Friday, January 13, 2017

Plans Can Change Quickly (Hysterectomy)

So...remember when I said my surgery was supposed to be in February?

Well...the Friday before we were supposed to go to school, I was having a lot of difficulty breathing. Wait...let me go back....

I had two colds in November one right after the other.   Then I had a cough I couldn't get rid of.  Over Christmas break, it just wouldn't stop. I was worried about the possibility of pneumonia or bronchitis pushing off the surgery, so it had to be addressed.  You know everything in the world goes on hiatus over the holidays, so I couldn't get a date to see my doctor until the second week in January.  I finally gave up on the Tuesday after New Year and went to Urgent Care where they diagnosed seasonal allergies.

Did I mention that the menstrual bleeding was crazy heavy over the last few weeks as well?

On Friday of that week, I was having trouble catching my breath when I got out of bed.  I called my mom and told her I thought I needed to go to the ER.  Anyone who knows me knows I've never, ever sounded that alarm before, so she took it pretty seriously.

The ER was really busy, but evidently breathing problems get you called in ASAP.  They took an EKG and told me to go sit down.  Then a while later they called me back to talk to the doctor, who said he was going to take blood.  Then they told me to go sit back down.

I'll shorten that story and say when they got me a bed, they took the blood and my number was at 6 and should have been at 10.  They also did yet another ultrasound to confirm my fibroid story. The ER doc said he wanted to admit me for a transfusion and he was going to call my OBGYN to tell her what was happening.  The blood issue wasn't going to get better, so I consented to the admittance.  We were in the ER at about 10am.  They got me a room somewhere around 7pm.  They started two units of blood at about 12:30 that night. I'm O-positive if you were wondering.

The next morning, I felt so much better! I  was ready to go home, but the nurse insisted I stay because my OBGYN was going to come see me.  When she got there around lunch time, she said she could move the surgery to the next day (Sunday).  Okay...please....just stop the bleeding already! I did have a freak out after she left.  I don't know what I'd do without my mom.  She was so calm outwardly, but I know she was afraid also.

They gave me another unit of blood on Saturday night and early Sunday morning took me to the operating room.  All I remember is them injecting something into my IV that stung like a bee sting.  Then I vaguely remember waking up in recovery in a lot of pain.  Apparently I was really agitated and yelling that I was hurting and had to go to the bathroom, so the nurse called my mother in to help.  She was there from the time I remember, so I'm not sure how much time passed.

For anyone reading this looking for surgical information, (and my original hysterectomy post is still getting huge numbers of hits so I'm assuming it's coming up on some kind of search) I had a Total Abdominal Hysterectomy.  This means it was a bikini line cut and they took the uterus, tubes and cervix.  They left my ovaries.   I have a picture of the distended uterus but I don't think I'll post it here.  It was big.  My mom said they were talking about it in the recovery room and saying it was so big for my small frame that it was surprising I could have lived with it.

Um...hey...I'd been trying to get it out for months!  The system moves slowly.

The first night was hard.  I asked for additional meds because there was a lot of pain, but at about 2am, I asked the nurse if I could get up and walk.  We went a little bit down the corridor.   The next morning I took one norco and then some ibuprofen.  After that there was a lot of discomfort, but the pain was gone and ibuprofen was fine.  On Tuesday they sent me home.  After four nights in the hospital, finally being able to wash your hair is pretty amazing.

I'm amazed at how difficult it is to move and how slowly I'm going.  The big thing is not being able to use abdominal muscles.  I'm having to push myself out of bed with my arms and roll my whole body over to find comfortable positioning.  My doctor said six weeks out of work.  I'm hoping it's not that long because that backs up to President's Day and we have that week off.  That'll be seven.  Add it to the two weeks from Christmas break and that makes nine weeks.  It's like a second summer vacation!   I want to get back as soon as I can.  Right now, I have no clue when that might be.  I'm puttering around the house and I've walked partway down the block.  I don't want to go out so far I can't get back again.  I certainly don't want to overdo it and cause a setback in healing, but everything I've read says moving around is the best thing.

All in all, this was the best thing.  Given what was happening, I probably would have needed another transfusion if I'd had to wait another month for surgery.  The cough I had went away after the transfusion, so I suspect the anemia was causing that problem.   I've gotten some lovely messages from concerned friends that really touched me. Right now I'm concentrating on healing and recovering and getting back to the normal me I left behind about two years ago.  

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Buh Bye 2016

Writing this year's end of the year post has been more difficult than you'd think.  I've already erased multiple attempts.  I think it's because this year has been what I'd label "Other Than Normal."

In that spirit, I'm not going to review the last year.  There are some really awesome things that happened, and some not so awesome things.  It is what it is.

As stated in my previous post, the majority of this year, my mind has been consumed by this medical malady that I'd never even heard of until it hit me.

That post has gotten a pretty extensive number of hits.  It has surpassed my average number of reads by almost twice as many visits and every day it keeps increasing much more than normal.  This tells me that people who don't already have me on a reading list signaling updates are checking to see if I've updated anything.

I don't want this to become "The Fibroid Blog" or "The Hysterectomy Blog."  Likewise, I have not mentioned this at all on Facebook, and only hinted at it once on IG, and that was when it was just a maybe. I've seen and heard how people react when someone talks too much about personal problems, and it ain't pretty.  On the other hand, this is my blog and it's my outlet.  Readers have a choice to read it or not.  

So, to give an update for those who are legitimately concerned: I have a surgery date.  It's not for several weeks yet, but it's there.  I am trying to frame it in my mind as an adventure and as a step toward getting my life back again.  I've been reading like mad about other women's experiences and what to expect.  The web and my library have gotten a lot of use.  I'm sure as the date gets closer I'll be terrified, but for now being positive is all I can do.
Happy New Year to all of you, and here's hoping 2017 is better for all of us!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Where Have I Been?

2016 has been some year and we've still got a bit less than a month to go.  There are a few reasons for my absence on the blog.  Some of it has been that I didn't want to talk about the politics that have taken over in the US the last few months.  Much of it has been my lack of running.  Read on and I'll explain that.

I've debated this post because it's personal and not very uplifting, but I've been trolling the web looking for stories like mine, so I thought I'd share in case anyone else is in my position. Bear with me while I give some background on this.  It's long and if you're squeamish about women's physiology, you may want to skip this.

In March of 2015, as I was doing the Hot Chocolate 15K in San Diego, I had my period on a race day for the first time ever.  It was crazy-heavy.  I'd noticed that each month had been heavier lately, but I didn't think much of it until it caused an issue during that race.  I let it go and the next month when it was very heavy again I thought it would be a good idea to visit a doctor.  She told me it's just being in my forties and stuff gets wonky in that area at this age.

I went online to google problems and freak myself out. The main suggestion I found was to keep a log of what goes on each cycle. I did that for a few months and then found an OBGYN who immediately said she felt a fibroid and asked why my PCP had not told me about it. Um....I dunno.  An ultrasound that October confirmed what was an orange sized fibroid and blood work indicated I was anemic.

I tried not to worry about it.  Apparently 70% of women have them.  Some don't even know they have them, some deal with the situation until menopause and others have huge problems.  It's very individualized.   The few people I mentioned it to all knew someone dealing with it.  The stories they told me ranged from having them removed in childbirth to miserable periods to ending up in the hospital needing blood transfusions.  My research and my age also had me thinking I might have perimenopause symptoms, although my doctor denied that I could be there yet.

Each month was bad.  I'd get periods lasting two weeks, very heavy for several days and often extreme pain that even 800 Ibuprofen didn't help.  I had to back out of a trip in December with some girlfriends due to ending up in Urgent Care with severe back pain that to this day I'm not sure if it was related or not.  Another trip a few months later was negatively impacted by my period making an appearance on the second day. Then in March of this year I was out at the Hot Chocolate Run again, and for the second year in a row there was crazy heavy bleeding on the day of that particular race.

That sent me back to the OBGYN, crying and looking for a solution.  She attempted an endometrial biopsy to rule out anything more sinister than the fibroid.  It was unsuccessful because my uterus was tipped backward.  She gave me the option of waiting or trying it again.  Have I mentioned in all of this that I'm terrified of doctors and my BP shoots through the roof whenever I'm in a medical office?  I opted to wait and the next few months actually did seem an improvement.

Then around the end of August I started bleeding every day with no distinction in between periods.    I went back to the doctor. She insisted on trying again for the biopsy, this time with medication to "loosen things up."  I had to take the meds six hours before the procedure.  A half hour after taking them, I was cramping. It got worse and worse.  I ended up calling my mom to take me to the doctor since there was no way to drive in the condition I was in.

The second biopsy attempt was another failure, again due to my anatomy.  The doctor felt the fibroid had grown and as it had been a year since the previous ultrasound, she sent me for another one.  She also set up a saline infused sonogram and a D&C to get the tissue sample that the biopsies failed to get.

Enter in some paperwork confusion over tests and codes that was aggravating and pushed the timeline back. The SIS was a repeat of the biopsy adventures because the procedure is similar.  The doctor at the imaging center was unable to get what she needed.  In the midst of all this I had to back out of the Los Angeles Rock and Roll Half Marathon because I haven't been able to do much more than go from work to home for the last few months.

Finally this week, I saw my doctor to talk about the ultrasound.  My 6.7 centimeter fibroid has grown some and invited two new friends to take up residence in my uterus.  According to the doctor, my uterus itself is the size of a watermelon, which I can't comprehend since I'm only five feet tall and there's not a lot of space in my torso.  She put me on birth control pills to control the bleeding, but they haven't been doing much. Over the week of the inactive pills I had so much bleeding that I was terrified I'd end up in the ER.  I still think I look pale and an hour walking around the mall last weekend was exhausting.  The D&C is off the table due to the failures of the other procedures that need to go through the same "entrance" and the fact that the ultrasound shows the fibroid crossing my endometrium and likely blocking any tissue sampling even if they could get to where they need to get.

So, our solution is a hysterectomy.  I'm in a holding pattern, pending insurance approval and scheduling  I'd really hoped to take care of it over the Christmas break so that I don't have to miss so much work. The doctor said she doesn't have a slot until February.  February!  Since they still haven't been able to rule out bad cells and since my uterus is so large, the doctor says the only thing to do is an abdominal incision.  That apparently takes six weeks to recover from and is a few days in the hospital after the surgery.  I'm not looking forward to it, but I really want my life back.  As it is, I will have to back out of the Arizona Rock and Roll in January and I have a smaller half marathon in February.  I'm praying to get it done ASAP and be able to do my comeback at Tinker Bell in May.

I never dreamed I'd be facing this.  I always thought I was healthy.  My mother never had this issue.  My grandmother had a few miscarraiges when she was young and my mom suspects now that her female problems were bigger than she'd ever spoken about.  It just goes to show you the kind of curve ball life can throw at you.

Posting about this whole ordeal has been a big quandry for me. It's personal.  I haven't told many people about it yet.  When someone complains about an illness, there is a tendency to think they're exaggerating.  I've tried really hard to power through, but I'm at a point of accepting that I can't deal with this on my own and I'm going to have to climb a hill to get to the other side.  If you have comments or stories to share, I'd be happy to hear them.  Just, please, don't tell me any horror stories.  I can't take the anecdotes about disasters. I'm holding on to the fact that I've found so many comments from women who have said that a hysterectomy was the best decision they ever made.  I'm hoping to be in that club very soon.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Blogging Again?

This weekend I've been loving all the pictures from the Disneyland Paris runs!  People look like they're having a great time.  I can't say I wish I was there.  Even after seeing all the fun, I still have no desire to be a part of it.  I'm content to just stay home and go to work each day at this point in my life. 

Speaking of work, this school year has had an interesting start, to say the least.  I'll get to that in a moment. It ties in to my next subject, which is that this happened:

It was quite a surprise!

When I applied months ago, my intent was to get back to blogging, but I was also gung-ho to start a chapter of Kids Run the OC at my school site.  KROC is a program that the Orange County Marathon runs to encourage kids to set goals and improve their fitness.  The schools put together their own internal program in which the students "train" for several months and earn the equivalent of 25.2 miles.   They then come out to the Kids Fun Run on marathon weekend and do their final mile, thus running their marathon.  They get the medal at the Fun Run, and then the OC Marathon people come out to the school site and do an award assembly in which the students are awarded their marathon medal, which I believe is the same medal the adults in the OC Marathon are given at the finish line.

Last year I went to the information session, got very excited,  and then brought the idea to my principal, who also was very positive about it.  Unfortunately, the PTA had already done their jog-a-thon and the feedback from the grade level team leads was "Maybe next year."

Next year is now this year.  Back in July, we all received an email from our principal saying she wasn't returning.  We started this year with an interim principal and no indication of when any change would happen.  Just this past Friday everyone was called into a meeting.  They've found someone they love and she's accepted, but there are arrangements to be made with her current district before she can leave there.  On top of that situation, our PTA has kind of disintegrated and our grants for special things have been all used up. 

I have no idea if I'll be able to pull this off this year.  I think it would be amazing for our kids, but I can't do it alone.  I need buy-in from a lot of people.  On the other hand, I've still been named a race ambassador, so I'll do my best to get the word out about the events as a whole. 

But wait!  There was another interesting email in my box this week!
I volunteered for the expo at the Avengers Half Marathon which as been rebranded Super Heroes.  It takes place the same weekend as the Las Vegas Rock and Roll.  I was considering doing Vegas.  I haven't done it since the first disastrous year they moved it to an evening race and I wanted to give it a second chance.  Up until I got the confirmation this week for the volunteering thing I was still trying to figure out how to make it work.  The race on Sunday night presents logistical problems. I either have to drive home through the desert in the dark on Sunday night or come home Monday and miss a day of work. Both scenarios are equally unappealing.  If I'm not at work it inconveniences other people, so I try to only be out if I'm ill. 

So, it looks as if I'll be doing something somewhere at the Disney Super Heroes race expo!  It should be an interesting new way to view a race weekend! 

There's more to share, and with this ambassador thing, I'll do my best to blog more regularly, but I spend more time on Instagram lately than here.  Hit me up over there at RunningTeacherJen!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Chicago Rock and Roll Half Marathon 2016 Race Recap

Half Marathon: 33
State: 7
For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to visit Chicago.  It was always a goal to go for St. Patrick's Day to see the parade and the river dyed green.  Then when I started running, everyone but everyone said the Chicago Marathon is the best out there. I'm not kidding.  I'd be in random corrals and hear conversations between runners and the consensus was Chicago, Chicago, Chicago.   When I set the goal to do a run in each of the 50 states, I still had the marathon in my mind, but the timing is bad for me, plus, let's face it, the lead time for training is hard.  It's a major commitment, and a scary one if you get derailed by something along the way.  I found out Rock and Roll Chicago happens over summer break and I was sold, despite the fact that last year they had record high temps. 

The event seemed to be worthy of some kind of special shout-out clothing wise.  I decided to go with a nod to the most famous film I could think of featuring the city.

My mom was my travel buddy, which makes things easier.  We have a pretty good traveling relationship that usually involves us getting irritated with each other at least once per trip, usually if we're tired and worn out, but we roll right past it.  I can't say the same for traveling with friends all the time, although I've had some fantastic racecations with other runners over the years.

So we flew out and got there late afternoon on Friday.  Unlike Los Angeles, Chicago has great public transportation and you can hop on a train at the airport to get you in the city.  We found our hotel and just kind of wandered around.  I am unable to relax in a new place.  I always want to explore.  I can't see sitting in a hotel room, no matter how tired I am if there are new things to see.  My mom had been there before, it was my first time and I was in awe at the beauty of the buildings and the cleanliness of the downtown area.

Saturday morning we got up to go to the expo.  Walking toward the expo meant going through Grant Park, which would be the run's start site the next morning.  It was also a great opportunity for touristing!
The only hiccup in the weekend was getting to the expo.  It seemed to be a straight shot along the park area.  My map ended at the huge landmark of Soldier Field, but indicated that the convention center was 3/4 of a mile further along Lakeshore Drive.  Unfortunately, the sidewalk ended and Lakeshore basically became a highway!  We tried to walk west to Michigan Avenue, but found the same situation.  We ended up backtracking to the edge of the park to get a cab to take us the rest of the way.  The roads were swirly and the driver had to go that way to get this way.  I'm sure there was a way to walk it, but without a decent map or directions posted on the website (which only gave driving directions to parking areas) we just gave it up.

Race morning was beautiful.  It was warm enough to be comfortable in a tank top, but not overly warm or so humid that you're sweating just by being outside.  The route was beautiful!  It was flat and it went past all kinds of landmarks, and over bridges, through tunnels, and under train tracks.

The forecast leading up to the trip was crazy.  It seemed like every time I looked at the weather app on my phone it changed.  One day it called for thunder showers, the next day sun, the next day the thunder shower forecast would be back again.  On the day of the half marathon, the app called for rain at about 8pm.  After a while it got windy. Several miles in, I started to feel drops, but didn't think much of it.  A light mist is always welcome, especially warm one.  By mile nine it was pouring, and by mile ten, the band I was passing was announcing that they were suspending the race and calling for people to take shelter due to lightning!  There didn't seem to be any place to go, so I just followed the crowd and kept going, getting soaked and loving every second of it.  I eventually got back to the convention center and the route took a tunnel underneath. Does that count as taking shelter?  By the time I got through it, the rain had pretty much stopped and I made my way to the finish.  When I got there, I found out that they'd suspended the race for about 20 minutes.  Go figure.  Nobody around me followed directions.  They must have all been from California!  We have no clue about how to deal with weather.  We just trundle through like idiots.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt.
The one decent shot from MarathonFoto is blurry.  I'm not sure if this is a thing now to keep people from doing what I just did here with their sample, but I'm not willing to pay money to find out.  You can tell here that my skirt is soaked.
It was a fantastic race and a beautiful city.  My Garmin clocked over fourteen miles, but that's likely due to all the interference from things above me in terms of tunnels and buildings.  It was slightly disheartening at the time.  The wind had blown down a lot of the mile markers and it was hard to tell where I was.  I knew the signal was off by about a mile for certain parts, then it seemed to be correct, then it was off again.  Regardless, I would absolutely do this race again!  There was so much to do in the city, I could spend weeks there and probably not see everything!

All too soon, it was time to come home again.  As sad as it is to end a trip sometimes, there's nothing like sleeping in your own bed!