Saturday, March 12, 2011

9 days


I have been home since 10 am this morning. I had the longest shower ever, shaved my legs, my armpits and put on perfume. I feel like a human being.

It is hard to believe it.

I'm back.

And it's hard to think back on the past 9 days and not cry.

I was so naive to think any surgery is a 'minor' procedure. I went in last thursday fully expecting a 30 minute surgery to install my chemo port. If you remember, they weren't even going to put me out, but I insisted, being the big wimp that I am. My biggest worry was the I.V. poke.

I feel so foolish. Now, after 9 days of the most pain that I've ever experienced in my life, I am no longer naive. Each medical procedure, no matter how minimal it seems to be, carries risks.

I almost feel jaded.

Like when you have your heart broken for the first time, you no longer trust the same as before... that is how it feels. I no longer trust that 'the doctor will make things better'.

Even though I gladly signed the consent form before surgery, I wish I had informed myself a little better of all the risks...I wish I had thought about each one at length. I still would have chosen to go through with it, but I would not have been so shocked when it all went south.

Before you read any further, I should put in a disclaimer - I will be posting pictures in this post. Some you may find them pretty yucky. I've thought about not posting them.

But I will.

I figure, this is my outlet, my venting space, and that is what this blog originally was meant to be. Now that all of you have come along for a ride, I sometimes wonder if I should censor more, especially pictures... but I think that would not do my experience any justice.

If you don't wish to see them, just don't scroll down.

You're a big kid, you can decide on your own.

I get emails nowadays from complete strangers who read my blog and are just starting to go through the same things as I am. Women I've never met, emailing me telling me that they've been diagnosed with breast cancer too.. It always baffles me how this blog has grown... just look at the world map - I've never even BEEN to some of the places that my readers are from!

So, if you are going through this 'journey' too, and you are about to get a chemo port put in, please do not worry yourself to death, the rates of collapsed lungs as complications from the surgery, are extremely low.

I mean super low. But, they happen.

Just like cancer.

I am really thankful that I have Brad, who was with me at the hospital the entire time, and there with every procedure, by my side, holding my hand whenever he could and just outside my door crying silently when he could not go in. He told me he could hear me screaming down the hall sometimes when they were inserting tubes in me or taking them out, and I believe these nine days were equally hard on him, as they were on me.

All I remember is pain.

Once the lung was poked, there was pain. When the lung collapsed, there was pain. When they inserted the lung chest tube the first time there was pain. When that didn't work and the lung collapsed again, I felt pain. When they took the tube out, I cried. When they put in a new bigger one in my lung I screamed.

In between procedures, I spent a lot of times on heavy drugs.

I found out I don't like houses with bushes (apparently - according to Brad's last post) and time and time again, when Brad asked if there is anything he could do to make it better for me, I asked for a Bonzai tree... go figure.

Two things I never knew about myself.

I am now okay, happy to be home and healing. Brad even got my engagement ring fixed, and for right now, all is well with the world.

On monday I see my oncologist, do blood work, and re-schedule my chemo date... I think it may be wednesday - I missed about 10 days, but the show goes on.

I will now post pictures from last week below.
(yes, I made Brad take pictures so I could look at them later, when I was no longer in pain, and I could 'remember' what I went through ... but even without, I don't think I could ever forget)


This is about an hour after the port a cath surgery, when I found out the surgeon
had poked my lung by mistake. I was in pain with every breath I took.


That evening the on-call doctor was called in to insert the first tube into my lung... he was poking around to feel which area was the most 'inflated with air' - that is where he'd have to insert it.

Due to the time constraint and lack of empty rooms, he proceeded to 'gown up' right beside my bed and the first procedure took place at my bedside.

Getting ready...

I learned this week that the lining around the lungs is one of the most sensitive spots in the body, and even though he froze me, the many needles it took to freeze me completely were very painful.

This is what the hole looked like before the tube went in.

At this point he stuck in a syringe with a tube first, and proceeded to suction the air out that was there... Brad said that he suctioned air for about 10 minutes before he was satisfied that he got most of it.

After the suctioning was done, he inserted a small white tube to do the job

This is me exhausted, after the procedure was completed. If you look carefully, you'll see a small bump on the left side, around the blue part of the tube ... it's the port a cath showing under the skin...that's what that looks like. A small quarter size round bump.
This is day three, and my admission into the ICU. - The first tube didn't work

Brad was not allowed in for this procedure, but this is immediately after it took place.
I think I was crying.

This time they inserted a slightly bigger and longer tube, but through my back instead
and up inside my lung. I was also hooked up to a suction machine for 72 hours straight.


Here is a picture of what I looked like on the inside. You can see the port a cath,
as the round thing in my artery, and also, if you look carefully, the long white tube
inside my lung, going upwards.



The good news is, it only hurt when I breathed.

24 comments:

pinkunderbelly said...

Girl, I am so sorry you had to go through this. What a gigantic pile of suck. "Bless your heart" seems woefully insufficient, even though it is the official sympathetic expression of Texas. I'm glad you posted pics, though, and I do hope you refer back to them often to remind yourself what a kick-ass cancer warrior you are. Enjoy being home, love on your family, and relish in the fact that you are stronger than you ever know.

pinkunderbelly said...

PS
I was hospitalized for 9 days with a post-mastectomy infection, and it was the longest 9 days of my life. Kudos to you for surviving and thriving. I'm in awe of your strength and kick-assed-ness.

Knock knock - it's cancer! said...

Pink - Thanks so much for your kind words and support, but I can hardly call this strength :(

I was beyond beaten... I wished I was dead the whole time there. But now, that it's finally over, there is still a long road ahead, so I gotta pick myself back up.

There's nothing easy about having cancer. Not.One.God.Damn.Thing.

Kathy said...

I am back with my usual WOW after reading your post. That is always the word that comes to mind when I finish your blog entries. WOW at what you have been through. WOW at how candidly you have shared about your experience (which I admire). WOW at your courage and strength (I know it wasn't easy and you were in an insane amount of pain, but somehow you got through it). WOW at how much this must help other women who have now or may have breast cancer in the future (yours is the first blof about this horrible disease that I have ever read/followed). WOW at what an amazing, loving, caring and supportive husband you have (especially that he was willing to take those pictures of you). WOW that you realize how hard the last 9 days were for Brad, next only to how unbelievably painful they were for you. WOW at how happy I am that you are finally home and that we can communicate more directly again. Considering the short amount of time we have known each other, I really did miss you. I am sorry that your schedule for chemo and treatment got pushed back and that you had such a painful experience the past 9 days. I am so proud of you that you got through it and are home now. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One step at a time. You can do this and your cheering section (including me, of course) is here to support you! Hang in there. How wonderful I bet it will feel for you to sleep in your own bed! Sweet dreams!

P.S. Whenever ever I think of Bonzai trees I think of Mr. Miagee from The Karate Kid! :-)

Kathy said...

P.S. I meant to say blog not blof and fiancé, not husband. ;) I am sure in both cases you knew what I meant, but typos annoy me and since I am typing this on my iPhone, it is harder to cut, paste, edit and repost... :-)

Knock knock - it's cancer! said...

Hahah - you are soooo funny Kathy :)

I did know what you meant (and you know what is weird with my map thing-y that I have, it shows Chicago lighting up when you read) So I was looking at my blog and saw it light up (and my face soon followed, since I know that is where you live)

I was all like 'oooh, it's Kathy!! She's on my post, she's reading!!' And Brad was rolling his eyes, hahah...

Once again,wishing I could insta-message you or something and wave :)

Sayre said...

Well, if you happen to notice when I got here, you'd see northwestern Georgia lighting up - because I'm here in Pine Mountain with my parents - celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. We just finished dinner and came back to our rooms - and I had to check and see if you were home. I've been waiting since this morning (when I started driving) to see if you were out. I was so happy to see you'd been here yourself today!!!!

Once more, excellent post. I am again amazed at your fortitude and forthrightness. I know you haven't been feeling strong, but just the fact that you're sharing all of this shows just how strong you ARE. I'm so sorry all this happened to you and to Brad... But you're home now and it's time to get on with things - namely some snuggle time, some good food, and some restful rest. Take care, Michelle - we'll keep cheering you on softly as you sleep.

Kathy said...

That's so cool that it lights up on your blog when I am here! I LOVE that! Okay, well this is me waving to you again! ;)

Knock knock - it's cancer! said...

Sayre - Pine Mountain?? Yes, Georgia is on my map :) I had no idea that is where you were, lol. How cool - celebrating 50 years!! And abstaining from comfort food as well, how DO YOU DO IT? Hehe..

Thanks again for checking in on me, I sure feel like I have a huge support system in the blogworld!

Kathy - okay, so now we are officially dorky! Haha. Glad it's not only me alone.

Tuesday22 said...

I completely agree with pinkunderbelly--that IS a gigantic pile of suckiness. Glad you are finally home from your '30-minute' port a cath surgery. PS - That's cool you have a bonzai tree. I've always wanted one...

Knock knock - it's cancer! said...

Tuesday - That's the whole problem, lol. I never got a bonzai tree... Sigh. Apparantly I really wanted one when I was drugged up though. I must have thought of Mr. Miagee too, and the calmness it represents. But, no, Brad didn't take me seriously enough to actually purchase one. Those things are expensive too, can you just imagine? What would I do with a bonzai tree? I'd butcher it... I giggle at the idea :)

Sayre said...

Let me tell you - abstaining from my "comfort" foods (dairy and the naughty fast food) is HARD. I've made it to the end of another day though, making the right choices when faced with some SERIOUS temptation. I'm rather proud of myself - but still, prouder of you!

Knock knock - it's cancer! said...

Sayre - I'm proud of both of us :)

Attila The Mom said...

Aww, Sweetie, so glad to see you posting. Still sending all my most healing prayers and wishes to you.

Mandi said...

I am going to have to send you a photo of our house, it is surrounded my huge bushes that I yet have the energy to tear out.

I am glad to hear you are home, what a terrible experience you had to endure. Nothing is quite as easy as it seems it could be, but hey, this is one sucky year for now and there will be a great many good ones to come!

tweetey30 said...

oh my goodness woman.. I felt your pain with every photo and have tears in my eyes... I have missed you and your comments. You get well and stay that way..


thank goodness for Brad to post those words for us to know what has happened to you while you were in the hospital. I am so happy you have him at your side..

Hugs my friend and I hope you heal fast for your own sanity..

Vancouver Voyeur said...

It was so hard and painful for me to breathe, just reading what you went through. I understand the dilemma of how much to reveal, but I can honestly say, I've never seen so much matter-of-fact reporting of just what cancer is, what it does to your body and all the things people go through to fight it. I think you are providing a valuable service to those who are or will go through it, and to the loved ones of those who will go through it. Courage is insufficient to describe your character.

Knock knock - it's cancer! said...

Atilla - thank you so much

Mandi - I seriously don't know what the thing with the bushes was, honestly, lol.

Tweets - Yes, I am indeed grateful for Brad, it would be unimaginable going through this without him.

VV - You made me tear up. Thank you from the bottom of my heart...

McCrackens Mom said...

Hi hon. Reading what you have gone through and continue to go through humbles me. You say you don't feel that you are strong. To me, you are. Because we cry with our pain, because we wish we could just die so we didn't have to hurt, only shows we are human. It doesn't show weakness. You share your pain, your frustration, your very personal experiences as a way to help yourself deal with your feelings but also as a means of helping others going through breast cancer.
I think of you often Michelle. xxxx

McCrackens Mom said...

Hi Michelle
It's March 15th. Haven't heard from you in a few days so I just want to send good wishes your way and remind you that you are in my thoughts. I hope you are not going through any more setbacks. Look forward to hearing from you when you're feeling up to it.
Lots of love coming your way.
Andrea

Knock knock - it's cancer! said...

Thanks Andrea - tomorrow is chemo day. Yikes. This is truly it, isn't it? I'll update on it as soon as I can.

Connie said...

Hi Michelle
I am speechless. I can't believe what you had to endure. You are a very strong women - please don't think otherwise. You have been on my mind so much the last coupld of weeks. I am so happy that Brad was beside you throughout all this. How is he holding up? Hopefully there won't be any more setbacks and you can continue on with your treatment. The two words "strength" and "courage" definitely helped me throughout my battle - you have both.
Connie

HamiHarri said...

Me again. I'm reading your blog backwards, trying to catch up.

Thank you for posting. All of it. My little gal and I are sending many prayers your way - you are so courageous.

Tonya Graham Jamois said...

Thank you for posting these pictures. It is important that we not gloss over the nitty gritty reality of what this "journey" really means. Its not all pink ribbons and rainbows.