Catch Up

I feel like I have left some parts of my life un-updated of late. So, just in case you were wondering:

I had my last post-surgery check-up seven weeks after my hysterectomy. The doctor had predicted four to six weeks for the internal healing to complete. So she was a little surprised (but not alarmed) that my internal stitches had not dissolved yet. No big deal, everything looked fine, I just needed to avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise for two more weeks. To be honest I felt perfectly well and wasn’t sure I had still been avoiding heavy lifting! But, everything is good.

I have opted to hold off on hormone replacement therapy for now. While I am 100% positive the hysterectomy was the right choice, now I am not sure I need HRT. No hot flashes, sleeping well and the hormonal roller coaster has been reduced to the kiddie version. Not sure if that is the St. John’s Wort or just my body changing on it’s own. So for now I just wait and see what happens.

I am making progress with weight loss, yeah! I am down to 140 pounds. The intermittent fasting works. I don’t have a hard and fast routine but take it day by day. Most days I only eat one or two meals. I wait until I am really hungry and don’t worry about what time it is. I have found that ignoring the first hunger pangs and drinking some water or tea is pretty easy and effective.

I think the other key to success is I try and eat what I really want. The cravings have ended. And surprisingly I don’t want junk food so much. I often eat salads or omelettes or a simple meal (say grilled pork chop, baked yam and veg). I don’t worry about carbs or sugar but I do try and eat whole, real food. And when I do want something sweet I keep homemade brownies and cookies in the freezer. I am hoping to lose about two more pounds but I am not stressing over it, I trust it will happen in time.

I mentioned I was working for the Census Bureau here. And I mentioned how hot it was. And then it got humid. And I found myself walking 15k steps one morning in triple digit heat. And the next day? Not so much. So I had to quit. I felt bad but I was not the first to quit that week because of the weather. They were sorry to lose me and said I was one of their better workers.

What I did learn was that I rather enjoyed working part-time and I am currently pursuing some other options.

I think that covers all the big stuff! Have a great week!

Recovery: 3 Weeks Later

It has been three weeks since my surgery and I am doing well.

Frankenstein abs When I first saw my abdomen after surgery I knew exactly what Frankenstein’s abs looked like! I had four small incisions surrounded by bruising. I have been watching the colors turn and endured a tiny bit of itching. They were glued on the outside and I am to let the glue come off by itself.

Swelly Belly I knew to expect a swollen belly after surgery and I was expecting to look like I was four months pregnant. In reality I just looked a little bloated. What I did not have a clue about was the compression garment I woke up in after surgery. No one said a word about it and for some reason I didn’t ask any questions. (Now I am scratching my head over that.) When I got dressed to go home I took it off and left it there. It had some blood on it from the incisions and I just left it with my gown.

After about 10 days I wondered how long the swelling lasted and in the course of my internet reading realized I was probably supposed to keep wearing the compression wrap. I was having backaches and feeling a little uncomfortable and wondered if a compression wrap would help. I bought one on Amazon for ~$16 and started wearing it and it really helped.

Sleeping I was shocked at how much I slept the first few days, an afternoon nap and then through the night as well. And then my sleeping went a little haywire. Some nights I would sleep ten hours, others I would be awake at 4:00a and think I was done, only to fall back asleep at 6:00a and not wake up until 9:00a!

Not doing too much I have to admit I never felt any pain. When I got home on Friday I felt fine and found myself reaching for something on the top shelf before I realized that might not be the best idea. Being tired helped keep my from overdoing things and I made a concentrated effort for the first three days to “Be still and heal”. But on Monday I couldn’t handle the mess in the kitchen anymore and started cleaning. I tried to take it easy and not do any heavy lifting but on Tuesday I found myself hauling laundry around and hanging clothes up and that night felt like maybe it was a mistake. I had a little bleeding in the hospital but it had ended by the time I left. Now I had my first very light pinkish-brown discharge. I had a little of this every day for the next two weeks.

I had been focusing on my external incisions (which were healing fine) but hadn’t given any thought to my internal healing. With that in mind I dialed it back a notch.

A color by number picture which I quite enjoyed doing while listening to the Cubs win.

Guilt over watching tv I had DVR’d some shows specifically to watch during my recovery but since I didn’t feel bad it was weird just sitting and watching tv at first. But I got over it. I learned to do a little cleaning and then take a break and then do some more. I tried very hard to listen to my body in regards to the fatigue. I had to keep reminding myself that I needed time to heal and that I didn’t want to be one of those people. You know, the one’s who resume normal life right away and then end up in bed for a month. Not me.

Pain meds I had Vicodin and ultra-mega strength prescription Ibuprofen. I took one Vicodin the first day I was home to help me sleep. Actually to help me stay asleep. And I took a second one towards the end of the first week at bedtime when my back was bothering me. I never took any of the ibuprofen.

Two weeks after surgery I resumed driving and tackled all those back to school errands. My incisions are starting to look like they are healing, no pain and my minimal discharge has stopped. On the downside I am still exhausted. The weather isn’t helping, triple digit heat and humidity are still hanging around. Some places get rain, but not at my house.

Post operative doctor visit (18 days after surgery) Everything looks good according to my doctor. I asked about the fatigue and was told it is quite normal. It takes the body time to recover from the anesthesia (hardest blog word to spell ever 😕!) and the trauma of surgery. Even though my brain missed the whole thing my body went through a lot. So I’ll be watching a little more tv for awhile longer.

I got to take home actual pictures of my uterus which is both weird and cool. You could definitely see the lumps of polyp and fibroids which looked huge to me! And she showed me where she cauterized the endometriosis. Everything was benign and she peeked at my gallbladder, appendix and liver which all looked good. Ovaries are good too.

I go back to the doctor right after Labor Day for a final check-up. For now I continue to sleep more and not lift anything too heavy. She did say I could get in the pool or take a bath after one more week so I have that post-surgical milestone to look forward to next.

Now that it is all done I am happy to report that a hysterectomy was the right choice for me. No regrets.

Not that I am trying to jump the gun but school starts next week which always makes my thoughts turn to Fall!

Post Surgery Post

I’m back and in pretty good shape. Mostly I have been tired but not in any pain following my hysterectomy. Where to start? At the beginning is always best.

My spouse dropped me off at 5:30a. I had studied the map and knew where to go, down the hallway to the right. I walked into the lobby of the Women’s Center and whoa, it was HUGE. I panicked a bit and asked the security guard the way to the women’s surgical center: down the hallway on the right, just as I thought, I just couldn’t see it.

And then I turned into the hallway and Holy Stephen King it was my nightmare come true. A mile long, crazy wide and completely deserted. I started taking slow, deliberate steps on rubbery legs and there was the sign for the surgical center and I turned in, to find a nice normal sized waiting room with people in it! Whew.

Looks like virga to me. (When rain doesn’t hit the ground.)

I had to wait a bit to check in (two people ahead of me) and then I went to the prep room and got changed and pee’d in a cup and had blood drawn and got my IV set up. My Doctor popped in and then the anesthesiologist. Everything moved pretty quickly.

The anesthesiologist told me his three goals: 1) keep me asleep, 2) keep me unaware and 3) keep me pain free. I added 4) keep me alive (seems that should have been first but apparently it is a given in a hospital). He said something about 10 or 15 seconds and then I would be out. He wasn’t kidding. I was wheeled into the OR, got a glimpse of one wall, didn’t see a single person and the next thing I knew I was waking up in recovery.

I have to confess I still feel a bit creeped out about all kinds of things happening to me and having no awareness what so ever. I know that was the goal, but still. I won’t make another Stephen King reference, but yeah, that is what I was thinking.

In recovery I was asked if I felt nauseous, a little, and poof it was gone. I felt cold and was covered with another warm blanket. And I had to pee. I was told this was normal and I remembered I had a catheter in. Took a few minutes but I was finally able to relax and “let go”. I didn’t feel groggy or any pain, rather relaxed really. I had to wait 30 to 45 minutes for a room to be ready and then “transport” (a person to push my bed) to arrive.

Terrible exposure with most of my pictures, too much sun despite the virga.

And off I went to the women’s unit. I felt really lucky to be kept in the smaller women’s unit, maybe 10 or 12 rooms? And very quiet, separate from the main hospital.

Three and half hours later I was up and walking around. I had an IV with low dose pain meds (Percocet I think) and a button I could push if I needed more. I never did. No pain at all, just a bit of cramping (I’ve had way worse menstrual cramps) and once I started walking around that went away.

The funniest moment was after my first walk the nurse explained how to order dinner. At this point I am back in bed and I am looking at the remote that calls the nurse and operates the tv and light as she explains the number to dial. Um, no numbers on this thing. As she is leaving the room I say “how do I order dinner again?” She looks at me, obviously a bit concerned as I have been pretty lucid up to this point. “You dial…” and then realizes I can’t see the phone which is behind the bed on the far side of the door, an area I hadn’t seen yet. We both laughed with relief, happy nothing had gone awry with my brain.

I had dinner (cucumber slices, fruit cup and chicken salad with a brownie I ate later), played UNO with my spouse and son and then walked around some more. I felt pretty good and they unhooked the IV with the pain meds because my poor kidney’s were working overtime with all the extra fluid. And I didn’t have to put the oxygen back on. I had taken it off to eat and then “forgot” to put it back on. But without the pain meds I didn’t need it.

Visitors left and I watched “The Birdman of Alcatraz” which was just starting on TCM. The biggest side effect I had was a crazy dry mouth. I had been drinking water all afternoon but it wasn’t helping. I had my husband bring me some mints and decaf tea and by the end of the movie my mouth felt much better.

I tried to sleep for two hours but it wasn’t happening. I wasn’t in pain or cramping but felt stiff and uncomfortable. The catheter was bothering me a bit too. I got up and walked around, told the night shift I was conducting a surprise inspection, making sure they hadn’t snuck off to the gym. After 30 minutes I felt a little better and of course I was pretty tired. I talked to the nurse and she said she could remove the catheter. Better. Then at 12:45a a guy showed up to draw blood. What? At 1:30a the med tech came in take my vitals. Seriously? If I had been asleep I would have not been happy.

After that I did fall asleep and woke up at 5:00a. I used the bathroom and then had an ultrasound of my bladder to make sure I was “voiding properly”. I was. My doctor stopped by at 7:30a impressed with how well I was doing. She had been checking my chart from home and couldn’t believe I was sitting up playing cards the evening before. Those nurses documented everything! And by 9:00a I was ready to go, breakfasted, showered, passed “pee protocol” and signed discharge paperwork.

Since I have been home I haven’t had any pain, cramping or bleeding. I did have a terrible stiff neck the first day but a heating pad helped. The only thing is how tired I have been. I have had an afternoon nap and slept through the night everyday since I have been home. I did note that both my pre and post op blood work showed I was anemic so I wonder if that is a contributing factor?

I had my doubts about having a hysterectomy but it was the right choice. In addition to the polyp and fibroids evidence of endometriosis and adhesions were found.

Well this is a crazy long post so I’ll end here. Pictures are from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Hoping to do a Photo Friday post, we’ll see.

“Better Than Before”

For Christmas I got Gretchen Ruben’s book “Better Than Before”. I was hoping it would help me with two habits: writing and eating (actually more like not eating).

I started strong with the writing and floundered with the eating. Six months later I am floundering with the writing and doing well with the eating. Kind of a surprise I must confess.

Today we will talk about my eating habits. Being a woman, ahem, of a certain age my weight was on the rise. Over the last few years I have read all about various eating schemes and how your body handles fat, sugar, carbohydrates, whole foods etc. One thing I read that has really stuck in my head is how we all think it is normal to gain weight as we age. But that is a relatively recent phenomenon. It used to be that as your metabolism slowed your appetite adjusted. But we have wrecked our regulating mechanism with vast quantities of sugar and processed foods.

I had fallen into the habit of eating all the time. A cookie here, a piece of dark chocolate there, a handful of almonds while cooking dinner. My meals were fairly healthy for the most part but my snacking was out of control. I knew snacking was what I was doing wrong, I just didn’t know how to stop it.

I sat down and had a think about my eating and decided my solution had to meet two criteria: it had to be easy and it had to make sense to me. From Ruben’s book I learned that I am a questioner. Things have to be logical for me. (And I thought I was an obliger until I took the test in the back, so take the test!)

Ruben went low carb (in the book at least) like magic. She read a book and poof she started eating low carb with no effort. (Am I the only one who read that and wanted to shove her face first into a donut?) I tried low carb but it didn’t make sense to me that apples and carrots were “bad” foods. And the minute I deny myself something I immediately start to crave it.

In the course of reading about low carb I stumbled on to Intermittent Fasting. Hmm. 1. It was easy enough. You just don’t eat for x number of hours each day. Doesn’t cost anything, you don’t have to track anything or look up values of foods. No issues with eating out and wondering what is legal for whatever your current scheme is. 2. It makes sense. You give your body a break from digesting foods and allow it access to your fat stores. Way back when people fasted all the time because they couldn’t find food. And fasting periods (and feasting periods) are something all the major religions have in common. Interesting.

I decided to give it a try. I started with 12 and 12 and worked my way up to 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of feasting. Turns out it wasn’t hard at all. The first few weeks I focused on the fasting hours. Whenever I ate last in the day I would wait sixteen hours until I ate again. I remained flexible with the times but eventually settled into last eating between 5:00p and 6:00p, sometimes earlier. I think eating earlier helps reduce the night sweats.

About a month into it I had lost 3 or 4 pounds. (I didn’t think to weigh myself that first day!) For me the most important part was how I felt. Literally with no effort my eating habits settled down. I am no longer craving or thinking about food all the time.

I typically eat two meals and somedays a snack or treat. But if I feel hungry I eat three meals. I eat whatever I want. I thought for sure I would binge on junk food but an odd thing happened, for the most part the urge for junk food has dissipated. I eat salads and apples with peanut butter and grilled salmon. Yes, I still eat a cookie or a brownie, but no more than one a day and they are homemade (individually wrapped and stowed in the freezer in the garage). And after I eat it I don’t desire more, I am satisfied.

I don’t wake up starving and often eat in a smaller window, many days I eat at 10:00a and 3:00p. But I don’t force it, I just let it happen naturally.

I am a little bummed I haven’t lost more weight but I am patient. I am now on week seven and have no problems sticking to a 6 hour eating window. Cravings are gone and really the best part is no longer thinking about food so much. I don’t snack anymore. I take it day by day and ask myself what I want to eat when I am hungry and then eat it. I am more mindful and focused when I eat and then I don’t think about food again until I am truly hungry.

The moral of the story is not that Intermittent Fasting works, but that it works for me. Each individual needs to keep trying different things until they find what works for them. So keep trying and good luck.

I’ll be taking a blogging break most of July. An unplugged vacation and then my surgery are on the agenda. Hope you enjoy this slice of summer!

I love how nice and cool this picture makes me feel.

Flash Fiction: Paint

This week’s flash fiction prompt from Carrot Ranch was to write a story that involved paint.

This is what I wrote first:

I know it is hormones and heat causing my apathy but it is still scary.  
Scary to sit and not be able to think of a single thing one wants to do.  
Scary not knowing when one is going to get one’s self back again. 
 
Frustrating to desperately need sleep,  
going to bed knowing you aren’t going to get it. 
Frustrating knowing for a fact that one is going to be awakened
at least three times with bursts of heat.

Satisfying to look at the blank page of the sketchbook
and add a slash of color. 
Mindlessly?
Or
Mindfully?

This is not fiction. This is therapy. So often I find myself using the writing prompt to express my current mental state. This isn’t a bad thing but not my goal. So I tried a second time.

“Dream House”

She felt like Myrna Loy in “Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House” as she recited paint colors to the contractor. 

“I am still figuring out my office”, she confessed.  It felt terribly important to get the color exactly right in the room she would spend the most time in.  

Since she couldn’t even narrow down a color family she was going by name now. She wanted something literary like ‘Writer’s Retreat’ or ‘Chapter and Verse’. 

She flipped through the paint chips and read ‘All Your Dreams’. The palest of pinks, more of a rosy cream.  Her future in paint.

I thought this was better but still has too much me in it. I’ll continue to work on that when I get back. I will miss the next two or three weeks as I will be on vacation and then having surgery.

P.S. I don’t know if those are real paint color names, I made them up. If I had more words I would have had the kitchen painted ‘Buttercup Yellow’, the hall bath ‘Tidal Blue’ and the master “Glacier Gray’. Turns out I like making up paint names. And I have a spot to use that skill in my novel!!

In the meantime enjoy your summer and have a safe and Happy 4th of July!

May Madness: Meditation

Last August (I think, I don’t really keep track) I started meditating. In the beginning I used the Insight App all the time. It helped me remember to do it and establish the habit. I set up the timer, sometimes changing the background sounds. Sometimes I follow a guided meditation and have some favorites bookmarked. I also do walking meditation on the treadmill which I really like and should do more often. (Note to self, remember this!)

Now I still use the app often but I don’t worry if I skip a day or meditate ‘au natural’. No not naked, I meant by just sitting quietly and focusing on my breathing.

The big question is, does it do anything for me? I think it does. While I am actually doing the meditation it just feels like hard work to quiet my mind over and over again. Some days are more successful than others. At the very least it gives me a pause before jumping into the to-do list for the day.

But over time I have noticed I seem to be able to control that initial negative reaction to certain situations better. I am able to take a breath, think, and then respond. Very helpful during the absence of estrogen. Crazy helpful with parenting.

Today is the first day of summer vacation. Unfortunately I woke up only ten minutes later than normal. But then I decided this might be a good thing. I did my yoga stretches and then sat and meditated in the quiet morning. It was lovely to be able to just sit and not worry about the clock. I listened to the birds outside the window (what were they talking about?). I breathed in kindness towards myself and breathed out peace towards the world. Hopefully I will embrace the day gracefully, no matter what the universe sends my way!

Til tomorrow…

May Madness: Motivation

For me the scariest symptom of menopause has been apathy. The days when I have no motivation to do anything. Not even fun things, or things I would normally enjoy. The worst days are when I tell myself to ignore the chores and errands and just do something I really want to do and can’t think of a thing. Not even something simple like watching a movie holds any appeal.

I tell myself to just sit, stare out the window but after 30 seconds I feel guilty and like I am insane. I have too much to do to sit and stare out a window. Life is short, I can’t waste these hours, days, months to menopausal angst!

For two weeks I was feeling really good despite terrible insomnia. I was motivated and actually happy about getting some cleaning done. I worked in my sketchbook, watched “Poirot” and didn’t mind making dinner. I was the calm, patient, kind, loving mother. I took breaks when I needed to (because I was tired from the lack of sleep) but emotionally I was happy. Life was good.

And now I am starting to sleep better but apparently my estrogen has again plummeted. The first sign was when I cried when Kris Bryant hit three homeruns in one game for the Cubs. Sure they were happy tears but not something I would normally cry over. And then there was the response to my son turning his nose up at the quiche I made. “Fine. Don’t eat it. I am never making dinner again.” (And no this was not said calmly.) And I knew I was back on the bottom of the menopause rollercoaster.

The last two days I have looked at my overly ambitious to-do list (made when I was feeling motivated) and just shook my head. I’l slog through the next two or three weeks somehow and hope for a few good weeks in June.

Today I will just be sad that I don’t feel like setting up my new day planner. I love doing this, apparently just not today.

Til tomorrow…

May Madness: Menopause

I am cheating today as this is also my entry for Carrot Ranch’s weekly flash fiction topic. This week’s 99 word topic is about growing older. And did you really think I would go the whole month of “M” words May and not address menopause? Silly reader. 🙃 At least I am able to look at menopause with a sense of humor right now.

Menopause

A woman spends the latter half of her life in three phases:

Perimenopause – Characterized by so many different symptoms you are sure you are losing your mind. Coping mechanism is eating brownies while hiding in the pantry. You long to live alone in a mountain cabin.

Menopause – This phase has many false starts.   Six months without a period and then you get surprised by your ‘friend’.  Still eating brownies, you now wake up in the middle of the night and have to endure  hours thinking about brownies.  

Post-menopausal –  The sun comes out again and you live happily ever after.

More on the Rock

I think menopause is like childbirth. Once you are on the other side all the gory details quickly recede from memory.” – Tracey: April 17, 2019

So I had my follow up appointment with my doctor and it went very well. For one thing she explained about how in the last appointment she could really only do the pap smear because the insurance company won’t let you schedule one appointment for two things, like talk about menopause and a pap smear.

So we had a good talk about all my symptoms (which I had written down and she made a copy of) and she did the biopsy and scheduled me for an ultrasound later in the week. And she said we will see a lot of each other until we get things figured out.

ONE WEEK LATER

I get my results back from various tests:

  1. My FSH level is now 12. (Up from 6.7 last time, down from 22 two years ago.)
  2. My ultrasound showed three fibroids.
  3. My ultrasound also showed a 7mm thick lining of the uterus indicating I am not in menopause.
  4. My biopsy showed polyp cells.

MY INITIAL REACTIONS

  1. Considering how bitchy I feel right now I am sure another FSH test today would be back in the 20’s.
  2. Oh, these must be the culprits of all my woes!
  3. What? I never thought I was in menopause.
  4. What? I thought I was being tested for endometrial cancer.

REACTIONS AFTER SOME THINKING AND A BIT MORE RESEARCH

  1. FSH is not rational. And how does one manage Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) if your levels are all over the place?*
  2. Something like 70% of women have fibroids and mine seem pretty small (if I remember correctly) so probably not an issue.*
  3. Ah, I think the doctor was making sure I wasn’t in menopause and all the bleeding was caused by polyps/fibroids. It would be pretty funny (not) if I actually was in menopause already and just didn’t know it.
  4. Well, maybe I was tested for cancer too but she was looking for polyps which she found. Am I the only one who hears biopsy and thinks cancer? *

I am writing down all my questions so I don’t forget anything.*

From the on-line ‘Sketchbook Revival’ I am participating in.

ONE WEEK BEFORE THE NEXT APPOINTMENT

I must confess I think I am secretly hoping she says, yup, you need a hysterectomy. How does May 20th sound? (After bowling season ends and just before school lets out.) Perfect. And then we’ll set you up with HRT and by Flag Day (June 14th) you’ll be right as rain. But I am pretty sure major surgery is not going to be the first option.

My biggest fear is that I will spend months/years being miserable while various drugs and uncomfortable procedures are carried out and in the end I end up getting a hysterectomy anyway.

In the meantime I am surviving one day at a time. I’ll watch “Poirot” and work in my sketchbook and listen to Cubs baseball.

AFTER THE APPOINTMENT

It was a good visit despite being 30 minutes late. My doctor had two patients in labor so I didn’t get upset. Even crazy hormonal me can’t be mad at tiny babies trying to be born. And once the appointment started she was very focused and explained everything. I got all my questions answered and we have decided on a course of treatment: I am getting a hysterectomy!

I have a large polyp in a bad place and something about a clearly visible blood vessel feeder. So that is why I am having such long/heavy bleeding. I could just have the polyp removed but then I couldn’t have HRT and there is a chance I would just get another polyp. I can’t have HRT because of the fibroids. They are small now but HRT may make them grow and then they would cause bleeding.

By having the hysterectomy I can have HRT for my other symptoms. I won’t have to worry about uterine cancer (another potential HRT risk), fibroids or polyps and no more periods!

Once the insurance company gives the okay I will schedule the operation. It is done robotically, four small incisions, one night in the hospital and about 2 weeks recovery time. I won’t be able to drive for a week or two or swim for four to six weeks. I am dithering between before or after our planned summer vacation.

After the surgery my doctor and I can figure out the HRT. Apparently the FSH level is ignored and she goes strictly by symptoms. So it sounds like there may be some trial and error there.

There is a plan, an end in sight. I am sure once I schedule the surgery and it gets closer other feelings will be generated but for now I will enjoy my feeling of relief.

I don’t know why but I am absurdly happy with this sketch.

Flash Fiction (Eminence)

Eminence: a person of high rank or position or a lofty place

Here is this week’s entry for Carrot Ranch. There just may be a touch of fantasy in this scenario!

I dragged myself into the kitchen and apathetically checked the fridge.  Spouse and small child would be home soon and looking for dinner.  That was part of my “job”, cooking, meal planning, grocery shopping. I could feel the surge of pre-menopause hormones coloring my brain.  I wasn’t even hungry, why should I cook dinner?   I checked the freezer. The emergency frozen pizza had already been eaten this week. I started to cry and told myself, “enough”.  The eminences would have to fend for themselves this once. I retreated to the couch and a movie.  “Double Indemnity” suited me perfectly.