Be forewarned, this is a public service announcement as well as a blog entry. There are lessons to be learned. Now pay attention.
Wellllll, I’m not going to finish my 366 Grid this year and that’s OK. I had a feeling I might miss a day on ConnieLou’s surgery day…and I did.
But it didn’t go down quite the way I anticipated. We had to be at the hospital at 6:30 Friday morning so they could prep ConnieLou for a 7:30-7:45 start. I toyed with the idea of stopping to grab a cache on the way but we were cutting it close so I decided to wait until later in the day after her surgery was over…no problem. Or so I thought.
For the most part everything went according to plan until late afternoon. They took ConnieLou back to the O.R. at 7:45. Her surgeons came to visit with us as each finished to give us updates on how things were going. By noon the surgery was finished and she was in recovery and around 1:00 we met back up with her in a hospital room and found her awake and in good spirits. Her pain meds were doing their job. By mid-afternoon, with ConnieLou doing well, I was beginning to contemplate what I wanted to do for supper and figured that I’d simply grab a nearby cache while I was out. How does the phrase go? “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Yeah, that’s it.
By late afternoon the anesthesia was finally wearing off and with friends and family in the room, it was starting to get to be pretty warm…not a good combination. A nurse happened to be in the room doing her thing and ConnieLou asked for a barf bag. You can probably guess what happened next. Yeah, she hurled. Thankfully the barf bag did its job. At first we all thought “OK, she hurled, got it out of her system and things will be fine”. Nope. Before long she started having some pain and we began noticing some swelling. She also began to notice a warm sensation on her side which was found to be some leakage from her incision. The nurse was called back and she began to work on ConnieLou. She called in an assistant and when they began to talk in hushed tones and go out into the hall to answer phone calls we knew dealing with something a bit more serious. When the on-call surgeon came in we knew things weren’t getting any better. In fact, by then the swelling was significant and her drains weren’t draining (my apologies to the queasy). The on-call surgeon called her plastic surgeon and the decision was made to go back in and find out what was causing the problem. Fortunately the plastic surgeon was nearby.
By 7:30 she was back in surgery…and the cache was pretty much forgotten.
By 10:30 she was out of surgery, back in her room and all was well again. Turns out a blood vessel had ruptured, most likely when she threw up, and her incision had begun to fill with blood and was swelling. At one point, as she was being prepped to return to surgery, her blood pressure had dropped dangerously low. I think the phrase used by the anesthesiologist was “we nearly lost her”. It’s probably a good thing that the rest of us didn’t learn that little detail until she was back out of surgery, awake and again in good spirits.
I did happen to think of the cache one more time during the evening…but at that point my response to the thought was “Nope, not that important, I’ll get it next year.”
Up to now I’ve kept quiet about the nature of ConnieLou’s ailment, at least as this blog is concerned.
It was cancer. The C-word. Breast cancer to be specific. Few things strike fear and dread in the heart or mind of a man or woman like a cancer diagnosis.
Allow me to give you the back story…
ConnieLou began having some issues late last summer. She mentioned them to her gynecologist during her annual visit but he wasn’t too concerned. In fact, he pretty much blew it off and just told her to make sure that she had her annual mammogram when it was time. Fast forward to late January. Things didn’t get any better and when it was mammogram time, she mentioned her issues to the radiologist…and alarms started going off. They did a diagnostic mammogram instead of the standard version and it was no real surprise that it came back abnormal. Her GYN referred us to a breast health specialist for a biopsy which, as you’ve already guessed, came back cancerous. The fact that it was a lesser form of cancer was sort if irrelevant at that point.
We never really had that fuzzy warm feeling about the doctors and staff at the practice that made the initial diagnosis. There were a lot of things said and done that steered us in a different direction. We began doing our homework and happened to get a good recommendation for a surgeon, Dr. Frank Powell, from one of my high school classmates who is a surgeon himself.
We met with Dr. Powell initially for a consultation and almost immediately felt comfortable with him, his staff and the other doctors and technicians that would become ConnieLou’s care team. Over the next three weeks there were doctor’s appointments, additional tests, the results of which led to a couple of decisions to be made. Although the type of cancer was the lesser of the possible evils, it was fairly large…but…it didn’t appear to have spread. Dr. Powell recommended a mastectomy over a lumpectomy but did give her that option, probably coupled with radiation and/or chemo…not a very good option as far as we were concerned. The next question became a single mastectomy or double. Ultimately, with a lot of careful consideration and a whole lot of prayer, ConnieLou finally decided on double. Not an easy decision by any means but probably the best decision in the long run and not just to virtually eliminate the possibility of an occurrence on the other side. Surgery was scheduled and that brings us to where we are today.
Remember those lessons to learn that I mentioned earlier? Pay close attention here.
1. Listen to your gut. Unless you’re a major hypochondriac, listen to your gut. You know what’s going on with your body better than anyone else. If you think something is out of whack, get it checked out…sooner rather than later. Yeah, it may be expensive but if it is something serious, you stand a better chance of knowing earlier and getting it taken care of.
2. Be persistent. If you’re concerned that something is out of whack and your doctor doesn’t seem interested, insist that he or she check it out. Still no interest, find another doctor.
3. Get your mammograms as soon as you’re able. Yeah, they’re uncomfortable, or so I hear, but keep the following two words in mind: early detection. Enough said.
4. Do the self-checks. Ladies…check your girls. Again, you have a better idea when something’s not right than anyone. Don’t know how, ask your doctor. Don’t want to ask your doctor? Well, google is your friend.
Oh, and for the guys still reading…check yours too. Think guys are immune to breast cancer? Think again. Just do it.