On March 27th, just as I was about to breathe a sigh of relief for having made it through all the March birthdays in our family and trying to deal with car repairs and a dead washing machine, I couldn't breathe.
I was prepping for the final birthday party of the month, a little park and popsicle party for Arya and her cousin Wyatt. I got up, feeling well. Did some squats and pushups and hopped in the shower. Then just as I was beginning to dress, I got a phone call from my favorite Alicia. We had been chatting for a while, checking in, when I began having left side cramps. They aren't new, I've had abdominal pain on and off for years. I suspected they were either ovarian cysts or some kind of intestinal issues. But they didn't fade this time. They intensified and wrapped around my back until I was panting out short replies to Alicia, curled up in a ball on the bed in my underwear. "I think I need to go. (gasp, cringe, pant, pant) I don't feel okay." I wheezed into the phone. I tried to walk to the bathroom and ended up on the floor. I finally made it to the toilet, only to dry heave, then lay on the floor gasping between bouts of retching uncontrollably again and again with no relief. I texted Aaron. "I think I need a doctor."
Those are big words coming from me. Every breath was a struggle.
I made some calls and got in for a noon appointment with a PA at our local family practice. The next challenge was to put on clothes. Pants have never been such a challenge. Aaron rushed home to take me in. We left Talon in charge and made the short trip. Every bump was excruciating. I had to hold the seatbelt away from my belly. We made it to the doc's office just as I remembered I'd forgotten my purse. No ID to go with my insurance card. They were gracious. I filled out papers as I broke into a sweat trying not to pass out. Eventually we made it back to an exam room where I answered questions from nurses and met Wendy who took one look and asked if I was sure I didn't want to go to the ER.
I briefly explained to her how badly I hate the ER and how it took me an entire night with no painkillers and a shattered ankle to get there the last time. She dubiously nodded her head and asked if I thought I could pee in a cup. I responded I thought maybe so, and remembered that I hadn't had anything to eat or drink since the night before. I've never peed straight coca-cola before, but I imagine it would have been a fair color comparison. "That can't be good," I muttered to the toilet.
Wendy agreed. "I suspect kidney stones. I'm sending you up to the hospital for a CT and some blood work. Start drinking water -lots of it." Awesome. (No, not awesome.)
I felt like an evil giant had a vice grip on my entire left side.
We headed home to get my purse and a water bottle, and then back up to the hospital where nice people took my insurance info and put me in a wheelchair. CT scans are quick and easy. They are a crap-ton of radiation, but they are easy! They wheeled me to the lab and took my blood and sent me on my way with a cheery,"We'll call you!"
So we went home. I took Ibuprofen, called Alicia, and laid on the couch while Aaron and Alicia took the kids and threw a birthday party without me.
And the phone rang.
"Hey Kristyan, this is Wendy. So there is a 6mm kidney stone, but your scan showed more than that."
"There are a couple of suspicious looking masses on your liver. So we want you to go in for a contrast MRI to check those out and see if they pose a risk."
That sounds crappy... and expensive....
"You said you weren't on any birth control, right?"
"Well there is an IUD outside of your uterus."
Oh.... that's where that went. It went missing like six and a half years ago. I've had a baby since then and they couldn't find it with ultrasound, so they told me it just fell out.
"Apparently it didn't. You'll need laparoscopic surgery to remove it... blahblahblahblahwhompwhompwhomp."
She prescribed me some medicine to dilate my ureters to help pass the stone... And antibiotics... and percocet. With flashbacks of awful digestive torment spinning in my head, I decided I probably wouldn't take that. Matt and Alicia brought lettuce wrapped In-n-Out for dinner, and Misha and Ben took the kids for the evening so I could rest. I have the best family.
Thus began a weekend of drowning myself, being incredibly dizzy and lightheaded from FloMax side effects, gagging down lemon and oil concoctions designed to help dissolve kidney stones, and cleaning up puke for sick kids... with no washing machine. Angel neighbors took loads of puke laundry to wash, and brought meals so I wouldn't have to cook.
Monday rolled around. An appointment with the Urology PA. X-rays showed that the stone was still there, and big, and pointy, and very stuck. "Oh, and by the way, did you know about the IUD and the liver thing....?" Yes. I did. Thanks.
They scheduled me for Lithotripsy on Thursday. Shockwave therapy to break up the stone. They put you under and call it surgery and you wake up bruised and peeing blood. Sounds like a party.
It was my last week of work on the schedule, and no one could cover my shifts (though Brett was sweet enough to take a few of the hours), so I went to work. Dizzy, coughing, wheezing (stupid med side effects).
Tuesday was MRI day. Hospitals are such an efficient money making machine. They take you straight back to the billing people and offer you discounts to hand over money right this instant. So after coughing up a couple grand, we headed back to radiology. MRIs are not quick and easy. They are terrifying.
Strapped to a board, breathing sensor around my chest, needle in arm, earplugs in (but not in well enough), and panic button in hand, I was slid into a tube only slightly wider than my body, and blasted with every laser gun, tornado warning, robot sound effect cranked up loud enough to waken the dead.... for an hour. I honestly wondered for a second if it was a joke. They couldn't be serious.
The first 5-10 minutes were torture, pure panic, claustrophobic primal fear. "I don't know if I can do this!!"
So I prayed. I began slipping yogic meditation in between the automated breathing instructions. I vividly imagined every person I've ever loved hugging me close, and then stayed in Aaron's arms until the panic subsided. When I opened my eyes, the tunnel walls didn't seem quite so close, and the noises seemed funny to me. I spent the rest of the time alternating management of giggles and panic.
Then the technician's voice came on speaker, "You are doing awesome! Here comes the contrast through your IV." The frigid fluid coursed into my arm and flooded my body. It felt like it was dripping down my arm. A few more minutes of shivery torture, and then I was done.
They pulled me out of the machine. "Well, that was a party," I quipped. They laughed and unstrapped me, and then noticed the bloody saline leaking from my IV and dripping onto my sweater. Oops.
I gathered my things and went to find Aaron in the waiting room. His face was a most welcome sight.
Then they sent us on our way with a cheery, "We'll call you!"
The next 2 days were spent jumping at every noise, waiting for that call. I worked my last day on Wednesday, dizzy, coughing, and nauseated from the meds- still jumping at every noise.
"You're leaving us now, with no way to know if you are dying or not??" I promised Jeremy that I'd get them word. I hugged Danny and Angie. My buddies. I would miss them most.
Thursday was Lithotripsy day. They could get me in at 11:30. I had fasted since 10 the night before. We arrive at the hospital again, shuffled into the billing room and fulfilled the rest of our deductible (probably more), efficiently draining my hard-kept savings account. Then they took me back and I dressed in the paper bag gown with the awesome massaging calf compression sleeves and waited. And waited. And waited. I was getting grumpy. 2 and a half hours later, they took me back to the OR. They got me situated and put on the oxygen mask. "It might smell a little plasticky," they said. But when my eyes started to burn and I began gagging and choking uncontrollably at the stench, they realized that the "dirty sock" scent that they use to tease pediatric patients was cranked all the way up to 20. I had tears streaming down my face by the time I could breathe comfortably again. Then they started the anesthesia and a searing pain spread up my arm. I figured I'd be out before I couldn't manage it, but 10 seconds in my entire arm was on fire, enough that I cried out in pain. "It's normal, just a few more seconds," they said. And then I was out.
I like waking up to Aaron. He's pretty awesome. I was sore, but not even close to the original kidney stone pain. They sent me home with a pee strainer and instructions to collect the pieces and bring them in for testing. I didn't care, I just wanted food.
We stopped by Jimmy Johns on the way home. While Aaron went in to get us unwiches, I checked my messages. There was one from my cousin. We're close in age, but had not been super close growing up. We get along much better as adults. It was completely unexpected. She had bought me a new washing machine and wanted my address for delivery. I was floored, flabbergasted, and so grateful. My life is filled with angels.
And then came the other call I'd been waiting for. MRI results. There were not two lesions on my liver... there were seven. The largest measured 2.6 cm. My heart skipped a beat... They were benign. No cancer. No action needed except to watch and re-scan in 6 months. Hepatic Hemangioma. Apparently they can either be congenital or autoimmune-caused. We don't know if I was born with them. We don't know if something caused them, but for now, they aren't a major worry. *Phew.*
Lithotripsy recovery went well. The FloMax had me feeling awful until I finally just stopped taking it. I was done feeling like a sick person all of the time.
At first I was incensed that the OBGYN couldn't even see me for a consult until April 13th. But it turned out to be a good thing. Aaron's little brother had a wedding, and it was nice to have a break from all of the medical procedures in order to focus on family time. When I did finally make it in to see Dr. Fillerup, I was told that the IUD is still about 5% stuck in outer wall of my uterus. There is an 80% chance that they'll just go in and take it out and things will be fine. There is a 20% chance that pulling it out will cause major bleeding and they'll have to perform a partial hysterectomy while I'm under. I'm a little nervous. I was given a choice of two dates for my surgery. April 22nd, or May 13th. Aaron's B-Day is April 23rd. He'd had a Zion traverse trip planned for that week. I couldn't just steamroll him like that. He matters too much. So May 13th it is.
I'm tired of waiting. I'm tired of tests, labs, meds, side effects, and follow-up visits. I'm just tired. I want this thing out of me.
In the meantime life has kept me good and distracted with car repairs, family stuff, and hospital bills. Somehow, by the grace of God, we had an incredible week-long family trip to Zion in our dying van. (I'll write about the trip later- it deserves it's own post.)
I finally started going back to regular Yoga classes. I have so much healing to do. It dawned on me the other day that I've lost my sense of security. I've lost my belief that I can safely live, safely adventure, reach out, take a leap, and not get smacked down by life. At this point, I honestly don't believe I'm allowed to have dreams or goals that will ever come to fruition. I've been in survival mode for so long, I don't know how to try for more than that. I can't make a decision. I can't set a goal. I can't seem to even make short term plans for the subconscious fear that they will be smashed to bits the moment I look that direction. I've gotten really good at shrugging my shoulders and saying, "I guess not. Maybe later." Somewhere deep down there is a fighter in me that knows this is unacceptable. So I guess somehow I need to earn my power back. I don't know how to do it. I'm starting with yoga, energy work, writing, and I don't know... yard work? Home repairs? A hair cut? I just really need to get out of this rut.
When it comes down to it, I'm okay. I may not be awesome right now, but I have just enough faith to get by. Faith that none of this is permanent. Faith that change will come. Faith that even though I can't see the big picture right now, it's still a great big picture. And I have the best family and friends that a girl could ever want. So I guess I'll just take it a day at a time and..... be grateful.