June 25, 2011

Your Sista's Havin' a Hysta - Part 7

Post-op Week 4: Great Reads

While recovery from surgery has been taxing on the body, it's been a wonderful vacation for my brain. I've had opportunity to learn how to navigate Netflix, write blogs to my heart's content, and read some really terrific books. It's been such a blessing too because every book I've picked up has taken me to another place or time, all to drop me back home with a boat load of things to ponder in my heart and mind. Here's a few choice picks.

Scarlet Thread, by Francine Rivers - I began reading this before my surgery because I couldn't wait. It had been sitting on my "yet to read" shelf for about a year, then suddenly the urge to pick it up struck. It's a great story about following God when and where you might not want to go, the tough but rewarding lesson of submission, and the deep healing and restoration that only God can accomplish in stubborn sinful hearts.

Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo - One day, about three months ago, Jimmy told me he'd recorded a short interview he thought I'd enjoy. Having no idea what I was in for, I perched my patooty on the edge of the couch, thinking "this better be good", and commenced watching an interview of a four year old boy who had visited heaven during an extremely serious surgery. No longer teetering at the rim of my seat, I settled back and listened to this boy's testimony which gave me goose bumps. With my own surgery pending in the wings, I knew I wanted this one on my list, not because I thought I'd die on the table, visit heaven, and be able to compare stories, but to add to my collection of post surgery to do's. I read this little gem in two days and have to say it's changed me in a good and eternal way. It's a superb read and great gift idea.

Riding the Bus With My Sister, by Rachel Simon - I was exposed to Rachel on Family Network TV and knew instantly hers was a story I wanted to read. She writes of her endeavor of riding the city bus for a year with her high functioning special needs sister, who spends each week day riding the city bus transit system. While most of us load into planes, trains, buses, and cars to get from point A to point B, Rachel's sister does it for sheer entertainment.

Rachel is a clever and gifted writer who had me laughing and crying often in the same sentence. She has a new book out called The Story of a Beautiful Girl, which now sits on my "yet to read" shelf for the not so distant future.

Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers - This is one my sister-in-law gave me and one I just started. While the cover didn't look familiar, the title sounded oddly familiar. I honestly thought I'd read it before, but a quick scan of the back cover revealed I either have read the book and have no recall of that time spent or the title simply resembles another and it will indeed be a new read.

I'm happy to say that even though the title seemed to ring a rather loud bell, I'm half way through this novel and can attest to the fact my eyes have never passed over this particular sequence of words. Bases on the Bible's book of Hosea, it's a touching story of an example of God's unfailing love lived out through a man named Michael Hosea. Taking place in the mid 1800's, this one is a great escape as it takes the reader back in time to another place far different than our modern day.

I can tell I'm getting better because yesterday I didn't get a chance to read anything. My day included lunch with a dear friend for a few hours followed by a quick run through Macy's and Penny's to see summer's newest selections. It was my first stab at driving since the surgery and it felt great to get out. Once home I had enough energy to bathe Dani and wash a few dishes, a far cry from even a week ago.

I have two more week off before returning to work and still have several books to be read, a few movies waiting in queue, and several department stores yet to trod. Countless people advised me before hand to take the time to recover slowly and not push too hard or too fast during the first month. So far the tips have worked and now I'm strong enough to begin truly enjoy my last days off.

I hope you are getting your well deserved rest as needed too. Summer is a great time to stop and smell the roses. Thanks for stopping by and see you soon!

June 17, 2011

Your Sista's Havin' a Hysta - Part 6


My recovery from this "hysta" has been better than I thought it would be. The pre-surgical dread was far worse than convalescence itself. The first couple of weeks extended a kind hand offering some sort of advancement each day and I gotta say I'm a tad proud given the fact I'm no spry spring chicken at 51. Perhaps like many of you I test my limits, not so much out of bull headedness but more striving to wring the most gusto out of each day. If I can accomplish even a tiny hint of a mite more than the day before, you can bet your last penny I'll try. Sometimes it cost more than I bargained for, as I learned the hard way last week.

At two weeks post op, my sister asked me if she could come over, to which I replied, "Can you come over? Yes! I'd love to see you. Just name the day and time. Lord knows I'll be here." We eagerly set up the date which just happened to be the day I was to see my surgeon for my two-week post op check. Figuring I'd have plenty of strength by then, I threw caution to the wind.

When the date rolled around, Jimmy and I headed for my 0845 doctor's appointment. Since the doctor's office is attached to the hospital where I work, I suggested we stop by to visit the girls in my office. I sensed I was pushing my limits because by the time we walked down the glass hallway from the medical building to my office, I was officially out of gas. After 30-minutes of catching up, I'd begun to wilt like a Violet in the Sahara Desert.

By the time we arrived home I had about one hour to rest before my sister would arrive, or so I thought. A half hour into my "beauty rest" the door bell rang. Jimmy was nowhere to be found, so with my eyelids at half mast I commenced hoisting myself off the couch, careful to use all arm and no abdominal muscles. By the time I made my way to the door, the exhaustion that clung to me like a heavy cloak flew out the door as my sister, her daughter, and two grandchildren came in. It was so refreshing to see family I was down right pumped instantly.

After a quick visit we set off for lunch, the tradition we used to enjoy when dad was alive. We'd meet at his place, clean his apartment, and take him to lunch and Wal Mart. Those were the good old days.

KFC was our craving for the day, so we hopped in her Jeep Wrangler, drove 1 mile, ordered a $5 meal each, and sat down with our feast. It was so good to see my family I guess the adrenaline dulled the pain, because after lunch I didn't want to go home. That's when we set sail for Wal Mart as per family tradition.

Looking back I was foolish to pack so much into one day. The doctor's visit, walk to the office, climb into the Jeep, and prowl through Wal Mart was equivalent to what I'd do on a regular day let alone two weeks post op, not to mention the added taxation of laughing hysterically with my sister, something we do when together without fail. It a comedic curse that comes from my dad's side of the family and utterly impossible to suppress. In fact, knowing how much it hurt for me to laugh, she'd inadvertently make me laugh all the more by trying to be serious. And she says the craziest most unexpected things. Like when I was looking at teeth whitening strips she said, "Your teeth are so white. Don't whiten them any more. I don't trust people with really white teeth." I was so dumbfounded at the comment I grabbed my belly and burst out laughing. Who would ever say such a thing but my sister, and she wasn't trying to be funny.

I had the best time that day two-weeks post op, but I paid for it dearly. Overextending myself for one day set me back the next five. Exhausted and hurting I laid on the couch, unable do little else. Even the pain medication couldn't compensate for what I had done. As careful as I've been during this time of recovery, I over stepped my bounds, only to discover I am not superwoman and must continue to take it slow and steady. No spurts allowed.

That was a week ago and now it's the third week post op. I'm much stronger and weaning off the pain medication, but have learned to divvy out my energy with extreme caution. Yesterday Jimmy and I ran a few errands and I even shopped a little. I am no worse for the wear today but since Dani is off to work and he's shooting a wedding all day, I plan to piddle around the house by reading and watching a movie. I have a hankering to watch "Peggy Sue Got Married" which is patiently waiting for me in the queue on Netflix. God sent rain so I think He's doubly supportive of my efforts to rest and relax this fine day.

I hope you are doing well and are listening to your body's language too. Have a restful weekend!

June 13, 2011

Your Sista's Havin' a Hysta - Part 5

Two-Week Post Op Check

It's been a little over two weeks since this sista's had a hysta and time to visit the doctor. As a nurse by profession, I can attest to the fact that being the patient is a far cry from providing the care. It's so different, in fact, that when on the receiving end I try with all my might to hide the reality I'm in healthcare so my caregivers won't be tempted to hold back on education. My theory is if they know I'm a nurse, they may inadvertently opt out on certain instructions, thinking I already know all there is to know. One of my biggest fears is hearing the embarrassing words later down the line, "You should have known that. You're a nurse." Granted I'm not an idiot, but there are times when I'm honestly surprised how dull I can be. Remaining incognito is a great back up.

Nurses tend to be list makers because they have so much to remember. We document, record, and log every imaginable thing. It's what we're trained to do from the get-go and for me, after all these years, a checklist is a cozy warm blanket that protects me from the cold icy feeling of having to confess "I forgot."

About a week before this first post-op appointment, I began assembling an inventory of questions for my doctor. I'd been given discharge instructions at the hospital which helped me in general but I wanted specific instructions from her related to me and my healing process. Things like, When can I drive? (Instructions said at two weeks but since I'm still on pain medication I can't get behind the wheel. I'm so glad I asked.) Can I swim? How about bathing in a tub? I know I can't begin now but when's it ok to do aerobics or walk my sweet Labrador who tugs the first quarter mile? When can I give my husband more than a kiss and last but not least, my legs are dying to exercise. Can I at the very least get on my stationary bike and peddle lightly like an old lady?

Since I still can't drive, Jimmy chauffeurs me hither and yon. It's a whole lot of fun because we love being together, we always have. He's the kind of guy I can drag to a fabric store and it doesn't faze him a bit. He'll invariably find something to keep himself busy and best of all, he never complains. He's like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day that never melts, I couldn't ask for more. Given his easy going personality, I knew he wouldn't mind going to the OB/Gyn with me, so off we went, itemized list in hand.

Noting the note in my hand, my doctor listened to my litany of questions like the sweetest of hearts. She knows I'm a nurse and is always kind to accommodate my finicky ways. She knew which question was most pressing on my heart and was sad to tell me I'd have to wait another two weeks before bathing in the tub. Prior to surgery we had a good giggle about my fetish of shaving my legs every single day, without fail, no exceptions. I shrugged and sighed at the thought of another two week tub drought, then decided I might as well adopt a positive attitude. Lifting my chin a dash higher, I shared with her how I'd found a way to shave in the shower.

"Oh! That scares me. You might fall" she said with caution. "No, it's really ok." I reassured. "I've figured out if I stand like a pelican, resting one foot on the opposite knee, I can do it without much pain at all." With that, she swiped her hand up my shin to confirm I had indeed reassumed my daily obsession, shook her head, smiled, and said... absolutely nothing at all.

I can talk to my OB gal about anything. Our relationship, though totally professional, is also extremely intimate, that's just the nature of gynecology. She has a gift of making me feel like she's not only my doctor but close friend as well. She's calm, kind, attentive, gentle, and at peace in all she does. I trust my health to her and have the utmost respect for her and her practice. I did, however, have one beckoning question on my list that stuck in my throat like a clump of baby powder, "Can I have another prescription for pain pills please? If that's ok."

Fearing I'd look like a drug seeker, something that haunts the medical field like Mexico's drug cartel, I could barely bring myself to ask for a refill. Having never had major surgery I didn't know if it was time to wean off the pain meds or if it would take more time. After mustering the courage to broach the topic, she seemed to sense the jitter in my request and light heartedly replied, "Nancy, more pain medication is perfectly fine given your surgery. Now, people who are asking for it three months down the line are the one's we begin to wonder about. This, however, is fine and I'm happy to give you more."

Whewww! What a huge relief. Now I can continue to increase my activity each day knowing I have a cushion for my aches and pains. I have only one regret however. I wished I'd peaked at my scar when she ok'd the refill because, though I can't prove it, I think my 8" scar smiled end to end at the good news.

Hope you are having a blessed week.

June 9, 2011

Your Sista's Havin' a Hysta - Part 4, Hidden Treasure

I'm not sure which I love more, watching a movie that's won a boat load of awards or stumbling across a sleeper that prompts great reflection. While an award winner peaks unparalleled curiosity in the beginning, it can be very disappointing if unable to meet hoopla's high expectation.

A sleeper, on the other hand, has nothing to lose. It in fact holds the upper hand by not being bound with preset expectations. With this in mind, I am always looking off the beaten path for a good movie or book, especially during this time of convalescence. I've been stocking up on a few hidden treasures and the first gem that's gifted me with great joy is Elaine Olsen's "Peace for the Journey."

I've been visiting Elaine's blog for several months and one thing that stands out like a beacon in the night is her enormous love for the Lord. It's simply amazing given her current battle with cancer and the fact it's the real us that comes forward in our most severe trials. I had a sneaking suspicion that God had some special things to teach me through this fellow sister, that's why her study was my first choice during my time of recovery.

Acquiring her study was a snap. I popped her a quick email requesting her literary baby, and in two shakes of a lamb's tail she dispatched an autographed copy. The day it arrived Jimmy plucked it up off the porch step and handed it to me along with an inquiry as to what I'd ordered. "It's Elaine's study!" I exclaimed, assessing the package for its most vulnerable point with which to begin digging in. "She's my blogging friend and I can't wait to begin her study. It's the perfect thing to do while I'm off after surgery."

Once the parcel was open, we stood in awe of the gorgeous cover. I read her endearing autographed note, scanned the back cover and table of contents, and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was going to be a special study. The excitement was overwhelming. A new fresh author with different experiences, new perspectives, and her own unique writing style. It couldn't get any better, so with a sense of Clint Eastwood victory tucked under my belt, I took in a deep breath and said to myself, "This has made my day!"

With book in hand, I abandoned the packaging debris on the kitchen table and scuttled out onto the deck. Sinking into the swing, I commenced leafing through her pages as if savoring the menu of a five star restaurant. The more I sifted, the more I smiled. It was going to be a great study, my heart told me so. As the title pledges, sweet peace began to ooze from the pages like honey from a honeycomb and I couldn't wait to meet more of Elaine in days to come. What a privilege to discover this hidden treasure.

I'm pleased to say I have in no way been disappointed with Peace on the Journey. Each study is short, sweet, and packed with God's truth. Elaine knows how to write too. She isn't wordy, flowery, or insincere. Every word is perfectly placed, leaving each tidy message packed with power. Each lesson begins with God's holy word and ends with a prayer. She offers questions to contemplate and scripture for added reflection. I truly love every square inch of this thing, so much so I plan to buy more as gifts for my favorite people.

If you enjoy discovering big surprises in unexpected places and traveling off the beaten path to drop in on new authors, visit Elaine's blog or search her book on Amazon. To get your own autographed copy contact her directly through her blog. I don't know about you but I just love that personal touch.

So, how about you? Has a new author blown a fresh breeze into your life recently? If so, please share. I'd love to hear more.

June 4, 2011

Your Sista's Havin' a Hysta - Part 3

Maiden Voyage ~ 10 days post-op

Healing from a total hysterectomy is long and arduous journey, unless you are fortunate enough to have it done laparoscopic. As one who's had to take the longer route to recovery, I cherish even the smallest advancement and can attest to the fact I see improvement every day, and I think I know why.

Having had time to plan for this surgery, I decided before hand to increase my exercise. Lifting weights, doing aerobics, walking, and taking stairs throughout the day were all in the mix. My theory was to go into the procedure stronger than normal so that my point of recovery would begin at a better place.

Then, once surgery was complete, I dedicated to increasing my protein intake. When weight lifters lift weights and runners cross the miles, the first thing they do after each workout is replenish fluids and protein. Extreme workouts break down muscle fibers, allowing them to heal and grow stronger as a result. Rebuilding muscle requires protein though, and since my abdominal muscles underwent maximum assault, logic dictates that they need plenty of protein to heal and restore. I was so determined to take in at least 30 grams of protein each day, I brought premixed protein drinks to the hospital, adding them to my diet immediately.

Last but not least, I implemented the advice of fellow hyster sisters and made special effort to begin moving immediately after surgery. A mere 12 hrs after surgery, after the foley catheter was removed, Jimmy would help me get up to the restroom, but before heading back in bed, we'd walk (creep actually) to my hospital room door, then to the window, and back to bed. Given the fact my room was the size of a small studio apartment (two T.V.'s, couch, recliner, bookshelf, counter with sink, and desk by the window) it was no short hike. Each time I'd use the restroom I'd walk a little more, and continued this tradition at home where I'd walk small laps, adding more each day. For me it was most helpful to focus on doing a little more each day rather than the discomfort or exhaustion. It's a good thing too because without a doubt each consecutive day proved better than the one before, a recipe I highly recommend.

Saturday (yesterday) was my first outing. We loaded Dani and the pups in the car and took off. Jimmy ran into a few stores, while I saved my energy for my favorite destination, a quaint mercantile east of home in the country.

My chauffeur and honey

Ecclesiastes was way in the back
while Cocoa enjoyed Dani
as a pillow

Old country store off the beaten path

Salt and pepper shakers galore

Dips, sauces, and jellies
Click here to continue...

Your Sista's Havin' a Hysta - Part 3 (cont.)

Dozens and dozens of dazzling dishes

Colorful cookware

Separate cottages that sell bath soaps, lotions,
oils, and anything else that might feed your fancy.

Another cottage. This one had darling
knick knacks.

I was pooped by the end of our excursion but it was well worth it. What a beautiful spring day to be out and about with the family diligently working on recovery.

June 1, 2011

Your Sista's Havin' a Hysta - Part 2

After nearly four months of testing, assessing, and planning, the surgery is complete. Joining thousands of other women around the world, I too am a sista who's had a hysta. Once word of the surgery got out, an onslot of dear Abby advice drifted my way, which proved quite helpful. Many ladies who've undergone the same procedure kindly offered pointers drawn from personal experience. I was advised to begin moving immediately after surgery, deep breathe and cough, take the full six weeks off, and rest, rest, rest. One gal informed me of the unexpected tid bit that, believe it or not, I'd always remember the date of my surgery, much like I recall 911, the day my children were born, and what I was doing the day Elvis died. Her words were prophetic and in fact came to life as we waited in the surgical holding room.

It had been only two days since the Joplin Missouri tornado struck 150 miles from our home in Kansas City. It was the worst twister since 1940 something and considering the recent tornado outbreaks in the U.S., we were concerned weather might be an issue come surgery day. I awoke thirsty, hungry, and anxious to get a move on, so I took a bee line for the TV to check for severe weather. The meteorologist was my buddy that day as he shared the good news that the risk for severe weather had moved to eastern Missouri. By all accounts we were in the clear and things should have gone off without a hitch.

Per pre-op instructions, we arrived at the hospital on time, checked in at the admitting desk, and was soon escorted to the surgical waiting room. I'd barely warmed up my half of the two-seater leather chair when a nurse, clutching a small bundle of papers, made an entrance. Propping the door open with her foot, she paused, looked down at her documents, and called out in a clear succinct voice...Nancy Douglas? Impressed with the timing, I claimed the name by raising my hand, and heading her way. My flip flops gave sound to what would be my last few painless steps this side of surgery. Time was drawing near and soon this would all be over. I wasn't sure if I was happy or sad. At least things were moving along as planned and soon I'd be on the road to recover.

I first weighed on a rather untraditional scale. Obviously designed to accommodate wheelchairs, it struck me funny as it looked more devoted to cattle. Nearly flush with the floor, the three foot square stainless steel platform offered a plethora of spots to stand. I picked what I thought was most middle, stood still as a statue, and watched the digital display climb like an elevator's ascent to the top of a tall sky scraper. Still snickering at the vision of me on the scale like a black angus cow, I was then escorted to a holding room that was surprisingly bigger than all the rest. Unlike the others it had no sliding glass doors. It appeared to be a room that, when the department was first designed, was too small to make into two rooms, so converted into one that was a large master suite of sorts. Labs were drawn, all sorts of questions were asked from allergies to abuse, and an IV was started. That's when the unexpected happened. The operator on the intercom called a Code Gray.

Hospitals call various codes, many of which aren't difficult to remember. Code Blue means a patient either isn't breathing and/or their heart has stopped. Since this condition causes them to turn blue, the name is obvious. Code Red means fire, which isn't a stretch either, and Code Gray means tornado. Since tornados kick up a lot of dust and debris, gray seems obvious as well. I didn't have to search my memory banks long to realize severe weather was making another untimely visit.

My nurse and I were rather shocked to hear the code since the weather forecast called for a nice day. We turned on my TV all to discover that the tide had indeed changed. Soon there was a knock on the door and Jimmy and Drew were escorted into, since rooms near glass were being evacuated. All surgeries in process were being completed and surgeries yet to be done were placed on hold until the weather cleared. So, there we sat waiting and wondering.

By the time my doctor came in to assure me surgery would be carried out as soon as possible, five tornados were dropping out of the sky around our vicinity. I was relieved to hear the surgery would be done but began to wonder if it would closer to midnight than noon as originally planned.

Then there was Dani. She wasn't with us because she had gone on to her day hab. What was seh doing? Was she in danger? Was she on an outing with her day hab or safe at the facility? About the time our concern hit full force, the Lord sent word through Jimmy's iPhone in the form of a picture of her crouched in the bathroom shower with a text that said, "Your baby is fine. The sirens are going off and we are all in the bathrooms." What a comfort to know our baby was in good hands.

Once the tornados receded into the sky's black carpet over head, warnings were lifted, and the surgical crew came into the room like a swarm of bees. As the anesthesiologist asked the final pre-op questions, three nurses stood around my bed tucking, repositioning, and medicating me for the procedure. Before I knew it I was on the OR table confirming that yes I was having a hysterectomy and desired to keep my ovaries if at all possible. Slipping off to sleep, I don't recall anyone saying good bye, I just drifted off to wherever surgical patients wait for their own surgery to be complete.

As of today it's been one week since surgery and things are going very well. Each day offers a little more independence and strength, and though I have a long way to go before reaching normal, even a little progress lends hope. At least I can get up and down by myself now and don't have to tap Jimmy on the shoulder in the middle night and whisper, "Honey...I have to potty."

Thanks for all your prayers and we'll talk soon. Lord knows I have plenty of time to putter out a few notes.

Pre-op instruction #1 - No make up.
I was in compliance...ugh.

Storm news

Clouds approaching


Drew picked up Dani
and brought her to the
hospital to wait on mama