A friend of mine remarked that the band-aid in my last post was huge.  I should start by clarifying that it was actually just zoomed in on a regular sized band-aid, which puts the tiny hole from the giant needle into perspective.

Sitting in a waiting room by yourself for your loved one to come out is a very lonely place to be.  Those that could tell you what is going on are in the room performing the procedure, you have no answers for those that call/text/email to show their support and find out how you are doing, and you’re too preoccupied with worry to engage in conversation with anyone else who might be in the waiting room.  I was glad that my daughter was still on her Christmas break when I went in.  While I would much rather have her out goofing off and being the absolute nutcase that she can be, I very much appreciated that she could hang out with her dad while I was going through the procedure.  So when my name was called, I gave them kisses and hoped that they would have a lovely brunch together while I was sent to la-la land.

First up was an ultrasound to help determine how they wanted me positioned on the table.  The tech told me that the gel should be pretty warm, but that was a complete lie.  It was cold!  Thank goodness it warmed up pretty quickly.  After having me lay on my back, then turned to the side, and back and forth a few more times, she wanted to bring the doctor in.  She didn’t have any trouble getting the proper images, but it came down to being a judgement call for the doctor and didn’t want to waste time guessing what he would want.  I consistently find myself listening to the conversations that my doctors have with their techs/nurses and asking if I don’t understand what is being said.  After all, if they’re talking about me and I’m in the room, I really should know what the heck is going on.  And if they are looking at images I want to know what they’re looking at.  I suppoe that’s more because I’m fascinated with what I look like on the inside.  One lesson that has proved itself invaluable to me on more than one occasion has been to be proactive in your diagnosis and care.  Know what you’re having done and why.  If you don’t understand something, ASK.  I have found each and every doctor I have seen to be more than happy to spend the extra time answering all my questions.  Being responsible for your health and knowing about your treatments shows that you are going to do your best to follow doctor’s orders, making success of your treatments more likely.  It makes your doctors remember your case more distinctly and that is always a good thing.  The images of my liver came up on the screen and the doctor saw me looking at the points of discussion.  He kindly explained what they were looking at and why without my having to ask.  They would have to insert the needle between my ribs and they were determining the best point of attack.  My family was still in the waiting room to find out when they should come back, so once the doctor determined that I would be on my back for the procedure (much more comfortable for me), I went to steal a couple more kisses and asked them to come back in an hour.

I waited in the ultrasound room while they set up the room for the gold fiducial placement.  Sometimes I wish that I had super-hearing when I’m waiting in these rooms – particularly when I know the folks just outside my door are talking about me.  The bits of conversation that drifted in started out as a technical aside of my case history, then turned to hushed whispers of surprise at how young I am, how long I have endured all this, and how much I have gone through.  I don’t know why, but it makes me chuckle with amusement when I hear these things.  It’s as if youth and health (other than the cancer of course) make me impervious to critical illness.

As I continued to wait, who waltzes in?  Dr. Care Bear!  He happened to be doing his rounds at the hospital and stopped in to check on me.  I tell you, the kindness of my doctors never ceases to amaze me.  It was a fortuitous meeting as I had no idea when he wanted me back at the cancer center for the next appointment.  He picked up the phone and called his nurse to immediately have me scheduled.  Things can get pushed through so quickly when a doctor makes a call!  Within 5 minutes I had my simulation and 4 appointments scheduled for stereotactic radiosurgery.  He wishes me luck, tells me I’ve got the best doc there for the gold placement, and I get whisked off to the next cold room.

After some general chit-chat with my nurses and a bit of “Where’s Waldo?” with the small blood pressure cuff, the ultrasound was repeated to make sure that they had exactly the placement they wanted.  The doctor asked for a straw and I thought that I would be seeing a medical instrument procured that resembled a drinking straw.  Nope.  It was actually a straw.  Drawing back on my lesson above and my curiosity, I asked what in blazes the straw was for.  Turns out it was used to make a circular imprint in my skin marking the needle insertion point.  Pens and markers don’t work too well with the ultrasound goop.  Duh!  Made sense once he explained it.

With that the IV was started, my blood pressure and oxygen were monitored, and I got tucked in with my favorite nurse’s tool for providing comfort – a toasty warm blanket.  They placed the oxygen tube and injected the drugs into my IV, then for a moment…nothing.  I’ve never taken illicit substances, but suddenly the dimensions of the room yawned akin to my imagination of what the hallucinogenic effects of mushrooms must be like.  I remember saying “here we go” and the nurse asked if I was feeling it.  I vaguely recall the doctor’s face as I cycled in and out of consciousness.  I know I cycled in and out of sleep, but thanks to the Versed I remember very little of anything except waking up on the gurney and being wheeled into recovery.  The waking up process is very fast.  I think they bring me out of sedation with another drug, but I’m not entirely sure.  They path to the recovery room took me past the waiting room, so I was able to see my sweet husband and lovely daughter long enough to say hello and to send them off to occupy another hour while I was in recovery.  My girl said that I looked REALLY good for just coming out of surgery.  My husband agreed and said “Let’s go.  We’ve got to do something.  She’s going to need more than just Matzoh.”

Just a quick aside – remember when I said that being in a waiting room by yourself is a very lonely place to be?  Well it’s even worse when your loved one has been in surgery for 8 hours – twice as long as they said it would take – and nobody is telling you why.  This happened with my first surgery about 5 years ago and my gentle husband broke the phone when he hung up on the guy who was being rather useless.  My daughter got a kick out of it when he showed her around the waiting room, pointing out how things had changed…and they used to have chairs over here…and this is where daddy broke the phone.

Although my attending nurses were very nice, I was bored to tears in recovery.  There was nothing to do and not anticipating the need for anything, I had left everything I brought with my family, so I didn’t have my phone for entertainment.  I tried to sleep, but the hour-long drug-induced nap I had just taken didn’t allow for it.  Left only to my thoughts, my mind wandered to food.  I was promised some of the best matzoh ball soup around and while my stomach grumbled and growled, it was not for the soup but for a big fat pastrami sandwich.  I considered asking to stop for one on the way home, but I felt bad for having kept my family waiting for hours and planned to keep my big mouth shut.  Lo and behold, what’s the first thing I get when I was allowed to leave?  A BIG FAT PASTRAMI SANDWICH!!!!!  Those who know us have often remarked that my husband and I share a brain, but in this case he saw my upbeat smile as I passed them in the waiting room and he was thoughtful enough to realize that no matter how good the soup was, it probably wouldn’t be enough.  I piggishly ate my sandwich and was as content as could be.  We were so pleased with how everything went and I was already my usual silly self, so he forgot and rocketed over the speed bumps near the house.  The poor dear felt awful, but I was no worse for wear.  I could only laugh and forgive my husband.

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