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Having a set surgery date helped me eliminate one uncertainty out of many that created lots of anxiety.  The surgery date was set for a week after coming home from my trip to Helsinki and Stockholm in May. 

When I found out about the confirmed diagnosis and planned surgery, I thought of cancelling the trip out of the irrational fear that I may keel over and die due to exhaustion in beautiful Stockholm next to the pier on a sunny spring day…. I mean, I have been living and travelling with this tumor for the last 5 years without dying, I know it is completely irrational to think that this trip would be any different.  My friend asked if I had ever regretted taking a trip.   I said no and she was right.

I was still working in February and I tried to distract myself from worrying excessively over many things that I cannot control by controlling things that I can such as planning my trip. Despite my efforts, I could not resist looking up articles on Transsphenoidal Surgery and recovery statistics. The more you know, the more you worry and I didn’t want to worry but I also couldn’t help it. Finally knowing what was wrong with me and having a plan to treat it was truly a blessing that I was grateful for. I did not expect the emotional stress creeping up on me to the point where I could not function at work anymore… I actually thought I could still work until my surgery date in June by taking a few days off here and there but the Universe had an other plan.

I went to my family doctor to have disability forms filled out in anticipation of being off work for more than 2 weeks after my surgery. My supervisor pulled me aside at work one day to tell me that she got a phone call from the manager whom got a phone call from the ability advisor notifying her that I am on medical leave. This literally came right after I had a meeting with my supervisor that morning planning the transfer of my clients and my leave of absence after June…. See what happens when I tried to plan? The date my family doctor filled out stating that I am unable to work was the date I saw her for a follow up appointment. So I should have been at home resting to prepare for surgery and not working. After some discussion, it was decided that I would finish the day and not return to work tomorrow. I felt like I was being fired and had to pack up my office by 4 pm. I was surprised and conflicted about it all while my friend at work was like “That’s awesome! You get to sleep in tomorrow, and the next day…and the day after…”.

Darwin loved that I was home keeping him company, giving him massages and taking him for walks.  I talked to my mom on the phone often while I paint and putter around the house.  After about a week of this, I quickly grew tired of being alone during the day with no humans around to tell me their problems.  This led me to look for studio space for creating art.  I came across Burnt Toast Studio and rented a space there to paint.  I had always wanted to have an art studio space…not because I don’t have enough space at home…well maybe I don’t.  My stuff occupies two small bedrooms, downstairs living room, basement and as Josh puts it my “creativity spills over” the dinning table as well.  Two months before my surgery, I developed a routine of driving up to the art studio at least a couple times a week during the day to paint – hoping that there would be other artists to chat with and make art.  However, it was not what I had envisioned.  The place was mostly empty when I am there during the day because people have day jobs….  I did make use of the space (I listened to hours and hours of podcast) and created a 48” x 48” painting that needed a van for transport.

#art #painting #memoir #amediting #yayoikusama #amwriting #story #personalblog

Traveller with a Free Spirit

Unbeknownst to me, when your tumor gives you an insane amount of steroids for so long, you can really do anything. During my fertility trials, I grew increasingly anxious and impatient with the idea of wasting my time pursuing something that I am only half hopeful about. I honestly think that the “secret to life” and reaching “enlightenment” is the simple realization of how valuable Time is. Time is the only thing in life that you cannot have more of no matter how hard you try.

“Spend your money on the things money can buy. Spend your time on the things money can’t buy.” – Haruki Murakami.

I had been working on the same unit for almost 6 years (which is the longest job I have ever been at) I grew restless and even though I was good at my job and enjoyed it, I needed to do something different. I wanted to travel, I wanted to get a new job, I wanted to experience new things. I was tired of doing the same thing everyday even though it was not terrible nor was I miserable. I thought about going to school again for my Masters in nursing or something completely different like Interior Design (which I did complete a certificate for decorating and then realized that I don’t want to be dealing with annoying people in that industry). There was a thirst for new knowledge.

So I went and got a new job in the community. I reluctantly said good bye to a wonderful group of nurses that have taught me so much over the years…and the wonderful friendships that I was blessed with (which I am grateful for today because these friendships continued on) Around the same time, I was looking at the world scratch map that Josh bought me trying to decide where I should go for my first solo travel trip. I read articles and blog posts about solo female travellers and we talked about where I would want to go and how to safely travel on my own. In August of 2016, I decided on Amsterdam and Copenhagen. I had never been to Europe before…the thought of travelling to Europe by myself for the first time was a little scary but also exciting.

Traveling on my own was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Some people may think that I am selfish to go gallivanting around the world while my husband stay home and eat popcorn and peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. Some people may think that my marriage is in trouble or else why would I go on vacation without the love of my life? I believe that there is a certain degree of selfishness that is healthy for all relationships. After all, you have to be just selfish enough to feel secure about yourself and love yourself before you can love somebody else. The decision to travel on my own meant taking the first step in putting myself first before anyone else. As one travel blogger noted – “It can be scary traveling alone, especially when you’ve never done it before. But, to me, growing old without experiencing everything you want from life is even scarier.”

You have to own your own mistakes and learn to trust your intuition when you travel solo. Like waiting on the wrong platform for the train or buying the wrong ticket. There is no one next to you when you react to a negative situation and try to find somebody to blame. You kind of have to learn how to be kind to yourself instead of angry when you make mistakes because you are all that you have in that moment. These are valuable lessons that can’t be taught in school and I think it did save my life when I made the decision to go back to the same emergency department where I had my last terrible experience at.

  “As I get older, it feels like the years pass by more quickly.  I was wondering why that is.  Then I realized that it might be the same as the experience of traveling some place you’ve never been before.  On the way there, the road seems to go on forever.  But on the way back, you’re home before you know it” – Unknown.  

#memoir #stories #amediting #nonfiction #travel #amwriting #personalblog #authorlife #travelblog #indieauthors

The Surgery

My family was given a number to track my status while I was in surgery. In the OR family waiting area, there is a screen, much like the one you would see at the airport with the tracking number and where the patient is. The surgeon scribbled down Josh’s cell phone number on a scrap piece of paper before wheeling me in for surgery. Josh would wait for his call when the surgery is complete. My mom said she had never been so worried in her life, her heart was pounding the entire time. Josh, my brother and my dad passed the time by snacking on junk food from the vending machine and the “Nutman”. The three of them argued over everything from climate change, the carbon tax, to China’s surveillance of the world. The surgeon called Josh 2 hours later and reported the surgery went well. During the surgery, they found another small nodule that was not visible on the MRI and it was successfully removed. My mom said she saw a surgeon out to talk with another family that was waiting and it did not look like it was good news. She was so relieved by the phone call that surgery was successful and they could go see me now.

The part where you enter the OR and within 5 minutes you are in a coma is great. It’s like you leave the world for a little while, you don’t have to worry about anything, you just have to believe that you are in capable hands where you would wake up as they promised (well actually they don’t promise anything, you sign a consent acknowledging that you may never wake up…) Gotta have a positive attitude right?

When I woke up, I literally thought I was going to die. I had this unbelievable headache, nausea, and eventually vomiting blood. The worst of it all was that I really had to pee and they didn’t put a catheter in the OR. The nurse I had was efficient and amazing, I was promptly taken care of (I asked to have a catheter put in) and she quickly gave me something for pain and nausea. I went from feeling like death to near death in about an hour. She did all this while my concerned family was buzzing around. I ended up spending a week on that unit because of complications associated with my Cushing’s disease. I had diabetes insipidus, I was so thirsty and everything I drank went right through me. I had no strength to get up to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes. I thought the Foley catheter was the greatest invention of all time. I lied in bed, drank, and waited for my bladder to contract. I kept meticulous record of my intake and output to pass the time because I couldn’t sleep despite how exhausted I was. When I was feeling a little bit better with a bit of energy, I was carrying my catheter bag around with me like a purse to walk laps around the unit – I thought about asking for a walker so I can hang the bag there and do my laps…. If you ever worked on a surgical unit, you would know that they call patients like me a “Walkie Talkie”. Aside from monitoring and managing my diabetes insipidus, I was improving little bits at a time and I was hopeful for a speedy recovery.

I braved every needle poke and it did not even faze me anymore when the vampires make their rounds (the only problem was that they ran out of good veins to poke because they were so bruised – I told them to just start drawing from the hand).  I lost count after 30 pokes.  The patient next to me had a malignant brain tumour (I think she was only in her late 40’s). I felt very fortunate that I had a tumor that is most likely benign and that surgery would yield a 70 to 80 percent cure rate of Cushing’s Disease.  After spending a full week in the hospital, I was eager and felt ready to go home.

#writing #memoir #nonfiction #recovery #surgery

McDreamy

The surgeon’s office gave me two options for which day of the week I want the surgery on. Monday or Friday? Why can’t it be Tuesday? or Thursday? Not a day of the week where people feel hurried to get out of work for the weekend or just coming back possibly a little haggled from the weekend’s activities. In the end I picked Monday because from what I had read online about only staying in the hospital for a couple of days post op. I didn’t want to be kept over the weekend where my specific attending surgeon is not there and a bunch of dud residents are on call. In the end, it didn’t matter how I had planned that move meticulously because the office called me and switched my surgery date to a month later than originally planned. To a Friday over the long weekend nonetheless…

Leading up to the initial consult with my neurosurgeon I avoided watching Grey’s Anatomy. I googled my neurosurgeon to see if he looked like McDreamy. Because, you know, looks is very important to me. How trust worthy and competent you feel about someone (initially anyways) is basedon how they look. My dad asked me if I found a wallet on the streets would I chase the person and return it to whomever. My first reaction was “What did the person look like?”

If you google Transsphenoidal Surgery, google advises having an expert neurosurgeon to perform the surgery for obvious reasons. My expert neurosurgeon happens to be the only one that does it in Alberta. So I have to trust this guy with him prodding around a tiny bean-shaped pea sized gland that is basically the master controller in regulating vital body functions…that sits nice and snug against a couple of carotid arteries and the optic nerves…so no big deal.

He explained the procedure, the risks and benefits (all of which I already familiarized myself with by hours of articles on success rate etc.) On my consultation notes, he dictated that I was “keen” on having the surgery and proceeding with it after his due diligent in explaining what I already know. Josh was there to ask the more important questions that I never thought of. Like can I see how steady your hands are? Or how difficult is the surgery if you were to compare it to servicing a vehicle? For example, is it more or less difficult than an oil change? The surgeon assured us that it is easier than an oil change. It was like McDreamy being slightly arrogant about it and how a transsphenoidal surgery is a yawn fest of a 2 hour OR time.

Before I was wheeled in to the OR, Josh made a joke to McDreamy referencing the oil change. McDreamy didn’t laugh or acknowledge Josh’s anxieties. Josh told me he felt reassured after that exchange because he saw that the surgeon was focused and ready to work (even though it was 1 pm on a friday afternoon before the July long weekend).

To be Continued…

#medicalstories #memoir #nonfiction

Cushing’s Disease

According to WebMD, if you google “Tumor” – it is defined as an abnormal growth of cells that serves no purpose.

In the summer of 2018, we decided one last attempt at another cycle of Clomid trial.  After all, it was something tried and conceived.  It was my decision to not pursue alternative options that are more invasive at this time.  It was difficult to try and maintain a positive attitude at first but what life experience taught me as an immigrant child being raised by a single mother was that nothing worth having comes easy.  Josh had to remind me of my own mantra when I had moments of “I see the glass half full…but of poison” attitude.  (Gold star for whoever can figure out where that reference came from)

This time it was different. My dosage had to be increased and I was still not ovulating after the first two cycles. The last cycle I felt so sick that I was seen at Urgent Care twice in a month for hypertension. This led to my endocrinology referral and subsequent diagnosis of Cushing’s Disease. My endocrinologist said I did not look “Floridly Cushing’s” Oh but I do… Clinically, I had all the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s Disease for about 5 years. The symptoms got worse in the last two years which coincided with taking Clomid for fertility. I had abnormal weight gain, terrible skin, my hair keeps falling out and growing in places that I do not particular want it to and my energy levels best described as an iPhone 5 with a shitty battery. The diagnosis of Cushing’s Disease lifted a lot of unwarranted guilt around not being able to exercise and eat a proper diet. I was always craving terrible foods. My bone density scan revealed that I was pre-osteroprorosis at 32 years old and at a higher risk of fractures (I guess I do not regret my decision to stop snowboarding a couple years ago) I creaked and struggle to get out of bed every morning like a senior and could not understand why other than blaming myself for not putting more effort into exercising instead of lying around like Darwin. Although, owning a French Bulldog do naturally make you less incline to leave the couch, just ask any Frenchie owners.

The physical symptoms gave me more appreciation for missing my work with seniors at the hospital. You can see them struggle but to be relatable usually takes time…like you have to be old to appreciate being old. And I was told 32 is not old.

The psychiatric and psychological disturbances caused by my Cushing’s Disease was perhaps the worst of the illness. As I got closer to a confirmed diagnosis of having a corticotroph pituitary adenoma (waiting for test results, trying to get an MRI in a timely manner so I actually paid for a private one…) increased my already high cortisol levels – while continuing work at the clinic where I only get to listen to other people’s problems all day. I was increasingly depressed and anxious. I basically looked at myself in the mirror and saw myself as a patient on unit 48 except with a 32 year old face.

To be Continued…

#memoir #stories #medicalstories #nonfiction #lifestories

Planning Life

Josh and I have been trying to start a family the last four years.  We got married in 2014 and went on our honeymoon to Japan in 2015…  Shortly after our honeymoon we felt like we were in a good place in our lives to start taking on more responsibilities instead of being just a “DINK” – Dual Income No Kids.  Darwin, our French Bulldog also wanted to be a big brother so he could lick baby’s feet and nap with baby (he told me this with his big yearning yellow eyes…)  After a year of no luck, I went to my family doctor and was diagnosed with PCOS and subsequently referred to the fertility clinic.  That first year of trying to conceive on our own was so frustrating that led me to think about what else I want to do with my life instead of devoting all my time and effort in trying to be a mother. My revelation was to be Dora the Explorer!  These stories will be in a different post later.    

One of my favourite Woody Allen quotes: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”  Things didn’t go exactly according to plan the next three years of my life.

Being a nurse, and most of my nursing friends would concur that we are “Planners” We love to plan! Plan trips, parties, and life. We take comfort in calculated certainties in how things will go smoothly as long as it goes according to our carefully crafted care plans. And most of my nursing friends (if not all) would know that in reality…the above Woody Allen quote is most fitting in our life circumstances.

The fertility clinic gave me a plan to follow. Great. I love planning. I knew that having PCOS – the odds are stacked against me. I just have to beat the odds and how hard could it be to beat the odds when you are calculating how much sex you are having, when to have it and testing to see if Josh “hit the back of the net” as he calls it. And so I followed the plan…take some pills, eat a healthier diet, and minimize stress with activities that I enjoy. Well if you thought sex was one of them…you were wrong. It eventually became a chore when both of us continue to work full time (I was doing shift work and Josh was working 12 – 14 hour days running a company basically) We were exhausted. The first two trials of Clomid and carefully timed romantic intercourse with jazz music on Spotify and scented candles yield no return. Yet, I still thought to myself, third time’s the charm?

Third time was the charm. We found out I was 5 weeks pregnant and Josh was doing a hula “look I have a watermelon in my belly” dance. For some strange reason though, I was not as elated and actually had a terrible feeling of doom (I didn’t say this out loud though) Also, I had a trip planned to Oslo in 2 months! This was not in my plan! How am I going to travel on my own with morning sickness?? Josh called my traveling partner Princess Pea because by week 6 the size of the embryo would be a Pea. As it turns out, my intuition was right and I lost the pregnancy the following week just as I was starting to feel hopeful about my potential traveling Pea.

To be continued…

#nursing #memoir #nonfiction #lifestories #story

Unexplainable

I am one of those people that always have the “Parking Luck” – It would be Boxing Day or Black Friday at the busiest shopping mall in the city but somehow always manage to snag a good parking spot within 5 minutes of pulling in while other patrons have seemingly circled the parkade for hours. Josh used to be mad and then dumbfounded by my “Parking Luck” When he drives and I am in the passenger seat, our luck would be split. He would pull up near someone leaving but another person have JUST beat him to it coming from the other side or he would drive right by an open one and then someone behind him snagged it. When I drive and he is in the passenger seat, maybe it would take me an extra 5 minutes to get a parking spot on Christmas Eve at Superstore…

I always wondered where I earned this “Parking Luck” from… Why the Universe grant me this special power in life.

The day I had my surgery, Josh and my mom came home to grab a few things in the evening. When Josh walked in the house, an original Japanese woodblock print of two Shinto Samurais (gifted by my favourite psychiatrist at the clinic) that was hung on the wall for two weeks prior to my surgery had “flew off the wall” – Glass shattered to tiny pieces all over the living room floor. It also knocked off my Darwin painting below it but it was not damaged at all. The frame did not break but it landed far from the wall and the delicate print was intact and found out of the frame another feet away from it. My mom said Josh looked like he had just seen a ghost… They vacuumed up the shattered glass (which took a very long time) and Josh did not want to sleep at our home by himself that night so he went over to my parents for the night. Mom kinda teased him about being a “scaredy cat” – I can empathize with the reaction that Josh had because he had seen what my mom did not when I was a few hours post op and was throwing up blood through my nose and mouth looking like death and having to have a foley catheter put in on the unit because I could not get up to go to the bathroom. He probably never seen anyone that sick in his life.

Josh and my mom didn’t tell me this had happened (they did not know whether this was a bad omen or not because I had only came out of surgery) Not until I was discharged home the first time. Josh and I walked in the house and he froze and looked at the wall as he sat some stuff down on the kitchen table. I said “you look like you had just seen a ghost…what is it?” I had not noticed that the two pieces of art on my wall was not there anymore. That was when he told me what had happened. We kinda mulled over it for a little while over the Poltergeist phenomena and just chalked it up to it being a good omen instead because I am home now from the hospital (did not think that I would be returning to ER just 10 hours after)

When I started writing this part of the story, I looked at the print again (actually I had looked at it several times the last two days since I had been home) because it kept me curious… Josh had asked me what those two figures are. They are Shinto Samurais. Anybody have some understanding of Japanese culture and been to Japan may know that there are two kinds of places of worship in Japan. Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines. Josh and I had been to both. Most recently in January before my tumor diagnosis. I prayed sincerely at both for good health for myself and my family. I think I have my answer of how and why that print had flew off the wall. The other piece of art left hanging on the wall is the self-portrait of me sitting in therapy with Darwin.

I don’t have a formal believe or declaration of a certain religion that I follow by any means. In fact, I am of the opinion that religion like Christianity is the biggest business driven conspiracy of all conspiracies…

What I do think is that the Universe work in mysterious ways (as cliche as that sounds) And that there are things that can be half explained and may not need to be fully understood but when you kind of get close to it, it is kind of mind-blowing… Like my mind is blown right now after writing this story.

One of my favourite Haruki Murakami quotes: “If you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation.”

To be continued…

#memoir #literature #nonfiction #supernatural #story #personalblog