Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Journey to The Edge

On August lst I was admitted to Methodist Hospital for what was thought to be a bad case of intestinal flu. They did an ultrasound that night. The next morning I awoke to a man peering over me, with the word “oncology” on his lab coat. Gulp. He said they had seen what appeared to be an ovarian tumor, and that they would operate that afternoon. The tumor was cancerous. A couple of days later he waltzed in the room with a huge smile on his face, saying “Kathy, I’ve got the best news. The tumor was stage one, grade one and you won’t need chemo. I have every reason to expect a full recovery.” I rejoiced in the good news and thought there’d be smooth sailing ahead.

A week later, I had a heart attack. There was a blood clot in my lung. Two days later, I had another. I then sank into acute respiratory failure, and was put on a ventilator. This was a very dire situation. (My primary doc now tells me that there was doubt that I’d come out of this.)

But, I hung in there. I was still on nasal oxygen and there was little hope that I’d be able to be free of it. I was transferred to a smaller hospital, Regency, in Golden Valley. By then I was more aware of things. Although I could not move due to weakness., I insisted that they turn the oxygen level down each week. And, finally, I was free of it and my levels have been great ever since.

At the same time, however, another challenge presented itself - my kidneys crashed. I have been on dialysis 3x per week for kidney failure.

I was transferred to the Walker Methodist center about 6 weeks ago for final rehab. At first I could walk no more than a couple of steps. I could not hold my head up or turn over in bed. I had lost my swallow reflex and had to be fed through a tube in my nose and could take nothing by mouth. My tongue bled from the dryness. But, once again, I recovered, and the first sip of water was another victory to enjoy.

Once I regained strength, the physical therapists became like drill sergeants and pushed me to the limit. I would return to my room after a 30 minute session exhausted.

Finally, the day came for me to go home. The biggest challenge has been not to overdo things and pace myself accordingly. It was great to sleep in my own bed and not on a pillow with a plastic case.

Due to the dialysis schedule - 3.5 hours/3x per week, I will not be returning to work. It is very sad for me to refer to people as “a former co-worker”, for I enjoyed everyone I worked with.

In a fit of insanity, I got all of my hair chopped off. The quintessential bad haircut. But, what can I say, except “it will grow back.”

I have much to be thankful for - my insurance, which covered a whopping big hospital bill; my friend Elaine, who picked up my mail; my sister Joan and husband Merle who ran errands; my sister Jane who brought Esther to see me on Halloween Weekend in her jellyfish costume; everyone who sent cards and well wishes’; my oncologist, Peter A, who is a prince of a man and a stellar physician; my primary care doc, Steve B, who calmed me during several meltdowns.

I can’t wait until the sidewalks are clear so that I can walk outside. Alas, I guess it will be awhile.

Greet each day with joy. Do something nice for someone else. Pray for peace.