After closing we were itching for a reason to come north and see our new place. We were so ready to be out of that apartment and back to country life. At the end of October, we headed north for a weekend and decided to “camp out” on blow up mattresses and pallets in the new house. We had a fun dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings and then headed back to settle in for the night. I had trouble eating at dinner, but I didn’t think much about it. I had the same trouble a bit in Hawaii just a week or so before. I honestly thought it was great appetite control! Lol … not so much!
The boys were giddy to stay at our house, but we were all exhausted and fell asleep quickly. I woke up sometime during the night and felt awful. I had excruciating abdominal pain and I was extremely nauseous. I thought that I must have a stomach bug coming on or I ate bad food and camped in the bathroom most of the night. Once the boys started stirring, they headed out for breakfast, I told Jason I couldn’t get off the blow up mattress. By the time they got back I couldn’t even sip on water and the pain was worse. Jason had already asked if I wanted to go to the doctor and when I asked again, I didn’t turn him down. We went to a quick care in Abilene where the doctor looked me over and sent me onto Abilene Regional ER. We were planning to be well on the road back to Victoria by now, but I had to get some help and figure out what was going on.
After I got to the ER the pain was even worse. I couldn’t sit up strait and I just wanted someone to knock me out. I remember asking the doctor for Benadryl!! Lol!! That pink stuff always puts me to sleep & I just wanted to be out of pain. The doctor ordered a cat scan and they started an IV. I quickly learned that I wasn’t going to be out of pain anytime soon. Apparently, a new medicine I was taking for weight loss and depression blocks pain medication from giving you any relief. FUN RIGHT???!!!! UGH!!!! I had no idea I would need any pain medication and it wasn’t a side effect that my doctor discussed with me. So, from the time the pain started until I got into the ambulance, I never had any relief from the pain, I just laid miserable in the ER. Since everything happened quickly, we had the boys with us at the ER. Once we realized I might be there a while, Jason called and had family head over to get our little guys out of there.
While Jas was out in the waiting room my ER doc burst in the door and said, “you have a mass on your pancreas and another on your spleen, we can’t help you here. I am trying to get you in with a pancreatic specialist in Fort Worth, they can provide you with a higher level of care. We are going to transfer you via ambulance”. Then he spun around and walked out. Nothing more than I had masses and I needed a higher level of care. I didn’t really panic, I think I was just so focused on the pain. When Jason came in later, he asked if I knew what they were going to do. I gave it to him just about like the doc gave it to me. I think I just blurted out, “I have a tumor on my pancreas and another on my spleen and they are going to put me in an ambulance and send me to Fort Worth”. I’ve been down the cancer road a couple times before, I’ve spent a lot of time in the hospital and for some reason I wasn’t panicked a bit. I think I might have still been asking for pain meds, Benadryl, someone to hit me in the head with a shovel … anything.
Once they had my transfer lined up the doctor came in and explained more. He told us that one of the masses looked like it was blocking a bile duct in my pancreas causing pancreatitis. This was probably what was causing the pain. They had no clue what the masses were, but they got me accepted for transfer to Medical City in Fort Worth and there I would see Dr. Shariff, a surgical oncologist and pancreatic specialist. Everything went pretty fast from here and before I knew it, I was in an ambulance with a couple of angels! Seriously, my hero’s because they had some drugs on board that were not blocked by my prescription. For the first time all day my pain was decreased, and I was able to sleep. After a nice nap they gave me more meds (angels) because they knew once I got into the next ER and was moved to a room it would be a while until I would get more.
We got to medical city after dark on Sunday evening and within a few hours I was in a room on the surgical floor. Jason arrived later that evening and the boys stayed behind with family in Breckenridge. My first day at Medical City was awful. I was in pain again, we had no answers, no plan, and NO doctors! The place I was sent to for a higher level of care was failing miserably! I had really lost track of time, but once Jason let me know I had been there and in pain for 14 hours and we were done, I could see he was ready to get things moving. Let’s just say the 7th floor was not in it to win it. My care was subpar, and I saw medical student after medical student that all wanted to know the play-by-play on my previous cancer diagnoses, treatment, and surgical histories. I played nice for the first two, but after that I was OUT of PATIENCE … read my chart! I literally gave them a printed cancer treatment summary, full surgical history, all the history you can stand. Go read a chart and stop making me repeat this when I am in pain! It was so awful!! Well … the husband had enough and after talking to every nurse he could find on the 7th floor and getting nowhere, he went to the old interweb. Interesting enough that got them moving! I was quickly off of the 7th floor and to the 6th floor, oncology.
I was doing great through the entire ordeal and was really trusting that this was nothing, but when my bed rolled out of the elevator on the 6th floor and I looked up to see, oncology, it really hit. I wasn’t scared, but I just remember thinking, I don’t want to do this again, I don’t want to be sick. The team on the 6th floor took great care of me. We got my pain under control and we had a plan. More tests and then a biopsy on Tuesday morning. After the biopsy we would know what we were dealing with and we would move forward. The biopsy was easy and afterward we just had to wait. I was thrilled because I could have liquids again!! At this point I still hadn’t met the man I was here to see, the illusive Dr. Shariff. I did have the pleasure of meeting his amazing PA, Jessica. Jason was out of the room later that afternoon and she came in to let me know that they were getting results in and she was gathering the team and we would meet later that day in the family conference room. I don’t know if you have ever been sick, but I have. When they gather you to meet in the family conference room vs. just giving you results at the bedside, it isn’t usually good, that’s been my experience at least. I sat alone in my room for the next few hours praying and crying, I was pretty sure they were going to tell me I had pancreatic cancer when we met.
When the time came to head to the conference room, I think I held my breath all the way down the hall. Inside I met the team. Dr. Shariff, Brad, Jessica, a few students, and my nurse were all there with Jason and I. They had all my scans pulled up and pathology reports in front of them. During the biopsy the doctor was able to get to the mass on my pancreas and biopsy it, but he couldn’t get to the mass on my spleen. They said the mass on my pancreas was not cancer and they expected the same for the mass on my spleen. (huge breath of relief) Then he went onto explain that I would still need surgery to remove the mass because it was blocking a bile duct and causing pancreatitis. This would continue to flare up until we corrected the problem. The explained that they wanted the inflammation to go down before he operated, but I would have part of my pancreas and all my spleen removed. I wasn’t really having it! I wanted to be done now, I had stuff to do! I also voiced my concern about the medical care a friend had received in Victoria. We still needed to head south to finish packing the apartment and I was terrified to get sick there and get stuck in the hospital. As God had planned it, Brad spoke up. He knew exactly what I was talking about because he is from Tivoli! He completely understood my lack of trust in the care I might receive, and they gave me instructions on a direct transfer to put my mind at ease. This solved one problem, but I still had a house to remodel, the holidays were coming, I just wanted to get it done!
I took some time to think and pray on it and I told Dr. Shariff later that I would wait like he wanted. Weird right …. Let the doctor be the doctor. Hard! Plans were made, and I would get to go home prior to surgery and manage the packing and moving.
So, first night in the new house didn’t go well and we had a big wrench thrown in our plans. Surgery was scheduled for November 12th. We gathered the rest of our things from Victoria and headed north. The house was not ready, and we wanted to avoid living in another remodel so we asked to stay with Jason’s grandma. We got settled in and got Caden enrolled in school ahead of surgery, but things were just wild and a mess. I don’t do well with chaos and my personality craves plans, order and all things organized. God apparently really wanted me to stretch and grow during all of this!
Through all the tests and even during that conference I didn’t really think of the surgery as being a big deal. This was going to be my 14th after all, I was sure it couldn’t be that bad. I went for pre-op the Friday before surgery and this was the first time it really sank in, maybe it was beat in … but it was there. This was a big deal, there were a lot of possible complications and I wasn’t going to be myself for a long time! The rest of the weekend my anxiety was in high gear and I was scared.
Monday came, and it was time to face the music. We met with Dr. Shariff before surgery and his calming presence put me at ease. The surgery took a few hours and Dr. Shariff had some of his own bumps to deal with along the way, but in all it went very well. Ahead of surgery I just knew I would be out of there in 3 days’ time, but that was a joke! I think 3 days post op I still had a catheter and epidural in place, I was walking, but it wasn’t pretty. I ended up staying 7 days and I was still in a lot of pain, I couldn’t eat much, had terrible indigestion and gas, and I still had my JP drain.
The first couple of days out of the hospital were miserable! I was released the week of Thanksgiving, but I couldn’t eat, and I slept most of the day. Recovering, not being able to do much of anything for yourself, and not having your own home to be in, that’s rough. It hasn’t been easy, but there is much to be thankful for! I met with my surgeon and all the pathology is back from both masses and the lymph nodes they took, all is clear and benign.
At 3 weeks post-op I was still a far cry from myself. I didn’t have much energy and I was still having a hard time tolerating a lot of different foods. I finally got the JP drain removed and released to do light cardio (walking) and around the new year I can start with more intense activities.
At 5 weeks post-op I’m shocked every day that I am still so slow and often very sore. The area around my incision is still painful, my abs are constantly sore, and I am dealing with terrible back pain and spasms. Trips to the store, driving, folding clothes, it just takes it out of me. I am so ready to be myself again! I know its going to take time to get stronger and I am a little better each day.
I am thankful for all of God’s love and protection through this big old bump in the road and I am ready to get back on track.
Therefore, we have been delayed on the remodel, but I promise we are moving forward now! I’m not good for much help, but I can make selections and design decisions, so I come along for the ride and do what I can. Now we can get onto the fun part, the remodel!! Check back soon!