Difficult things

This is a topic that is rather private  for me and very hard to talk about. I have not been one to share too much on family issues over the years. I do feel that by sharing some of my experience on this issue that perhaps it will help other families in this crisis. Or maybe at the least they won’t feel so alone. So here goes…

My neighbor – whom I’ve never met (we live in the country so houses are further apart)-  startled me the other day as I was about to grab some dog food out of the garage. I was harried and late for feeding time and bone tired from lost sleep. She said something as she stood in my driveway. “Pardon?” I asked. But I thought I knew exactly who it was and I was right.

“Are you Mrs. Sweeney?”. She asked again. “Yes” I answered.. “It was your son who….the other night”

I am going to save you the exact details of that event but my 18 year old son fueled by alcohol became a volatile and crazed the other night –  and he ran out of the house as I was calling the police and subsequently terrorized our neighbor. I feel so awful for what they went through. I am sure in his state he thought he was trying to get into our house but he can’t remember any of it. I know it was terrifying for this neighbor and what I heard I can never un-hear. You never want to know that your child is in such a terrible state of mind.

It turns out he was suicidal that night and I have found out since this episode that he has been this way for months and even tried to kill himself over spring break in our home and we never knew about it. A friend came to his aid and my son promised to tell us he was in a bad way the next day – he never did.

The severity of his issues at this time is a shock to my husband and me – his having depression/anxiety is not.  He has been treated for years for ADHD and Depression/anxiety.  The problems we ran into over the last few years were twofold- our son didn’t want to confide in anyone – he was a locked up safe – so therapy was futile though we did send him.  And secondly getting a Psychiatrist for a teen is not easy. We have a definite crisis in this country with the mental health system and it is even worse if your child is and adolescent.

This is really a country crisis not a family crisis. If families can’t get help for their mentally ill children we can have more mass shootings and suicides. I know the problem. There aren’t enough beds so if you have to have your kid seen in the ER and want him/her admitted it is almost impossible – even when the person is suicidal. If the patient stabilizes they release them. And if you are afraid for your own safety or other family members and you want your minor child not to come home then you can be criminally charged in some states or charged with abandonment in others if you leave him/her in the ER.  And if CPS get involved then life can become hell.

In my son’s case he should have been admitted but because he was drunk – a new issue since he began college- they waited for him to sober up. By the time we called in the AM and asked to speak to the mental health specialist in the ER he had already been put into an Uber and sent home- in fact he already had snuck back into the house.  And the fact he was 18 and an adult gave us really no say in anything anyway.

I was so angry with the system. I was angry with myself to? I had been trying to get him to tell me what was going on all semester as I saw his grades plummet and work not being handed in. He rarely would answer my texts or calls and when he did he was short with me. I thought it was motivation- he is brilliant – so I knew he was smart enough to understand the concepts. He just wasn’t doing the work. I am sure my lectures on motivation, asking for academic help,  and my frustration over the lack of drive was not helpful as he was overcome by the feelings he was having. I feel like I missed the mark and now we are here.

This kid has not been an easy one to raise. Our relationship has been ok at best and non-existent at the worst.  But regardless you never want to know your child is hurting in this way. And you never want to see their trajectory in a downward spiral. I knew my kid could lash out in anger at us.  He could be a handful at home but he never directed anger toward friends or in school. But I can see he was crying for help and he was getting his comfort from alcohol and binging to relieve his pain. And then he blew.

My children are adopted and that fact in itself make them have a much higher percentage for mental health issues and substance abuse issues. We talked openly about this in our family. I myself have anxiety and have fought a battle with that for years. We went to family counseling for years. For me there isn’t shame in mental illness but it is hard to talk about for many.  But when it came to my kids issues I only confided in a few people close to me. But we should be able to talk about this. Parents should not feel alone.

I was lucky because I found a support group for parents with adopted kids and it really saved my sanity. We weren’t alone anymore. I had a group that understood the specific issues of the adopted child. But I kept silent in my writing most of the time. There is so much parent shaming/mommy shaming out there. And if you haven’t raised adopted kids you really don’t know the issues. But mental health issues and addiction can effect all of us and that is why I share this. It is not easy for me. My heart breaks for my child that I have wanted to reach all these years but haven’t been able to. Who I have often not liked  but have loved and tried so hard to help in every way to succeed and to be happy. It is what we want for our children. But sometimes they have to want that for themselves more than we want it for them…hopefully now we are on the right path,

The good news is that for the most part my son has allowed us to help navigate him when it comes to his mental health care. But the bad news is that he has not been open about how severe his issues have gotten so he wasn’t getting the help he truly needed.

The depression and hopelessness he was feeling was the gasoline and alcohol has been the flame. Thankfully his friends were very forthcoming when they realized my son was in crisis last week.  When I reached out they told me of their worry for him and told me of things he had done or said that helped the mobile crisis team -that came to our home after the ER failed us – understand that my son needed intervention. I must thank these friends for caring so much for my son who they recognize as a troubled but loving and caring friend. I felt happy that he has made these friends -that wasn’t always easy for him. I hope they remain a support for him in the future.

I know that such swift help is not usually the case as I briefly discussed above.  But if not for the mobile crisis team I would not have known where to turn for the help that my son had agreed to. I would have probably taken him back to another hospital and sought to get him admitted. But the crisis team had other options.

How did I find this team – that came to our home less than two hours after we called them? The police officer that came to our home the night before – after they found our son and got him transported to the hospital- handed us a card and explained that this team might be of some help.  At the moment I didn’t picture our son coming home. I wanted him admitted and then after that I didn’t know. So I didn’t think we would use that card but I set in on the bookcase and sure enough the next day we used it.

I had given my son two options- we will take you to a homeless shelter or you can get help.  I said to him whatever he’d been doing up until now was not working and things were just getting much worse for him. He was lucky he didn’t get arrested or shot when he not only trespassed but terrorized our neighbor. What would be next for him if he didn’t get help? I waited for his answer- and he chose help. I thanked God.

Once that crisis team got there they asked many questions and my son was very honest and became very emotional during this time. I felt so bad for him but also maybe this was a small breakthrough to releasing the pain he has been living with. The team got him a place at a rehab- which at first I didn’t feel he needed but once we realized that he had alcohol issues we realized that a rehab would be the best place for him. They will work on the substance abuse and also the underlying issues he has been dealing with. He will see a therapist and a psychiatrist. He will attend group sessions on many subjects.

They got him in a good one…one that is based on music as a therapy- he loves music. He flew that night to another state and is now on this journey to recovery. We were very lucky that we got him help so fast.  I thank him for being so open to getting it. I know he was faced with an option but I can tell he knew the best option was to help himself by getting help.

This can be a new beginning for him. I don’t want to have expectations – this is his journey with many battles and there are many things he has to deal with before he knows what his next steps in his life will be.  I hope he can shed his demons or at least begin the process. It can be so freeing and maybe he will see many possibilities for his life.

This is not an easy share for me but I felt I needed to be open. I do want to stress – If you are suffering or have a child who is don’t be afraid to speak up. If you have had a hard time getting mental health help perhaps a mobile crisis unit might be of help. And if you are a friend of a person having trouble please report it to someone. You could save a life. 

 

 

 

 

 

Am I a writer anymore?

I spent the better part of an afternoon this week writing a post about Mother’s Day.  I wrote then edited, started over and edited some more. Sadly the piece just never came together for me. This has been happening a lot. I either begin a piece and can it because I feel like the words are all wrong or I get an idea and I write it in my head- like in the shower- and I never get around to writing it or I get overwhelmed to start it for some reason.

Overwhelmed is a newer word in my vocabulary. There was a time where I could handle many things at once.  I could be very focused and multi-task. Now I am overwhelmed if I have to many things on my plate – which I do because I get overwhelmed and lose focus and then I go shop online. Because I can focus on that. Who can’t obsess over shoes?

But I just wonder am I still a writer?

I imagine a lot of this stems from the last few years and all the surgery for pain and the meds I am taking for nerve pain. It has to have had some effect on my brain. I also have many distractions.  Though my kids are gone most of the time at college and one lives away, I have a lot of responsibilities and distractions. My aging mother lives with us and requires help and rides to appointments and such, we have animals that need care, I run a small company part-time- etc etc. I love these things but I seem to be easily distracted and if pulled away from one task – and it may be trying to write – I sometimes forget to go back to that task until hours later…by that time the outline in my head that would have been a writing piece is gone. Or I read what I wrote and think it is awful.

I am having a hard time getting my thoughts on paper. I am not sure what to do.  I know the best thing for any activity you love to do is to practice it. So if I want to write I should just write – right?  So maybe that is the key- but it feels overwhelming. SUper OVerwhelming.

I did pick up a book at the $5 and under store that is titled “400 Writing Prompts”. It is just as it says- it is filled with lots of questions that could spur a writing topic.  Some I would not write about in a post , like: Plan your perfect birthday party.  Seems like thats not really a great topic for the blog… but hint: It would include Garth Brooks as the band, and maybe Dwayne Johnson as the eye candy for the ladies…ok maybe there is something to writing about topics that I would otherwise skip. I can be silly with them- except I am not kidding about Garth.

I could write about how every spring our house in swarmed by tiny black ants. They get into the dog food. They find a candy wrapper in my purse- yeah thats fun. One just crawled down my arm – ergo what I even mention ants.

Ok so I got distracted…what the heck was I saying?  Oh yes the book. Maybe I need to take a question from the book each day and write about it. It could be short or long-no pressure. Maybe write on “Would I ever get a prenup?”(yes that is in this book!)  What the heck? That ship sailed 20 years ago!

Then there is my photography.  I have lots and lots of photos and I never share them. Well I share some- but I am now so overwhelmed by having so many I get freaked out at over editing them. Most of what I share comes from my phone. Why bring up photography Anne? This is about your writing! Well yes but it is about stuff that overwhelms me too.. like ants in the house.

I know that creative non-scattered (ok I always was a little scattered) person lurks inside I just have to find her and slowly drag her out. If my writing has changed then maybe I will have to do my best to make it as interesting as I can.

See now I am distracted because my son – home from college until he heads to Maine for the summer- is putting the furniture out on the deck and patio- what a nice boy- and I need to be out there to guide him. Not knowing this task was going to occur I sat down to ice my back because I had injections today and I wanted to write. So now I hear him dragging stuff around. See distractions galore!

I guess I am done for now. I think taking a topic out of the book might be a good plan. I will try it in the next few days. Maybe “How would I engage a hostile audience?” will be my next topic…is give them the finger an appropriate answer?

Ok – I have to go – there is a wicker chair that needs my placement expertise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ups and Falling Down!

The other day I took this picture:

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When I see this photo I see accomplishment!

I was trying to mark a milestone.  I had just accomplished the feat of taking the wheelbarrow out of the barn and rolling it along as I scooped up horse manure. This may sound super boring and probably an unsavory job to many people but it is a job that I happen to like – you can get a lot of thinking done when you scoop poop- and you often have the company of one or more farm animals. I have been unable to do this job for quite a while because of my chronic nerve pain in my arm and back.  So I was having a “look at me ” moment.  I thought if the nerve pain didn’t flare up too much the next day I would post this photo and brag on this accomplishment.

But then this happened!

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Do you like the dog as prop in the photo?

This must have happened because I was so full of myself from picking up manure! I was in the chicken yard grabbing some items I left in there and I turned caught my foot on the hose as I was stepping forward.  It was one of those falls where you think you have caught yourself and you expect to be upright but you end up on the ground. I landed on my side and my rear – and on my non- nerve damaged side. Thankfully.  I had to make a nice turn to end up that way. I do think one of my guardian angels helped that move because I don’t know how I landed like that.

On the ground my first thoughts were “did I land on a chicken?” (I didn’t – they all ran far away – chickens!) and “ouch my ankle” and then “this is not going to sideline me”. NO No no!!  The next thought was me wondering if my cowboy neighbor who was out feeding his equines saw me fall. (Kevin was nearby but on a loud tractor mowing a field).  I did not want my cowboy neighbor to see me on the ground! It is bad enough that I need he and his wife’s help for all kinds of things (they are young and able!) but I didn’t want him to have to come ask if I needed help getting up off the ground- I would feel ancient.

So I took a deep breath- assessed the damage and hauled myself up off the ground.  My left ankle was tender. But I was ok…I was not in that much pain–lie lie- I was. But I went over to finish some things for the horses including some brushing all the while hoping they didn’t knock me over!  I just could not fathom that something was going to take me down for the count. But I knew I needed to assess the damage to my ankle – both ankles hurt but the left seemed to be getting worse by the minute. So I went into the gym part of our barn and I took off my boot. I could see where I twisted it. Not too swollen.  Good.

I had twisted this ankle before years ago leading a horse down a hill.  But this fall was worse- it hurt much more! I was a bit worried but I waited for Kevin to get off the tractor so he could take a look. He thought it was a sprain -but because it was getting more painful pretty fast we opted to go to the urgent care for an x-ray.  It didn’t take long and they were fairly certain I had no break – but gave me the films with instructions to see primary or ortho as needed – and they locked me into a boot that felt like a ski boot and off I went.

I will admit to moments of self pity and negativity.  I am just beginning to get back in shape and being able to do more things and I did not want this to slow the progress. And I was back needing someone to help me – poor Kevin has had enough.  But I decided not to make it bigger than it was. It is just a sprained ankle. It will take time to heal but maybe I can work around it some and keep moving some.

I got home and broke out of that boot and iced my ankle all night.  I woke up with pain the following day but it seemed less than the day before which surprised me but gave me some encouragement.  I still felt like I needed the boot because I did want to try do something constructive with my Saturday. We always have a list miles long of things that need to get done. I was in the middle of spray painting a wrought iron table I picked up for $50. I wanted to complete that project. So I put on the boot and Kevin covered it with a trash bag and I got painting.  I was able to stand just fine and after a while I became so involved in my work that I forgot I had a sprain (and nerve pain for that matter!).

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Spray Painting!

Today I woke with less ankle pain again. I am paying for the spray painting with some nerve pain in my arm and back but I expected that.  I still can’t move my ankle certain ways. I feel like the foot needs support.  I had taken a knee brace and somehow made a foot brace out of it and that was providing support. The boot seemed like overkill. Today I went to the drugstore and grabbed a couple ankle compression bandages and an ACE wrap. I will keep some form of protection and compression on for a while. I think this is going to heal sooner than later if I can keep from aggravating it. I can see how I will still be able to do most things. I just need to elevate it some each day.

Well it is funny how one minute I was so excited about picking up manure and the next I was flat on my butt with a sprained ankle.  That’s life . You just have to take your joy moments and appreciate them. I will be back picking up horse manure again soon enough.  I am grateful my PT is going well and  that I am doing things I haven’t done in so long. I have hope!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updates – figuring things out

It has been a good while -yet again- since I have written on my blog. I am trying to find the time and motivation to write again. I guess the good news is that I am busy. Busy doing life. Which for a while I was sidelined from. So busy is really good news for me.

I am about 10 weeks post surgery. I am a few weeks post a great vacation that we took to Wilmington NC and Charleston SC. I am grateful that I was able to take the trip. I got in the truck for the drive down south and a pain flare began. I likely did way too much preparing for this trip. Packing was the the likely culprit that took me from feeling pretty well before we left to being in bad pain on the drive down.

I was pretty bummed out. My recovery from surgery had been promising. I was feeling well. My pain level was down. But what I had noticed was that things were backsliding some. Things in my surgical area felt tight. I had been told to massage my scars and that they would actually get softer in time. My nasty radiated scar is gone so that leaves me with three new scars but they aren’t radiation damaged scars. I wanted to be positive but it has been hard. I am four surgeries in trying to rid me of this post breast cancer therapy pain – so I get defeated sometimes when I feel the pain intensify.

In that truck on the way to Wilmington , NC – I took pain meds- I just had to because this trip was important. I wasn’t going to mess it up. Kevin and I needed to get away.  We are caring for my mother in our home. And she is a wonderful person but Kevin and I hadn’t been away alone much in the last few years – so it was time. And well it was also our 20th Wedding Anniversary. I wanted celebrate that milestone!

I felt a lot of pressure going into this trip. I planned it. I love planning and I was excited to see the areas we chose to visit. I will write more about that trip later but I will say it was a lovely time. But I felt this pressure to not mess it up because of my pain. So in that truck I  was so frustrated with this pain flare. We cut a trip short last fall because of my pain and I was so disappointed. I really wanted to be able to take this trip and not have to cut it short. We were to be away for a week.

I was supposed to begin PT when I got home…another thing I was skeptical of because I hadn’t found any PT that ever helped me. So as we were driving I took out my Ipad and began searching for some type of PT therapy that might be designed for either breaking up scar tissue or for cancer pain in general.

One search led to another and I ended up finding a PT group near my home that performs a type of rehab therapy for cancer patients called ReVital.  I have been going now for a couple weeks. And the therapy group I am seeing near me is really great. I knew from the first visit they knew what they were doing. The therapist asked all the right questions. She knew about radiation damage and issues due to chemo. They work on breaking down scar tissue and are trying to stretch muscles and tendons in my arm that are damaged by radiation and were also made immobile due to frozen shoulder – I also had that after the cancer treatments.

PT is not without pain but the first day the therapist told me straight. If I don’t get this arm moving I am just going to get worse. So here I am going diligently to PT. The fact that horrible scar is gone is allowing me to do more than I would have been able to do if I still had it. So I am ever so thankful to Dr. Del Corral for removing it.

I feel hopeful for the first time in a good while. I know I will probably flare again (and I had a flare the first day of PT and when I left that flare was gone so that really gave me hope). I know there are steps forward and steps back. But I have been fighting for almost three years to get my life back. To feel normal.

Yesterday I drove my mom to her haircut appointment and while she was there I ran to the hardware store and to the grocery. I ran into a friend in the grocery and we chatted for a few minutes. I hurried through my shopping so I could get back to get my mom. It sounds so normal to people reading this I am sure –  but for me it is huge. Just to be able to drive and to have that freedom is so great. And Maybe some of you know this but I have had anxiety for years and shopping alone isn’t easy for me and for a long time I never did it. And now I am doing just that. I am trying so hard to just live life. Normal stuff is good.

So on that trip down south I didn’t know what I was getting into when I booked an appointment for PT. But sitting in the truck I felt like maybe it might be good. Just keep moving forward. That is always in my head. When we got to Wilmington I told myself I was going to enjoy our darn vacation. I was not sitting around! I was going to see stuff. And Kevin – as always- said he would do whatever I needed to do. There was no pressure from him…it was me pushing me.

So the ice pack became my good friend.  I toted it under my arm for much of the trip. Anti- inflam meds were needed daily and a few days into the Charleston leg of our trip I realized I was feeling much better – we had eaten and shopped our way through that city – and we had clocked some walking miles on that trip. It was very good.

All I can say is thank God for ice packs and thank God for the wonderful husband I married 20 years ago in April 1999. I often still cannot imagine my luck.

I am so grateful for being able to do normal things. I am grateful for a PT group that gets my pain situation.

And as my dad would have said- “Keep the nose of the plane up Anne” – I am trying Dad  – I really am.

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Southern Mansion South of Broad Charleston SC

Recovering kind of….bites

Well I am into my second weekend post surgery. I am healing. If the itching is any clue then I am healing well! I have gone from pain drug nirvana to non-pain drug – well lets say discomfort – as well.  I am not a fan of pain meds. Well…not true… I am a fan…they work and make you feel ever so spacey and dreamy. I slept so well on them. I take 1/6 the prescribed dose as well but I still felt if I am not in a lot of pain I would not take them. Still the discomfort makes me less mobile and well maybe that warrants a reason to take some. But I don’t- too much fear I suppose.

I get the drain out on Tuesday and I will take some for that procedure. It isn’t fun. But worse is having the thing in. It has been a – I really want to write shit show here- but instead I will say a tad of a pain – literally and figuratively to have this drain. If you don’t know what a surgical drain is you are lucky and look it up bc I don’t want to explain it more than needed. But my lovely husband tends to the drain upkeep – God love him- bc if I had to I would puke I think – I think this is because it is all happening in my body and I would like to ignore it as much as possible.

The drain is a pain. You are carrying it all the time- this appendage. Showering is tough. I shower in a tank top so I can keep the bulb pinned to something so it doesn’t hang down. Then I get out of the shower with a soggy ,dripping tank top on. It’s fun!

The drain also sprung a leak twice this week. The first time in the middle of the night. I woke Kevin but I really don’t like to do that since he is caring for everything (Me, my mom, and household and farm stuff ) all day. I want to grant him some decent sleep. Though I think almost nightly this past week a dog has also woken up in the middle of the night and either needed to go out, puked or pooped somewhere in the house. Which got Kevin up. Anyway I woke Kevin to fix the drain – I said sorry with my nicest voice. It wasn’t anything I could do alone.

Calling the surgeons office about the drain problem rendered an answer that this was all normal. Really?  I have had them before and never had anything like that happened. I will say it is  not a fun event and the second time it happened it ruined a new shirt – I should not have put it on I know…I take full blame but still grrrr.. and ick. The drain remains painful as the incisions heal and there is less drainage…so think a couple chopsticks lodged up inside your armpit..right… feels great!

I hear you saying – why won’t she just take a pain pill…I know, I know.

I have come to realize that five days is my limit after surgery. Five days to keep a good attitude – like I got this! attitude (and I am normally still drugged at this point), and its five days that I think I should be feeling well and start to feel guilty that I am not up and around feeling good. I have walked once, done squats and lunges – all probably too soon. The walking was ok but the second drain issue occurred just after that. So now I am waiting two more days until this drain comes out to do anything physical. But five days is my limit and then I get cranky and frustrated.. not the best look on me.

I have no idea how the surgery has worked. It is a 4-6 week recovery and 2 of those are supposed to be off work. So it’s going to be a while. I am supposed to start PT around week 4 – but I am hoping I can do some lower body stuff next week.. I dread PT. Thus far PT has been so crummy for my arm.  Maybe this time will be different! It all starts with ATTITUDE! Rah Rah! Haha…

I have found this time around that there are some items that I have come to rely on during this recovery. I know I am bored if I am keeping tabs on this stuff! Sorry for my ramblings…just needed to write.

First and foremost – a back scratcher. With 12 plus inches of scar and a dumb drain -things get itchy. For some reason this time they sutured up the skin – maybe because it is a graft and then they put this clear large adhesive covering over the entire graft and same for the donor site on my back. And this covering is tight! But it allows me to be able to shower normally so I guess thats good. But as I recover the itching is soooo intense…so the light touch of a back scratcher is wonderful.

Next is medicated chapstick – well this is a must have always but for some reason I am very needy of my chapstick as I recover. And at this minute I just looked for it and can’t find it- so now a search will need to be set forth. Note to self- get more than one medicated chapstick at a time. I picture it chewed up in some corner…dogs…nope FOUND it! yes!

Gauze and bandaging- I go nuts sometimes at the drug store on first aid items. Having kids and also having a small farm where we get splinters, blisters, step on stuff etc I am super paranoid about first aid.  I now am so happy I did over-buy because gauze and tape have been needed for this stupid drain.

Pill cutter-this is awesome- I got it as a parting gift after my one night stay in the hospital – where they were very good to me and to Kevin who also stayed the night. Yes I got parting gifts I was so excited! The pill cutter is the bomb and will go into my newly organized linen closet. I got bored the other day and had the fixings to redo the closet later in my recovery but I found I could sort items that were in the old crammed bins easily sitting on the bed – so new organized closet done. Anyway a pill cutter that cuts like butter is a must for your medicine cabinets.

I thought the the exhaling thing the hospital gives out so you don’t get pneumonia was cool but I got bored of it after two days home. So though helpful,  I don’t see it as a long term medical item that I will keep.

Oh and of course I got to keep the hospital socks. I have tossed out too many of these things over the years but they are great as a no slip alternative to slippers. Why are slippers called such? I know bc you slip them on- but they aren’t the most safe shoe!

Ice water has been another must have and so the trips to the bathroom are frequent…which is annoying!  I am one of those people that have to have liquids with them where ever they go.  And I mean I even carry bottled water into restaurants. Once I was even told by a very stern server at one restaurant we go to I could not have my own bottled water that I brought in because some people bring vodka inside the water bottle and get a glass of ice and drink their own alcohol. Is this really a thing?  I know teens do that stuff but I am not a teen!  I seriously just laughed as I was typing this! Crazy!

Last is magazine, puzzle books, and laptop. No explanation needed here.

Oh gosh and finally- my adjustable table – that allows me to reach all this stuff I listed – and my meds, and books and laptop etc! The thing is the bomb. Such a nice item when recovering from surgery or even the flu.

Recovery is just a process. And I am so impatient. I know with a surgery like this the benefits will hopefully show as time goes forward. Now I just have to take it a day at a time. I have just had more than my share of surgeries. I am sort of done. I hope this is it for this problem.

Well I brightened my day just by writing this. Nobody even has to read it. I just feel somewhat better. I think I will walk to the barn.

Think of me Tuesday at about 11:30 as they remove this drain. (But probably nobody is reading this by this point. I likely lost them at chapstick.) Oh well! I’ll be brave!

 

Valentines Day Surgery

Not many people would opt to have surgery on Valentines Day but I did! I had one on my 18th wedding anniversary and had cake when i woke up. So maybe tomorrow some sweet confection will arrive at my bedside providing I can keep it down.

Tomorrow I will have another surgery to attempt to improve the pain I have been having for five years as a result of my breast cancer treatments. This one is actually removing my scar which is damaged by radiation and keeps getting stuck on my chest wall which we think is causing some of my nerve pain.  Part of my back fat(I have plenty of that!) and skin and blood supply will become part of my armpit. Its amazing to read about -Tdap flap -as it is called. Usually it is done on the breast as part of reconstruction -but these flaps are now used all over the body to relieve pain from scars and improve range of motion where applicable.

My new plastic surgeon for this surgery-  Dr. DC – is not new to me really. I have been seeing him for cosmetic things for a few years. And he is aware of my vanity and my pain issue. He just happens to work on a continuous basis with cancer patients. He firsthand has seen the damage radiation can do- he’s seen a lot.

Most of us with breast cancer even early stage like me are given the warnings about side effects from treatments  – but still have the treatments bc it gives you some sense of control during a time when you feel very out of control.  And most of us don’t have too many issues after radiation – some of it is short lived and some shows up years later. We don’t know who will end up in severe pain as I have. But my pain issues have a trajectory and I am beginning to piece things together but It is really of no matter because I can’t go back and change things. Hindsight is 20/20!

Anyway Dr. DC is a great person and a top doc. I will miss Dr. Williams my nerve surgeon as he has been the lead or assist in my last three surgeries.  I am just used to seeing his face in the OR and I trust him. He doesn’t work out of the surgical center I am going to. But he has given his blessing on the approach Dr. DC has in mind – so here we go.

Nobody on this journey wants to have multiple surgeries. I don’t crave going under the knife or the 4-6 weeks recovery.  It is when you live in chronic pain that you realize how much life can be taken away just by a bit of pain – like say in the armpit – and you search for some relief.  Thats what I have been doing.  I don’t write about it all the time anymore because that just gets morose.   When someone starts the cancer fight people tell you or  post – “you got this” , “be a fighter” etc. But after a while people have to go back to their own lives and you are out of focus – and this is how it should be. Now I am sure people think – “Anne is having another surgery?”, “Oh poor thing”.  LOL I get it. I wouldn’t understand either- and I am so glad most people don’t get it because  that probably means they aren’t in terrible pain day on day.

I have been cancer free for five years! That is a huge milestone. And praise God for that. My oncologist pointedly told me not to get too comfortable with this milestone reached – because the cancer can come back..Yes gee thanks Dr. HH – I don’t have a false sense of security but I certainly am trying not to wake each day with a sense of panic – I did that for long enough- so let me have some serenity- stop trying to burst my bubble. I live with freaking chronic pain. Isn’t that enough! Reminder is there daily- thanks!

I can say that I am much better than I was almost 3 years ago when the pain was so bad i was bedridden. For that I am thankful. Dr Williams got me this far. This time around I think I would like to be able to lower my dosage of the nerve pain medication I take.  Which I can only do if I have less pain. The meds leave me with low energy and some other side effects that get tiresome- esp weight gain. My doctors would like to see my arm work better and my range of motion improve. So we will see. Sometimes you just got to do what you just got to do!

I am off to eat some cheesecake. We had an early Valentines Day lunch today and we took the dessert to go. I will also be eating again around 11:30pm because I don’t do well fasting at all- and I especially don’t do well when the surgery is late afternoon as mine is tomorrow afternoon. Thankfully I can have some water 4 hours before surgery. I am sure this is so they won’t tear my veins apart trying to get an IV in! Been there! I am bound to become somewhat hangry by 3pm- maybe they will drug me up prior – or drug themselves! Hangry on me isn’t pretty! Bless those nurses. They will be probably be shoving some food into me when I am in recovery!

Happy VD Day ❤ (Send some good vibes out for me tomorrow if you think of it!)

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In January I went to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD. It is a spectacular place. They had the Jelly Fish Exhibit and it was really cool. Don’t these look as if they are lighting up from inside?

 

Missing me? I hope not.

Rudy knew we were leaving. He always knows when we are going to be going in the car. He can tell. The suitcase comes out and I grab my pillow and a blanket I always travel with.

Even Ridley my Old English Sheepdog gets excited. He knows too. And he and Rudy usually get to go along – but not on this particular trip. This time they didn’t hear me utter “bye bye to beach house”. But still there was an expectation. An anticipation. The waiting for the leash. The sad look from Rudy ( or was that my projection ?) when he realized I was going and he wasn’t.

I know not to make a big deal about coming and goings with my dogs. But they know the packing and the taking things to the car. I did give them a pat and a treat when I left. I may have said “I’ll be back in five minutes.” I say that often if I run to the barn or mailbox or store. It’s said with no inflection. No sadness. I just say it as if Rudy or Ridley or any of the other dogs would understand. So The other day I may have said that and then I left. But Rudy was confused. He had anticipated wrong. He thought I was supposed to be getting him loaded in the car.

It’s amazing at what dogs pick up on. They know by your movements where you intend to walk. Well at least Rudy does. My sheepdog who isn’t very smart or maybe he’s just so stubborn it resembles dumb – even he sees cues and knows things sometimes before I know them.

Dogs are so in tune with their humans. We think they can tell time sometimes right? My dogs knew when my kids bus was coming. Not because it was 2:34. But because they likely heard the squeak of the brakes or the door opening at a stop down the road. I couldn’t hear it but they knew. Or maybe it was the light or maybe some cue I gave them through my feelings. Dogs are not humans they have senses we don’t. They are more of this world then we will ever be. We live in houses and so do they but they are so much more part of the real world – is nature. They aren’t distracted by all the things we think are important. To dogs the humans are important to them bc we help them survive. So they have to be in tune to us.

So in this situation of me leaving -the packing is the most telling to them. It seems obvious. They relate those actions to them going somewhere. If I grab my purse Rudy knows I’m going out. Ridley who acts deaf half the time can tell the difference between plates rattling in the sink and the opening of the treat jar in the kitchen. It’s certainly amazing. But I think it’s their instinct to be so in tune.

And for Rudy I’m his job. He rarely plays with our other dogs. He most always chooses to be with me – with the exception of the chance to scam some food off someone in the kitchen. Sometimes he bags me for that. But soon enough he comes to find me again. If a door separates us he lays by it and whines.

I didn’t leave feeling badly about him. I knew he would be ok with my sons and my mom who sneaks the dogs treats often. I left missing him though. We are together a lot but this trip – to Cleveland to see my daughter – wasn’t going to be good for a dog to attend.

Funny enough the drive was nice because we didn’t have any dogs to walk at the rest stop. But I will say I missed him when I was laying in bed. He’s always around and a few times I woke up looking for him quickly remembering he was at home.

Just before bed I had texted one of my sons at home and he called me – no FaceTimed- (I’ll never get used to it.) And he showed me Rudy and Ridley laying by the front door. He said they had been like that since I left. ( ok they did leave that post in order to eat so they aren’t that sad.) They weren’t suffering. They were eating.

I know sometimes when routines change dogs won’t eat -I have a couple dogs like that who occasionally get too stressed to eat when we are gone. Mostly it happens if we have a new caretaker. But after a couple days they are usually eating again.

Dogs don’t have a concept of time like we do so that always makes me feel better knowing they don’t see the passing of time the same as we do. So I knew he wasn’t pining. Just waiting.

I had a little fun the other night and tried to call him to me on FaceTime and he came to the phone. But was totally confused. He heard my voice and maybe saw something in that phone but i am not sure he saw me. I took a couple photos. He’s certainly sweet.

Anyway when I checked with my son the next morning he said Rudy did lay back by the door after our call but then came to bed with him – he slept in our bedroom. The rest of the pack was in there too so he was going in.

I suspect in another day or even less he may have stopped laying by the door. He would move on to whoever was there. He would be ok.

When I got home we had some excitement from all the dogs so Rudy was lost in that fray. I gave him a pet quickly and then I think he was sent outside with the pack. So I began to get settled -I had been home maybe five minutes and back in came Rudy. He doesn’t jump all over me – though he would do that to a stranger. (Pet peeve of mine that we work on and on). He just stood in the room and I told him to come up on the bed for a hug. And it was then he began whining and rubbing his head into my chest. Then Kevin came in and he gave him his excited growl – a thing he does when he’s happy. He makes this growling noise but it’s not menacing it is like he is talking. It’s funny! He also murr’s a lot. It’s dog purring. Maybe some dog owners out there know what I’m describing. He has different inflections of this noise based on what he wants. Like me to share my food. It is an intake or exhale of air with like three pauses. Our lab Lemon does that too. It’s communication and I thinks it’s cool.

I think Rudy was whining because he was glad I was home. I’m a pack member and I was gone. I am also his person and I was back. Did he miss me? Maybe? I want to think he was ok though. But just happy to see me return back to the den.

I did miss a dog being around they are a comfort to me as I have anxiety and I find a dog helps me feel less anxious but I did well aside from some pain from the long drive but it didn’t last long so that was great and I had a nice time seeing my daughter and doing stuff.

But I still wonder what he thinks – what his perceptions are. But I’m glad he is back doing his job. He’s here right now in my office as I write this. He’s laying by the door – and as soon as I move a certain way he will jump up trying to anticipate my next move. “Is she leaving the office? Ok – Just tidying up. Oh then I can rest my head down again. Or maybe there is some paper I can eat. ”

I like to think they aren’t as complex as we try to make them. I like it that way. We must seem very complex to them. Or perhaps they read past all out flawed humanness and see our souls.

I will never really know what Rudy feels but I don’t think my being gone is horribly distressing -maybe confusing because he was anticipating he was going. But he ate and drank and was fine. And I’m glad. I know Rudy and I have some kind of special connection -and however that is manifested i am very lucky to have him.

Ahh – he just came over for some pets. I think I’ll go now and oblige him. All is as it should be in his world. His person is here.