My Cancer Story: Scars!

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Scars

 

For those of you who may face laproscopic surgery someday, voila!

Here are three of my five scars at seven weeks. Amazing the doctor inserted a camera and then removed ovaries, fallopian tubes, and lymph nodes through those slits.

Years ago, this would have been one huge incision that left behind a long scar. Thank you,  modern medicine!

When my doctor called at the four week mark, I talked about how sick I felt on and off for the first two weeks, which confused me since I experienced no acute pain. “With laproscopy,” she said, “patients sometimes forget they just had major surgery. We really move you around in there.”

Although the outside doesn’t hurt much,  on the inside you’ve been pushed and shoved and prodded and sliced. It’s going to take a while for your body to recover from the trauma.

As everyone warned me over and over again, REST IS BEST.

But as you’re resting, dream of  a beach somewhere, because if you want to reveal your midriff, you can do so almost scar free.

P.S. I actually have no plans to show my midriff again, at least not any time soon. This may be my swan song.

I’m pleased to be interviewed by fellow writer Melissa Buron. Read the interview here on her blog!

Melissa Buron

Jesse the Plumber: A TMI Post

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Jesse

In honor of Labor Day, a post about our plumber. Thanks, Jesse, for all the plumbing emergencies you’ve expertly resolved for us.

Recently Jesse made a house call. Clogged up plumbing line.

The visit  brought back memories of another time Jesse paid a house call and then stood in the same spot in our yard.

Jump back with me twenty-plus years.

That clog was a bad one. Water, the yucky kind, poured into the powder room.

Jesse dug for about an hour. Then he summoned me to the backyard. He poked a brown boot at a huge wad. “Mrs. Younger, these things can’t go down your commode.  Not with the old pipes we’ve got in town.”

“Those things,” were, you guessed it, tampons. Mortification struck my thirty-something soul. “Got it,” was all I could say.

Jump back to now.

This time, the problem was the town’s fault. Yes! Something screwy in their part of the sewage line.

But no matter what, it couldn’t have been tampons. Not in this household. Not anymore.

Score One for menopause.

PS:  Get your plumber talking! Jesse can entertain for hours. His stories aren’t so much about the actual plumbing but the crazy ways people screw up their plumbing. Wowzer.

Marylou Falstreau: My Menopause Story (and a Giveaway!)

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P-30 Possibilities

 A post by artist Marylou Falstreau:

Menopause was different than I expected.

I thought I’d be sitting in a comfortable easy chair looking back on the life I created; a loving home, financial security and children who had been raised to be uncomplicated little birds, always ready to fly home and adore their perfect mother.

I thought it would be a time of ease with a hot flash thrown in from time to time.

It didn’t happen that way.

Just as I began to experience menopausal symptoms my husband was unceremoniously fired from a job he’d planned to retire from. He found employment several times after, but the jobs were short lived and eventually we had no options.

Selling our family home, we moved to an apartment on the Central Coast of California with our two elderly cats. Gone were the dreams of sharing our country home with family, particularly grandkids.

I am an artist, and at the time I was selling my work at outdoor art shows and leading mixed media workshops, part time. After we moved, creating art became my full time vocation while my husband worked for a food service company in the neighboring town.

Life got crazy and I felt like I was going crazy too.

Painting non-stop and getting up at 3:00 in the morning to travel to art shows didn’t promote sound sleep. I began feeling like someone else inhabited my body and that person was in survival mode.

Was I sleepless from hormonal imbalance or because my life had changed in a way I was not physically or mentally prepared for?

I tried to find answers by spending hours in our natural food store, looking for helpful supplements.

The best anti-cure I found was a chocolate, peanut butter Twister from the Foster Freeze across the street. My symptoms became worse but for a brief, fleeting moment, I was happy.

The hot flashes began incognito. Yes, there was heat but mostly there were electrical currents pulsating through my body, holding me captive. It’s as if I’d been plugged in to an electrical socket that produced such intense anxiety that it was shocking, quite literally! So this is what it feels like to be loosing your mind and your body all at the same time!

Looking back from the vantage point of a 62-year-old post-menopausal woman, it is impossible to know when the “change” began in earnest. Nothing in my life was the same, everything had changed, but something beautiful was born as a result.

Here is the rest of the story…

Hi, my name is Marylou Falstreau, and I am creator of the Women and the Hourglass” series of inspirational art for women.

My cards and prints and other assorted items have made their way around the world, helping women connect with their own wisdom and their longing to be free of patterns that no longer serve them.

While living in the amped up world of out-door art shows I began connecting with the story within.

My painting style shifted away from whimsical… to whimsical with a theme.

Women became my focal point and then things started to fly. Chairs left the ground, so did people and trees and strange creatures that looked like hybrids of a dog and something else.

In my own way I was exploring spirituality, and that meant breaking rules of gravity and pushing the boundaries of common sense.

Around this time, I had a dream that changed things forever and was the motivation for my series.

In the dream, I was in conference with a group of women, listening intently. When I woke up, the words women and hourglass remained in my consciousness. It’s been my journey to integrate these two words and understand what their connection is.

What I’ve learned is that it’s time to wake up to our own potential and to understand life is an inside job.

We innately have the power to change what is inside.

We have the power to forgive and the power to be happy.

We most certainly have the power to count our blessings and laugh out loud, if we choose.

The Hourglass is a wonderful symbol for time passing, but it also can be turned over at any moment, stopping the flow of sand, and beginning anew.

We have the same power; it just takes a little more awareness and commitment.

Now is the time.

My life has changed in every way, yet again.

Something beautiful has grown out of those challenging years, a beauty that would have seemed impossible if considered before. I can see that growth and creation are always possible, even as we age. I can see that our purpose is revealed, sometimes at the latest hour.

For me, menopause was like a large bag of sand tied to my ankles as I navigated my way through treacherous terrain. I am proud to say I survived and am now thriving.

If I had any advice for women who are just beginning menopause, I would say try not to give in to the symptoms too much, but ask for help if necessary. Stay active, eat good healthy and natural foods and keep your eye on the gold.

Gold is always hidden somewhere in the story. Often it is revealed in perfect time; when the storm has cleared and there is a new, fresh perspective.

Everything in our lives has purpose and so does Menopause.

Card Deck

Giveaway:  Marylou has offered an Affirmation Card Deck and an  8 1/2″  by 11″  print,”One day she woke up and considered new possibilities,” to a lucky Friend for the Ride winner.  To enter, simply leave a comment by September 15 saying that you’d like to win. U.S. and Canada only. Thanks, Marylou!  You’re the best!

To learn even more about Marylou and her art, visit her website here.

 

Marylou

 

My Cancer Story: The Recovery

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Cards

The next morning,  my friend Dwight,who’s on faculty at UNC, dropped in on the way to his office, followed a few hours later by his wife Susan.  Fun!

A Resident came to discuss the pathology. I asked her to write down exactly what type of cancer I had:  Grade 1 endometriod adenocarcinoma. I still wonder how those little buggers got  in there.

Cara unhooked me from the catheter and IV. I passed all of my tests:  Walk. Pee. Eat. I was homeward bound!

This is when it got hard. Not horrible, but hard.

I didn’t have any acute pain, but I began to just feel sick. Maybe something like a case of the flu after someone drops a bowling ball on your mid-section. My belly had swelled up overnight like I was six months pregnant. The only way I could sleep was to brace it with a pillow.

Scary symptoms related to the node removal appeared too (see below).

“You should get better every day, ” the doctor told me before the surgery. “If not, we want to hear from you.”

“You ARE getting better,” Cliff told me, every day.

One night at bedtime, he pulled the covers back, and I climbed in. “See that!” he said. “Look how you moved your legs. You couldn’t do that last night.”

Over and over again, he announced I was getting better. I needed to hear it because many days, I couldn’t feel or see my progress.

Despite a few meltdowns, my mood was good, bolstered by Cliff’s kindness and cards, food, visits, and presents from friends near and far. My surgeon and oncologist, Dr. Gehrig, phoned me twice, which I very much appreciated.

Seven weeks later, I feel great (and very grateful). Post-op check up on Monday.

For those of you who may have a hysterectomy, I’ve listed some specifics below. If you’ve got any questions, email me.

And if you need a hysterectomy due to prolapse, endometriosis, fibroids, or another condition and are hesitating, I say go for it. You’ll feel better fast, and those nasty issues will be gone.

Here’s the scoop:

Pain:  Unlike many patients, I had great luck with oxycodone. Half a pill eliminated my pain, gave me energy, and improved my appetite. Over the counter meds, especially the recommended Ibuprofen, didn’t do much. Most disconcerting was waking up in the middle of the night in pain.

In Weeks Two and Three, my discomfort would disappear for a few hours. I’d announce to Cliff, “I feel normal!”  Two hours after that, I’d reach for pain meds and be back on the couch. I have no clue why pain comes and goes. My doctor explained that the pain usually increases as the day progresses, which was often, but not always, the case with me.

Happily, I never experienced any sharp pain or pain that made me want to scream or bite whatever people used to bite in olden days movies.

Incisions: Zero pain with these, which amazed me. They were closed with steri-strips. As they healed, the incisions itched, but not horribly. Per instructions, I pulled off the strips after 14 days. Seven weeks later, they are just small marks. Photo to come!

Pelvic Floor:  The uterus is removed through the vagina, which is then stitched closed at the top. For two weeks, I was shocked I felt no pain there.  But then it set in. At the time I was up to walking two miles a day. I retreated to the couch for the week.  By Week Four, I once again felt no pelvic floor pain, and I can now walk my regular miles pain-free.

Bleeding and Discharge: I had zero bleeding, which surprised me. But in Week Three  (the same time the pelvic floor pain started up), I began to leak a watery substance. Scared me as I was afraid it was urine. My doc’s nurse explained that pockets of fluid develop and are discharged as the swelling goes down. This lasted about nine days, on and off.

Node Removal: This was the kicker, and the most upsetting part of the recovery experience. When I got in the car to come home from the hospital, for some reason I tried to cross my left leg over my right. I couldn’t do it. That night, I couldn’t lift the leg onto the couch (although I had no trouble walking). “Try,” Cliff said. “I’m trying,” I responded. No luck.

Within 24 hours of the surgery, I also began to experience a burning sensation on the front of both my legs, from the knee up. This only hurt to the touch but was so annoying that the first time I put on denim shorts, I took them off again.

The doctor confirmed both issues were damage from the lymph node removal. She suggested my leg mobility could be improved with physical therapy, but the burning sensation might be permanent. I kept telling myself I could live with it if I had to, but part of me was devastated at the thought. What discouraged me most was that I saw no improvement whatsoever for over two weeks.

On about Day Seventeen, the burning sensation lessened by a tiny amount. Gradually the nerves healed over the next few weeks. Yes!  Now, it’s almost gone except for a patch on one leg.

I can  move my left leg fairly well, although I still have trouble with certain motions. I’m hoping this will continue to improve.

Nausea and Appetite: I never threw up or came close to it, one of my biggest fears! I felt queasy on and off for two weeks.  A neighbor who’s an RD pushed me to eat protein since it’s important for healing.

I lost three pounds and was so pleased that Cliff finally said in a bossy voice, “The purpose of your recovery is not to lose weight. You need to eat.”  Although I liked watching the scale go down, the return of my appetite was a relief.

Constipation: I’ve never had trouble with constipation, so I thought I’d skirt this one, despite warnings from a friend who recently had a hysterectomy. I drank lots of liquids (also because I was afraid of a UTI), ate fruit and salads, walked from Day Two all I could, and took stool softeners. Nope!  I had about three days of troubles, including some bad middle of the night stuff.

Mobility: I was delighted that my incisions never hurt, and despite my swelly belly, I could easily get up and move around without any acute pain (until the pelvic floor pain set in). I had to use my hands to lift my bum leg some, but that was my only mobility issue.

I spent a lot of time on the couch. I felt best with my feet up (and discharge instructions suggest you have your feet propped up plenty).

Energy: I rested a ton and did very little the first week. I had trouble concentrating and couldn’t really read or write much, but I was in good spirits, enjoyed visits (although they can certainly exhaust you), and made what I thought was fairly lively conversation. I took naps for three weeks, but seven weeks in, am back to my normal energy level.

Sleep: I’m not a great sleeper under the best of circumstances.I didn’t sleep at all well until Week Four or so. I’m now sleeping okay (for me!)

That’s about it. Once again, if you’re going to have the surgery or just had it and have questions, email me.

 

Peaches

 

Photo Top:  I treasured each card. They provided a happy splash of entertainment. Cliff enjoyed them too and handed them to me  with great panache when the mail arrived.

Photo Above: We so appreciated every gift of food. Three of my friends brought over a scrumptious lunch that we ladies enjoyed together. This is Judy’s Peachy Delight. Yum and yum! You can find the recipe on her website, Judy’s Wellness Cafe.

 

Judy's Wellness Cafe

 

My Cancer Story: Although I’ve got more posts in the wings, this completes the beginning to end tale. I’ll sprinkle other posts in now and then. Thank you so much for all your good wishes.

Other hysterectomy stories on Friend for the Ride: Check out  Hysterectomy: Leslie’s Story and When the Bottom Falls Out: Surgery for Uterine Prolapse.