was actually ready for her to do so.  All I had needed was some time and some real rest, and for her not to be there so I could count on someone answering my call if I needed help getting to the bathroom.

My last straw on dealing with her though was when on Monday morning she put a note on my file for discharge.  The discharge decision is supposed to be between the surgeon/doctor and the patient, and is no business of the nurse.  Now, on Monday I was honestly in no shape to go home.  I'd had a few bad nights dealing with some drug reactions on my part that mostly caused lots of nausea and some puking.  T3's were one... guess I don't handle the codeine very well, or at least not 2 tablets worth.  I needed some really good sleep, and I also needed to get up and go for a few more walks around the unit.  I didn't find out about the note she put on my file until the next shift came in and asked if I was being discharged today.  Grrrrrr...

I ended up asking if could request not having a particular nurse.  They said I could, so I did and told them a couple of the reasons why.  They brought it towards the head nurse and let me know the request was in.  Unfortunately, I think it was too late to request for the next day, because there was the Un-Nurse, bright and early Tuesday morning.  Now this morning I knew I was getting discharged.  We had figured out my nausea thing, I had finally gotten a decent sleep at night, both neck drains were gone, and I was actually feeling ready to go home.  I go through the morning with the Un-Nurse paying a bit more attention to me since she had to remove IVs and go through papers and such.  When my hubby shows up, she disappears again.  He put all the flowers in a cooler and grabbed my backpack and such, then went to get the car, both of us expecting someone to wheel me down.  I even had let the Un-Nurse know that I was leaving in 5min and that I was just saying good-bye to someone in the unit.

So, there I am, sitting in my room again, waiting for the Un-Nurse to come and give me the meds she said she was sending me home with.  Finally I use the call button.  Waiting... both her and the NA show up, she gives me the meds and asks if I'm going home.  I said yes, my husband is waiting with the car downstairs.  (I'm saying this as I'm sitting in the wheelchair).  I even go to turn the wheels myself and she gives me heck because I'm not allowed any strenuous activity for 2weeks after the surgery.  But then the Un-Nurse walks away.  I turn to the NA and say I need a ride downstairs, so she takes off after the Un-Nurse to see if she can push me down to the lobby.  Waiting.... 10min pass and nothing.  So I finally get out of the wheelchair and push it over to the front desk, then sit down again just as the head nurse is getting off the phone.  Turns out it's my husband who is wondering where the heck I am.  I told her I've been waiting for someone to give me a ride out of here but no one has come.  She calls my NA and I finally get to escape.  Geeze...

But even with all this I have to say a big thank you to the rest of the nurses in Unit 29 at the Peter Lougheed.  You were all wonderful.  Thank you for your kindness, your support, your warmth and compassion.  Even though I have shared the bad, you truly did make my stay a good one.  As soon as I'm better I'll be gracing you all with a big bucket of joy filled with chocolate chip cookies.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Goddess give me Serenity, give me Strength

It's crunch time.  I've finished all my Christmas shopping except for one present; we did pictures with the kidlets (even after removing zinc diaper cream from Owen's hair on the same day... pics to follow as soon as I can).  We've cleaned the house as much as it's going to get cleaned.  I had my pre-surgery Reiki treatment to help me heal better after.  My bag is almost fully packed for the hospital, just needs the last minute stuff in it.  I've loaded up my iPod with eBooks (thanks CaRWA ladies for putting out stuff to read!), and I've even ripped some movies into it as well.  I've gone through all my pamphlets about what to expect with the surgery and after, some of them twice.  I've told the boys that I won't see them for a few days because I'll be in the hospital, and somehow I managed to do that without crying... yet.

My surgery is at 9:15am on Dec 9, 2010.  This means I need to be at admitting at the godawful time of 6:15am and that means I have to be up about 1hr earlier, and without the benefit of liquid caffeine.  Someone poke me with a stick, I'm done.

Goddess give me the serenity and the strength to do what needs to be done.  I know I'm going to go through with it anyways, because honestly, the other option is probably REALLY crappy, but I would like to not be full of anxiety.  I feel like I have a grief inside me that has echoed into the very depths of my soul.  Most of the time I don't feel it there, but on days like today, with my surgery tapping me on the shoulder and saying, "Hey, you're next," the grief is in my throat, coating everything I say with unshed tears.

Everyone who's been reading this so far knows I'll be going through some crappy stuff over the next few days/weeks.  After having a major surgery it's not like anyone would be doing the Dance of Joy.  I'm going to be in there for a few nights, and will have fun things like a catheter, wound drainage tube, and even an oxygen mask when I first come out of it.  Maybe they'll at least give me some nice IV thing where I can press a button for pain relief.  Something that I can have under my control. :)  I don't really have the worries anymore that I'll be in the 1-2% of anything going wrong.  I have to believe that everything will go smoothly; trying to keep in mind that whether you believe it will or it won't go well, you're probably right.

I was told today that I have a strong heart.  I definitely believe this too.  If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to handled this soul deep grief, nor would I have the capacity to love as much as I do, as well as carry on with smiles and laughter as I do most every day.  I also feel like I am truly blessed.  They say it sometimes takes a tragedy to find out who your friends are.  I have found that I have more friends and family reaching out to me in my difficult time than I had ever thought were there.  Thank you to everyone for all your offers of help, be it with kids or meals or other, I will be taking advantage of it all.  Because even though I have been told numerous times by numerous people that I am the strongest person that they know, I will be even stronger with you there to support me.

So tomorrow, I'll be in surgery from 9:15am till about 3:15pm, and will probably wake up between 4-5pm.  I will gladly take spells, prayers, distance healing, or even thoughts towards my well being.  Even though I know everything will go smoothly, a little extra insurance doesn't hurt, plus maybe it'll help me get better quicker. :)  Hugs to you all and I'll post again in a few days to let everyone know how it went.  Who knows if I'll even have Internet access in the hospital.  I think I may go into withdrawal <shudder>.  I can't even remember the last day I didn't log onto at least something!

Monday, November 29, 2010


Well, I had my rescheduled appointment with my surgeon on Friday.  I'll talk about the risks he went over in a second, but first, the nosescopy.. <dum dum dum>.

First they sat me in a chair and had me say "Aahhh" while they sprayed noxious freezing agents onto the back of my throat.  Trying not to gag up my non-lunch between spritzes, I quickly grabbed a kleenex to wipe my eyes.  Then the surgeon brought out the black wiggly worm with the light on the end and lubed it up in prep to go up my nose.

Now, I'll just mention right now that as of the day before this, I had caught a cold, so passageways are not exactly open...

They got me to sniff to see which side of my nose was more open, and the right was clearer.  Squeezing my eyes shut as I knew that there was no way I wanted to see this, the surgeon then started gently shoving the light worm into my nostril.  Problem... I could feel it scraping inside. Because I could feel it, I instinctlively clamped my nose muscles (yes, there are some; I'm one of the few people that can plug their noses and breathe through their mouths without having to hold my nose).  Of course, clamping those muscles made it scrape more.  This is me panicking.  Clamping onto Jeph's hand with my own, I tried to relax but it just wasn't going to happen.  Finally the surgeon took out the probe saying that he couldn't through on the right side and would have to try the left.

So here we go, trying again after a quick break to wipe my eyes.  This time, I can feel the pressure but no scraping.  Oh, thank the Gods that the freezing worked on the left side at least!  As the probe pushes it's way through, I start gagging a bit, not only because the probe is there, but for the fact that it's pushing all the mucus down the back of my throat.  Pleasant.  The surgeon gets me to swallow a couple of times, take a few deep breaths and then he's there.  Another couple of deep breaths, followed by saying, "Eeeeeee," and he's done!  And it's a lot faster to drag that light worm  out than it is to put it in!  Turns out that both my vocal cords work, yay!

Now, details on the surgery.  Turns out that I'll be in surgery for 6 hours, 3 hours for the total thyroidectomy and 3 hours for the modified radical neck dissection which removes the lymph nodes on the left side of my neck. 
Some of the risks with the thyroid removal: 
  • I could have nerve damage to my vocal cords and be permanently hoarse.  This would super suck.  I wonder how my singing voice would be if this happened?
  • I could end up with hypoparathyroidism if all 4 of my parathyroids don't recover.  Not terrible, just would require a lot of tests and follow up for my entire life.
That's not so bad. 

Risks for the lymph node removal, a little scarier:
  • I could have nerve damage to my spinal accessory nerve, which is what helps me shrug, turn my head, etc.  If this is damaged then eventually I'd be in a lot of pain all the time because my muscles would shrink with disuse.
  • If the cancer is too close or attached to it, they will remove my jugular vein.  I guess this isn't so bad, because it would just be on one side, and the surgeon said this is okay because the blood just finds another way down.
  • Lymphatic leak: since they have to tie off everything for my lymph nodes this may happen aroundthe lymph node drainage duct. If this happens, I guess it's easy to fix with more surgery.
All of these risks are about in the 1-2% mark, so not bad.  Not death, and I don't plan on dying anyways.  Hmmm.. the risks aren't as scary once  I write them out, though I'm still terrified of having to go through surgery.  It's only a week and a half away.  I had a bad night last night because of this.  I expect to have more before I go through it.  Thank the Gods I have Jeph around; he is my rock.  I cry on him and he doesn't melt away, and he said that he will be there with me as long as he can when they put me under, and he'll try to be there for when I wake up.  I asked him if he had any worries and he honestly answered that he has no worries at all.  This calms me immensly.  If I didn't have him I'd still have to do this, but they might have to hold me down to do some of these things.

I keep getting told that I'm the strongest woman people know, and that I'm brave, etc.  Brave is only doing something despite being terrified of doing it.  I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other because it's the only way I'll get past this.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Sky is Falling!

And no I don't mean the white stuff... though that has been falling in copious amounts lately.

What I mean is that just as my surgeon walked into the room Jeph and I were waiting in, the fire alarm went off and we were told that we would have to evacuate. So, off we went, following the surgeon because hopefully he knows where he's going in the maze they call the Foothills Hospital.  We make it to a coffee shop (yay!) and find out that this wasn't a fire drill, but that they had to evacuate that one specific and very small area of the hospital because the roof had caved in, almost hitting someone.

Well.. if they had gotten hit at least they were in the right place...

So we waited, and waited, and wandered the hallways, coming upon elevators and stairwells where you could have taken a drenching, albeit very cold, shower from all the melted snow pouring down.  Eventually we found our way back to my surgeon and found out that they were pretty much cancelling all clinics for that day.  Yay.  Luckily I was able to take him aside and ask him some of my burning questions, one of them being how long would I be off work.  He said basically that as long as I don't do any heavy lifting I could be back in 2 weeks.

2 weeks?? After a major surgery where they are removing my thyroid that produces energy hormones?? Is he on crack?  I asked my regular doctor about this after and he just laughed.  He at least realized the need to heal after a surgery.  Even he agreed that I'll probably need 4-6 weeks to recover, if not longer because of the synthroid(?) that we have to figure out dosage for and for the radiation treatments I will most likely need.  Gah..  I'm not in a hurry to get back to work after this.

Anyways, the surgeon does seem like a pretty good guy, in spite of this, and I've been rescheduled for Friday, so I get to miss that whole day of work.  Not only is he checking my neck again with ultrasound, he's doing what I'm calling a nosescopy.  In other words, he numbs my throat or something, sticks a camera string into my nose to look down my throat, and when he gets to my vocal cords I say "Eeeee."  <shudder>  Though, talking to my good doctor, he said that they actually had to do this to each other in medical school and it's not that bad.  He said it's a little weird going in, but after it's there it basically feels like a really big booger or a loogie!  LOL!  That makes me a lot less afraid of another weird test being done to me. :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Big "C"

Just a month ago I was diagnosed with the big "C."  Cancer.  Much rather have the big "O," but mind you most people would.  It's Thyroid Pappilary Carcinoma which is what I've been deeming the "popular cancer."  It is the most common and most survivable out of all the types and if I was to pick any cancer I could have, I guess it would be this one.  Still is a major pain in the neck (ha ha).

Surgery is on December 9, 2010, so I'll be home for Christmas!  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Neck!!  Right now, this is less than three weeks away, and I'm finally starting to stress a bit.

It's funny.  Funny "snort" instead of funny ha ha.  I'm actually more afraid of the surgery than the actual cancer.  I think it's because even though I don't want it in me, the cancer is truly a part of my body.  Surgery means foreign instruments going into my body. <shudder>  I have a large enough problem with needles, let alone scalpels!  People keep saying that the surgery is the easy part because I won't even know it's happening.

Exactly the problem.

I have a hard time giving up control of my body to something.  I've never done drugs and I rarely drink just because of that fact.  So for me to let that go, have someone put me under to do somewhat unknown things to my body, then pump me full of drugs before I wake up so I don't feel the pain, and then I'm still not truly in control of my body?  That's what terrifies me.  It's the unknown.  I don't know how I'm going to react to the drugs, how they're going to make me feel (other than probably very shitty).

The other unkonwns that are stressing me out right now are things like I don't know how long I'm going to be off work.  I know it's about 4-6 weeks recovery from the actual surgery, but after that??  I don't know if I'll need radiation of some sort, because who knows if they'll get it all in surgery <shudder>. 

Honestly, even though it may mean they didn't get all the cancer in the surgery, I'm truly hoping for about 3-4 months off of work.  I need the time for myself.  I want to write, play games, catch up on the movies that havn't been opened for 4 Christmases.  I need this time to figure out what level of synthetic TSH I need to be on because I will no longer have a thyroid in my body.  Also, if I don't get this time, I'm not sure my energy levels will be up enough to keep up with two rambunctious boys who like to make it "snow" in my living room. :) 

I go see the surgeon on Monday and my family doctor too.  Hopefully some of these unknowns will turn into knowns so I can continue on with my "stop stressing and start living" normal mindset.