Unexpected Surgery on February 22, and the Aftermath

Originally written on February 24: Encounters with Modern Medicine

I am home again after a few interesting days, which included a hospital stay. And - I get extra vacation time this year as a result!

It all started Thursday morning, when I developed a pain in my belly so sharp that I could not concentrate on my work. I got the pay checks distributed, refilled the postage meter, and headed home for release, with the hope that this would be a 24-hour bug. Hours passed, and relief did not come. I called the physician on call, and he said, "You don't want to hear this, but you need to come in to the emergency room." I didn't, but I put on my boots and coat, and Robert and I headed over.

At the emergency room, a PA saw me. After hearing that I have MS, and therefore chronic constipation, he ordered x-rays of my tummy. The x-rays revealed that I was constipated, and he decided that must be the source of my problem. He sent me home with a bottle of magnesium citrate and some bowel oriented prescriptions. I was a good girl and did not argue. We went home - a 40 minute drive - I glugged the stuff, and lay down on the bathroom floor, waiting for release.

Three hours later, release had not come. In fact, the pain had worsened. In fact, it had become just about the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. Then I vomited. I wailed as Robert put my coat on me, and bundled me out the door for another 40 minute trip to the emergency room.

This time, I saw a doctor. This time, they gave me an IV and dilaudid for pain. This time the doctor ordered a CAT scan. And discovered that, yeah, I was kind of constipated, but I also had an ovarian cyst about the size of a baseball. He promptly admitted me.

By 4 A.M. or so, I was settled down for the night in a quiet room with bounteous amounts of pain killers. The next day, I started working on the next step - where to have the operation I needed. My OB/GYN left the hospital in which I was resting comfortably about a year earlier, with a certain amount of snipping and sniping. There was a visiting doctor who came in to meet with me about my case - a black man named Dr. Beverly Love, from Alabama, who called himself a rent-a-doc - and I liked him immediately. I had not eaten in over 24 hours, or had anything to drink in 12 hours. The doc was ready, I was ready, and it was snowing outside. I called my OB/GYN's office, told them what was up, and said that I was going to have the surgery where I was, rather than traveling an hour so that he could sandwich me into his busy day. His office told me, fine - but that they would not provide me with post-surgical care.

That just pissed me off, and made me more determined to let Dr. Love fix me up.

I ended up with quite the multi-cultural surgery - CAT scan initially read in Australia (sent down via internet so that radiologists up here can sleep through the night), Dr. Love at the knife, and an Asian anaesthetist.

As it turns out, the weight of the cyst had twisted and kinked my ovary, and it was turning blue. Dr. Love told Robert that I have quite a capacity for pain. He did a labarotomy and removed the ovary with the cyst.

Some extra caution was taken because I am 56 and have been postmenopausal for more than a decade. The risk of ovarian cancer is considerably higher for me than if I were younger. I have had both of the blood tests for ovarian cancer, and they both have come back negative. I will get final confirmation that cancer is not a concern when the biopsy results come in in a few days. I am very optimistic that all I have to do now is recover from the surgery.

I am home now. I'm feeling much like I did after the c-section that I had almost 20 years ago, except this time I don't have to take care of a baby - my baby is 19, and a great cook. Plus she seems determined to pamper me.

Tomorrow will come soon enough for me to start dealing with the major financial report due March 31, my grad course, and all that stuff. Time for a nap, and some pampering.

Originally written February 27: Today's Update

I do not have cancer! The final pathology test came back showing no signs of ovarian cancer. My doctor emailed me, "You are a blessed woman." Yes, I am.

I am feeling better! I do not need as many pain pills to get through the day, and I am sleeping well.

My house is a mess! Even though I'm supposed to be letting other people take care of things, well - they aren't. I'll have to start some pickup today because -

Mom is getting ready to visit.

She is trying to pull her stuff together today, to drive up tomorrow. She is very nervous about me being home alone while Robert is taking Ana back to Montreal on Friday.

Tomorrow, Ana will have to help me with things like getting some clothes to wear. They are all still upstairs, where I cannot go. I'm ready to wear something other than a nightgown and robe.

Originally written March 3: Decisions Made at the Doctor's Office

Today I had an appointment with the doctor who has agreed to provide me with post-operative care. I liked the man very much. One of the pieces of paper I had to sign stated that he has chosen to practice without a nurse practitioner or a PA on staff so that he can work directly with all of his patients - and that he would be taking time off occasionally. He was full of common sense and had a lovely direct manner with me, his patient. He talked with great amazement at the size of the cyst that was removed, showed me the lab results, and interpreted them for me.

He confirmed that I am recovering from surgery very, very well.

I asked him when I could return to work. He asked me what I did. When I told him that I'm an accountant, he said I could return right away if I took things easy.

He said that I am entitled to 6 full weeks off if I want them, that is customary for abdominal surgery. He said that he knew that some people could go away for 6 weeks, and hardly be missed. He said that others could not, and that he worked with that. Between the lines: I am not a person who can take that much time off.

I have been told that I am a workaholic, and those words went through me like a knife. While that may be true, there is a deeper description of who I am: I am a person willing to accept a job that has great, unending responsibility. A job that affects whether or not an agency remains solvent. A job that affects whether or not people get paid.

So while I would love to have a few more weeks at home to knit, and read, and goof off in a profound way, the doctor and I decided that I will go back to work on Monday. Part-time, 20 hours per week, four hours per day. I will work part-time until I feel ready to work full-time.

I almost cried when I got back into the car with my mother. I am almost crying now. I probably will cry when I go to bed. (Note to self: take kleenex.)

After leaving the doctor's office, I went to my office to fill out leave slips, put the doctor's slips in my confidential file, and email myself some documents I need for the paper I am writing. When I looked at my desk, I knew that I had made the right decision. There was the hiring paperwork for a woman who started at the agency a week ago, uncompleted, not sent to the University yet. And I had talked very specifically about these forms with a co-worker. Who called in sick today.

Someone has to be responsible. My doctor is a responsible man. Before I even left his office, copies of the lab reports were in an envelope addressed to my family doctor.

But I am so going to be out of there when those four hours are up.


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