Wednesday, December 10, 2014

This Was Not Supposed to Happen

Welp. Two months after the World's Most Complicated Hysterectomy (except for the ones that were more complicated than mine) and here's what I know:

Menopause is not for wimps.

This show makes so much more sense now.

It's also not for me. I don't enjoy it. At all.

I thought, arrogantly, with all my surgical experience that I could bounce back from this surgery just like all the others. After all, this was supposed to be a quick, 45 minute laparoscopic procedure, a couple of hours in recovery, and home by dark. Except the 45 minute laparascopic procedure turned into a four hour abdominal surgery with two nights in the hospital. But still... I've had worse. I thought I could bounce back.

Oh. Oh, how wrong I was.

You see, unlike the simple but excruciating dead gall bladder or the whimsical breast reduction, the hysterectomy brought side effects. I was unceremoniously dumped into full menopause at the age of 37. I thought, arrogantly, that the thyroid cancer had prepared me for the effects of menopause. Hormonal imbalances, temperature swings, crazy moods-been there done that, right? I refused hormone replacement treatment because I thought I could handle it. Also because I don't need the increased cancer risk and because I already take enough pills every day.

Oh. Oh, how wrong I was.

I don't know what menopause is like for others. I only know what it is like for me. I don't care for it.

Some of it is interesting. In a way, menopause is like a fast, backwards pregnancy. It started with the post-partum depression, then went into nesting. Then mood swings and food cravings. I'm expecting the morning sickness any day now.

A very Benjamin Button pregnancy.
But that's not the bad part. Actually, there are two bad parts.

Hot flashes. No matter what the sitcoms have told you, hot flashes aren't funny. They're hot and uncomfortable and unpredictable. I'm not a fan.

Worse than the hot flashes, though, is the hormonal imbalance. That post-partum-like depression? It didn't stop when I started nesting. It just got worse and worse. As my estrogen plummeted, it seems the menopause had a nasty interaction with the thyroid stuff and I got depressed. Not sad. Depressed. It was very dramatic and tearful and miserable and I look back at it with embarrassment.

I can't describe the experience of clinical depression better than Ali Brosh did, so I won't try. I'll just say, it was bad. I had a very involved doctor and a good support system in place. Not sure what would have happened if I didn't. As of now, I'm ok. Yes, I've still got the support system in place, and yes, I'm still being monitored by the doctor. It's going to be fine, I think. I haven't cried in days now.

I'm on a lot of hormones now. I mean... a lot. My doctor started me on a dose... then doubled it... then doubled it again. Being on quadruple estrogen is weird. I'm suddenly enamored with all things pink and I can't believe how much flannel I wore while I was depressed. Hello Kitty is suddenly adorable (in a non-ironic way) and I really want to get a pedicure. And babies. I want to squeeze or steal all the babies that come into the bakery. Also, that crepe-y skin that was developing on my neck is getting firm again. And my nails and hair are stronger. It's all very strange. But better.

Monday, November 10, 2014

And the Beat Goes On...

By my count, I have had seven surgeries, hospitalizations, or procedures in the last two years. Nine in the last three years. Prior to that, there are at least a dozen more. I'm certainly not the record-holder, but I'm no stranger to how this whole thing works.

Here we are, four and a half weeks after the World's Most Complicated Hysterectomy, and I think I'm behind on the whole healing thing. By my estimation, I should be done by now. But NOPE. Another day, another complication. But I can't stop my life for weeks and lay around waiting for recovery to happen. When post-op setbacks happen, they have to fit in my day. Today is a good illustration of that.

Monday, November 10th, 2014

7:00 am: Finally decide that the alarm clock has a point and drag myself out of bed. It hurts that spot by my incision to sit up.

7:20 am: round the kids into the car. Getting into the car makes the spot by my incision hurt worse than ever. It's been hurting for... two weeks now? Time to call Pittard.

7:32 am: Deliver the kids to school.

7:35 am: Unload the bakery's recycling out of the car at the drop-off near the school. Twinges a bit in that spot.

7:39 am: Bakery supply shopping at Kroger (Did you SEE this week's butter sale???)

8:14 am: unload the butter (and other supplies) at the shop, put them away, check and answer all the voicemails, emails, and PMs. Call Pittard, try to get an appointment. Told to wait for the nurse to call me back.

9:01 am: Procure breakfast on the way to the car wash. Oh, Jack's iced coffee, how do I love you....

9:13 am: Drive the car through Goo Goo and then vacuum half the neighborhood's crunchy leaf bits out of the back floor. I'm moving too slowly- Call for appointment with Pittard again.

9:31 am: get eyebrows done finally- but that spot hurts leaning back in the chair.

9:40 am: Check out the thrift store- I know it's been missing me- find super cute tea cups for the new tea party tables

9:48 am: Cruise through Belk. Try on diamond ring just for shiggles. See cute purse on floor- can't bend over to pick it up and check it out. Someone has to fix this.

10:25 am: Arrive at Medical Arts Eye Clinic for a full.... FULL... glaucoma work up. Pressures, dilation, pics of optic nerves, pics of tumor in right eye, bright, bright lights in my dilated eyes make them tired and sore.

11:42 am: leave eye clinic, sore, and call Pittard's office again. Offer to just stop by since I'm already in Auburn. Told to come at 1:30 for an ultrasound. Score!

11:50 am: Home for lunch. Leftovers and Dr. Who reruns are cool.

1:10 pm: head to the ultrasound store.

Ultrasound shows something weird in there. A hematoma? An abscess?

Kinda looks like Grumpy Cat
Have a thorough exam.

 Have a good, long talk with my Pittard. He orders a CT and blood panel to get more info. We have a long discussion on pain meds and find a compromise in Lortab Jr. (that's not it's real name, but that's how he convinced me to take something, so I'm sticking with it). Also discuss hot flashes and mood swings... and the depression. He starts me on a low, low dose of estrogen. We'll see how that goes. They draw some blood and...

2:54 pm: Back up the road to the hospital for the CT.

 This hospital thing is getting old. Doss and the kids meet me up there with caffeine and aspirin for my eye pain-induced headache.

My kids have done too much homework at the hospital already

4:39 pm: CT is over, get to go home!

4:52 pm (yes, 13 minutes later, really): My Pittard calls with the scan results. Inconclusive. Sad trombone. Take the pain pills, take it easy, and he'll call when the blood work comes back.

If it gets better, great!
If it gets worse, probably surgery.

So... that's where we are.

I want to get up in the morning and be whole and strong and energetic. I have things to do! But my body is a vicious traitor and it's far more accepting of my middle-aged status than I am. So I'll get up tomorrow and say bad words when the act of sitting up causes me to feel like I'm being ripped in half. I'll go to my beautiful, mildly haunted bakery and spend the day puttering around while a bunch of cakes run through the oven. And then I'll come home and be more tired than I should be after a day of just puttering and baking. And that's ok, for now.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What Happened.

This one is pretty gross. If you're one of my brothers or grossed out by girl plumbing, you shouldn't read this. But this is where I record what happens in my world- and maybe someone will see it some day and it'll give her a clue about what's going on in her own weird body.

This story doesn't actually start Wednesday. And, it doesn't start with the pain I was having last month, either.

This story actually started at the end of 2011. I know. But I want to record what happened because I have a tendency to forget these things. Most of what I remember from the thyroid cancer adventure comes from this blog. I choose to see my selective memory as a blessing.

At the end of 2011... October maybe? I started having a weird situation. My once clockwork-normal periods went out of whack. They actually reversed- I went from bleeding 4-5 days a month to not bleeding only 4-5 days a month. I know, gross. The really sucky part was that it came with pain. Pretty bad pain, all in my abdomen and radiating up the left side of my back. There were a lot of things going on in our world during that time, and we all kind of assumed the thyroid cancer was the cause of this mess. But it didn't stop when I went into remission, so I went to my Dr. Pittard. In the spring of 2013, I had a procedure to fix it. Well... four. I had four procedures to fix it: hysteroscopy, laparoscopy (to see what was going on), DNC (to stop the bleeding), and an ablation (to keep the bleeding from coming back).

The ablation was great! I was sore for a few days, but that was nothing new and the bleeding stopped!
The hysteroscopy and laparoscopy were interesting. They showed some signs of what might be the beginning of endometriosis. And a cyst on my right ovary. Nothing that should have been causing the amount of pain I had been feeling, but the ablation made me feel better enough that I went on with life, happy.

Endometriosis is hard to diagnose, ya know.

Fast forward to last month: the pain, that old pain I'd had before the ablation, was back. And it was angry. We now know that it was a chocolate cyst rupturing by my uterus.

*Sidenote* chocolate cyst? Seriously? Who named it that?

So, the cyst thingy ruptured (apparently, didn't know that at the time), it hurt, I was cranky, but I ignored it. Weeks passed... and then Wednesday happened.  On Wednesday, I took the kids to school, went to the bakery for a meeting, nothing really out of the ordinary. I had a little head cold... and I thought that was causing the little bit of nausea I felt. But around mid morning, it started to hurt. HURT. I don't know what all I did- I kind of went in and out. I messaged Doss that I was hurting. I called and got an appointment with Dr. Pittard for that afternoon. I remember, at one point, being on my hands and knees in my bedroom screaming in pain. I remember trying to lay down and passing out. I remember at one point passing so much blood that I wondered if I was having another miscarriage (later found out that was a terrifying side effect from the ablation).

Doss came home and took me to the appointment. My Dr. Pittard checked me out and ordered an immediate ultrasound... but the ultrasound couldn't fit me in until 9am the next day. Made it to the ultrasound after a night of nausea, vomiting, and fever. She checked me out and found a little cyst on my left ovary this time and a big blood clot-looking thing (we'll later find out this was the ruptured chocolate cyst) outside my uterus. But because the left ovary wasn't getting any blood flow, it was dying.  And it was taking me with it. That was the pain and nausea.

I was sent directly from the ultrasound to my Pittard where he did a quick pre-op check up (the usual, lungs, legs, heart). Then he sent me straight to the surgery center, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. The surgery center at EAMC is like my Cheers: everybody there knows my name. It's a familiar place that I usually associate with getting better, so it was good to be there. Waiting sucked. But I didn't have to wait too long. But I was in a lot of pain. A lot. And I was pretty freaked out. It was a tough wait.

The plan was for Dr. Alverson (who was on that day) to try to do the surgery laparoscopicly. It should have been quick and easy. He'd take the uterus, try to untwist the left ovary, and leave at least the right ovary in there so I wouldn't have to go through menopause at 37. I signed the consent for full abdominal surgery and everything in case the laparoscopic route didn't work.
Boy, did it ever not work.
The surgery ended up taking over four hours. I had stage III/IV endometriosis that had completely involved both my ovaries, my tubes, my uterus, and anything else it could get near. Dr. Alverson ended up calling in another surgeon to get the intestines that were in the wrong place from previous surgeries unstuck from the endometriosis. They took my uterus and both ovaries. I have a little bit of cervix left.

And I *just* bought a new box of tampons this week.

So, apart from the almost dying part and all the pain and the fear and stuff, this adventure was pretty great. Here's why:
1. I no longer have to wonder *when* I'll have to get a hysterectomy.
2. My kids were well-cared for by my mom and Doss and Shanna and everybody. I never had to worry.
3. Nobody got too mad at me for the cakes I had to cancel.
4. The bakery had a party without me and it was fine.
5. I felt so much love and support (and flowers!) from so many people. That was pretty great. And people came to visit!
6. Now that I'm in menopause, the hot flashes counteract some of the perpetual cold that comes from not having a thyroid. I'm almost balanced.

The List *Updated

This is the list of body parts I've had removed, not including tumors, mucoceles, mixomas, and such. I'm also not including the two times I had complete human beings cut out of me. The actual surgery list is much longer- this is just the parts removed, current as of 10/14.

This list is in chronological order, for the morbidly curious.

And no, I do not have plans to have anything else removed any time soon. I never do.

Most of my large intestine (Hirschprung's disease- you can google it)
Wisdom teeth
Gall bladder
most of my breast tissue
right side and isthmus of my thyroid
left side of my thyroid (and radiation to ablate any little pieces)
Uterus, both Fallopian tubes and ovaries

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Your Kids Are a Trip"

You've probably never had the privilege of taking my children to get their flu vaccines. That's ok, you can go next year. Here's how it works:

My kids start asking for their flu vaccines around the end of July.


They love it. Partly because they can get nasal vaccines at Target and partly because the pharmacists give them each a bag with a wad of candy afterwards. Because nothing stops flu germs like the beetus, I guess. Once the flu shot signs go up in stores, I can't put them off anymore. The kids know flu vaccines are available and it's time.

Today was the big day. Like all moms, I spent the afternoon saying things like, "If you don't calm down, I'm not going to take you to get your vaccination." Eventually, the last cake was picked up this afternoon and it was time to head to Target for Operation Flu Prevention.

Why do flu shots have so much paperwork? Do they really need to know that my eight year-old son is not pregnant? And get me started on the "Have you or anyone close to you ever been treated for cancer?" question. Things are more complicated when your kids can read. But eventually the paperwork was handled and the vaccines paid for.

The girl went first. Please note the look of raw fear on her face:

Flu sniff:

Then the boy. Again, please observe the terror:

The nice pharmacist tried to make small talk with the boy. It's probably a habit she's adopted to try and allay kids' fears. I would assume she's used to kids who are more nervous that thrilled about being there.
"Who's that on your shirt?"
"That's my big brother,"
"Darth Vader is your big brother?"
At this point she looked at me, like I was going to correct him. Boy, was she disappointed.

Flu sniff:

Then I got a quick shot. During my shot, the pharmacist remarked that my kids "are a trip". Seems she's never seen any children enjoy their vaccinations quite like mine.

Also, for posterity, when she stuck the needle in my arm, at that exact instant, I got a PM on my phone. So, she stuck the needle in and "ding!".
"What was that?"
"It means you put the shot in right. Doesn't everybody's arm do that?"

After that, I'm pretty sure they were glad to see us leave. Sucks for them, though, because I have to go back tomorrow to get my eye drops.

Anyway, to the victors go the spoils:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dr. Boo

I haven't been writing enough lately. Somebody needs to keep my blogs up to date for me...

Yesterday was Boo's eighth birthday party though he wasn't officially eight until today. He has become obsessed with Dr. Who and so a Gallifrey-inclined party was the order of the day.

Of course, he wanted the 10th Doctor there for his party:

And when Mommy- oh, excuse me, Mom. As of now, I'm "Mom". Sad. But anyway, when mom can't tie your tie correctly, it's good to have the Doctor on hand:

Decorating the bakery was a lot of fun. 

Everyone hates Cassandra
You can tell the Whovians from the Muggles by the way they step back from the crack in the universe:
I almost left this up. I loved it so.
And Bad Wolf everywhere:


Like any good mom, I spray painted a bunch of plungers and bought whisks so the kids could be daleks.

 "The kids"...
And I made a cake:

 It was striped inside:

Doctor-themed foods

And "make a baby adipose" out of marshmallows:

Opening presents with friends:

I love this pic: The Little Doctor sitting next to the Big Doctor's fiancee:

I think he had a good day. Any day you get unlimited access to Pixie Stix is a good day:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

15 Hours

Fifteen hours is a fair amount of time. I spent a little more than fifteen hours in the car this weekend engaged in various and sundry adventures. It was pretty great. For my own memory, here's what happened:


Thursday was a normal baking a decorating day. Nothing exciting. But I made some cakes:


Friday, I finished up the wedding cake, baked and decorated the wedding cupcakes, and baked the Saturday cakes in the morning. Then, I drove to the Marriot to deliver the wedding cupcakes (car time: 40 min).  Then it was back to the shop to grab the wedding cake and head to the lake for delivery and set up (car time: 3 hours). Then back to the shop to finish decorating the Saturday cakes. But the wedding cake set up was at a beautiful location. Check out the view:

On Friday night, while I was decorating the Saturday cakes, I had the old Facebook open on the shop computer. I kept seeing pictures of friend after friend getting to Birmingham for the Alabama Phoenix Festival. I had no idea how many people I knew were going. I started to get jealous; I hate missing a good shenanigan. Naturally, I talked to Doss about it and we started to look into the logistics of making it to Phoenix Fest for the last day. The hotel wasn't terrible, the registration was pretty darn reasonable... it was just a matter of getting the dog boarded somewhere and then getting the family packed and loaded and driven to Birmingham on Saturday afternoon. Why not? If everything happened exactly right, we could almost just make it in time to check into the hotel and put the kids to bed. It was worth a shot.


5 o'clock in the morning, with the help of the Hello Kitty alarm clock, I dragged my slightly sleep-deprived self out of bed and went to wake up mini-me. We put on our dresses, curled her hair, looked for our shoes in the dark, and hopped in the car. A quick stop at the bakery to grab a little cake and we hit the open road. We stopped in Newnan for coffee, croissants, and a cake pick up (car time: 1 hour).

It was just a little shark cake for Icing Smiles, for the brother of a kid with brain cancer, but it turned out to be one of the toughest parts of my weekend. We didn't know the brother was going to pass away that night. But I really hope the birthday boy was able to enjoy his shark pool party on Saturday.

From Newnan, we went back on the road up to a little church in a little town where an old friend was getting married (car time: 2 hours).
Yes, we stopped at a gas station to change her clothes on the way to the church. 
Then it was back in the car to head to the reception (car time: 30 min). There are not many people for whom I would willingly enter this building.
Just... no.
Since the bride and groom both have library science degrees, books figured heavily into the decor. My mom actually chose this table... I didn't tell her about the Star Wars.

From the reception, we hit the road again, the girl full of M&Ms, and drove back home (car time: 3 hours). We almost made it... see, mini-me has a history of car sickness. She slept most of the way home, but once we got on the exit for home... KABLAM! It was one of her best performances. I'm never eating M&Ms again. A quick scrubbing of the car and child, some packing, and BOOM! We were on our way to Birmingham for Phoenix Fest! (car time: 3 hours) Well, after a quick stop at CVS for baby Dramamine.

We stopped for dinner at a diner that had this on the wall. Love.
Now, here's my favorite part of this shenanigan: I had been whining and complaining to my friends who were at Phoenix Fest that they were there and I wasn't. I asked them for pictures and stories and souvenirs... but I didn't tell them that we'd decided to come out there for the last day of the convention. In the car on the way there, I kept up the pretext of sad, sad jealousy and requests for pictures and whatnot. I was actually talking with three different friends at APF and the plan was to sneak up and surprise them by actually showing up. But... that's a weird and awkward risk. I had visions of tracking down friends and saying, "Hey!" and them being super stoked to see us. But... what if they weren't? What if we were like, "Hey!" and they were all, "What are you doing here?"? I worried about that a bit on the three hour car ride.

Happily, nobody seemed disappointed to see our motley crew roll up into the Birmingham Sheraton. At least to our faces. And I enjoyed announcing our arrival so much, I want to remember them. These three stories were happening simultaneously:

Friend 1: I'd been messaging this buddy and lamenting the fact that I couldn't be at APF because of all those darn wedding shenanigans. So, when we got to the hotel, I sent him this pic and asked, "Do you like my glasses?"
Oh, hotel lighting.
Weird and random, right? But ever the nice guy, he responded with a yes. Then I got to say, "How about now? Do you like this shot better?"
This bed was comfy, too
It's the hotel bed! He understood, was happy to hear we were there, and invited us to join them for dinner. Yay!

Friend 2:
This friend I had also been checking in on, asking for updates all weekend. After check-in, while we were exploring the hotel a little, I was texting this buddy to try and find out where he was. With absolutely no stealth, I straight up asked him where he was. A nearby restaurant. Alright. So I said, "How come you don't ask where I am right now?"
And do you know? That dorkface said, "Does it matter?"
So I replied, "I don't know. Does it?" and attached this picture:
The hotel logo in this pic shows up better on a phone.
Then my phone rang and he tracked us down.

Friend 3: This one might be my favorite because I have no idea how it happened. This buddy I'd been bugging, asking him to get me stuff at APF. One of the things on my list? A hug. Get me a hug at Phoenix Fest. That makes no sense, right, because how is he gonna hug me from three hours away? Reasonably, he said no. So, like a good friend, I called him a jerk. Then, I swear this happened, he sent a response pointing out that I was in Auburn and unhuggable and then entered a hotel lobby at the exact same moment we were entering that lobby from another entrance. Magic. Also? I got my hug.

Enough with the words. These are the rest of the pics from this weekend off my phone. Let's see if I can remember why I took them. And they're even in the right order of events. Kind of.

Oh! One of my projects for APF was to make a video postcard for Shanna. Here's Matt in our room after we recorded his part. I love this picture because mini-me is snugging her stuffed Vader. Next to Vader. How precious is that?

We told them they could pack and wear whatever they wanted for Sunday. This is what she chose:

Ah, this friend. This little guy was in the club lounge. I spent a lot of time with him even though he was a little temperamental.

I'm sure the 6- and 7- year olds were the target demographic Game Stop had in mind when they set this thing up.

This. This is precious. ALL the kids wanted to see was the Tardis. They're geeky little things, and coming along quite well. So they just plain old wanted to see the Tardis. They didn't know they'd be able to touch it and go inside it- they just wanted to see it. So here we are, at the Tardis, when the girl spots the eleventh Doctor across the room:
 And they were a little stunned:
 And excited:

 And then Dr. Boo got a picture with him and they decided Phoenix Fest was the best thing ever:

Now see... what are the odds of four of us wearing the same shirt at the same time? That's straight up whimsy right there:

 Also, there were a lot of Legos. So many. It was awesome, look at his face:

OH! Even though most of the costumes were on Saturday (while we were in the car), I managed to find a Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer! And I may have frightened them with my joy at seeing them. But they were nice enough to give me a picture anyway:

I know I'm already forgetting things. Bits of wonder and whimsy started slipping away during the ride home (car time: 3 hours).  But the cakes got done, I got to go to a pretty wedding, we made it to Phoenix Fest, and I got a t shirt. What more could you want?