Saturday, October 27, 2012

Surviving the Recovery

CANCER FREE. Two words that I have waited years to hear. After all of the radiation, chemotherapy, and surgeries, I couldn't wait to be cancer free. Well, here I sit, cancer free, and I am unbelievably miserable. This is not what I expected. It is worse.

My surgeon warned me that my recovery wouldn't be easy. He mentioned to expect 6-8 weeks for recovery, but I just brushed that off. Perhaps I should have taken him a bit more seriously. I was so focused on surviving the surgery, that I figured any recovery would be a cake walk after all that I had been through. I could not have been more wrong about anything in my life. I felt better when I had cancer. I could eat when I had cancer. I could socialize when I had cancer. I could travel when I had cancer. I was a fully functioning human being when I had cancer. And now, I am a shell. A shell of what I once was.

But I am moving too fast. First things first, the surgery. The morning of the surgery was terrifying, but not as bad as I had expected. Perhaps it was because I had done this all once before, so I knew what to expect. I was surrounded by my immediate family, and felt very supported. And before I knew it, they were wheeling me back to the operating room. I was cold. I was shivering. I was scared. And like all surgeries, or tough times that I go through, I thought of Dan. I pictured him in Heaven, with a giant pair of wings, looking over me. And as they injected the anesthesia into my veins and had me count down from ten, he was all I was focused on.

After a long eight-hour surgery, I woke up in the intensive care unit, alone. My family was not allowed to be there overnight, but they could visit. I vaguely remember seeing them there, but I do remember them telling me that I was cancer free, and that the surgery was a success. I forgot all that once the drugs hit me. It took me at least two days to fully understand all that had happened. And once it hit me, I was relieved. I was happy. I was even happier once I got to my own private room where I could have visitors all day long, and someone with me at night. I am baby when it comes to staying at the hospital, and I like to have someone with me at all times. And they were. My family was amazing. I will never be able to repay them for the sacrifices they have made, and the support they have given me. I even had a few friends come from Santa Maria to visit, which meant the absolute world to me. To be honest, I don't totally remember every detail of them being there, but I know they were there. Drugs are a very powerful thing, and kept me quite out of it for the majority of my time there.

My last few days at Stanford were pretty rough. I began getting nauseous and sick from the meds and the feeding tubes. I was becoming anxious. Antsy. Depressed. Homesick. I had tubes coming from everywhere. At one point, there were five tubes coming from my body, and that quickly became too much to handle. So I did what any self-respecting, 27 year-old woman would do; I cried. I begged. I pleaded to be sent home. I could not handle being in the room anymore. Twelve days was long enough. They agreed, and I went home on September 23rd to start the recovery process. Little did I know, I was entering hell.

I have been home for 35 days, and I feel that I am only getting worse. The first week was terrible. I had thrush in my mouth. I was vomiting almost every day. I couldn't eat. The tube feedings were making me feel even worse. I needed help taking showers and walking up and down my stairs. It was, and still is, a very humbling experience. Then there was about a week or so where I began improving. Praise the Lord. My thrush cleared. I was able to keep food and fluids down, and I was feeling energetic. I was optimistic. Finally.

Fast forward to the last two weeks... WOW. I have never felt so bad in my life. This is definitely a step in the wrong direction. I am going backwards, and that is the most frustrating feeling in the world. I am throwing up at least three times a day, am nauseous 24/7, am taking in maybe 300 calories a day, and (prepare for over-share) have terrible diarrhea. I am so dehydrated and lacking from Potassium that I need fluids every couple days from my Oncologist here in town. Things are not going well. And I would love to be able to end this blog by saying that all of that passed, and I now feel 100%, but that would be a lie. I am in the middle of the worst of it; the thick of it. I have had some of my darkest days in the past 6 weeks. I have cried my eyes out. I have not gotten out of bed on some days. I have given up. And I have started again. 

After a follow up appointment with my surgeon last week, he discovered a "tightness," or kink in my small intestine. This kink is preventing food and liquids from properly flowing through my system and being digested. This is the culprit for all of the misery, or so I pray. I will be having an outpatient procedure to fix the problem on November 1st. A balloon will be inserted in my mouth, and into my intestine. The balloon will then be inflated in the area of, "tightness." This procedure should fix the problem instantly. Prayers are appreciated.

Losing Dan took all of my emotional strength to survive. And I know that I have got it. This is requiring physical strength and patience that I am not sure that I do have. I fear that my body is slowly shutting down on me due to lack of nutrition, and the fear is crippling. But it is something that I must face every single day. This road is extremely tough. Like I mentioned earlier, I felt better when I had cancer. I have to remember that I am, believe it or not, a healthy, cancer free 27 year old woman, like I had prayed for for so long. That is hard to remember amongst the vomiting and nausea and crying. I start each day by putting my feet on the ground, and praying for an ease from the nausea. The fact that I try to get out of bed at all is a miracle to me. So, that is all that I promise to do. I will try to be positive. And I will try to eat. And I will try to be tough. But I know those things will come and go. But I do promise to get out of bed and TRY.

Thank you to everyone for all of your love and support during my recovery! I wouldn't be where I am without all of the kind words, prayers, cards and flowers! So again, THANK YOU!!

1 comment:

  1. Kristen, I 'm Nick-Alyssa James' boyfriend. My Mom and I just read your entry and want to offer some words of encouragement. My Mom is a cancer survivor and understands how it gets very hard. We are amazed by your courage and determination. So you are a teacher on how to handle unbearable challenges. You have so much to offer others just by sharing your struggle. We know that your willingness to get up is the biggest step. We are happy that a solution is near and will be praying for you. Sending love, Nick Mynderse and Marsha Benotto