welcome to the danger zone

The Minions Meet Pufferfish…The Beginning.

Well, well, well, I’m back to write. I bet you’ve been wondering if you’d ever hear from me again. It’s been a long haul. I’ve been tempted to write a million times, but when you are on morphine 24 hours a day, you tend to lose interest in things you love, and/or lack the enthusiasm to finish things you start. It was like being in a fuzzy cloud, and one that didn’t feel all that awesome. I knew what was going on, could function, but sometimes my brain stopped dead, and I couldn’t remember what I was doing, or what I wanted to do. What was harder still, is because you “appear” normal, albeit somewhat slower than usual, people don’t quite grasp that you aren’t yourself in any way. Unfortunately, after the horrible experience in September, in which we attempted once again to thwart the pufferfish with drainage, that ultimately backfired and cause me unprecedented pain, I had to try and manage the pain in any way I could.

Until I couldn’t.

Some of you know what happened next, some of you don’t, and for those of you who are new to my blog, this is the true story of a girl and her pufferfish. And the tiny blue pills. And tears, lots of tears. It may be a two or three parter – I have a lot to write about and this morning I’ve decided I am not taking any more morphine, and just going to try to finish my withdrawal from opiates by weaning of the percocet instead – but that’s for the end of the story, and I’m jumping ahead.

It was the week of thanksgiving. I had to leave work early on Monday after court because I couldn’t even sit down – I was on the phone with an agency provider discussing a family and I was in such brutally punishing pain I wanted to scream, drop the phone, and run from the building. As she’s telling me about her concerns I’m fighting back the tears, and trying to get the attention of one of my coworkers to ask her if she could please take me home because I am not going to make it through the day unless I drug myself to sleep. Finally I just said, I’m sorry, I have to end this call, I’ll call you tomorrow and with the kindness of Momma Y, I made it to the sanctuary of my bed and sweet narcotic sleep. I made it through Tuesday, and Wednesday ended up being a ½ day snow day, so I had four days to try and recover. I spent all of thanksgiving in bed. I was supposed to go to my sister-in-laws, but I was suffering and it was best done alone and not in the company of others. My brother brought me food – I ate about two pieces of turkey and a few forkfuls of stuffing and spent most of my time in my bed asleep. On Monday, despite the lingering pain, I tried to convince myself I could go to work. I got up, dressed nicely, and headed off to the office. I made it until lunch time. I lined up some people to cover my on-call, (thank you Amanda and Kaylee, I know you probably don’t read this, but thank you anyway). I called the Dr.’s office that afternoon and they assured me my pain was likely constipation from the narcotics. I disagreed, but I agreed to follow their instructions. Without being totally graphic, it involved taking things to make my body expel waste. It mostly worked, but did nothing to alleviate my pain – it made me feel a little better at first, but that was short lived. I had to stay close to the bathroom – until things seemed to shut down completely. I mean stopped dead. I thought my body had just said no more.

Now it’s Wednesday morning. I wake Andy and tell him I need to go to the ER. We get in the car and I endure the horrific hour-long ride to Hershey. I could have gone to a local ER, but since all of my records are at Hershey and I trust them more, I suffered the trip. Luckily the ER is empty. The triage nurse takes my vitals, and we head off to an exam room – and as we turn the corner, we walk smack into a small group of hospital staff in haz-mat suits who will not allow us to go further – yes, haz-mat suits. They redirect us and the nurse assures me it’s just an Ebola drill, not really an Ebola outbreak but all joking aside, the way I was feeling, if expelling my internal organs in a bloody heap would stop the pain, I was down for it! We round the next corner, and bam! – more haz-mat suited peeps. No entrance. We reroute yet again and finally I am permitted to enter an exam room. The doc comes in, I tell the long sordid story of how I ended up here and my stupid ass pufferfish and tell them my pain is at an 8 after taking 15mg of morphine 3x a day and at least 4 percocet in the last six hours. He orders a CT scan and some dilaudid. Yay for dilaudid. Yay for CT scans. Yay for someone taking me seriously.

Now is when the story starts to get amusing/sad/disconcerting. I’m waiting for a CT scan. A new nurse comes in, a new doctor, another nurse, and every time I have to tell the story of how I came to be in the ER starting with my hysterscopy, hysterectomy and the c-monster treatment. I wait and wait for the CT scan. In the meantime, I get an IV started, and they ask me for a urine sample. I can’t pee. I haven’t drank anything in hours, and frankly, the last few weeks, I can’t pee on demand without pain and a short walk around the house first. So guess what I get? Yep! Catheter. And sad to say, I was perfectly okay with that because I was in so much pain, that couldn’t be much worse. Well apparently it is. But whatever, I am just glad I am in the hospital and they will make me well.

Finally, I’m off to radiology. I get a CT with contrast dye in a cool machine with Minion stickers. I am glad that Hershey understands the importance of stickers on the CT machine. It makes it so much more relaxing. The staff are great, they always joke with me and help take the edge off. Then it’s back to the room. Dr. #1 eventually comes back and tells me that gynecological oncology is looking at the film as there are some concerning developments and they will be over to talk to me because I may be admitted for surgery to day. Nervous at the word “concerning” but relieved that I am not crazy and relieved that there are changes in pufferfish, and that I am not just imagining it, I nod in understanding. It’s okay, the dilaudid is still working, and I’m sure I am going to find relief.

Understand that my doctor, Dr. K, has elected to take his family on vacation this week, so he is not privy to these developments, but they assure me his associate Dr. F will be over to talk to me. The door opens – enter two gynecological oncology minions – and no Dr. F. I ask if I will be gutted today – they say not likely, and proceed to examine me – they ask about my pain, and my use of colace and senna and what’s going on. I ask them about the CT scan – they say they didn’t really see too much of difference, the pufferfish is only “marginally” bigger and there’s a nodule now growing inside, and the fluid is clouding and not clear like it was, but they think it’s just because pufferfish ate the hematoma outside of it. I’m dying of thirst. I’m crying again trying to tell the story and explain my pain. They look at my stomach and notice some (old) bruises. I explain that I pushed again the banister trying eliminate the pain in my stomach, and could have possibly caused them. I also bump into the top of the banister frequently as well, which inevitably leaves a bruise. I am fat, I have a huge belly, I sometimes don’t negotiate well in the middle of the night when I am trying to get to the bathroom. They seem appalled at this. I don’t get it, but they assure me, they will be back shortly with Dr. F. They will have a plan. They are pretty sure I am going home today. They scurry out.

At this point, it’s noon. Andy has been patiently sitting with me, but he has to work tonight, so I try to get someone to come bring me home if I am not going to be admitted, so he can go home and get some sleep. When the minions and Dr. F don’t return by noon, dear sweet Paige agrees to fetch me home and I dismiss Andy. I am alone. Waiting. It’s now 5 hours in the ER. I continue to wait.

Enter Dr. F and the posse. She’s very nice. The dilaudid has worn off and no one asks about by pain level anymore. I can only lie on my side, but I roll onto my back for another exam. Dr. F talks about the CT scan – she says if I was her patient, she’d remove the pufferfish, but she has to wait for Dr. K to come back because I’m not her patient. Great. She uses words like sympathize and empathize and I tell her she has no clue what I am feeling because unless she has had chronic pain herself, she has absolutely no understanding. I need this thing out of me. It is causing me crushing pain, which she proceeds to dismiss as constipation, and tells me I just need to follow the colace/senna regimen for a few more days and it will go away, because my pain is now the result of massive amounts of narcotics, not the pufferfish. I disagree – it may be compounded by it, but it’s the pufferfish, it’s in my fucking body and I know what is hurting me. Then comes the most ridiculous part of the tale – she says her bigger concern is the bruising on my belly. She is concerned that I am trying hurt myself and tells me that she herself gets a little crazy with road rage from time to time and that she will be happy to allow me to stay overnight if I feel the need to be safe and talk to someone. Meltdown mode initiated. Eyeroll commences. I try not to react inappropriately, and through my tears, I tell her I do not need a mental health hold, I need someone to stop the pain. She says, no, no, she doesn’t think I have mental health issues, but just that she is afraid I am doing dangerous things to hurt myself because I can’t cope. I tell her that is insane. I was just trying to help relieve the pressure for a few minutes, because I couldn’t make the pain stop, even with all my pain meds. I don’t need to talk to someone about my pain or how my pain feels. It hurts and talking to someone about it, will not lessen it, extracting the pufferfish will. Thank you very much for thinking I am on the edge of a mental break down, but make my pain stop. She then proceeds to tell me that there’s really nothing they can do, so go home, keep taking pills, and come back and see Dr. K on Monday for my scheduled appointment. Really? 8 hours in the ER, and your response is, head on home and come back on Monday. Unless you want to spend a night on the psych ward, because sure, that’s gonna help. They will do nothing to help manage the pain, but they will help you talk about it. My response, no thank you, I will just go home and cry myself to sleep. Dr. F tells me she has ordered a suppository to help with the swelling in my rectal area. I ask if this will stop the pain – she says it might. Might. Yay. That’s fucking awesome. Another hour waiting for the suppository. 9 hours. I feel not one iota better than when I came in, in fact, I feel demoralized, frustrated, and now, starving. ER Fail.

It doesn’t get better. I go to the hospital cafeteria. I spy the special tandoori chicken wrap. Of course, it’s sold out. Why wouldn’t it be? Curry makes me feel better, so of course there isn’t anything curry flavored to help me. I choose a veggie brie and mushroom sandwich. The lady at that station is mostly ignoring me. Finally she acknowledges me and allows me to purchase some food. It’s cold. So now I have to figure out hot to warm it up. I find a microwave and make it lukewarm. I inhale it because I am starving and suck down a green juice. Sated, I head off to the lobby to await Paige’s arrival. Fortunately for me, there are screaming children in the lobby as well. And potential clients. I only want to go home. Home. I want to take a handful of pills and sleep. Please.Let.Me.Sleep. I could have had just as much success with treating my pain at home as I did here. Children continue screaming. Fucking hurray.

Paige arrives to rescue me and bring me home. I pass Andy on his way out to work, fill him in.

I can’t go back to work – I can’t sit or stand or lie on my back or stomach. I can lie on my side. Until that side goes numb and then I flip. Moving causes pain. Walking causes pain. Eating causes pain. Breathing does not cause pain, but allows me to remain alive, which causes pain. And my mind is still chewing at the fact that the only thing that was offered to help manage this pain was a psych hold.

The days pass waiting until Monday. Monday I see Dr. K. Monday Dr. K will fix me. I drift in and out of painful sleep, spend too much time in the bathroom in futile efforts and spend an equal amount of time rocking myself back and forth trying to make the pain stop.

Of course, this part of the story wouldn’t be quite complete without me sharing the fact that I also can see my CT scan as part of my health record. I can also read the summary. I see the words “potential malignancy” “node” “marginally larger”. Previously, pufferfriend was 10X11X9cm and today, it is 12X12X10cm. In one month. Now, yes, it seems like that’s not much, I mean it’s centimeters. Pufferfish is located in the pouch of Douglas (here’s where you google where that is). There’s this ancient torture device called the pear of anguish. It used to be inserted into the vagina or anus of the victim and then it was opened internally, mutilating them while causing unimaginable pain. It would be slowly increased in diameter to rip you apart from the inside (again, use your google skills for the detail) An 1 or 2 cm increase in the size of the pufferfish = 100 or 200% increase in pain. It’s no wonder that the morphine isn’t even touching this. It’s an internal wedge between my bladder and rectum and it’s making everything else compact so that it can take up the space. Fuck you “marginal” increase – it wouldn’t be so marginal inside of your uterine cavity or if someone started ramming a giant tree branch inside of you that just kept getting wider and wider. It’s like having a baby grow inside in a very wrong area, and without a reward at the end of nine months. I’ve had this thing longer than I carried Andy, I’ve had it longer than I had cancer treatment, I’ve had it too long. It must come out.

At this point my friends, I will pause and leave you hanging for the rest of the story. I don’t want to write a novel as an entry, and this shit’s already three pages long. I will tell you that things have improved somewhat, and will return with details tomorrow, because I know, you can’t even imagine not knowing the intimate details of what happens next. It’s no Sons of Anarchy finale, but if you like medical dramas, it’s all about that, both medical and dramatic. So enjoy chapter one, my friends, and I will return with my next installment tomorrow.

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