Sunday, September 25, 2011

I can't get sick, I'm having surgery

Thursday, as I as wrapping up my workday, I felt the beginnings of an illness. My stomach began rolling around in my belly, and I experienced a lower GI tract cramp.

Uh oh.

Attendance clerks in schools are better than the CDC in knowing whether communicable diseases are making the rounds, so I asked ours if kids had been going home sick this early in the year? Oh yes, she said, lots of colds and some stomach virus.

Stomach virus. And me, with no immune system, and out in the middle of everyone about to have a potentially lifesaving surgery. My mind flashed to all the kids I'd seen that day - ones who had borrowed pens, ones who had asked me questions, ones who had breathed on me. I thought of the teachers who are too dedicated to go home and and sick ones who had come to talk to me about substitutes.

I can't get sick. I can't miss this surgery.

As another cramp hit, I went over to tell my boss and the VP's secretary that there was a possibility that I wouldn't be there the next day. I am about as dedicated to my job as anybody can be - I truly love it. I don't think I called in sick once last year - my healthy year. But, I'm not taking chances. I want this surgery.

If my stomach so much as growls in the morning, I'm not going in.

My son and I both had an after school hair appointment, and as I watched him get his cut, the nausea began. I realized that I was going to have to cancel my portion of the haircut or something seriously unpleasant was about to appear on the shiny floor of that trendy salon. As I pulled out my husband's checkbook to pay, Cynthia either saw that I was green or didn't want to touch anything I had held, because she told me to come back and pay her at my next appointment.

I got home and went to bed. The intestinal pain got worse and worse. My stomach was roiling and the cramps were constant. I sat on the toilet off and on with no success. It felt a lot like when I'd had appendicitis; strong pain and a need to have a BM but nothing happening, at least at that end. I began throwing up which didn't relieve the pain at all.

It was clear that the Navelbine I had the day before had - after all this time - finally decided to take on the persona of its nickname - NavelBIND.

As the night wore on, I got worse and worse. I began vomiting in one of those nightmarish "sit on the toilet and vomit into the trashcan" scenarios, although sitting on the toilet was fruitless. I was great pain, and growing progressively weaker, so much so that I was having trouble walking. I was shaking, with beads of sweat all over me. I seriously considered calling 911. I really thought it was possible I wouldn't make it through the night. The only reason I didn't was that I had no fever, and that I didn't want to wreck my chances of having this surgery because of a hospitalization.

But, I knew that diarrhea that was gurgling inside needed to come out. My stomach was rolling like I was 8 months pregnant and making noises like a fussy baby, but all was blocked - to keep up the pregnancy analogy, it's like I was only 1 cm dilated and already screaming, "get it out of me!" I was afraid if the floodgates didn't open, I'd begin throwing it up from the other end - I was already past the bile portion of the regurgitation process and into the dry heaves. I wanted to take a painkiller, but wasn't sure I could keep it down, plus they also can cause constipation. Fortunately, at about 2:00 a.m. the dam broke; the Navelbine unbound. I instantly felt better. I spent some time going back and forth, from bed to toilet with diarrhea, but the pain was gone and I no longer felt like it was a potential emergency.

I slept the entire next day. I didn't even awaken until about 4:30 pm. When I emerged, I was exhausted, dirty, weak, stinky. I sat with my family for a few minutes and then went back and took another 3 hour nap. At 7:30, I got up and watched some TV with them, feeling a bit more normal. I went to bed at 11:00 and slept all night and woke up in the morning on the road to recovery.

Whew. I have an upcoming, potentially lifesaving surgery. I should be recovered before then.

Saturday, I was shaky all day and not very hungry, but I ate a little soup and some crackers and a couple of Popsicles and watched a bunch of HBO shows on my iPad. I vowed I'd go for a walk on Sunday and try to get some strength back and would be back to work on Monday to prepare for my time off.

About 9:00 pm last night, I started to feel it. A sore throat. It was faint at first, and I ate another Popsicle to try and cool it off, but I knew what was coming. And, I was right. An hour later, the throat was sorer and the back of my nasal passages were burning.

Shit. I'm getting a cold. I have an upcoming, potentially lifesaving surgery. I can't get sick!

This morning, I woke up with a full-fledged cold. Sinuses stuffed, lips chapped, nasal passages leaking constantly.

Will they even do a surgery on somebody who has a cold? Maybe a minor surgery but not a big one like this. I was told to try to get in as good a shape as I could before this operation, "Keep moving" said my SuperDoc.

And, for four straight days now, I've been sick. I've done none of the things on my to-do list and I'm behind in everything and definitely in pretty bad physical shape.

I am still struggling to walk, my legs are spaghetti legs. Two illnesses back to back with no immune system to speak of (except what Neupogen gives me) is not something that easy for a cancer patient to recover from.

I already decided not to jeopardize this surgery by going in to work tomorrow. Me, calling in with a mere cold? Unheard of. Yet, I must. This is one situation where my health has got to come first. I have to try to protect that surgery.

I meet with the anesthesiologist on Tuesday, and we'll see what he says about my cold.

Tomorrow, it's more tea, more HBO, more chicken soup and as much sleep as my body can handle. And, maybe a walk in the fresh air for strength.

Here's my worst thought: what if they don't do surgery now, but instead give me a future surgical date. What if the cancer grows so much between now and said future date (possible) that they change their mind and decide not to do it at all?

You know what that means?

I will have been killed by the common cold.



  1. I'm so sorry you've been so ill. If I were you, I'd be doing the very same thing about being as cautious as you can to get better, like calling in sick. It's totally reasonable, given your situation.

    Maybe load up on Airborne, Vitamin C, and zinc products?

  2. Oh no....getting sick with two things back to back is not good.
    Praying you'll start feeling better and the surgery will still be a go.

  3. So sorry to hear about your awful experience. I wish that I lived locally to be able to lend a hand to you. Please continue to get lots of rest, drink plenty of liquids with electrolytes to re-hydrate, and we'll keep praying! Wishing you all the best, and thanks for posting!

  4. Oh, Ann. You just don't ever take the easy road, do you? Wishing you a very speedy recovery and hoping you're able to stay on schedule with the surgery. Please take care!

  5. Well it just stinks. I'm sorry you had to deal with the stomach issues and now this! I hope you don't have to delay your surgery, but try not to worry "too far out." One thing at a time. One day at a time. I know, I know, I hate that cliche too, but...

  6. i wish you a speedy recovery - hoping that your infection fighters - spurred on by that bee sting of a neupogen shot (why does it sting so when the fluid goes in????) - are strong and fight the good fight, preparing you for your surgery... and then i wish you a boring boring smooth no surprises surgery....

  7. Geeez! I don't recall you being sick much (at all?) and now..NOW? Just before your surgery??

    NO FAIR!

    Buuut.. a common cold will NOT kill you. Get plenty of rest. Drink plenty of fluids. Stay the hell away from school where the germs are running rampant!

    You shall have the surgery, Ann!

    be well.... take care.....



Thank you for commenting. If the post is over 14 days old, the comment will be moderated and will approved later. This is a spam prevention technique - but I love to hear from you!