Saturday, February 28, 2015

Surgery, Part 2: What the Heart Wants

**Read Part 1 HERE.**

I'll begin by saying I don't like being asked personal questions on somebody else's watch. I'm a pretty open person and I'll give anybody details as long as I'm comfortable with that person, but even from close friends and family I don't like the suddenness of "What are you having surgery for?" It doesn't mean I "don't like you" if I don't answer... it's just a very personal issue. It's my story, and I get to choose when it's told. That time is now.

You've already been informed that the fancy hospital socks were not the highlight of yesterday. But this was. 
So Tim the chaplain was holding my hand. He had kind eyes and a sincere smile as he asked me if there was anything or anyone else I'd like him to pray for. I looked up at Joey, and up at Tim, back and forth until I look back down at my own hands. I told him what I was there for, why I was having the surgery, and what I hoped would happen next. My answer for him was brief, and included some awkward hand motions because I felt so incredibly overwhelmed, but this is the back story for all of you:
I want to have kids. For reasons unknown to me, it just hasn't happened yet. We've been trying for three years, not knowing what to do, or if it's anyone's fault. When we finally got health insurance last summer I knew the time had come to figure all this out. So first I got the surface stuff out of the way--allergies, vitamin deficiencies, physicals and all the basics. Then I did the hard stuff like "lady doctor" visits. I was reprimanded for not having a ob/gyn visit sooner, but I wasn't "active" (yeah, I went there) until I was married. So, yes, I went 6 extra years without one because I didn't need one. I'm not sure if making that appointment sooner in my life would have solved anything, but it's too late now to make a difference. 

It was after that appointment that the adventure really started. They discovered I had "abnormal cells" and I spent a month worrying that I had cancer. I scheduled a colposcopy, which they rescheduled three times for various reasons. It was an anxiety-filled month. When the colposcopy finally happened they did seven biopsies (you can look colposcopy up, if you want to. Just understand it was the most painful experience of my life, even worse than this surgery [so far] and it's a pretty gross concept. So do your research, but you have been warned.)

My doctor called with the results of the colposcopy about a week later and said there was some polyp tissue. Polyps are pretty harmless, in general--except that they take up space. She said it was possibly the polyp, if it really was there, was simply taking up space and inhibiting fertility. So I went in for an ultrasound, but they couldn't see anything because my uterus was too flat. Yes, that's right, too flat. The layers were all stuck together. My doctor said I could do a secondary ultrasound during which they would dilate the uterus, if I wanted to, but if they saw the polyp they would end up doing surgery no matter what. She gave me the option going straight to surgery, and I said yes. 

It was one of those moments where I knew the answer right away. It was imperative for me to answer right away. My husband was in the shower, and I briefly thought about calling my mother to ask her advice, but it only took a second to realize this was my decision. I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest, but I said yes.

So that brings us back to Thursday, February 26th around 1pm. Tim the chaplain is holding my hand and I'm telling him that I hope this procedure will allow me to have kids. He thanked me, because it was very personal information, and he began to pray.

He prayed that Joey and I would have peace and comfort, that I would heal quickly. He prayed for a successful procedure and a smooth recovery. He started to pray about having children, and he began with my least favorite words: Lord, let your will be done.

Even if you haven't been reading my blog for long you know that I find this prayer pointless. God's will is going to be done, even if we don't ask for it, even if we don't want it. While he does want us to seek his will, he also wants us to communicate with him, to tell him what we want. Even if he says no, he always hears us.

Tim the chaplain was in the middle of those blithe, careless prayers about the will of God and I had started thinking, "Wow, what a disappointing prayer," because I had hoped his words would be encouraging. As he started to ask God to help us understand if children weren't in our future, I began to feel immensely depressed. 

And then Tim laughed and said, "But we know you better than that." He quoted Matthew 18:19-20, which says, "Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." I could hear the joy in his voice as he spoke about God hearing us, and as he prayed that God would bring us children.

My tired eyes were filled with tears as Tim gripped my hand tightly, smiling down at me, and then he left. Joey and I were speechless for a minute or two, sharing in the joy of what has just happened. 

He hears us. He is with us. He hears our hearts and I believe can grant us those desires. I believe my heart wants what it wants because he put it there, and he doesn't do anything without a reason. 

It wasn't long before another crowd of nurses and doctors came in, asking me more questions and I had to tell one more person I didn't have PCOS. I was given a dose of something to lay the foundation for the anesthesia, and became very sleepy as my surgeon informed me I couldn't take a bath for two weeks after the surgery. (This is literally the most difficult part about the whole ordeal. Taking a bath is like therapy. I can't live without it.) I handed Joey my glasses and he kissed me goodbye, and as they wheeled me into the operating room some part of my sleepy brain had this song stuck in my head.

 To Be Continued...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Surgery, Part 1: All of the Questions and None of the Answers

I'm going on an adventure!

It's about 3:30, just a little more than 24 hours after my surgery. Apparently it's the norm to schedule a surgery at one time but not have it until a much, much later time. In my case it was only an hour and a half later, and I didn't even notice--I was that overwhelmed. And if you're interested, you can read all about it below. A new experience calls for a new story, and I'm not letting this one go to waste.

We got to the hospital at 11:15 and a friendly old man told us to go up the elevator. I was greeted by three good-humored grandma-type nurses who seemed to be wearing an exorbitant amount of sparkly brooches and pins on their scrubs. They sent me over to Kris, the registration nurse, who kindly made jokes with my nervous husband and then put on my ID bracelet.

Less than five minutes later we were ushered through some enormous doors to the pre-op area. I put all my stuff in a locker--immediately regretting that I left my chapstick behind--and then got to step onto the industrial-sized scale. It gently beeped out my weight in kilograms, which was very kind of it, because I don't know what those numbers translate to in pounds. I also got to tell the pre-op nurse my height, which has become really fun for me since I recently realized I'm actually 5'3 and not 5'2.

Once in "my room" I was asked to put on the "gown" (aka "high-necked bag dress designed to choke you AND show the world your bum at all times"). I asked if I could keep my socks on and she said, "Oh, we've provided you with fancy socks." I actually clapped and said, "Oh, yay!" In retrospect, I think I was just excited about being able to wear socks, but it definitely sounded like the "fancy" hospital socks were the highlight of my day.

They weren't. But I'll get there.

So I put on the gown and the fancy socks and got into the bed with the pre-heated blankets from heaven. (I haven't mentioned it in a while, but it's winter here in Chicago. That means it's 16 degrees outside, before the hellish windchill.) I sat there fiddling on my Kindle and talking to Joey for about thirty minutes before there began a constant barrage of nurses, anesthesiologists, more nurses, surgical nurses, and more nurses asking me the same questions over and over again. They put two more paper bracelets on my wrists indicating I had seasonal allergies and was a fall risk because I would be put under general anesthesia.

During most of those questions there was one unfortunate nurse trying to get my IV in. Because I had the blood tests done just yesterday she had a lot of trouble, ended up poking me twice, and had to sit on the floor to get the right angle because there were so many people in my room. 

But that wasn't the most annoying thing. I'm accustomed to my difficult veins. What I'm not used to is being ignored by the people who are supposedly listening to me and writing down my answers. I told four people today that I did not have diabetes or PCOS. (Look it up, I'm not wasting time explaining it.) You would think that by this point, if I had diabetes, I would have told someone. I would have told my surgeon, the nurse that called me on Monday, and the first nurse to check me in. Doctors and other medical professionals tend to assume I'm diabetic because of one of my medications, and because--well, I'm not exactly a runway model. The medication is often used for the 'betes and PCOS, but those are not the reasons I take it!!! I actually laughed when one of the nurses assumed I had it and she became haughty and offended, like she knew better than me.

So, for the rest of the world, let me be abundantly clear: I do not have diabetes of any kind, even the ridiculous "pre-diabetes" and I am not "in danger" of having diabetes. You can look at me and make assumptions based on my size, but you will be wrong. I'm actually a pretty healthy person, despite your judgments. The next time a medical professional assumes that I have it (or PCOS) I may actually flip a lid--or maybe I'll just eat a cookie to prove them wrong, or something.

Anyways. Between all the nurses and technicians coming in we were also visited by the hospital chaplain so that we could sign the POA (Power of Attorney) papers.

The first good sign: His name was Tim, and he had a daughter named Katherine.

Obviously he introduced himself, and asked for our names. My first job was to name "an agent" to make decisions for me. I'm sure you can all guess who I picked. After that we had to talk about what I wanted to happen if I was put on life support for any reason. I'm not going to tell you what I decided because, well, first of all it's weird, and second of all it's none of your business. This conversation was daunting and surreal, in spite of the fact that Joey and I have had it before. It's just different, when you're there, with the IV in one arm and the other hand signing away your life, essentially.

The chaplain got to know us a little bit. We talked about Trinity and why we were in Illinois (people always ask that after they realize our phone numbers are from Washington) and I mentioned how ironic it was that he was a pastor named Timothy with a daughter named Katherine, when I'm named Katherine and have a pastor/father named Timothy.

And then the chaplain asked if he could pray for me. I had been hoping he would. He told us the basics of the prayer--for peace and comfort, safety and success in the procedure and all that. Then he asked if there were any other people or issues I'd like him to pray for.

So, this is the part where I get to tell you the back story while continuing to tell this story. This is the part when I tell you why I was there, why I had the surgery, did the blood work, endured the torture of answering five questions a million different ways for an hour, why I wore the "gown" and actually let a crazy nurse MEASURE how much I peed before I was allowed to leave the hospital.

But you'll just have to wait until the next post to find out. :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Last week when I asked for prayer and sort of announced I was having surgery, I don't know what I expected. But I was overwhelmed with love and support, and it was incredible. The prayers for the pre-surgery issues were at least a success. It's scheduled for tomorrow, and I'm all ready to go. But getting to this point was like climbing a mountain while wearing roller skates--clumsy, and uncomfortable to watch OR experience, and felt like I was getting nowhere most of the time.

I did get here, and that, at least, is a blessing. But it was so difficult I actually feel compelled to retell the last several days.

Friday was when I called the nurse hotline to ask about the blood tests I would need to get done, and it wasn't until this Monday I was informed I wouldn't be getting them done until the day of surgery. While on the phone I said, "Oh, okay," and moved on. 

On Monday night I felt differently. On Monday night and then again on Tuesday morning, I remembered some important details. 1. My veins literally move around after a phlebotomist finds them. In order to compensate for my sneaky veins I drink approximately 60 oz. of water before I donate blood or have blood tests taken. 2. The times I have tried to donate blood/have blood tests while not hydrated have been horribly painful and I end up looking like someone beat me up because my arms are covered in bruises. 3. I am not allowed to drink or eating anything after midnight tonight, therefore. 4. Getting blood tests done tomorrow morning before surgery, while hungry and dehydrated, would be a terrible experience.

I had two anxiety attacks thinking about how awful it would be. I was scared. And angry. The nurse had also told me that, despite the hospital's letter explaining I would need the tests done a week prior to surgery, my doctor "is new to this hospital" and "we're just getting used to the way she does things." It seemed backwards and nonsensical. 

Tuesday afternoon the nurse called me back to confirm my medications and other details. It was then that I told her about my concerns, and she said I could call my doctor's office to change the time for the blood tests. I did, gladly! And I went to get them done today.

Of course, it couldn't be that easy. I drank my 60 oz. of water and felt great when I got to the lab. They didn't immediately mention I needed a urine test, so when I asked to go to the bathroom they let me go. A few minutes later my nurse read the entire chart and, YES, I did need a urine test. AND... they needed to take blood from both arms.

Wait, what?

Yeah, that's right. Both arms. I didn't ask them why because all the explanations they were already giving were WAY over my head. I was tired (because I'm also not allowed to take my vitamins for a week prior to surgery) so I just told them how difficult it would be to use both arms, but they could try.

So here I am. I have cotton ball/masking tape bandages on my both arms. I am exhausted (because no vitamins) and stressed (because I'm at work and trying to get everything ready for my absence) and really, really... excited.

When I was teaching 6th grade language arts we had long discussions about the different types of sentences--declarative, interrogative, imperative. They could never remember the last one because it didn't have a matching word. Declarative sentences declare things, interrogative sentences interrogate, but imperative sentences don't imper... or perat... or anything. So they just had to memorize the facts: if it's imperative, it has to happen. It's a confusing word but it is so important. 

And this feels the same way that word must have felt to those 12-year-olds... It's so confusing. And it's hard to remember the facts. There are all these other things that make sense, all these other things I can remember and wrap my head around. And this is baffling, the process is making me tired and cranky, but it has to happen. 

When it's over, I can't wait to find out if everything was successful. I can't wait to hear the results of all this exhausting work. I can't wait for what comes next, the following step in this very incredible life I have been given. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Two Simple Requests

I guess this is as good of a time as any to say what I need to say. I have been trying for about a week to figure out how to ask for what I need from the world--the world being whoever is about to read this blog.

I'm supposed to have surgery next week, on Thursday. I had written up a long post about how I'd like you to pray for me and explaining why I was having it, but I think that's a story for another time. Today it's something else.

See, the thing is, I'm supposed to have surgery. My first one ever. I'm not nervous about it but the process of getting there has become more than I can handle. My surgeon has not communicated well with me, or with my regular doctor. I have spent the last two days trying to get a hold of her, with literally no success. I can't even leave a message for her.

So I have two requests.

1. Please pray that I get there. Pray that all this communication rubbish is over with by Monday and that I don't suffer for my surgeon's mistakes. I have already rescheduled the surgery once and don't have the energy to do it again, to rearrange my life and work for something that should have already happened. 

2. Pray that this is the last procedure. Pray that this one surgery is all I'll need and that after my body has healed I can move on with my life and do what I want to do. (If you already know my story, you know what this!) Pray that the next thing on my to-do list is a joyful blessing, and not another surgery or another horribly miserable biopsy (also a story for another time) or trips to see more specialists. 

And I don't want your placid "God's will be done" prayers, or "whatever you think is best, God" prayers. God's will is going to be done whether you ask for it or not! Furthermore, God invites to ask for the desires of our heart. That doesn't mean he will necessarily give us what we want, but we are welcome to ask. I'm going to ask, as fervently as someone can ask God for something, and I need you to ask with me.