the first lady and me

Michelle Obama and I have so much in common.  Right?  She was on The Daily Show on Tuesday with her new book:  American Grown.

The Daily Show with Michelle Obama

The Daily Show with Michelle Obama, pt 2

OK, so we don’t have a lot in common, but now we BOTH garden. And she’s totally right. Our kids LOVE fresh fruits and vegetables – I think in part because they help grown them, pick them at a local berry farm, or help pick them out at the grocery store or farmers market. Most of the time, that’s what they eat first off their plates. Both of them chowed down on the green pepper we picked Tuesday night.  And they can put away some blueberries like it’s their job.

I think this gardening thing is going to be much fun.

The raised bed Russ built for our very first garden, filled in with compost and organic gardening soil

A few weeks after we planted…nothing was dead yet:  success!

We purchased plants for the top tier (roma tomatoes, grape tomatoes, green peppers, red peppers, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, and jalapenos) and tried out organic seeds on the lower tier (carrots, green onion, spinach, cantaloupe, and watermelon).  Russ has been faithfully watering the garden, and I have been faithfully weeding.  Caleb tried to sabbatoge the jalapenos and zucchini by pulling them up (because that’s what it looked like I was doing, I suppose).  But we saved them.  Taylor and I check on the vegetables almost every afternoon to see how big they are getting and if they are ready to be picked.  And Tuesday, they finally were!

Taylor grabbed her bucket to collect our loot.   Then we both went inside to wash everything and get it ready for dinner.  She was very excited and wanted to try all of the goodies that came out of our very own garden!

Our first harvest:  Green pepper, Jalapeno peppers, itty bitty carrots, giant grape tomato, and green onions

We had a mighty good salad last night.  Wow, fresh really does taste so much better!  I highly recommend this gardening thing.  Fun for the whole family!

follow-up

First of all, my mom and sister are HILARIOUS

See the resemblance?

I had my follow-up appointment with the surgeon today.  It went well.  Things are healing as they should….though he did warn me to be extra careful getting any sun on it – um….I have a huge incision on top of stretch marks from carrying a 8 lb 9 oz baby and an 8 lb cyst simultaneously; I’m pretty sure my belly will never see the light of day again. ever.

He also told me that I couldn’t play tennis or golf or lift weights.  Bummer.  I asked him when I could start working out, and he asked, “well, what sports do you normally play?”  Me: “um, none”  Him: “Well, then you can continue that”.  I was mainly asking when I could start Pilates because I have a  friend who teaches and who has offered to help me retrain my core when I’m ready….but I’ll have to wait two months and stick to walking a lot until then to work off all the food that people have lovingly brought.

I also asked about the possibility of a recurrence, and he said that there really wasn’t any possibility since having an adrenal cyst in the first place was really rare…so rare in fact that he had never heard of one.  (!)  He is pretty much a rock star surgical oncologist and deals with all kinds of tumors and cysts on a regular basis, yet had never, not once seen or even heard of one like mine.  He then told Russ that it was case reportable, meaning it was so rare that it could be written up for a medical journal or something.  Crazy stuff…my cyst could be famous.

I told my mom and she started googling “adrenal cysts” – one article came up from Europe about a woman who had a 3 cm adrenal cyst…HA!  I mock your 3 cm cyst!  Try 22 cm and 8 lbs.  Mercy.

Also an interesting google discovery: the adrenal glands produce hormones that affect how you handle stress.  Perhaps my boss is a genius.  Russ still says “EH?” about this thing being connected to my stress levels….but it makes sense to me.  I have not been the best at handling stress AND have been under a lot of stress.  It fits.  And now that the cyst is gone, I’m sure that I will be cool as a cucumber and reasonable when it comes to handling stressful situations.  Right?

here it is

Two weeks post-op:

  • I have been off hard drugs for a whole 8 hours.
  • I am wearing real pants with a button and zipper (also a bra)
  • I have been to target and the grocery store.  I even went on Taylor’s field trip this morning, but that was a bit of a stretch; I was completely exhausted at the end!
  • I still get sore when I overdo it – which I keep doing.
  • I also get REALLY tired when I overdo it.
  • I can pick Caleb up, but if I do it too many times, I can feel it!
  • I get car sick
  • I get dizzy if I stand up too fast (which is anything faster than really slow at this point)
  • And I got a picture of my cyst…do not continue if you are squeamish.

Are you sure?

Ok, here it is:

My 8 lb jelly bean cyst

The surgeon likened it to a big jelly bean…don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at jelly beans the same way again.  I still can’t believe that thing was inside of me!  Crazy stuff.

Gratitude

While I certainly wouldn’t wish a giant cyst and it’s necessary surgical removal on anyone, I do wish everyone had the opportunity to experience the blessings that come from an event like this (or at least to intensely recognize the  blessings surrounding them everyday).  I am truly overcome with gratitude and humility.  I have the best support system ever.

My mom has been here since the night before my surgery (two weeks exactly now) taking care of me and the kids….feeding us, cleaning, doing load after load of laundry, playing with the kids, driving us around…basically loving us in every possible way.

I have not cooked in two weeks and yet have eaten heartily (I take that back – I have only eaten heartily for nine days – since I was in the hospital before that – no hearty eating there).  The amount of food in our house is incredible.  Russ is getting spoiled…poor guy won’t know what to do when the food runs out and it’s back to me to determine and prepare what we eat.  Taylor has also grown accustomed to her “church friends” coming bearing food.  The one night we did not have a new meal (we needed a break to take care of some leftovers), she asked “Which of my church friends is bringing dinner tonight?”  For all of us it’s a double treat because we get to see some of our favorite people AND get delicious dinners.

I love the note in a recent card from a loved one:  “So, I’m southern and feel the need to feed you because that’s what we do when someone we care about is hurting.”  That note included a gift card…we have received a few of those as well, so we can still eat when the meals run out.  INCREDIBLE.

I received lots of beautiful flowers (and a balloon).  It seemed like there was a steady stream of flower delivery people coming in.  Flowers from friends, family, church people, and even the MUSC Dean’s Office (!).  INCREDIBLE.  I used to wonder why people sent flowers for things (other than an occasional love bouquet from your spouse), because really what do you need all those flowers for?  But, man, did each arrangement bring a huge smile to my face!  In the sterile white hospital room, I was surrounded by beautiful color, reminded of love and awesome people.

There were more cards than I could have dreamed

on top of the electronic love through comments here on the blog, on facebook, txt, and e-mail.  I got a stack of magazines to keep my loopy brain entertained and some games to play with Taylor.  I had visitors who braved the downtown craziness.

I am truly humbled by it all.  It’s not that I ever doubted that I had great people in my life or that I was loved deeply by many, but I have just come to a new understanding and appreciation.  I will never be the same (or at least I hope I won’t).

I will begin writing thank you notes tonight, now that I’m feeling better and hopefully won’t fall asleep as soon as the kids are in bed.  I made a list of everything people had done before Sunday because Russ wanted to make sure he knew what to thank people for when he saw them on Sunday…but I added all the non-church people as well for my future note writing (since the drugs do crazy things to my memory).  When I handed Russ the list, he stood there for a second with his mouth wide open – in shock by all of the acts of service we have received.

Shock.  Awe.  Overwhelming Gratitude.

I am grateful for all of you – for your love and support and prayers.  I couldn’t have made it through without them.

Thank you.

aftermath

It has been nine days since my surgery, and things are going very well.  I am down to one pain pill per dose now (as opposed to two)  and am getting around pretty well.  I still feel it when I test my limits though.  It’s amazing how many things you use your abs for – like blowing your nose and rolling over and getting out of bed and talking sternly to your three year-old (not yelling, I don’t yell) and laughing and picking up a measly burp cloth from the ground.  Holy moly.

There have been some pros and definitely some cons about recovery:

Pro – Spending lots of quality time with my mom and Caleb.  If you’ve ever read my blog before then you know that Grammy is the best and we don’t know what we would do without her.  But in addition to being the best and being a life saver, she’s also fun to hang out with…though I do with she would make me laugh a little less.  Also, if you’ve ever read my blog, you know that Caleb is the cutest best baby ever.  He’s so much fun, but again, I wish he would make me laugh a little less.

Con – I CAN’T PICK UP MY KIDS

Pro – Dinner shows up warm and delicious (and with dessert) at my house every night at 5:30 pm.  I will be very sad when this ends.  But at least we’ll have leftovers to carry us through another week.

Con – In addition to my abs hurting when I try to use them (I have no pain when I’m still), my left wrist hurts pretty good where my IV infiltrated (noticed one day in the hospital that it was starting to swell, so they had to take it out and redo it somewhere else to add yet another hole to my right arm).  Also, my right hand/wrist/arm looks like I got beat up from all the IV/blood draw attempts.

Pro – I get to take a nap whenever I want.

Con – I passed out yesterday morning.  That was a little scary.  We think I was a little dehydrated and got out of bed too fast.  I saw in the monitor that Taylor was climbing on top of her head board and jumped up to get her to get down. (probably the fasted I had moved in a week).  The next thing I remember I was sitting on the floor outside her room and my butt and head hurt.  It took me a while to figure out why I was on the floor.  Poor Taylor was sitting on the edge of the bed looking at me strangely…I guess that was one way to get her attention.

Pro – I can’t do laundry.  Poor Grammy has to do at least a load a day to keep up with 5 people, one of whom spits up ALL THE TIME.

Con -I can’t wear real pants because of the swelling/pain.  I can’t wear a bra because of my incision.  (hmmm….maybe this is a pro – I can’t really go in public and feel good about myself, but it is mighty comfortable)

Pro – I lost 15 pounds in a week (clear liquid diet Tuesday – Saturday + 8 lb cyst removal + low appetite Sunday – Tuesday).  Though I don’t recommend this at a weight loss technique.  It’s not worth it.

Con – I have an 8 in incision from the bottom of my sternum to my belly button.  It’s not pretty.  And Taylor keeps asking to see it…even when we are in public.

Pro – There are lots of pretty flowers in my house.  And it’s not even Valentine’s Day yet.  I love pretty flowers.   (I hope Russ doesn’t think this gets him off the hook).

I could probably go on, but I like leaving things on a positive note.  Life is good.

Post-Op

Lord have mercy.

Things are going well after the surgery…I am 72 hours post-op.   I have been doing my laps (AKA the old man shuffle) around the 6th floor (3ish laps 3-4 times a day).   I get a little faster each time.  I have been told I am the perfect patient for the nurses and techs – all my vitals have been good and I am managing my pain well on my own.  Plus I have a personal nurse (Grammy) and doctor (Russ).  So that’s nice.

The doctor removed an 8lb cyst fully in tact – like a giant water balloon, which by Russ’ assessment was bigger than a football.  It was only attached to my adrenal gland, so a little of that had to be removed as well, but nothing serious. Russ got to hold the cyst, just like he did with our babies.  (I’m so glad he gets so many hands on medical experiences by hanging out with me.)  When the surgeon told my family how big it was, my mom said “that’s as big as another baby…she just gave birth to an 8 lb 9 oz baby”  And the doctor replied, “At least you don’t have to send this one to college”.

While I was in the PACU and still a little groggy, I hear the surgeon talking to the nurses about the surgery he had just finished (mine) and how big the cyst was.  Then he showed them a picture and I heard many loud *gasps* and “OH MY GODS”.  We got to see a picture when the anesthesiologist did rounds – crazy that that thing was inside of me.  We’re trying to get a copy of the picture so we can share it with all of you.

I don’t have much pain at my incision site (my 8.5″ incision site) (!) (I guess there goes my illusions of wearing a two piece bathing suit this summer).  Drugs are FABULOUS.

But there are a few post-op things that are rather annoying.

1)  The pain I am experiencing is in my neck, shoulders, and behind.  I have been given two explanations for this.  a) there are air bubbles trapped inside from being opened up and they’ll go away eventually or b) they are sore from being strapped awkwardly on the OR table during the hour and a half long surgery.  I also think it’s aggravated by the uncomfortable bed that I’ve had to sit/lay in most of my post-op days.

2)  I was in PACU (the place you hang out in until you are unloopified) after anesthesia for six hours because I had to wait for a room to become available.  I was SO bored.  I couldn’t sleep because the only thing dividing me from my neighbors was a curtain, and I had really noisy neighbors.  And they wouldn’t let my family all come back an hang out with me.   They could only come two at a time and couldn’t stay long.   There were no TVs, I didn’t have any of my things.  I cried at one point because I was so bored.  Then Russ finally came back and I was reunited with my phone and facebook, so all was right with the world again.

3) I am usually an easy stick for IVs and blood draws, but because I was dehydrated when I came in (because I couldn’t have any liquids the night before), it took forever for them to get what they needed.  My right arm/hand alone has 14 sticks.  I even had to have them redo my IV yesterday because the first one came lose and started making my wrist swell.  I used to not mind having blood drawn, but now, every time someone comes in to do it, I tear up a little worrying how many times it will take this time and will they roll my veins around trying to find it (FYI – that HURTS).

4)  I’m really dirty.  I haven’t had a shower since Wednesday night…I had to wash my abdomen with this anti-bacterial scrub Thursday morning, but I wasn’t allowed to use any other soaps or shampoos – or lotions after.  I look really rough (so I’m especially glad that I had nine visitors yesterday).  I’m hoping they remove my IV and epidural today so I can get clean.  I think I’m ready for drugs in pill form.

5)  I’m really tired.  I can’t get comfortable in the bed.  I usually sleep on my stomach and that’s pretty much impossible at this point.  Plus, people keep coming in my room.  At one point, I was trying to pump to keep my supply up for Caleb when this is all over, then three different people had to come in to try to draw blood.  Then the tech had to come in to get my vitals.  Then the food service came by to drop off my liquid lunch (mmmm).  Then the chaplain came by to go over the living will options.  OMG.  I think at one point, there were 8 people in my room at the same time.  So I started to LOSE IT.  And the chaplain just stood there and very systematically went over the paperwork.  GREAT JOB Mr. Chaplain.

6)  I’m very hungry.  I am still on a “full liquid” diet, which is an improvement over the “clear liquid” diet.  I have now had grits and mashed potatoes and ice cream.  But just to recap, since Monday night at 6:00 pm (142 hours ago), I have eaten:

  • 3 small cups of jello
  • a teeny bowl of grits
  • a bowl of mashed potatoes
  • a popsicle
  • half bowl of chicken broth
  • half bowl of tomato soup
  • two cups of pudding
  • half cup of ice cream

Yumm-o.  I’m a little frustrated because the doctors should have changed my food orders yesterday, but when they were rounded, I was pumping, and I really didn’t want 5 strangers staring at me while I did that (think Grey’s Anatomy when the attending, residents, interns, and med students all come in together).  So we ask them to come back in a few minutes.  They never came back.

7)  I am glad that I can drink whatever I want now.  The first 24 hours after surgery, they wouldn’t even let me have ice chips.  But since my mouth was really dry, they gave me a cup of water and a bag of sponge swabs to moisten my mouth.  Awesome.

8)  And finally, because of the fatigue and drugs, I am still a little loopy and have trouble defining the difference between reality and dreams.  Yesterday, it was really hard to keep my eyes open, so I would dose off in the middle of a conversation with Russ, then wake up and continue the conversation that was going on in my dream rather than the one we were actually having.  Poor Russ – he was just so confused.

It’s good times here in the hospital.  I am hoping to go home today, but it’s looking like it’ll probably be tomorrow.  Keep the prayers coming, specifically that I can manage my pain with pills and that I don’t go completely crazy.

Prep

I haven’t had anything to eat since Monday at 6:00 pm.  To say I am hungry is a GROSS understatement.  I cannot think over the loud sounds coming from my stomach.  I cannot write a coherent post because of my headache (just to warn you).

I am so hungry that the baby food I was feeding Caleb looked really appealing.   I am so hungry that I nearly wept after a commercial for velvetta/rotel queso dip.  That actually still sounds really yummy – I think I want that for my first meal after the surgery.  or pizza. or Chick-Fil-A.  or my mom’s cubed steak and rice and gravy.  or ice cream. or…all of the above.

Surgery will be tomorrow morning at 7:30 am.  Even though we have to be there by 5:45 am (meaning leaving the house no later than 5:00 am) , I am still really excited that I’m first on the schedule. because 1) I get to get it over with, 2) I will get to eat sooner, and 3) It’s the surgeon’s first surgery and he’ll be all fresh and on the ball.

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Do not read past this point if you don’t like potty talk or are easily grossed out or will look at me differently next time I see you.

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By some miracle, I have managed to finish everything on my pre-op to do list.  And I say miracle because I have to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes.  AND Caleb is sick and fussy.

I lost 3 lbs yesterday, though I do not recommend “go-lytly” as a diet tool….as my doctor joked, it makes you go heavily.  I am completely empty.  And now I only go liquids, which is a very strange sensation.

I am very thankful for comfortable pajama pants without those darn time-consuming buttons and zippers.  I think I may have to invest in some pajama jeans if this ever needs to happen again.

I am very thankful that we have a two bathroom house.

I got mad at Russ on Sunday because he was telling church members how he would be making sure that I was doing all the right things to heal correctly, like getting up and walking as soon as possible…and…passing gas….guess after this post, I shouldn’t really get mad at him.

I’m thinking a blog post from post-op is in order, because if it’s this inappropriate on here hungry, just think about the inappropriateness and TMI that will be written whilst on heavy narcotics.

Stay tuned, I know that was the best tease ever.