windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Grow)
Good Morning!

Today, if all goes according to plan, I will be released from the hospital. Last night, they unhooked my IV drugs and switched me to a lighter, more infrequent Tylenol-based pain relief. I am looking rougher everyday in here! :)

so, this morning the doctors will cap off my nephrostomy tube and give a few hours to proove that I don't need to pee through a hole in my back. ;). So gross! That's about it. Once that goes okay, they'll pull out the tube altogether.

See you soon!

Rachel
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (pink heart birds)
I will post more details when I get out of the hospital, but I wanted you to know that your collective well wishes, good thoughts, healing, prayers, and Presence came through and have delivered some miraculous results with and after today's big surgery. The surgeons were amazed and I have experienced, first hand, the power and magick of love. Thank you, thank you, a thousand thank you's!

Tonight's cat scan will tell whether they got it all out or whether I need another surgery in a few days, but the doctors revised their liklihood of more surgeries from 50% certain to almost entirely certain I won't. That is your work and I love you all for it and your frienships.

Love!!

Rachel
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (pink lotus candles)
Tippy-tapped update from me and my phone at the airport. My weekend at Diana's Grove was transformative, restorative, beautiful, and fun. The trip home met some hiccups as my flight last evening out of St. Louis was cancelled and I was left to get a hotel after many hours at the airport. Five hours sleep and I'm back and trying to get home again. This morning I am supposed to check into the hospital at 10am and have the first procedure, a radiology guided percutaneous neprostomy, at 11am. I am working hard to keep the anxiety at bay. I love this term I heard at the Grove this weekend--"growing edge". This is definitely a growing edge for me. I hope you will keep me in your thoughts. I sure need calm thoughts and still moments bravery to face this.

Love!

Rachel
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (pink roses)
~The pink spray roses I bought myself are opening up in the softest, most exquisite ways. I'm trying to soak in the perfection of them before they start to drop petals and wither away.

~Yesterday, I spent the morning at the hospital having some pre-operative testing and finalizing my paperwork for next week's surgery. I got a little more detail on that, too. Monday, I'm admitted to the hospital at 10am and getting a percutaneous nephrostomy. On Tuesday, the day of my big kidney stone removal, I'm having a percutaneous nephrolithotomy. So, if you are a medical buff or just like the nitty-gritty details, there you go. :) The pre-op stuff went well. Recognizing that so much of my medical phobia is about losing control and resisting change, I went in as mindful as I could be about where my squirrely mind was trying to take me. It was chill, to be honest, and in some ways kinda fun. Without a doubt, every person I met along the way at the hospital was so dear and wonderful. I need to just trust them and let them take care of me. So yeah, a good test run for me.

~Daniel is out of town until Wednesday night, I fly out to Diana's Grove on Thursday morning, and then when I get home on Sunday night I'll have time to sleep fast, say "hey" to my Mom who'll have arrived from Florida, and then get up and shuttle myself and my little hospital bag to the hospital. Not much time to prepare or worry about anything! :)

~I'm still hard-at-work on my natal chart readings for people. I'm almost finished with my third and have another three on the list to be done. I'm considering bringing my notes and charts into the hospital with me, but I'm not sure how much work I could realistically get done on them. We'll see! :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (underworld fae)
History
In January, while wintering over in South Florida, I woke up with the most phenomenal pain of my life. Worse than labor pains, worse than anything. I couldn't even walk, I had to literally crawl (with several breaks to lay on the floor and cry) back to bed to wake up Daniel. I thought I was going to die, that I had some horrible ovarian cancer or something. Went to the ER and they diagnosed me with a severe urinary tract infection and a large (2 cm) stone in my left kidney. I've never had any sort of kidney stones issue and it doesn't run in my family. Well, they gave me pain meds and antibiotics and a referral to see a urologist about the stone. The antibiotics, within a couple days, had me feeling 100% better. The urology office didn't answer my phone calls, and the pain was all on the right side, not the side they found a stone in, so I ended up letting it go for months and months until June when we moved back to Chicago and I was able to make an appointment with a doctor here at the Northwestern University's hospital.

I've also begun having constant dull pain in my left kidney, blood in my urine, and sometimes attacks of sudden, debilitating pain that makes me pray for quick death.

Doctor Appointment Rundown
#1 (Urology Department): "This is too big to pass. You'll probably need surgery, but if it is a uric acid based stone, we can attempt to dissolve it with drugs. Probably won't work, but we can try. You need to get an x-ray. If the stone shows on an x-ray, it is calcium based. If it doesn't, it is uric acid. We'll have to see which it is. I'll see you in two weeks."

#2 (Radiology Department): *takes x-rays* "We can't tell you if we see a stone in the image or not and we can't let you see the image. You'll have to wait to speak with your doctor in two weeks."

#3 (Urology Department): "Holy moley! I don't see people with your kind of stone walking around upright. How are you doing this? Come on, you have got to see this x-ray! *x-ray looks like a white spiky sea urchin dominating a little dark cowering kidney.* See all the spikes? That doesn't look quite right to me. We need to do surgery, but I want to make sure before I do anything that it is really a stone inside your kidney and not something growing on or around it, something worse. You need to go see Radiology to get an ultrasound. Come back as soon as you can get those images. We need to do something soon."

#4 (Radiology Department): "We have an opening for an ultrasound in two weeks. Would you like to book that appointment?" "Well, my doctor sent me with this note to put a rush on it. I need these images to have surgery." "Sweetheart, that *is* with the rush on it. Well, I can get you in in ten days. That's the best we can do unless you're in the ER."

#5 (Urology Department): "You'll have the ultrasound done on July 9th? Okay. We can see you to review them on July 12th." "What if I have an attack between now and then? What am I supposed to do? Is there something I can take that's better than Motrin?" "No, narcotic painkillers would just make you sleepy and constipated. I don't want to give you those. Just do your best and worst case scenario, if you run a fever over 101 with the pain, we'll want to see you in the ER."

So, I have appointments #6 and #7 booked and, hopefully, will be able to put Pain Relieving Surgery down for #8. But seriously? Being sick is a full-time job. My mom found a lump in her breast when she was my age. It took 30 days before all her run-around doctor-appointments diagnosed breast cancer. I mean really, what's wrong with this system? It is not only annoyingly inefficient, but it is making Daniel's life miserable every day that I need him to stop working to babysit Graeme while I toodle around the hospital. :/ I don't want to be the one feeling guilty and apologetic for being so broken.

I'm hoping that a) my mom can come into town to help babysit so I don't have to be alone in the hospital for surgery and b) that I'll be able to attend my planned weekend at Diana's Grove this month pain-free. We'll see! In the meantime, I have ample validation, finally, for all that pain and discomfort and weeks of saying, "I feel like I'm being stabbed from the inside. I can feel something sharp rattling around in there." :D One can only hope I get to take the stone home for my crystal/mineral collection. ;)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)
Now that I'm dedicated to my Temple of the Twelve study of Black this month, I'm finding it literally coloring every day. Case in point:

Facing My Medical Phobia
I'm naturally a procrastinator, have a strong medical phobia, and a high tolerance for pain so I can say honestly that I don't get the medical treatment I need. I don't like being under scrutiny and I like even less the feeling of powerlessness I have going to a doctor and waiting for them to cast the bones of my destiny. Impending diagnosis terrifies me in a way that needles don't. I worry that I'll walk in with a sprained ankle and walk out with a terminal cancer diagnosis. I was a very young girl when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and I knew, though I was never told, that she wasn't expected to live. I know it is completely illogical to blame the doctor instead of the disease or to think somehow that the disease doesn't exist until the doctor names it. I guess that's why it is a phobia--it doesn't make sense. I just know that the minute I even *think* about going to some sort of doctor or dentist or quick care clinic my heart rate increases to about 140 bpm and I can hardly catch my breath. My mind alternates between telling myself it will all be okay and recognizing that I've never been this scared in my life. It is no wonder that I want to avoid those situations as much as possible. I've been facing it, though, forced to face it because of my kidney stone and have given the nature of Black and darkness a lot of thought lately.

My mother's mother didn't go to doctors, either. She didn't like doctors and she coped pretty well with the inconvenience of feeling bad. One day, in her 60s as I recall, she couldn't go the bathroom anymore. I mean, a complete, unexplained blockage. It forced her to seek out medical advice. They found cancer, breast cancer like my mom had in her 30s, only spread throughout her entire body and threaded through her intestines. Her forgetfulness could be ascribed to the tumor load that had made its way to her brain. In exploratory surgery, the doctor was shocked to see just how much of her was peppered with cancerous growth. She spent something like a decade battling that cancer through advance and retreat, surgery and chemotherapy and radiation. She had to have a colostomy bag installed to reroute digested food out of her body. By avoiding what she feared, she was launched into it headlong and forever more. In the end, it did kill her, but by then the cancer and Alzheimer's had clouded her mind enough that she didn't know who she was or what she was fighting anymore.

My mom's battle with breast cancer was entirely different. She's entirely different. She was diagnosed at age 33 with two small children at home. Some doctors said she was stage 3. One said she was stage 4 (terminal). She fired the one who said she was terminal. I know she prayed and bargained with God. My father, a very damaged Vietnam Vet, wasn't capable of parenting us. She couldn't die. It wasn't an option for her. So she took every pill, no matter how sick they made her feel, and she went into surgery, lots of them, and radiation treatments. My childhood revolved around her illness. Some days she was gray with death and weak. Other days she'd fling her wig to the floor of the car and we'd drive off with the wind on our faces to go to the store or do something fun together. She was always upbeat and positive. She told me, not jokingly, that going to doctors and having surgery could be really fun. She is, today, about twenty-five years cancer free. Now she's dealing with congestive heart failure, perhaps from all the radiation damage, and doing so with cheer and kindness and a fearless attitude. She doesn't avoid the doctors, that's for sure.

This image of the dark caves that has been so much the image of my Black month so far is beginning to become a little clearer. Fear, I think, is self-imposed darkness. When I'm afraid, I am closing my eyes and shutting myself in. I can't see the people around me, reaching towards me with helping hands. I can't see what I'm truly facing, so my mind has to imagine it for me. I don't have all the information I need to choose the best path, and so I stand paralyzed or blindly stumble into a hole. All of these things, they are fear. Self-imposed darkness and fear. What if I open my eyes? What if I brace myself mentally and just go ahead and take a good look at what's in front of me? Can that be any worse than the terrors I imagine for myself? I think, no, because in exchange for the bad I'll also be able to access the good. I can prepare myself for something if I see it coming, stay calm, and plan accordingly. I just have to be brave enough to open my eyes in the cave. There will be light there, though it may only be a very little bit.

Yesterday, after about five months of procrastination, I went to see a urologist about my too-big-to-pass kidney stone. He was so kind. He listened and offered calm, rational advice. He sent me downstairs to the hospital's radiology department where I got to change into a hospital gown and get some follow-up x-rays done. In two weeks, I'll go back to him to get the results and then it'll be one of two paths for me: surgical intervention or trying a drug for a few months to dissolve the stone. Almost certainly, the stone type I have will require surgery. I'm still anxious, no doubt, but there was a moment changing into that little blue wrap-around gown, so comfy and soft, in the locker room and later when they were whirring the fancy x-ray table around with me on it that I thought, to myself, that this *was* sort of perversely fun. I just have to keep my eyes open and the boogiemen stay at bay.

~*~
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (rhi&I)
This past weekend, Graeme and I went to visit [livejournal.com profile] rubymulligan. In stark contrast to the weekend before in Buffalo, where I had tons of photos to show for it, I must leave you in some mystery about our activities. This just seems to happen with Rhi and I. Two cameras between us, four blurry photos. :D

It was a huge delight to stay at her home, get folded into her daily life, and pretend for a few days that I lived about ten feet from my best friend. We had what amounted to a weekend long playdate where we pawed through her "toys"--perfume, Craft supplies, dollhouse miniatures, crystal collections, movies, video games. Graeme contented himself with her son, Alex's, superhero toys and a television tuned to Noggin. We went shopping. We drove around so I could see everything. We ate a ton of delicious food. It was a great weekend. Graeme treats her like a third parent, he loves her, immediately feels at peace with her. She and I are different in some respects, (she's a great cook, she's organized and neat, handy and artistic, she picks up dead bugs as a hobby), and yet we are very, very similar in temperament, tastes, and humor. She's like my consumer scout--she goes out into the world and introduces me to new music, food, television shows, books, hobbies, etc. There has never been something she liked that I didn't also like once introduced to it. So having a weekend in her home for the first time, surrounded by all the things she loves, was awesome. Add on top of that her superhuman powers of good hostessing, Graeme's more-often-than-not contentment, and our shared snarky adoration of each other and you can probably imagine how the weekend was. :) Perfect.

Yesterday, being Toofsday, I had to go back to my dentist for two porcelain inlays to replace a couple old amalgam (silver) fillings that were degrading. I was anxious. Well, he numbed me up and then started drilling. It didn't hurt, but it hurt. Cold/hot/ouch! I wrung my hands and tapped my fingers to kinda cope. He noticed and stopped. Could I feel that? Well, sure I could. He says, "I don't operate that kind of office" and gives me more shots. Tentative test drilling. Almost okay, I can deal, but he notices my finger tapping and tensing and stops. "We aren't going to work until we can do it painfree". So more shots and more waiting and a different kind of shot and then...whoa! Completely painfree drilling. It was hard to believe. I realized, with that one visit, that I have *never* been numb for my fillings. I mean, my face was numb and that worked to distract me a bit, to take the edge off the pain, but I've never been painfree and I didn't think it was even possible. Is this what it is supposed to feel like to go to the dentist? WTF? I ended up with what he said was about 2.5 times the amount of numb'er upper shots he usually used on the typical patient. It was great. Like, I'm validated on the things I've said and this new world has opened where I don't have to just rely on my high pain tolerance to deal with medical/dental things. I just needed someone willing to keep working until it worked. Or, as my dentist said, "We'll make a stroke victim out of you with all of this." So I've got some super-cute, bionic-powered $2000 molars (dear Visa, thank you for being there when I needed you) and a new lease on life. Dentists aren't scary if they're doing their job right. It makes me want to clothesline every dentist I've had in the past that drilled on me unnumbed and just told me, "Hold on. I'll be quick. It's okay. Try to relax." I told my new dentist, my miracle worker dentist, that he couldn't retire until my teeth did. He promised to take them all out before he sails off into the proverbial sunset. ;) Maybe, instead of that, I'll just be more demanding. More drugs!
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (jumpin)
What.the.fuck. Excuse my French.

So, you may know, that three plus years ago I had a nightmarish visit to my relatively new dentist. The words "incurable gum disease" were tossed out along with a grueling and lengthy video introduction to gum surgery, tooth removal, and dentures. There was laughing and hilarity and she told my husband she'd put the video on to scare me into flossing more regularly. I never knew, though, and the humiliation combined with my pre-existing phobias backfired on her stupid plan, whatever it was, and I never went back.

This morning, I had a consultation with a dentist downtown who specializes in sedation dentistry. I wasn't sedated but everything about the experience was pleasant. They took 19 x-rays, photographs, and measurements. He poked around a little. Mostly, though, he sat with me and asked about all the bad experiences I'd had at a dentist. For an hour and a half, we sat and talked about dentistry, my history, and what I needed to feel not-terrified. (Compassion, honesty, adequate anaesthetic.) There wasn't the slightest bit of reproach for how long it'd been or the condition they found things. I was honest. I floss everyday now but didn't always. I'm a frequent, diehard toothbrusher and swisher of hygienic washes. I wish my bottom teeth weren't all jumbled together--I should have worn my retainer longer. I laid everything out on the table and he promised to always give me the best advice he could, to show me what my options looked like, and then we'd figure out what to do.

So, here's my mindset going into this appointment.

Over three years ago I was diagnosed with incurable gum disease and I know that I've missed a crapton of cleanings and maintenance and maybe surgery and root canals and false teeth implants in the intervening years that I've been cowering with my head in the sand. I will go and throw myself to the Fates and trust that I am strong and that a compassionate dentist will do his best to make it as not-bad as possible.

Okay? So you want to know what he said about my gums and my tooth decay and all the stuff I need?

I have three old amalgam fillings (almost 15 years old) that are degrading and need to be replaced. I have no further decay. My gums are fine. I need a cleaning and then another one in six months. Flossing everyday is good. I don't need to do anything else.

What.the.fuck.

For three and a half years I have tortured myself mentally! Every single day I've felt ashamed and terrified and past-saving because I have an "incurable gum disease". For three and a half years, I've hidden out from the dentist, unable to work up the nerve to face my impending gum surgery/tooth extraction/what-have-you and here I'm being told they'd like to update some super old fillings and clean my teeth???

Which should tell you that three years ago, when those fillings were still in good shape and I'd just *had* my cleaning, that my gums were probably in the same shape and absolutely, perfectly fucking fine.

I'm equal parts relieved, grateful, delighted, vindicated, and pissed.

I love my new dentist. I'm going back for my fillings and my cleaning in the next few weeks and then I may treat myself to some Zoom! whitening and maybe those invisible teeth straightening trays. Possibly a spray on tan and a new pair of dancing shoes.

I'm no dental floss angel, obviously, but I'm not the diseased devil I thought I'd been, either.

Unbelievable.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (joy)
I've had a medical phobia as long as I can remember. I don't like the out-of-control feeling I get in medical situations where I'm at someone's mercy, waiting to hear a diagnosis, not part of the consultation on the treatment. It seems to me that going to the doctor, the dentist, the hospital, the chiropractor is like stepping onto this scary ride where anything could suddenly happen. I attribute this non-specific anxiety to my childhood where my mom battled breast cancer and everything that could go wrong seemed to happen with medical professionals around. Obviously, it isn't logical but I can't control how my pulse races and my breathing speeds up and how I feel anxiety even going to visit someone else in the hospital--as if someone might reach out and grab me against my will. It is just something I cope with as best I can.

My teeth have been pretty good. I had braces, though, and my mother had a dispute with my orthodontist at the end of my treatment. Text Cut for people who don't want to read about teeth and dentists and visits-gone bad through the years )

Goodbye, nose! I'm spiting my face!

The anger and terror and shame of that visit produced probably the exact opposite of her intended effect. Because of it, once I'd had my wisdom teeth removed later that spring, I dropped off the dentist office radar, cancelled my next appointment, and haven't been back in over three years.

That's criminal. Am I wanting all my teeth to fall out for lack of simple care?

So, last night, after talking with Shaun about needing to go back and having him say I should, in no uncertain terms, I decided to check out sedation dentistry. Basically, it is dentistry geared towards phobic, embarrassed, or difficult-to-numb patients where you get drugged in some way into a relaxed state so they can do the dental work and hopefully not add to your scary stock of dentist experiences. It seems kind of extreme, I don't need to be drugged, but I thought at least at one of these dentists I'd find people who'd be kind to me and forgive me for the years I've spent away from a dentist's chair. I just needed a little sensitivity, less criticism, and some understanding of what phobic patients feel.

One guy's website felt welcoming. It wasn't a beauty contest, it was about getting people who are scared and who've put it off back to the dentist. There was a number for making appointments and I thought I'd call it. (I expected a recording that'd tell me what their office hours were during the holiday weekend--so I'd know when to call back.)

The dentist answered the phone!

At 8:30pm!

I was mortified. He was so kind, though. He had his office phone transfered at night to his cell phone so he could always be there whenever someone got up the nerve to call. I told him how long it'd been and perhaps over-exaggerated how bad my situation was, and he was very sweet. "I don't mean to minimize what you've been through", he said warmly, "but we get patients who've been 25 years without a dentist. We'll fix you up, don't worry! Just enjoy your holiday weekend and afterwards we'll take care of everything."

He put his wife on the phone to flip through his appointment calendar.

I go in for a consultation--not a cleaning or anything if I don't want it--just a meeting and a making-of-the-game-plan on Tuesday.

I feel this huge sense of relief. I know I found the right people to help me. I'm also in a mild state of panic. I think it'll be okay, though. Nothing to it but to do it and I did!

I apologized to the wife for calling so late. I'd thought for sure to get an answering machine! I told her how grateful I was for her, how scared I was, how embarrassed I was at my teeth and how long it'd been, and she gently pish-poshed my worries away.

"We can work miracles. Four years is nothing! You come in on Tuesday and we'll sit down and figure out how to get you all fixed up."

I was flossing my teeth last night and I thought, in the light of my upcoming dentist appointment, that they weren't as bad as I'd thought. A few aches and sensitive spots to investigate but really, I'm not so far gone as all that. I'm not a monster, not a bad person, just a phobic patient who finally found the right mix of "can do" and compassion in a dentist.

That doesn't mean that my heart's not going to be pitter-pattering along between now and my appointment, but I have this relieving sense that it'll be okay and that things will only get better now that I'm going back.

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windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
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December 2015

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