It’s been a rough summer for Ani…

When Ani applied for her mission, she was in a great place health-wise. Her medications were stable, she was totally functional, and everything seemed to be going well for her. That was in February.

In March, things started going downhill. Several of us got sick and Ani never bounced back. By the end of April she was barely able to eat. She was having abdominal pain pretty much no matter what she ate.

I took her to the doctor the beginning of May and she was sent for several tests. They didn’t show anything wrong. She had an ER visit in there, too. The end of May she saw her rheumatologist and he put her on an anti-spasmodic which did help some.

But her pain kept getting worse. It started up between her shoulder blades as well as the upper right quadrant of her abdomen. We went back to the doctor. He sent her for yet another test (which came back fine) and a medication to try (didn’t work; actually made it worse).

She started her mission the end of July. She tried really hard to complete all her duties, but more and more by the end of August she was having to back out of her commitments or leave early. She was just in way too much pain, could barely eat and not at all without pain, she was losing weight. It was bad.

Back to the doctor we went for the third time of the summer (not counting the rheumatologist or ER). This time the doctor said even though all the tests did not indicate gallbladder, her wanted to send her to a surgeon to be evaluated for gallbladder removal. Her symptoms and how she reacted to various medications really pointed to gallbladder in his opinion.

Ani comes from a long line of women who have had their gallbladders out. Me, my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother. Before her I guess they just suffered because gallbladder surgery wasn’t a thing yet. My grandmother in particular had a rough time. Her local doctor though it was gallbladder, but the big time doctor in DC said the tests did not show it to be gallbladder. Twelve years passed and she eventually formed stones and had her gallbladder out which fixed all the symptoms she’d been dealing with for over a decade.

Two weeks ago tomorrow Ani saw the surgeon. He agreed that it sounded like her gallbladder needed to come out. He said he takes out 30-40 a year that don’t have the “right” test results and in over 90% of the cases, the issues are resolved through removal. For the rest, and for Ani if it didn’t work, he then refers to a GI doctor (he gave us the option of going to a GI doctor before surgery, but we opted for surgery first).

And so, a week ago Friday, Ani had her gallbladder taken out. She’s had surgical pain of course, but she felt better within hours of surgery than she had in months. She can eat anything without pain. It was clearly her gallbladder that was the culprit over this long and painful summer.

So now she’s almost all the way healed and ready to resume her missionary duties and able to do so in a way she just hasn’t been able to do since the beginning. She’s smiling and talkative again. We had forgotten just how much she usually talks. She was so quiet and miserable all summer. It’s amazing what problems a little organ like the gallbladder can cause!

All Better (More or Less)

I saw my doctor yesterday for my 6 week check-up. She was very happy with how everything looks. All my parts are where they are supposed to be (except of course the parts that are no longer inside of me). My doctor removed four or five stitches and said there are two left still strongly attached. They should come out soon on their own. I can do anything now as long as it doesn’t hurt.

Every day I am more comfortable and stronger. It’s been a long, hard recovery, but given how I feel now it was all worth it. I even went back to taekwondo this week. I took classes on Tuesday and Thursday and that felt great.

Now if only I could get rid of this nasty head cold Cameron was so kind as to share with me…

Back to School, Post Surgery

My surgery being scheduled for November 23rd was perfect since that was already scheduled (when I made my lesson plans back in March – yes I am crazy) as the first day of a one week Thanksgiving break.  At least half of our weeks are 4 day weeks so we were to have off the 30th as well.  We were scheduled to have off on the 19th for Jamie’s birthday as well, but he ended up working that day so we did school which gave us an extra day off after my surgery so we didn’t have to get back to doing school until Wednesday.

So we’ve done 3 days of school (9 left until Christmas break!) and it hasn’t been too bad. I do whatever I can with them from bed. I can read just fine and with the exception of science, I’ve been able to do all the all together work with them. On Wednesday Jamie did science with the boys and today Cameron ran the experiments himself. When it comes to on their own work, I only do writing with Cameron and grammar and writing with Fritz and could still do those from bed. I did grammar and writing with Adrian and Jamie and Ani took over his other on his own subjects. He decided this week to do math on his own with limited help (including at 5:30 in the morning and 9:30 at night…).

So getting back to school has gone okay. Next week I’ll be able to go downstairs for part of the day so we’ll do school like we always have.

Nine Days Post Op

The Great Attempted Uterine Escape of 2015 is no longer just an attempt. Nine days ago, on November 23rd, the doctor liberated my uterus. Most of the time since has been kind of a blur.

I had to be at the hospital at 7. By 8:30 I was all prepped for surgery and waiting to go back. They took me back about 10. I remember them helping me move from the hospital bed to the operating table. They had already given me something to relax me so things were getting kind of blurry by then. I don’t even remember laying down on the table or anything after that point.

I woke up several hours later in the PACU. My back hurt so bad. They gave me pain medicine and put hot packs on my back. It turns out the back pain was due to the position I was in during surgery. A day later I discovered there was also incredible pain in my legs. The position they put you in for a vaginal hysterectomy is a position no human could get into without being unconscious. And there I stayed for 4 hours and 3 minutes.

The surgery went well. The doctors were very happy with the repair job they did. Apparently I was a mess. Now I am not. Amazing what modern medicine can do. They removed my uterus and fallopian tubes. The posterior repair of the rectocele didn’t require too much work. The anterior repair of the cystocele, however, required a whole lot of cutting and sewing and manipulation of my bladder. They put in the bladder sling which gave me my only exterior stitches, just a few on each side on the bikini line.

Monday night was horrible. They absolutely could not get on top of my pain. They ended up maxing me out on pain medications and I was still miserable. Usually, a vaginal hysterectomy doesn’t have such severe pains so nobody was quite sure what was going on. They’d give me morphine and it would bring the pain down from a 9 to a 6 for 15 minutes and then it would be back to a 9. Some things they gave me did absolutely nothing. The worst was one that didn’t change the pain but also made it so I couldn’t articulate anything or stay awake. At least I did get some sleep with that one. I think that’s the only sleep I got that night. I’d close my eyes and do some Bradley breathing and try to relax since tensing up made it worse. I’d think hours had gone by. I’d open my eyes and it had only been 10 or 15 minutes. It was a long night.

Tuesday morning they removed the packing in my vagina. Most people hate the packing. It didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I didn’t know it was in there until someone mentioned it. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as a uterus hanging out in my vagina. It really didn’t feel all that much different in there from how I’d felt before surgery.

Then it was time to remove the catheter and attempt to pee. They put water in my bladder and for the next two or three hours I tried to pee, but nothing happened. I felt like I needed to pee, but no matter what I did nothing came out. And I was in severe pain. Very, very severe pain. Getting up to go to the bathroom also is when I discovered just how sore my legs were. It was hard to walk.

After two hours I finally peed a little bit. I’d pee and then they’d use a machine on my bladder to see how much was left. It took a good 8 or 10 hours to finally be able to nearly completely empty my bladder. We also figured out the source of my pain in that time. I was having severe bladder spasms.

Bladder spasms can be a rather unpleasant result of hysterectomy and, especially, manipulating the bladder into the right place during surgery. It felt like labor. I don’t wish bladder spasms on my worst enemy. Unfortunately the typical medications were not allowed for me because they could mess up the repair. They gave me a muscle relaxer and it helped some. Because it was so difficult to get on top of the pain, they kept me a second night in the hospital.

I got home late Wednesday morning. A few hours later, in terrible pain, we realized they had not discharged me with a prescription for the muscle relaxer. A call to the doctor got that fixed. Thursday was Thanksgiving. To me, it was a blur of pain. By mid-afternoon I realized that 2 Tylenol 3’s every 4 hours is a lot more pain medication than 1 Tylenol 3 every 6 hours. No wonder my pain was out of control. We decided to use the dose I have been taking at the hospital. Once we were on top of the pain again, recovery started going much better.

Over the weekend I was able to go off the muscle relaxer without much of a pain increase. The bladder spasms got less and less over time. They finally went away completely yesterday. It’s amazing how much better I feel without those spasms. Monday night the alarm didn’t go off when it was time to take pain meds so everything had worn off and I woke up Tuesday morning in quite a bit of pain. The good news was my pain with no medication wasn’t as bad as my pain with pain medication had been the week before.

Now, at 9 days post op, I’m just on 800mg ibuprofen three times a day. I’m not in pain, but I am still sore. I’m sore from the internal stitches and pushing and pulling during the surgery. I’m really sore in my legs. That’s the most annoying part at this point. I’ll be happy when I can move my legs any way I want without a jolt of pain and can walk like a normal person. It’s like I did a hyper squat for hours, which I guess, really, I pretty much did.

I’ve only left my bed to go to the bathroom and little walks around the upstairs of my house. I’m confined to the upstairs for a few more days. I’ll probably be released to drive when I see the doctor a week from tomorrow. Mostly I’m supposed to stay home and in bed and only very gradually increase activity over the next few weeks. I should be back to pretty much normal in about 5 more weeks.

I said a few days ago that right now I hate this surgery. I don’t like pain. But in a couple weeks I’m going to love it. As the pain moves into just soreness, I’m also very glad I had it done. Already my lower back doesn’t hurt and that was hurting constantly from the prolapse. It’s been a long 9 days!

The Great Attempted Uterine Escape of 2015

The last few weeks have been absurd. Back in September I got bronchitis. I was really sick. I coughed a whole lot. On October 7th I literally almost coughed out an entire organ. My uterus decided it didn’t really need to be part of my body anymore. Ever since it’s continued that attempted escape and in 12 days it will complete its quest with a little help from a doctor.

Did you know uterine prolapse is not an emergency? Sure, it causes a lot of pain, but it won’t kill you unless it sits in such a way that you cannot pee. And even then they’d likely just put in a catheter and keep saying wait for surgery.

The first OB/Gyn I went to was very nice and gentle (let’s just say the ER doctor was not and my uterus – that he could see immediately upon starting the exam – was bruised thanks to his useless jamming of the speculum into it). She and her office just moved at the speed of snails. I had to wait twelve days for the urodynamics test (result: I’ve got problems). Then I had to wait nine days to see her for pre-op. And then I had to wait five days for the surgery scheduler to call to schedule my surgery.

So after all that waiting, when could they schedule me for? December 15th. SIX MORE WEEKS.

Now, if I had been in no pain and not having to lay in bed a significant portion of my day, this would not have been a problem. If sitting in my recliner didn’t cause the pain to get worse, this would not have been a problem. But I am in pain and I do have to lay in bed a lot because even my recliner is not comfortable. Six weeks seemed like forever. For the first time since it all started I had a complete breakdown.

Mild uterine prolapse doesn’t usually cause symptoms. For all I know mine has been out of place for years and I never knew. Severe uterine prolapse, however, is horrible. Aside from the annoying feeling of something the size of my fist sitting in my vagina, a place it is most definitely not supposed to be, there is the pain. The ligaments that usually hold the uterus in place are all stretched and pulling so that causes lower back pain. Trying to sit in a comfortable position so the lower back isn’t so bad causes upper back pain. Because of the pressure on them, the labia ache almost constantly. And, to top it all off, I have shooting pains in my groin, buttocks, and front of my legs. It’s oh, so lovely.

So, yeah, six weeks wasn’t okay. Six weeks was awful. My friend convinced me to call a different doctor. She gave me a couple numbers. My husband called one. It was Tuesday afternoon. The doctor in their office who specializes in prolapse had an opening at 9:30 the next morning, could we make it in then. Uh, yes!

It’s not so convenient to go to her. See, we’re super spoiled. The other OB is just one mile away from our house as is the hospital where I was going to have the surgery. This one is about 20-25 minutes away. Once I realized my dad is having chemo every other week for the next four months about that far from home and they are thrilled it is that close I decided convenience is relative and to suck it up.

The OB/Gyn who will be doing the surgery is amazing. My problems are her specialty. She did a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic on pelvic organ prolapse. I think having to switch is really a blessing in disguise. And, best of all, she could get me in on November 23rd, a full 22 days earlier than the other OB. She also did something to shift around my uterus and for 4 blissful days the pain was almost gone.

She’ll be doing a whole lot of things to me in the OR. I’ll be having a total vaginal hysterectomy, anterior and posterior repair (I also have a cystocele and rectocele), something to make my urethra stay in the right place, bladder sling, tacking up the vagina so it is less likely to prolapse requiring another surgery sometime in the future, and my fallopian tubes will both be removed. My father had prostate cancer 7 years ago and there is a link between fathers with prostate cancer and daughters with ovarian cancer so, thanks Dad and genetics for increasing that cancer risk. They now believe ovarian cancer actually starts in the tubes so removing them will reduce my ovarian cancer risk dramatically. I’ll be in the hospital one night and then on greatly reduced activity for the 6 weeks after surgery (which brings us to January 4th, not that I’ve already calculated it or anything).

I only have two problems with all this and they are minor. One, I will never be able to use my menstrual cups again. I love those things. Life changing they are. Two, it is delaying my first degree black belt by 6 months. I had to stop taking classes when I got so sick in September so I couldn’t test in October. I’m out this entire cycle so I won’t be able to test in December either. Six weeks after my surgery also happens to be the first day of the next cycle. So in January I can be back at taekwondo and I should get my black recommended belt in August instead of April.

The pain is bad and my bedroom is seriously boring (but thank goodness for my amazingly awesome adjustable bed!). My kids are pitching in and helping a lot. And, hey, I’m getting a lot of reading done (8 books just since November 1st). Just twelve more days. I can totally survive 12 more days until the doctor liberates my uterus. I’ve gotta admit… I won’t even miss it.