Embracing the unexpected

I came to the hospital for “routine” outpatient surgery last Thursday to place two port-a-caths so that chemotherapy can begin next week. One of the risks of placing an IV port-a-cath is the possibility of getting an air bubble around a lung. This happened to me so I was kept overnight for observation.

I woke up Friday morning and although I could feel a difference in breathing, I had very little pain. My oxygen levels were good so I grabbed my IV pole and strolled the hallways. After my morning x-ray, I learned that I had a collapsed lung. My outpatient surgery became a weekend stay instead.

As I sit in my hospital bed during this unexpected stay, I look out my window and I can see the snow-capped peak of Mt. Washington in the distance. I never expected to be in the cancer wing of a hospital and be able to see another state. Literally. This beautiful view is one of many “unexpecteds” that I have embraced this weekend.

Mt. Washington is way out there - smack-dab in the middle of the photo

Although my stay was not planned, I have made the best of it. My doctors and nurses were amazed that I was walking around with good oxygen levels and a collapsed lung. They continue to be pleasantly surprised that I have been wandering the hallways while carrying a portable lung vacuum with me.

I was supposed to have the chest tube removed today but since that didn’t happen, I couldn’t take the shower that I had been looking forward to for the last couple of days. I managed to wash my hair in the bathroom sink with the help of my sweetheart. He washed and rinsed for me and then he helped me shave and get cleaned up. He brought me pajamas from home as well as a Starbucks iced coffee drink which had been previously approved by my oncologist. My son brought his iPad for me to borrow which is what I am using to write this post.

To me, this is life and this is what I do — I “go with the flow” because lots of things in life are unexpected. This includes my cancer diagnosis. If I embrace the unexpectedness rather than fight it, I am able to appreciate some things that other people may take for granted — clean hair, a clean body, comfy pajamas, a decadent iced coffee drink, and seeing another beautiful state from my hospital window.

Sunset outside my hospital window

My life lately is a lot like Charlie Brown vs. the football

As I watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown last night, I began to see the similarities between the show and myself as I navigate the road to recovering from cancer. I haven’t started chemo yet so right now I am at the mercy of being scheduled for “this” surgery or “that” test.  On top of that, I often need to drive quite a distance to accommodate these procedures.  Just when I think I’m finally making progress, I get hit with another surprise.  Here are some examples of my journey so far:

1.)  I scheduled a laparoscopic surgery to prevent cancer and instead I learned that I have ovarian cancer.

2.)  After several days of recovering at home after having a radical hysterectomy, I woke up one morning – literally – to a weeping seroma.  Although this is common, I now had an open wound to treat.  (In all actuality, the weeping speeds up the healing process but I didn’t know this when I first woke up that Saturday morning with a damp nightshirt.)

3.)  I had a CAT scan last week where I was originally informed that I would need to drink a contrast before the test.  I mixed this as instructed and dutifully drank it on time.  I found out when I got to the medical center that there is an IV that is also required.  This news was not originally given to me because according to the tech, most people are afraid of needles.  I am a 4-gallon blood donor who has no fear of needles and I informed her of this.  I also told her that since I had to drive 1 1/2 hours to have the test done, I did not hydrate myself because I did not want to stop every 30 minutes searching for a rest room. Therefore, the tech had to try more than once to get the IV in.

In all of the cases above, I felt like Charlie Brown did each time he was given a rock when he went trick-or-treating.  In addition, I was literally lying on my back much like Charlie Brown is with stars spinning over his head after he has missed the football.    However, also like Charlie Brown, I am the eternal optimist in that I think I’m going to “kick that football all the way to the moon” each time.   I have no doubt that I will succeed.

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