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Awake?!?!

The beauty of the sky

The myriad of colors

The sounds of life abound

Even with the ever ringing in the ears…

It is as if I had been in a lifetime slumber

My senses forever dulled

Reaching upwards for help

While overwhelmed in quicksand…

Illness strips us of the familiar

We are thrust into the unknown

Each step taken as with a blindfold

Hands outstretched groping in darkness…

Our medical teams struggle

Conditions and illnesses so misunderstood

Further muddled by myriad of symptoms

Each of us so different from the other…

We search for answers

Yet try as we might

We find health elusive

Stripped from us and locked away

Secreted in the darkest, farthest corner…

We are tried and tested in ways indescribable

As words are a shallow testament

To the inner symptoms that abound

Forever changing and challenging…

 

Mindfulness

My Clinical Psychologist introduced me to a powerful tool to add to my arsenal. It is called “mindfulness”:

“A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

She walked me through a breathing exercise…complete focus on the breath itself…feeling the cooled air entering my nose…feeling it hit the back of the throat…feeling the rise in my chest as the air enters the lungs…feeling a second, subtle rise of the chest before exhaling…feeling the warmth of the air as it leaves the body.

I was then read a short story about washing dishes, from “The Miracle of Mindfulness”….I will share just one paragraph that sums up the idea of mindfulness very well…

“…If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not ‘washing the dishes to wash the dishes.’ What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future — and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”

I applied this during my walk outside this morning. I took the time to not just see the sun…but to, really, “see” it! I felt its warmth…the rays touching my skin…the brightness shining…the reflection on the leaves. I felt the slight breeze…ever so gently twisting and turning the leaves in the trees…the slight movement of my shirt being pressed against my skin…the movement of the hairs on my arms…

It was truly amazing!! My focus was dramatically shifted…momentarily transported into the present time…fully embracing and experiencing what was happening around and to me.

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A Visiter

First Adjustment (Pain Pump)

At my first follow up appointment on Thursday, it was very difficult to know how much (percentage wise) the pain pump was working vs the pain medication vs the complete rest. I could tell that there was a change in my symptoms…for example, the intense stabbing in my upper back was gone replaced by dull ache.

Our conditions are hard to articulate…the fact that our symptoms (read this as types of pain being experienced — stabbing, dull, throbbing, ice pick, aching) are not the same from day to day! Just as soon as you being to expect the intense stabbing in your feet, your feet will ache instead and the stabbing has moved to your chest…not to mention all the other pain sensations all over your body.

By Friday night it was clear that the slight reduction in oral medication and the slightly more than conservative increase of the medication from the pain pump was not enough!

I have an appointment set for this coming Thursday morning…however, I will be calling my pain specialist Monday morning to let him know that we need to turn the pump up…much more aggressively!

This is to be expected! It is going to take time to get the pain pump dialed in to fully be able to do its job.  I do NOT expect to be pain free…I am just hoping we can get my pain level to a 6 or 7!

I am glad that I will be able to provide my doctor with more specific information in regards to how I am doing at the current levels…and, most importantly, I know that this is temporary! We will work through this!

Follow Up

This morning was my follow up appointment with my pain specialist for the pain pump surgery. I was very anxious for the appointment as he would be removing all the tape and bandages covering my tummy and back.

The short ride to town was hard…my lower back was hurting intensely and I could not have any pressure on it! So crazy…I had not felt that type of pain for a while…however, each of us knows how we can never predict where our pain will be!

We discussed the “improvement” in my pain…the absence of the sharp stabbing sensations…and spent time going over what steps we will be taking to achieve our ultimate goal.  First step is to reduce my long term opioid med by about 30 percent. He increased the output of my pain pump by about 20 percent. I will go back in to see him next Wednesday for another increase.

Our ultimate goal, is for the pain pump to handle my usual, every day pain…and having the short acting opioid for break through (flares) pain.

It is SO surreal right now! It has been so long in coming…something that my body is responding to that will help me get off the opioids and thus alleviate the side effects (the nasty constipation).

My specialist used a hand held device that had what could be likened to a hockey puck type attachment that I held against my clothing over the pain pump. The device receives information from my pump and also sends information to my pump.  Very cool! The initial adjustment was made before removing any of the tape and bandages.

We also had time to ask questions…so we talked about exactly where the catheter was placed into my spine and where the medication was being delivered to.  Basically, placed into my spine in the mid-back, and placed mid-shoulder blade for delivery…this maximizes body wide the medication without getting too much to my brain. (This placement was determined by my “normal” pain typically being 60 percent above the waist and 40 percent below the waist.)

I was assisted to sit on the exam table…and with many apologies, he started removing the tape and bandages. The first bandage to be removed was from the right side of my tummy where there pain pump is located. He was SO impressed with how well my body is healing! (This is a first for me…as I usually heal very slowly!) Absolutely no signs of any type of infection….very little bruising…very little swelling (and I mean little compared to how my tummy has swollen before after procedures)! He then removed the tape and bandage from my back. Again, he had the same comments! (My husband took a picture of my back so I could see…and I was amazed!)

The excitement in the room was palpable! My pain specialist and his nurse were smiling ear-to-ear! To have such a huge positive start on this new adventure, had us all super excited!

We will have several more visits before we get the pain pump fully dialed in…baby steps…although I should say “giant” baby steps! Each step is in the right direction…more reliance upon the pain pump and less reliance upon the oral opioids.

I am supposed to continue wearing the binder as additional support. If I am reclining, I can take it off. At this time, it is easiest to just wear it.

I was also told that I could take a shower!!!! It will be another 4 to 6 weeks before I will be allowed to take a bath or get into a swimming pool.

Emotions

Below the surface

Threatening to erupt

writing-with-pen

The inevitable struggle

Whether recognized or not…

Why is there such stigma

An artificial wall per se

Associated with our feelings

That cause me to hide…

For some emotions are friends

The ability to interact

To easily express

I think you have a special gift…

To me the intensity

The incredible raw power

Harnessed within its grasp

I would rather not feel…

I channel in pieces

Through writing

The emotions that

Are churning within…

Patience

As day nine post pain pump surgery begins, it strikes me that my pain specialist really did a great job in preparing me for this! I truly was ready to be homebound for the first two weeks. I was mentally ready to be patient with the process! What a thought!!

My thoughts are still muddled at times…very hard to keep on track. Yet…I can just smile and breath deeply…there is nothing that I have to do…except allow my body the time to heal….allow the scar tissue to build near the pain pump and the catheter.

I am able to step outside now…slowly and carefully with my walker. I do not venture very far…it is just a few steps to feel the touch of the sun on my skin…feel the slight breeze…see the brilliant colors! This is a treat that I enjoy once a day…in the mid morning. It is perfectly timed between rest breaks.

I am thankful that I am able to listen to my body…to sleep when I need to…to relax in my recliner (sitting in the chair…cannot put the foot rest up yet).  My chair is just high and firm enough that I can get to a standing position with my walker as support. I know that I am not yet ready to sit or lie down on the couch.

I am getting anxious for my follow up appointment…I am excited to hear the plan my pain specialist has in mind…it will be interesting to see just how easy it is to remain patient! : )

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