What’s Happening…

Hello, Friends,

I apologize for my long absence.  To say I’ve had a lot going on in my life would be an understatement.  I’m still dealing with health issues and stuff at work, but most importantly, I lost my grandmother last month.  As you know, my grandparents raised me, so Grandma was really my mom.

Toby & Her Grandchildren & Great Grandchildren 04 - 029She would have been 97 next month.   She died the morning of June 29th, and her memorial service was July 7th.  She outlived (by years) every one of her nine siblings, as well as her husband and one of her children.  (The rate my health has been this year, I was sure she’d outlive me as well.)  She was sweet, smiley, silly, stubborn, smart, sometimes slow, secretive, and most of all, strong.  That was the theme of her eulogy that I gave.  (I think the alliteration got a few extra chuckles .)  I wanted a service that celebrated her life rather than focused on mourning her passing, and I think we achieved that.  I think she would have been happy with everything.

Toby & Her Grandchildren & Great Grandchildren 04 - 003-She pulled her feeding tube out again.  I got the call while I was in the midst of preparing for a huge golf tournament for work that I’d been organizing since January.  It was the night before the tournament, and the nursing home called and asked if they should send her to the hospital to have it put back in.

She hadn’t had any quality of life for quite a while.  The Alzheimer’s was so severe, she hadn’t spoken in over a year.  The last few times I went to see her, I could tell she thought she should know me, but she just couldn’t connect the dots.  Her blue eyes which smiled her whole life didn’t sparkle anymore, and you could tell the life was gone from her spirit.

Toby & Her Grandchildren & Great Grandchildren 04 - 008It never occurred to me in past times that she’d pulled out the tube that perhaps she was doing it on purpose – as if she was telling me she was ready to leave this life.  But it came to me this time, and I knew it was time to let her go.

Some people assumed because in the past when they asked how I would handle her passing, I said it was like she was already gone, that this meant I wouldn’t grieve or mourn her death.  There couldn’t be anything farther from the truth.

Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease.  It rips away the memories of a lifetime and leaves but a shell of a person.  It eventually takes away the ability to eat, to swallow, and even to breathe. Anyone who’s experienced this with a loved one knows you have to put emotional distance between yourself and the person with this diagnosis because you’re both victims.  The loved ones that are left are as affected as the person with the diagnosis.  How must it feel to love someone so deeply for your entire life and know they don’t even recognize you?

I asked the nursing home to keep her on morphine and move her to hospice so she didn’t have to die in that nasty place.  But the only hospice that took her insurance was over an hour away, so she stayed there.  I knew it would take about a week, and it would be an agonizing procedure – – You’re literally starving and dehydrating the person to death.   The organs dry up and stick together until everything slows down and then stops.

I couldn’t get out to see her until the day after the tournament, so 36 hours after the call, and I saw her several times a day, every day after that. She had eye movement for everyone else that went to see her – my kids, my birth mom, my uncle – but never for me.  I felt she was actually giving me the stink eye a few times.  It’s like she knew I was the deciding factor that allowed them to let her go.  She was afraid of death her whole life, and she knew I knew it.  And I sent her there to Old Man Death, scared and alone.  I’ll have to live with that the rest of my life.  Such is the price of being “the strong one.”

Anyway, enough feeling sorry for myself.  I hope you’re all doing well, and I especially thank those of you who sent me such sweet messages.  I hope to be back more often that I’ve been this year thus far.

Keep smiling, and stay healthy!  (Yes, all photos are of Grandma and me.)

-R.

My Selection…

A lot of people are sure who they’re voting for, but I’m finding that not as many people are sure why they’re casting their vote for their chosen candidate.   I know a lot of Trump fans who are just that —  fans.  When I ask why they support him, they say, “He’s so funny.”  (Not a reason to elect a President, folks.)  A lot of people I know do not like Trump, but they support him anyway, simply because he’s Republican, and Republicans generally believe in pro-life or no gun control.  I’ve met people who are voting for Hillary Clinton simply because she’s a woman, or people who are pro-Bernie because they’re Democratic, but they don’t want a woman.  I met a woman the other day who told me she is very conservative and always votes Republican no matter what, but she just wasn’t sure if Trump was the man for the job.  She asked who I was voting for, and after I explained that the reason for my vote had a story behind it, she told me she was so impressed, she was moved to change her vote because of it…

In 1999, I relocated from Central Florida to Central New York.  I had visions of New York being more upscale that Florida, more progressive, more expensive, and more lucrative.  I was wrong on all counts except the expense.

In Florida, on just about every street corner, you can find a daycare center, an after school kid care, or another such facility such as dance studio, karate center, or gymnastics gym that picks up kids after school and cares for them until 6:00 when their parents get out of work.  The cost at the time for one child was approximately $30 a week.

That was one of the first things I found to be quite different when I moved to New York.  I had six-year old Jeremy who was in Kindergarten, and ten-year old Stefani who was in the fourth grade, and other than them and my sister, Michelle, we didn’t know another soul in the Empire State, so we had no one to ask how these things were handled.

What I found was that there were essentially NO kid care facilities whatsoever in my county.  What they had instead were county licensed “babysitters” who were allowed to run “home daycare centers.”  Since I moved there mid-school year, there were only two available women on the list.  The first woman was the wife of a military man, and she said they would be moving before the end of the school year.  So, I moved on to my last hope… A woman named Rachael R.

Since Rachael and I shared the same first name (though hers was spelled wrong), I took that as a good sign.  Boy was I wrong!  She charged $140 a week (yes, really!) to watch my kids after school for a couple of hours five days a week.  (I got off work at 4:00 back then.)  She smoked like a chimney, and my son had chronic asthma.  So every day, when I picked up my kids, I had to have them strip in the car and change into clean clothes, then bathe them when we got home before they could play.

jeremy six

Can you see picking on this little cutie?

After a few months, I learned she was being abusive to my son as well as one other child she watched.  She made these boys sit on the couch — on their hands – from the time the bus dropped them off until the time their parents picked them up.  She refused to give them a snack, and she refused to allow them to get up and play with the other kids or even watch TV.  In fact, she apparently sat in her chair and chain smoked and watched rated R movies the whole time the kids were there!

Now, I knew my son could be a handful… He’s autistic, and as such, he was very active and curious.  However, he was always a sweet kid, and generally well behaved.

I was kept late at work twice one week (so I had to work until 5:00 PM those two days), and she got so fed up that the second time, she fired us!  (Keep in mind, the $140 price was the same for parents who always had to work until 5:00.)  When I picked up my kids, she told me to never bring them back.  No notice.  No warning.  So I was stuck on the spot with no caregiver.   It wasn’t until that night that my kids told me what had been going on.  They said she threatened to beat them if they told me how she treated everyone.

That was the Friday before a long weekend (Martin Luther King Day), so it was more difficult to find anyone at home to secure a new babysitter.  But that’s a story for another time.

Tuesday, I had to call into work and take the day to find someone.  When I went to the County office to get a new list of sitters, I filed a complaint against Rachael R.  They told me it didn’t sound like much of a problem, and I should be glad my kids were out.  (Yes, really!)  I then drove straight to the police department, and they told me there was nothing they could do.  I went to the Sheriff’s office, and they blew me off as well.

A couple of weeks prior, Hillary Clinton had just taken office as Senator in New York.  I was at my wit’s end, and I really hated the thought of Rachael R. making one more dime off any other unsuspecting parent and abusing another child.  So I wrote a long letter detailing my frustration to Mrs. Clinton.  I started off welcoming her to the Empire State, and telling her that like herself, I was a newcomer a short time before.  I then quoted her from her book “It Takes a Village” (to raise a child), and told her how disappointed I was that the “village” I lived in was not helpful in the least.  I never expected to hear back from her, but it felt good just to get my frustrations out on paper.

Well, imagine my surprise when just short of two weeks later, I received a lengthy, personalized letter from Mrs. Clinton’s office, telling me that Hillary had read my correspondence, and was going to look into the matter further.   It wasn’t long after that that my county started buzzing.  County officials called to ask me questions about Rachael R. and what specifically she did to my kids and others.   And about a month later, the word on the street was that Rachael R. lost her license!  I thought that would be the end of it, but then a couple of months after that, I received a follow-up letter from Mrs. Clinton’s office telling me what they’d done on my children’s behalf, and asking me to contact them again if I was not satisfied with the result.  WOW!

In 2004, I was back in Florida, and my son was having an extremely difficult time with his teacher.  Without getting into another lengthy story, I’ll just say that it was BAD.   (You’ve all heard stories of how some teachers pick on autistic children.  This was one of those stories.)

I went to the principal and the superintendent of schools with no satisfaction.  When they did nothing, I wrote to the governor at the time, Jeb Bush.   I figured since Hillary had been so responsive and helpful, that ALL government elected offices had a duty to be as diligent.  Not so.  His response didn’t arrive until several months later after school was out and it didn’t matter anymore.

Jeremy had another horrendous school experience in 2006.  This time, after going through the local school channels (principal, superintendent, etc.), I wrote to my Senator.  He wrote back and told me to try talking to the school principal!  (Yes, really!)  It wasn’t long after that that I quit my job and homeschooled my son for the remainder of his school career.

So, in closing, while I encounter a lot of people who can’t stand Hillary for one reason or another, their reasons are usually based on media hype and not because Hillary did anything personal to negatively affect them.  I, on the other hand, agree that I would probably be voting for her anyway just because she is a woman, and a Democrat, and so intelligent, and has prior experience in office and in the actual White House.   But the reason I am so exceptionally passionate about casting my vote for Hillary is because she personally assisted my Autistic child in getting the justice he deserved.

Let’s talk!  How do you select a candidate?  Has your child ever been bullied?  If your child had been bullied by another adult, what would you have done?

It finally happened!

Enough talk about my failing health!  I want to share a cool story with you…  A couple of years ago, I shared a story about my close encounter of the presidential kind.

Since it’s an election year, I thought it only fitting to recap that story and give you the more recent follow up…

In 1980, I was ten years old and in the sixth grade.  That year, the presidential election was between Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican Candidate Ronald Reagan.  In my Civics class, we had to draw campaign posters for our favorite candidate and write a speech that they might have used in a campaign debate.

I had an instant affinity for Jimmy Carter from the first time I saw him.  I don’t exactly know why, but I loved that he had the warmest, friendliest smile and I liked that he was a former peanut farmer.  (The fact that he was born in a mental hospital also didn’t hurt my affinity for the psychological thriller genre of which I write.)  I think I also liked him because his daughter, Amy, was only a couple of years older than me, and I thought it was so cool that she got to live in the White House.

So, on the campaign trail, President Carter was scheduled to come to my town to speak.  My school was on the corner of two main roads that led to the Civic Center, and back then, the newspaper always published the President’s motorcade route.  Imagine my surprise when, only hours after my grandparents read me the newspaper over breakfast and told me the President was coming to town, all the students of my small private school were called out of class that Halloween morning, and we lined up by the fence to wait so we could wave at him.  I was ecstatic!

At the time, I was a short kid, so the two boys on either side of me told me I should climb up on the fence so I could see better.  As the motorcade rounded the corner, the limo window went down, and the driver slowed.  President Carter grinned and waved as he rode slowly past us, and when he saw me standing on the fence, he pointed at me.  I was thrilled!

When I got home after school, I begged my grandparents to change their votes to Carter, then I sat right down and wrote President Carter a letter and asked for his autograph.

Less than two weeks later, I received a reply from The White House which said that the President was very busy and couldn’t accommodate all the people that personally asked for autographs, but they still sent me an autograph card as well as a booklet about The White House.  It didn’t matter to me that the autograph was not official.  The man just lost an election, yet his office still had time to reply to a little girl.  I was overjoyed!

Looking back thorough an adult’s eyes, I appreciate this pseudo-autograph more than ever.  I mean, between a hectic schedule campaigning for re-election, and dealing with the hostage crisis (among other things) the staff at The White House had to have been crazy busy at the time, yet, they still managed to reply to a little kid’s letter, and in such a timely manner, too.

So, the follow-up to my story is this:  I caught a fleeting glance of President and Mrs. Carter (along with the Secret Service) at Epcot in the late ‘90s.  Between that close encounter and my admiration of their work for Habitat for Humanity, my love for this former President only grew.

Fast forward a few years.  I’d heard that President Carter taught Sunday School classes that were open to the public.  At the time, I had two autistic kids at home, and with no child support, finances were tight, so I put that dream on the back burner.  But having learned more about the work of The Carter Center and how it affects the entire globe, I was even more impressed with this awesome man.

A few years later, my kids were close to grown, and I mentioned the Sunday School class to a trusted source.  The friend told me that President Carter didn’t do that anymore.  I was crushed that I’d missed my chance.

A couple more years passed.   President Carter was diagnosed with cancer, and, again, I was heartbroken.  But only a short time after that, I was elated to hear that he’d gone into remission.  In fact, I went out of my way to read more than the one news report I would have normally read, and that’s when I found a link to his church’s website along with the information that he never, in fact, stopped teaching his Sunday School class!

That was last December.  I wanted to go immediately, but President Carter didn’t teach every Sunday.  I then planned to go the following month, but then my own surgery was scheduled for the beginning of February, so I had to push things off again.

Jimmy Carter 2016But in March, I finally got to go to Plains, Georgia, and sit four rows from the front while President Jimmy Carter taught Sunday School!  This was the thrill of a lifetime!  You have to get there early (and by early, I mean while it’s still dark outside) to line up.  My sister and I got there around 4:30 AM. (I know I didn’t want to discuss my failing health, but this 6 hour drive and no-sleep weekend, while exciting, was literally a spur of the moment decision as to the timing, and was meant to make me feel better after all my post-surgical woes.  Mentally, it did wonders, though physically, those two days set me back about two weeks.)

Once they open the doors, you’re searched by Secret Service then escorted to your seat.  (If you’ve never been around the Secret Service, that’s exciting in itself.)  You’re allowed to take photos all during the introduction period, then you have to turn your cameras off during the lesson.  If you sit through the church service following the Sunday School lesson, you can then get a photo taken with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.  WOW!  {The photos are very rushed, and you have to be in a group shot with everyone who rode in your vehicle, but, still, it’s so generous of the Carters to donate their time like that.  (As such, my photo is not good [we’re all blurry], and I won’t be sharing it, but I will be returning soon to try again.)}

Rosalynn Carter & Jimmy Carter, 2016As if that’s not enough, there’s a museum just down the road from the church.  In the museum is a bookstore that sells nearly thirty of the books that were written by either Jimmy or Rosalynn Carter.  The most amazing part of this journey is that if you purchase any of their books there (which are no more expensive than if you purchased them on Amazon), they give you a form to mail, along with the book and a SASE, and between four to six weeks later, you get President Carter’s autograph!  Yes, really!  (Have I mentioned yet how much I love Jimmy Carter?)

So, that’s exactly what I did.  I purchased two books and mailed them as soon as I got home, and close to five weeks later, I received them back, autographed by President Carter!  Only thirty-five and a half years after I first requested Jimmy Carter’s autograph, I got two of them!  SQUEEEEEEEEE!!!!!  (For those who don’t know {as my sister didn’t}, squeeeeee is about ten times better than Woo Hoo and about a hundred times better than YAY!)Jimmy Carter's books

Jimmy Carter's autograph

Let’s talk:  Have you ever seen a President or other world leader up close and live?  What’s the best autograph you’ve ever gotten?

So, here’s what’s going on…

Hello, friends,

I’ve missed you all terribly.  I apologize that my posts and blogging participation has been erratic this year.  As you know, I had surgery then complications following the surgery.  Here’s what I’m dealing with (and I apologize in advance if it’s too long… I’ll try to keep it brief.):

Throughout 2015 – I vomited five or more times a week, my hair was falling out, my tongue was coated all the time, I was exhausted and freezing all the time, my vision was blurry much of the time, and I generally felt like crap.

Late 2015/Early 2016 – I started undergoing every test imaginable to man.  This included numerous bloodwork, barium swallow studies, an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, a large and small bowel study with barium, multiple x-rays, several ultrasounds, and probably some more stuff I’m forgetting right now.  I was diagnosed with low iron anemia and low B-12 anemia, so I had to start taking supplements twice a day – Not surprising considering how often I vomited and how few foods I could actually eat in the first place.  (The really sucky thing was, with all the puking I was doing ALL YEAR, I only lost 10 pounds!)

The truth is, I was convinced I had either esophageal or stomach cancer.  Cancer runs rampant in my family, and I’ve personally already had cervical pre-cancer twice, so I was prepared for it.  In fact, at one point, I felt my life ebbing, and knew I didn’t have much longer.  I started getting things in order to prepare for the worst.

Late January 2016 – I was diagnosed with an extremely diseased gall bladder, and was still waiting on results for most of the other tests.

February 2016 – My gall bladder was removed, and I felt SO much better —  better than I had in YEARS!  I mean seriously, I had actually forgotten how it felt to feel that great!  For the following two weeks, I ate food I hadn’t tasted in months or even years because it had always given me a negative effect in the past.  WOW!  This was amazing!  I didn’t throw up anymore.  My hair stopped falling out.   My vision was perfect.  I had energy.  Life was wonderful!  (If you didn’t read about it already, I detail it more here: https://rachelcarrera.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/things-are-looking-up/)

1 Week Post Surgery – All my other tests came back, and while I had some stuff show up, nothing especially egregious was noted.  Since I was feeling so much better, the doctor said it was likely that everything I had experienced was due to how incredibly diseased and infected my gall bladder was.  Only then did he confirm that was indeed at death’s door before my surgery.  He said at best I was only days away from it having ruptured had it stayed in.  He told me I could discontinued the iron and B-12 supplements because my body should be getting back in order.  What great news that I didn’t have cancer!

2 Weeks Post Surgery – Something went horribly wrong!  I puked black sludge and some hard objects that I hadn’t eaten and were never identified.  I had an x-ray that showed a “mystery object” inside me.  And excuse the language, but I felt like complete shit!  I mean I seriously never felt worse in my life!  (I documented that horror here: https://rachelcarrera.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/things-are-looking-down/)

I appreciate all of you who encouraged me to get myself to the emergency room stat, and that’s exactly what I did.  (Though, the $1,000 E.R. co-pay hurt almost as bad as my belly did!)

You can see the “mystery object” above the hip bone.

The hospital gave me a CAT scan, and the “mystery object” showed up again, though it had moved.  However, the E.R. doctor didn’t seem concerned, and he told me I was probably only having pain from a tiny hernia that was likely caused either by my surgery or by my level of activity following my surgery.  He sent me home with some mild narcotics and told me to take a few days to rest.

(I was highly peeved.  This didn’t feel like $1,000 worth of treatment!  Of course I felt much worse a few days later when I received a bill for an additional $500 because apparently my insurance has a separate copay for imaging!)

Early March 2016 – I had a doctor friend of mine write me a script for another x-ray at a different facility, and the “mystery object” was still there, but it had moved.  This was 12 days after the original x-ray.  He told me it could be a calcified gallstone that dropped during surgery and was floating around in my peritoneal cavity.  Great.

Twelve days later, the “mystery object” is now close to my spine.

Mid-March 2016 – I saw a doctor at a different facility.  For some reason, he got stuck on the part about the small hernia, and didn’t hear anything else I said.  I was back to vomiting almost daily and sometimes twice a day, my hair started falling out again, my vision was blurry again, I was exhausted all the time again as well as freezing, and to add to my misery, now not only was I every bit as sick as before my surgery, but there was a thing in me, and after the awful black sludge and hard things vomit, I was terrified to get sick!

This doctor x-rayed only my lower abdomen and said the object was gone.  Actually, the x-ray tech tried to tell me that I must have – now get this – swallowed buckshot, and it had passed!  Yes, really!  When I told her I don’t eat meat, other than the occasional fishsticks or tuna sandwich, she then tried to tell me I must have swallowed a metal button!  (The fact that I own nothing with metal buttons notwithstanding.)  The fact that they didn’t x-ray the entire peritoneal cavity made me wonder if the object really did pass, or if it’s still floating around in there.

Early April 2016 – Things were really getting old for me as well as others around me.  In fact one “friend” told me to “get over it and move on already.”  (Thanks.)  My “quality of life” (What quality of life?) was non-existent.  I saw a new surgeon referred to me by the Mid-March doctor.  He ordered an MRI (with another $500 copay!) and suggested that if my bile duct still had infected gallstones in it, that could be the reason for all of my misery.  I was hopeful.  He also offered to operate on the hernia.  I declined.

Mid –April 2016 – I got the results back from the MRI.  It seems the bile duct was fine.  Furthermore, they failed to look at any other section of my abdomen for that “mystery object.”  At this point (and with no offense to anyone who has battled cancer), I almost wish cancer would have been my diagnosis – at least then, they’d know what was wrong with me, and I could have hope for treatment.

Late April 2016 – I went back to the original facility that did the surgery and saw a GP there.  I told him my symptoms are: daily vomiting, hair loss, exhaustion, coldness, coated tongue, pale face, pain in abdomen, blurry vision, and general malaise.  Plus I fear there could be a thing floating around in my peritoneal cavity.  He told me, and I quote, “No, that’s too much.  Pick your top three symptoms, and we’ll try to deal with those.”  Yes, really!  So I chose vomiting, hair loss, and blurred vision.  He then decided exhaustion needed to trump hair loss, and told me to see an eye doctor for my vision, and he said I didn’t need any more x-rays to see of the mystery object was still present, and that it was a “ridiculous request.”  He then ran another thyroid panel, as well as a CBC, and checked my iron.  Later that week, he claimed all the bloodwork came back fine.

So…   I started taking the iron and B-12 supplements twice daily again despite the bloodwork being fine, and guess what?  My vision is back to normal, I am still really tired, though not as much, and my hair loss is still more than normal, though not nearly as bad as it was.

However, I still vomit at least five times a week, and sometimes twice in a day.  Anxiety courses through me every time someone asks, “What’s for dinner?”  I now judge and select food not by how it tastes going in, but by how it might taste coming back up.   I still have constant pain in my gut.  I often puke so violently, it causes nosebleeds.  And I have tiny broken blood vessels all over my face from throwing up.

As far as the “mystery object,” maybe it’s still floating around in there somewhere.  If so, from what I’ve read, I can expect it to eventually puncture an organ or cause an abscess, and I guess at that point, someone will remove it.  Or, maybe it really did get in my digestive tract and pass.  If that’s the case, I have to think it’s more of whatever the hard things were I puked with the black sludge.  As a few medical friends have said, it could only be metal or an extremely calcified stone to show up the way it did in the x-rays.  I have to wonder if something happened during surgery for stones to slip into my belly somehow, though that seems unlikely.

I don’t know.  But what I do know is, I feel miserable, and no medical professional that I’ve seen seems to care.  Many of my “friends” make jokes about having me committed because I’m “crazy” and “it’s all in my head.”  And that gets old, too.

Anyway, I know I promised to try to be brief, and I already failed at that, so I’ll close now.  Thanks for reading and sticking by me.  I miss you guys!  xoxo

-R.

Things are looking DOWN…

Hello, friends.  Last week when I told you things were looking up after my recent gallbladder surgery, I apparently evaluated my condition prematurely.  Today, I am EXTREMELY ANNOYED to say the least.  The VERY least.

In fact, please pardon the “French,” but I’m fucking pissed!  If you have a weak stomach, you’ll probably want to skip the rest of this paragraph and the next one.*  I was feeling a lot better after my surgery.  They gave me two to three weeks off work instead of just one because of all the pus that was in my gallbladder and the fact that I’m allergic to antibiotics.  So I was working half days, and still getting pretty worn out from just four hours of office work, but still, I was hopeful that things were definitely improving.

Then on Tuesday, just two weeks post surgery, I woke up with a “tummy ache,” and my belly was more swollen than it had been at my post surgery check-up the Friday before.  I went to work for the morning, and while I was there, I just felt “off.”  People started telling me I looked grey and not good at all.  When I came home for the day at lunchtime, I ate some broth and crackers soaked in broth (which was my only meal of the day).  About an hour later, I puked broth and crackers.  Then I had three more rounds of puke, which can only be described as black sludge!  And in that black sludge, there were four “hard things” that looked like cat turd and were the size and shape of a tube of Chapstick!  (Keep in mind, I ate nothing solid.)  I won’t even disgust you further by describing the foul stench.  HOW NASTY!

*The weak at heart can continue reading here –>  So I immediately called the surgeon’s office and spoke to his nurse, and said, “I think I just vomited feces.”  She told me the doc was in surgery for the rest of the day, but if I felt it was an emergency, I should go to the hospital.  Otherwise, she’d talk to the doc and call me the next morning.

The next morning, I was even more swollen, and I hadn’t heard from anyone by 9:30 (they open at 8:00), so I called them back.  The nurse told me to go to the lab and get bloodwork and an x-ray.  So I got the bloodwork, then the x-ray.  The x-ray tech had me take off my bra because it had metal wires, but she said I could wear my pants because they were elastic (because I was so swollen) and had no metal.  She ran two x-rays, then called in her supervisor.  There was “something metal” showing up near my left ovary.

They checked my pants, my panties, my gown, and the table, and found no metal.  They asked me repeatedly if I was “sure” I never had any other surgeries on the left side.  (Did I forget being sliced open before?   NO!  Of course I haven’t had more surgeries that I forgot about.)  So they assumed it was on the film, and ran a second set of x-rays.  When the metal showed up again, they ran a third set.  It showed up in all three sets.  It’s about the size of a pinky fingernail.  I asked to see, and they showed me.  It’s definitely something that was NOT there in the x-rays I had three weeks ago before surgery.

So I got home before noon and waited for the doctor to call me with the results.  (I have to wonder if the titanium clip they put on during my gallbladder removal didn’t slip off…  I did NOT see the gallbladder clip on the x-rays, but then again, I only looked briefly, and I was looking at the foreign metal.)  When the doctor hadn’t called by 3:45, I called, and his nurse said they didn’t have the results in yet (even though it’s from the same facility), and she’d call me as soon as they did.  I told her about the metal, and she made a note of it.

Today, I woke up even more swollen, and I went to work.  I expected to get a call telling me they need to schedule surgery to remove this thing (and possibly put it back where it belongs).  When I didn’t get a call by 9:45, I called them and was told that the doctor and nurse were both in surgery until the afternoon.  The nurse called me close to 1:00, and said the doctor says my x-ray results are “fine.”  I asked about the metal thing, and she put me on hold then said he again said I’m fine.  I reminded her how swollen I am, and she put me on hold yet again, then said the doctor said he doesn’t believe it’s related to surgery and I should make an appointment with my primary care doctor.  I then got a little postal.  Just a little.  I told her I was rather perturbed, to say the least, that two days ago I called to tell her I’m puking poop, I’m swollen several inches, and the doctor hasn’t even wanted to see me, and two days later he tells me to see someone else!

So I called the GI doctor (from the same facility) who referred me to the surgeon, and his nurse was with patients, so I told my story to the lady who answered.  Only this time, I was a bit more forceful.  I asked if I needed to make an appointment with him, or perhaps if I needed to make an appointment with a different facility altogether to get a second opinion.  She said the doctor was booked, but she referred me to their after hours annex where I am supposed to be in about an hour.

What’s really frustrating is that with tomorrow being Friday, if this annex doctor also tells me things are fine, I don’t foresee being able to get an appointment anywhere else until next week at earliest, not to mention being able to obtain copies of all my films and records to take.  So I’ll keep swelling over the weekend and hopefully not die before I talk to you all again, not that these turkeys seem to care.  (And people wonder why I have such mistrust for most doctors.)

I’M SOOOOO ANGRY!

Anyway, that’s the update, friends.  And thank you for allowing me to vent.  I hope you all have a much better weekend than I’ll probably have.  I miss you guys!

-R.

Things are looking up…

Hello, friends.  (Or is it now strangers?)  As you know, I’ve been M.I.A. for a few months now, but it seems we’re finally getting to the bottom of why.  As many of you know, 2015 was not my year.  I was sick most of the year, and in fact, there were only three times throughout the entire year that I lasted as many as five days without throwing up!

The odd thing was, I didn’t have pain, per se, but as soon as I ate something (other than waffles and grilled cheese sandwiches – literally ANYTHING other than that), I felt a weird fullness in my belly, and I HAD to get that food out of there ASAP.  The only thing that felt better was vomiting.

I was so exhausted, I could hardly stand to stay awake through a full day of work, much less anything extra such as blogging, writing, editing, etc.  Actually, around October, I started coming home from work and immediately taking a nap until 9 or 10 at night, then got up, ate dinner, and went back to sleep.  Even the thought of planning something fun such as going to the fair or taking a road trip seemed daunting, because I already knew how much it would wipe me out, and I was afraid I’d be too tired to even enjoy it a little.

Last summer, my hair started falling out.  Luckily, I have really thick hair, so other people didn’t really notice.  But I did.  There were always clumps of hair on my pillow each morning, and on the bathroom floor each time I combed it.  It was gross.  And scary.

Around the beginning of December, my eyes started hurting all the time, especially behind and underneath them, and everything was getting more and more blurry.

So in November, when my vomiting went from four or five times a week to twice or more a day, I finally started seeing a doctor.  The first doctor diagnosed me with low iron anemia, and she sent me to a specialist.  The specialist diagnosed me with low iron and low B12 anemia.  He said my levels were as low as if I were bleeding internally, though I am not.  (Of course, when the only foods you can keep down are waffles and grilled cheese sandwiches, my guess is you probably lose a lot of nutrients in the process.)

During December and January, I had numerous blood tests, upper, lower and female ultrasounds, an upper GI barrium swallow study and a small intestine barrium swallow study, an endoscopy, a colonoscopy (boy, were those fun — NOT!), and several biopsies.

After all the cameras, needles, scopes, and probes, I actually received twelve different diagnoses!  (The doctor was frustrated because his computer program only allowed him room to write ten.)  Most of them were nothing major, but he did say I had some gallstones and an inflamed and “thick” gallbladder.  Besides sounding gross, I wasn’t sure what that meant.  He said it was diseased and needed to come out ASAP.

I wasn’t so sure I wanted that kind of surgery, but I was so relieved that I didn’t have esophageal or stomach cancer as I feared, that I was at least willing to listen.  (I was so sure that I had something fatal, that I even went as far as making out a list of “what to do in the case of my untimely death.”  Thankfully, no one needed to use it.)

I went home and Googled “diseased gallbladder,” and once I saw what one looked like, I agreed that I didn’t want that nasty thing inside me any longer.  So I had the surgery, and as it turned out, my gallbladder was not only “quite diseased,” it had an “acute infection.”  It was actually “filled with pus and ready to rupture” according to the doctor, the nurse, the anesthetist, and a surgical assistant.  Apparently, I was quite lucky indeed, because being allergic to so many antibiotics, it could have easily killed me in only a few more days!

I’m definitely thankful to God for sparing my life, and I’m quite cognizant of how close I came to  meeting my Maker face to face.

Most people who get a laparoscopic cholecystectomy are encouraged to move about and go about their daily lives other than lifting anything, and they return to work in about a week.  Because of the level of my infection, I was told “bedroom, bathroom and kitchen only, and no work for two to three weeks.”

Tomorrow will be a week since my surgery.  I do feel SO much more energetic than I have in months, yet when I do anything for more than twenty or thirty minutes (such as sit on the computer or even just stand to wash dishes), it wipes me out.  For the first time in a long time, I feel invincible, then I attempt a minor project to alleviate my boredom, and learn just how weak I really still am!

I’ll still be treating for my anemia, and I actually threw up last night, so I at least lasted a full five days this time.  But I’m hopeful that the vomiting will stop once I’m fully healed, and then the iron and B12 will regenerate.

So I hope to get all this under control soon, and get back to my regularly scheduled blog… and to you, my friends and blogging family.  I miss you guys!

xoxo

~Rachel

[UPDATE:  I just reread this, and it seems I still have a bit of brain fog… The reason I wrote all the detail that I did above was to tell you how miraculous it is that less than one week post-surgery, my hair has not fallen out anymore, my eyes don’t hurt anymore, and the vision blurriness is completely gone!  Isn’t it incredible that an unnecessary organ can wreak such havoc on so many unrelated body parts?  The best part is, so far, I have not had one bit of refux or acid.  I can’t tell you the last time — more than 20 years — I’ve not been awakened in the middle of the night by barf juice gagging me.  This is amazing!  I’m used to drinking 2 TBSP. of baking soda with a bit of water SEVERAL times every day and night.  I keep a box of baking soda in my work desk, my car, and even my purse!  Since my surgery, I’ve had the tiniest bit of heartburn that lasted no more than 5 or 10 minutes just a couple of times.  It was so mild, I didn’t even do anything to make it go away.  Compared to what I’ve been living with for so long — imagine swallowing 8 ounces of battery acid 3 or 4 times a day — I now feel so liberated!]