“Lucky Number 7”, or At Least I Hope So

As I write this, I’m laying here in ICU…Still. Thankfully, it’s not an isolated ICU, so friends and family can come and go. Most importantly my husband is allowed to be here everyday, so the days go by much quicker than the evenings. My “estimated” hospital stay of 1-2 days following surgery No. 7 is currently on Day 7 with a “possible discharge to acute rehab tomorrow”. However, I’ve been hearing this for quite a few days now. Unfortunately with my case, this is no surprise.

It’s a natural question to ask, “How long will you be in the hospital?” However, I have learned the hard way to take that “estimated” time period with a complete grain of salt. It’s NEVER what they estimate!

Something always seems to happen; be it a simple revision of my skin graft (Surgery No. 4) when they unexpectedly found 3 separate bacteria in my skull bone, and what was only meant to be a one-night stay turned into a full week vs. when I was released the same night after they removed a small part of my skull that was totally unconnected to the rest of my skull and excised a wound on my scalp (Surgery No. 5).

So, here I am, alive but not so well, after Surgery No. 7.

Yes. I thank God I’m alive, and that I’m coherent enough to even say that. I recall most details of my other surgeries. However, all I can recall from the first few days after this surgery was the horrific, excruciating pain. Mostly I was in and out of a painkiller haze. Yet, when I was actually awake, the slightest movement caused intense, shooting pains throughout my entire body. Now, this chick has got a serious threshold for pain! So, when they asked, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the pain?” and I could merely moan, “10” – you’ve got to understand just how severe this pain was.

Without getting into all the complexities of this 7th Surgery, I had a “shunt” or catheter placed into the area of my brain, where the tumors were removed and the radiation was beamed into where fluid would consistently flow. The fluid would sometimes cause increased swelling and thus, pressure in my brain. Now, with the shunt in place, the fluid will hopefully continuously flow out of the brain and be absorbed into the rest of my body. Science! It’s fascinating when you’re not the guinea pig.

I’ll have this shunt inside my body for as long as it holds up. It could be years, months. Again, who knows?

What I do know is that this has been one of the toughest, if not THE toughest surgeries so far. So, I hope and I pray that this will be Lucky Number 7 and I won’t have to see another Operating Room for a very, very long time.

Weekly Gratitude Quotes

Weekly Gratitude Quotes

@habitnest has a fantastic Gratitude Journal, which is a” 66-day, fully guided journal” that helps you build a gratitude practice for life!” (Trust-I am in NO way a paid advertiser for this company; one day I’ll be that influential, but for now, I’m happy just to write about their product). FYI If you click the image below it will take you directly to their site.

One exercise is to write a “weekly “gratitude” quote, and put the quote somewhere you will see it every day.

So, I have decided to add this as a new category to this Blog.

Part of the Habit Nest Journal’s philosophy is that we all mess up, essentially. The important lesson is that you recognize you forgot and/or neglected to follow the consistent daily/weekly readings and exercises. Thus, if I do not provide a quote here every single consistent week, it’s okay. None of us are perfect and we all have to learn to forgive ourselves more. Be gentle to ourselves and not our own worst enemy. So, if I skip a week here and there, I’m not going to beat myself about it.

I’d encourage everyone to do this. Join me. Let’s see how consistent we can be!

Week One

QUOTE “You already have everything you need to be happy” courtesy of the folks at Habit Nest, as shown below.

Week Two

QUOTEMy body is incredible. It works on its own, without my effort. I will pay attention to how much I appreciate this vessel that is bringing me through the world.” again courtesy of the folks at Habit Nest.

This is very appropriate for this week before I go into surgery Number 7 on January 17th. I’m going to need to have a shunt (think a permanent catheter) placed into my my brain that will lead down into my stomach/intestinal area, so all the fluid that’s constantly filling into the cavity present in my brain caused by the tumors, tumor removal, radiation, etc.

Week Three

QUOTE “What if we were willing to acknowledge our own hurt and pain, and in doing so make sure not to diminish the hurt and pain of others? We could change the world.” Brene Brown

I’m writing this a little late in the week. Yay know, brain surgery kinda got in the way… However, this quote is so valuable to remember at this stage of my life.

I’ve been experiencing tremendous physical pain, and quite a lot of mental/emotional pain. I don’t think ANYONE could say it’s easy to go through your 7th brain surgery. I’m depressed sitting in the hospital without being able to just sleep in my own bed, snuggle on the couch with my husband and our dog, and relax in the bathtub. Hell, I’d just like to use the bathroom without someone watching!

I can definitely say, after all I’ve been through, I try my very best to be cognizant of other people’s pains and struggles. I’m not perfect. Sometimes I should be more patient. On the flip side, let’s be honest… some people really are just a-holes.

However, to add to the A-mazing Brene Brown’s quote above, “You never know what someone else is going through.” Maybe the person who cut you off on the highway is racing to get to the bedside of a dying loved one? Perhaps that store clerk was kinda rude because she’s exhausted working 2 jobs just to feed her kids because she had to escape an abusive husband? The list goes on and on.

I can say, I am living proof of this concept. People are literally shocked when they see me and I tell them what I’ve gone through. I could not begin to count the amount of times I’ve heard, “But you look so great” or “You’d never know by just looking at you”

So, let’s change the world! Let’s be just a bit more compassionate. Remember. That stranger next to you on the bus or subway, your server at lunch, or even a close friend could be going through something you have absolutely no idea about.

Week Four

QUOTE:

THE IRISH

Be they kings, or poets, or farmers,

They’re a people of great worth,

They keep company with the angels,

And bring a bit of heaven here to Earth.

I love this quote for so many reasons. Of course, being born in Ireland and a purebred, Irish woman I truly believe we are a special people. Through feast and famine, literally, we survive. Our strength and traditional work ethic helped build cities, like Manhattan. They don’t call us “Fighting Irish” for nothing!

My nickname is actually “Irish”. Funny enough, my father-in-law had the same nickname when he fought in Vietnam, drafted when he wasn’t even a U.S. citizen! Personally, had I received that draft notice I would have hopped the first plane back to Ireland and never looked back. Instead, he believed he needed to do what was asked of him and fought a horrendous, unpopular war winning numerous medals of honor. In fact, as the story goes, one day his platoon was in an area they feared was surrounded by land mines. My FIL was standing in one area for quite a bit and just after stepping away, a land mine exploded. Somehow, someway that land mine never went off in the entire time he stood on it. After that, his platoon told him, “We’re sticking with you, Irish! You’re our lucky charm.”

Just like my FIL, I truly feel I’ve been protected by angels. Despite everything I’ve been through, I’m still here. I’m a fighter and hopefully will never lose that spirit. Further, I hope my angels will continue to protect me and that I personally can bring a little bit of heaven to others here on Earth.

Continued Hospital Stay

Release from the Misery of the Neuro-Observation & Continued Hospital Stay

cartoon

The day after the surgery, when I guess they realized nothing incredibly serious would happen, I was moved into a private room with a roommate.  I remained there another full 2 days.  I know I was in incredible pain, but I will never forget and always worship my day nurse.  She is not only my favorite nurse, but one of my favorite people!  God, did she help me get through those awful days.

The pain/pressure wasn’t controlled too well and I was purely miserable.  The body forgets the actual feeling of pain, but we remember it happened.  To add to that pain, my fear of nighttime continued.  As a blessing, my night nurse would walk the halls with me, once I could walk of course, while we talked about our lives, our relationships, work, what-have-you.  She is also on the list of top nurses.

A very tough moment was the first time they got me out of bed.  Again, I was an incredibly active person when this all happened.  It was insane to me that the simple act of getting my legs over the edge of the bed to stand was so hard, even though “hard” really can’t describe it.  I began to cry, saying, “I can’t do this.”  I felt so defeated by all of this.  What a blessing I had a wonderful nurse’s assistant who encouraged me saying, “I wouldn’t let you do this if I thought you couldn’t.”  So, with that, I garnered my strength and stood up.  I can frankly say, it was one of the greatest feelings and accomplishments of my life, and I’ve been pretty damn successful in everything I’ve done.

And so, with time and fantastic physical therapists, I was able to sit in a chair.  I graduated to using my IV stand to make it to the bathroom.  Soon after, I began to walk the halls although I couldn’t do the entire perimeter yet.  That came soon though.  During that time, I colored a lot.  I colored a beautiful cloth flag-type thing – I don’t know exactly what to call it – filled with butterflies.  I hung it on my IV stand, and walked and walked down those halls.  I remember people smiling as they passed by me.  I hope that picture of butterflies gave them some comfort and a tiny bit of happiness.  It did for me at least.

My hospital has a recreation center full of games, arts and crafts, books, painting materials, etc.  It’s a bit cheesy, but its such a valuable asset for patients.  It also has an outdoor patio.  Frankly, it’s a gift.  After being cooped up in a hospital bed, just minutes of sun and fresh air feels miraculous.  However, the first time I was wheeled onto that patio, I had a complete breakdown.  I think the joy of that little bit of freedom overcame me and it hit me like a ton of bricks all that I’d just been through.  I cried and cried until I asked to go back to my room.  Thankfully, I was able to pull myself together to eventually go back there.

Probably most important to my recovery was my attitude.  I didn’t want to stay in that awful bed.  I wanted to sit up.  I wanted to walk.  I wanted to get the hell out of there!  Sadly, my roommate did not have that same motivation and complained quite a bit when the staff tried to get her up.  Sometimes, she outright refused.  Her nurses would also tell her to call them before she ate anything because apparently she had diabetes or at least very high blood sugar.  She never listened.  In fact, her family would sneak her heavy, unhealthy food.  I also overheard that when she would actually be released, she would be admitted to a rehab facility.  Honestly, I felt damn lucky I wasn’t in that situation, or possessed her overall attitude.  I don’t blame her whatsoever.  We all handle cancer, and especially brain surgery, in our own way.  I believe it’s one of the most difficult experiences in the world!  I was just different.

Another overwhelming moment came when occupational therapy (OT) arrived.  The therapist asked me to draw a clock.  I just couldn’t.  My mind wouldn’t compute what a clock was and particularly, how to draw it.  I was asked to repeat several words.  Again, I couldn’t.  I graduated every school with honors, survived law school, passed two bar exams, yet I couldn’t do things kindergarteners learned.  However, the therapist determined I actually wouldn’t need OT.  She was sure it would all come back because frankly, I was fully communicating and was basically myself.  (Even now though, I have a hard time with that damn clock!)

My recovery progressed and every time the doctors evaluated me, I was on the right track.  Despite it all, I was actually doing great.  Remarkably well, in fact.  So, after the day of the surgery and 2 full days afterward, I was ready to be released that 3rd day.