The crippling, mind-numbing, blind panic that overtakes me in anticipation of inevitable surgery, that is. It's really been going on for weeks and months, to a lesser extent, but the Big-Time Crazy usually happens during the final week prior to surgery. It always happens with me. Always. Well, it didn't always, but it definitely has for the last half a dozen or so operations. Where we think this comes from is my having been given, in the past, post-op drugs like Inapsine and Compazine, which have the rare side-effect of basically causing extreme panic attacks--full-blown "fight or flight"--and I'm one of the few lucky ones who hit the jackpot on this "makes you INSANE" side-effect. I've awoken from general anesthesia to find myself literally trying to physically escape the recovery room. That kinda thing'll stick with you, and color any future surgical procedures you might have.
So for now, it's all about the anticipation. Which is not that happy, gonna-have-some-great french-fries-while-Carly-Simon-sings anticipation from the old Heinz ketchup commercials. It's more of the terror-stricken, gonna-die-from-a-slip-of-a-scalpel-or-more-likely-due-to-complications-from-the-anesthesia variety. And then, of course, the surgeon had to toss in that priceless "in case we nick your colon" gem. I really, really, REALLY don't want to do this. I've felt that before, when surgery was approaching, and as irrational as I KNOW it is, in my actual, working BRAIN, this time I look at my daughter's face, and think, "...but I never had this much to LOSE before." Yeah. Makes a lot of sense, right?
Believe me, the real, rational part of me, the part that keeps me from picking up the phone and cancelling the operation, KNOWS that everything's gonna be OK. And the pain right now--the pain is so intense, I wouldn't have believed it possible even 6 months ago. The Methadone keeps it in check, but in no way makes it go away. It just keeps it at a level that allows me to semi-function. And speaking of Methadone, did we all just LOVE that "20/20" episode the other night that featured all the Methadone-related deaths? WHEEEEE! (It actually turned out that the deaths were due to new users taking it incorrectly, not as directed--it's not a "take as needed" pain medication--OR due to the drug being deliberately abused and misused by people who bought it on the street, but THAT wouldn't have been NEARLY as titillating and frightening a teaser as "METHADONE: THE ONE-PILL KILLER," now would it?) I swear, the pain feels very much like a personal message from God, one that reads, explicitly, "This is exactly why you must follow through with this procedure. You've been given an amazing gift in your daughter, which is more than you EVER expected to be blessed with, so now let's get on with the business of clearing this mess out so that you may get on with the life I have planned for you with your family."
So that's what I'm trying to do. But so help me, between now and post-op, I need DISTRACTIONS. Whaddaya got, Internets? Good books? Movies? Music? I could especially use some help with the music, because, since I was, apparently, the last person on the planet without an iPod, my mom actually got me a Nano for my birthday, and Alex gave me the accompanying speaker-port to go with it, also for my birthday (which is next month, but they wanted me to be able to have it for my hospital stay--either that or they don't expect me to pull through and wanted to give me one last birthday present--SEE HOW MY MIND WORKS RIGHT NOW??), and I have not the first clue, out of all the music in the world that I know and love, what I want to fill it up with, because, you know, I can only fit a THOUSAND songs on there, so I have to be choosey. And THEN I realize that it's not only music and video, but also BOOKS that you can download to your iPod! The choices! The choices overwhelm me! HELP! Anyone who knows me can tell you that I would like for every restaurant to offer maybe three entrees, and then it would only take me, say, half an hour to decide what I want to have.
So what I'm saying, is that now is the time for personal recommendations. It just hit me that, since we can burn DVDs/CDs off our DirecTV, and since our DirecTV includes XMRadio, that I have a rich source of programming right there. And then there's all the CDs waiting to be transferred to that nifty little machine...the possibilities are endless, and as usual with technology, I am CLUELESS. But hey, isn't it precious?I've christened mine the "PoodlePod," naturally, and it's as cute as a button, all hot-turquoise and teeny-tiny (and Mom even thought ahead to the extra-tiny ear-buds that would be required for my extra-tiny ears)! If I get really bored next week, I may even try to come up with a few of these, of my own design:
I'm also, currently, embroiled in The Great Epidural Debate. The surgeon and Alex are in favor of me having one, and I am, so far, against the idea. It's not for during the surgery, really, but more for the management of post-op pain. It doesn't have as much of the "numbing" effect, like the ones administered during childbirth, but is more designed to deliver narcotics directly to the affected area. Everyone, at first blush, thinks I'm unreasonable to resist this, but I have my reasons:
* I just don't like the idea of the needle in my spine, thank you. Never have. Didn't want one when Bella was born, either (although I wound up having to have it, when she got "stuck), and I was terrified of it.
* Depending on your anesthetist, just the administration of the epidural can go smoothly, or it can be an absolute nightmare. My sister had a horrible experience, that involved several attempts to "re-seat" the needle, and wound up having "hot spots," whole parts of her body in which the epidural had NO effect.
* The one experience I've had with epidural, when Bella was born, was negative. Pain-wise, I was fine without the epidural, and then after hours of being "stuck" in the same place, to the point that it began to endanger HER, the doctors convinced us to allow the epidural in order to "relax" things...and as it turned out, they were right about that aspect, because once the epidural was in place, I was fully dilated and ready to push within minutes, and my entire active labor lasted about 7 minutes and was just a cakewalk. So in that respect, that it protected my baby girl, I am grateful for the epidural. BUT: If the issue is simply pain management, I don't believe I need it, and the side-effects of the epidural I had during labor were just nightmarish. I shook, vomited, had severe anxiety symptoms, and just felt really horrible--this last being much the same as my sister's experience.
* I simply don't feel that I need the epidural for post-op pain management, and therefore, having it is not worth even the small risk involved with it (you know, the highly unlikely but not impossible, "OOPS! The needle slipped, and you're paralyzed from the waist down now!").
* I think I would rather KNOW how I really feel before I go home, so that I'm more prepared for what I'll have to deal with once I no longer have access to the hospital's pain management system. The surgeon says, "Patients with post-op epidurals feel like they haven't even had surgery." That sounds great at the time, but what about when they unplug it and send you home, which, in the age of HMOs, is going to happen pretty quickly?
* I have had several surgeries. I can tick off eight in my head right now, and I feel like if I really thought about it, I might be missing a couple. About 40% of those have been injury-related, and you know, injuries that require surgeries tend to, um...hurt. I had a two-year period in my life in which I was walking around on a shattered navicular bone (while being told I just had "arthritis" and would have to "toughen up"). I have battled endometriosis for most of my life, and it's been painful. I've had three or four abdominal surgeries already, including one that was extremely invasive, requiring a two-week hospitalization afterward. My point is, I've been hurt. A lot. And in all my vast experience with various types of pain, post-operative pain doesn't really even rate among my personal Top Five (and the one procedure that involved the MOST post-op pain involved a multitude of shattered bones and a bone graft from my hip). So it's just not something I'm terribly concerned about. I think this is the part that my doctor has the hardest time understanding, as far as my resistance to the epidural is concerned.
So, anyway, there's the deal. Has anyone had experience with epidurals for management of post-op pain? What are your experiences, pro or con? Am I being a NUT for resisting the epidural? Listen, I am NOT "tough." If something hurt, or if I was afraid of it hurting, I would be begging for relief, believe me. Post-op pain just doesn't scare me. Maybe it should?
I am overwhelmed with the thought that within a month from now, I will be FINISHED with all the worrying about and fretting over chronic pain management for this particular problem, forever. It blows my mind, frankly. That something I've just accepted as an unpleasant, but intrinsic, part of my life since I was 15 years old, is just going to be...gone. The only thing that keeps me from just rejoicing with abandon at this thought is the fact that in order to accomplish this, I'm being forced to lose any possible hope of ever having another baby. If it was ANY other organ that was causing my pain, and they were taking it out? I would be throwing it a GOODBYE PARTY. But this one? Well, this one I'm kinda gonna miss...at least what it represents. And losing my uterus does represent the loss of much, much more. And so I'm not yet jumping up and down (also, if I did, I'd have to take an extra Methadone) quite yet.
GAH. ENOUGH of that. Hey, look: New Nano!! Fun! And Alex brought me "Phish Food" ice cream last night, which is his ultimate statement of "I'm so sorry you're going through this and I wish there was something I could do to get you out of it, but since I can't, here's some chocolate, and I love you."