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all the seconds and the minutes and the hours and the days…

February 22, 2011

my follow-up appointment with my surgeon went well last friday. i will have one more appointment with him in the spring. my wound is healing well, is almost completely closed over now, which also means i won’t have to go to the clinic anymore after one or two more appointments. my body is reacting well. there’s still some swelling, but no infection and my bowels are behaving themselves.

for the next few months, i will have to watch what i eat carefully, avoiding foods that cause diahrrea, which seems pretty much what everyone should do. i am slowly introducing fresh fruits and vegetables back into my diet. in a few months, my small intestine will adapt and take over for my missing colon. i am starting to attend events once more. i feel my recuperation period is over.

i will continue to pace myself and won’t overtire, but i feel strong and healthy and happy. this was a close call. i am relieved to see the end of it. and so, i think, dear readers, that i will bid a farewell to this blog. i’m not going to close it, but i don’t see a need to write more entries on the theme of my recovery because i will have no news. hurray!

so thank you for reading and also thank you to those of you who have shared your stories of health crises and recovery with me. i have learned so much about the indomitable human spirit since November, 2009. i am very lucky to have a great love  and wonderful, caring friends. for those who are fortunate to be in good health, remember to help those who are in need, your friends, your families. it makes a difference.

 i especially thank the health care workers, my surgeon Dr. Eric Poulin and his staff who saved my life and continued to care for me through all this; the homecare nurses who came to teach me how to change my ileostomy bag and helped me through a scary time, the nurses at the Billings Bridge We Care clinic, who have carefully tended my former stoma site and my midline incision. i have to admit, i was kind of freaked out to have this gaping hole that was packed with gauze. they have taken care of me and eased my worries; my husband Charles who has dealt with my vomit, diahrrea, tears and nightmares through all this, changed my bag, my bandages, helped me shower, cooked and cleaned and given me his love. i am so damn lucky.

and to switch to a literary note, if anyone wants to read a sort of fictionalized account of my delusions and some other fine, dark tales, i urge you to purchase a copy of the recently published Postscripts to Darkness, edited by Sean Moreland and Dominik Parisien.  You can buy a copy for $10 by contacting postscripts2darkness at gmail dot com or through Allbooks on Rideau St. and Invisible Cinema on Lisgar.

 some of my impressions and the tone of what happened to me have worked their way into my creative endeavours somewhat. i’m hoping to start a project on ekphrastic poetry about death in art, when i have the time. i’m busy going out to readings, spending time with friends, my dear love, Charles and enjoying the cold winter air. Winter has never been so beautiful. To life!

 ps- you can keep up with my shenanigans on my literary blog amandaearl.blogspot.com and my website: amandaearl.com. along with twitter: KikiFolle and Facebook…or perhaps we can share a cocktail together on a fine spring afternoon…see you then.

february: the month of the lunatic itch

February 10, 2011

i have a rash on my stomach thanks to the tape that had been used for the dressings on my mid-line incision. i just asked the nurse at the clinic today for advice and she suggested hydrocortozone cream. let’s hope it works. pray for me…

and in the land of too much information…since my colon was removed i have been going steadily mad from dryness, including vaginal external labial dryness and itching. i believe the problem is that since my body doesn’t absorb water anymore it tends to get dry. i use moisturizer on the affected areas and have a humidifier in the bedroom. but the vaginal itching will not go away.

i spoke to one medical professional about it and she suggested it was my age. annoying response indeed and not very helpful. it made me shy away from asking anyone else. i’ve been moisturizing in that area whenever the outbreak occurs. finally out of desperation today i asked a nurse at the clinic. she has suggested that it may be a yeast infection.

now i am prone to yeast infections, particularly after anti-biotics and i did receive anti-bios in the hospital in major strong doses back in 2009 and then again a wee bit this time around, so maybe she’s right. she says it can’t hurt to try Canasten anyway, so i’m going to follow her advice. although the itch is external and not really internal, so i don’t hold out much hope that this will cure me, especially because i’ve tried to alleviate the problem this same way back in 09…

for the last few nights i have been unable to sleep, so insistent and skin crawling has the itch been both on my stomach and nether regions. this is a form of hell that goes beyond anything else i’ve had to endure since the great colon crisis of 09.

i speak only for myself when i say that pain is not as bad as this horrid itching. the most relief i’ve found is sitting on the cold metal bench at the Rideau Centre Transitway stop on the Mackenzie Bridge. life is so weird and at times, unbearable. egad.

Looking forward to…

February 7, 2011

reading on Feb 18 at Collected Works with Gabrielle McIntire and rob mclennan

since i’ve been sick i’ve had to turn down a few invitations and now i’m mostly just not getting invited to read any more. i’m looking forward to the opportunity to read once again to audiences and interact with them afterward;

 a day trip to Montreal to spend time with a dear friend who will take me to some of  her favourite haunts;

 a trip to the National Gallery with another dear friend;

 regular  gustatory extravaganzas with another dear friend;

 all kinds of food: nuts, legumes, popcorn, toffee, raw vegetables

 a bonfire by the beach; a picnic by the lake;

going to concerts, especially outdoor concerts;

 a long train trip  (ideally with readings en route).

Recuperating gives me time to think about what i’d like to do when i’m 100% better and have all my reserves. i’m doing well but am still exhausted by 9pm…

the surgery and everything after

January 28, 2011

on Tuesday, January 18 at 12pm, i am taken on a stretcher to the surgery ward.

after a ½ hour wait in the hall with the brooms & dirty laundry, i enter the operating room.

i see the tables full of surgical instruments and squint to avoid looking too closely.

they put me on a narrow bed, give me an IV. the anaesthesiologist says the bar is open and tells me to dream of something good. based on my previous delusions, i tell myself to dream of nothing. it works.

at 6:45pm i wake up in the recovery room. for some reason i am angry with the poet Michael Lista who wrote Bloom. i have no idea why.

the surgery took 5.5 hours. it was difficult. they were able to do most of it laparoscopically but because of scar tissue adhering to the skin, they had to cut the top part of my stomach open a bit.

they discovered that part of my colon, the sigmoid, is still ok. this is the part that attaches to the rectum, so they were able to attach my small intestine to it.

at 9pm i am wheeled to my room where Charles greets me. they have given me a button to push which activates morphine for the pain, but i push it very little. the pain isn’t as bad as my worst period cramp and suitably better than having my wisdom teeth extracted.

on Saturday, January 22 in the afternoon i am discharged.

after having a bit of diarrhea for the time i’ve been in hospital, but no nausea, i feel awful in the cab and hold it all in just long enough to get out of the cab and out in front of my apartment building where i vomit all over the pavement. welcome home.

day 1 is rough, more vomiting, more diarrhea. i’m only eating a little solid food at this point.

day 2 and onwards gets better. my bowels are no longer volatile.

i have to go to wound care daily for treatment of the 4cm deep hole in my stomach where my stoma used to be. my surgeon has told me that days 7-11 are when leaks can sometimes occur, but given my health and the operation’s success, this is unlikely.

my temperature is a wee bit high at times, but so far has not reached the danger stage of 38.8.  i wore diapers for a few days after i returned home, due to the volatility of my bowels, but all is well now.

when i shower, my wound area has to be wrapped in saran wrap. life is indeed very strange and wonderful…

 i’m having a lovely recovery with Charles and enjoying being much stronger than i was last time around.

 thanks for all your kind wishes. they helped…

surgery on Jan 18

January 17, 2011

so far it’s still on.  

i was told to expect a call today from between 5pm and 8pm to let me know the time of the surgery and i received the call at 4:54pm. phew.

i have to get to the Ottawa General at 10am. a nurse will talk to me and Charles can stay with me for a bit. not sure exactly for how long. they have to do some preparations on me before the surgery. but they have warned that i could have to wait as much as 4 hours til the surgery.

the surgery itself could be as little as 2 to 2.5 hours for a laparoscopic procedure or longer if they have to do an open surgery. and then afterward i will be in recovery for however long they need to keep me in there and then they will move me to a room in the wards. 

Charles will likely post an update on FB and e-mail dear friends and call family in the eve. or who knows? if i’m up, maybe i’ll be able to post an update. i intend to marshall all my patience, strength and energy along with a sense of whimsy to get thru this. [for those with a strong stomach, you can google the procedure, which is the laparoscopic reversal of Hartmann’s Procedure if you want to get an idea about what’s going to happen]

of course, they could still cancel tomorrow’s operation if some emergency comes up, so as usual, my motto is “expect the unexpected” or something equavelent in Latin with a coat of arms…

thanks everyone for your good wishes. it means a lot.

blood letting, lung symphonies & letting go

January 5, 2011

tomorrow they will take blood and listen to my lungs again, in preparation for my surgery on the 18th. at first i thought of asking a whole pile of questions based on the info i was given at my previous pre-admissions appointment (for the surgery that was cancelled due to my surgeon’s knee injury), but i decided i would just yield to the unexpected and let things unfold as they may. i have been told how i must prepare for the surgery: fasting, fleet enema and all that, so there’s really nothing to do now but wait and let things happen.

yesterday while the dental hygienist was cleaning my teeth, i experienced some pain, as i always do. for me the trick with pain is to surrender to it, not resist it. in this way, i relax, stop clenching my hands and focus on my breathing. i tell myself the moment will pass and it does.

since my health crisis, i have been applying the philosophy of surrender or letting go to living life. basically i have stopped worrying. the beauty of letting go of the need to control everything or make contingency plans for all possible eventualities is that i can focus on the moment, whether it is painful or joyous, it is one small unit of time and therefore not overwhelming. it is like looking thru a microscope or a telescope and concentrating on the cell or the star. you begin to notice things you’ve never seen before. i have learned to savour each moment.

 i know where the desire for control comes from. as a child, i saved to leave home from the time i was about 8 years old. my life was insecure and scary. i never knew when everything would change, including temperament of adults around me. i’ve had my suitcase packed all my life, ready to flee. i’ve finally stopped feeling that way. now i know that i can rely on my inner strength and the inner strength of those who i love and who love me to get us through. i know this because when my life almost ended, that is exactly what happened.

 lately i have wanted to give those around me a huge shake. i don’t mean to come across as arrogant or to dismiss the difficulties you are going through in life, but some of you, my dears, as we all are inclined to do,  are spending too much time focussing on what could go wrong and on the things you can’t control. please live now. let’s not waste the small amount of time we have here. soon enough, we’ll all be dust.

2010 in review-something cool WordPress does!

January 2, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,100 times in 2010. That’s about 5 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 43 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 5 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb.

The busiest day of the year was January 17th with 60 views. The most popular post that day was facing new challenges.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were networkedblogs.com, facebook.com, amandaearl.com, touch.facebook.com, and meganbutcher.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for firebirds and phoenix blog, firebird phoenix, how to impress in operating room nurse, “full leg cast”, and my first fleet enema.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

facing new challenges January 2010
5 comments

2

why January 2010
2 comments

3

raving : not writing April 2010
4 comments

4

sex, love and polyamory June 2010

5

open sez me (and the surgeon too) June 2010
3 comments

tiger times in the year of the rabbit

January 2, 2011

happy new year dear friends and loved ones. 2010 was an excellent year here on the 19th floor. the main thing is, i’m alive. i can breathe in and out. i can walk and move about easily and with joy. i am loved and i love. the rest is a bonus. thank you for being here for me when i needed you and for being caring and supportive during turbulent times.

2011 begins with the surgery on the 18th, all being well and my recuperation. & then we’ll see. whatever happens, i intend to live life with gusto and love ferociously.  it may be the year of the rabbit, but i shall still be a tigress.

my motto: “passion: onwards”

the cicada days are coming

December 9, 2010

My surgery date has been set for Tuesday, January 18, 2011. my motto is expect the unexpected, so i won’t be surprised if the date gets changed again, but for now, i am imagining that this is the date.

 I am definitely nervous about it, but thanks to the great health crisis of 2009, i am better at finding calm and i have faith that all will be well. I have to let go of all the little niggling anxieties associated with this surgery. Will I be able to handle the fasting the day before, the going without water 3 hours before the surgery, waiting in the hospital hallway on a stretcher, waiting for the meds to kick in or whatever other unplanned surprises the day has in store for me? …

I expect that i will be able to handle them because there isn’t really a choice. in the meantime i will enjoy having a lovely xmas with Charles and seeing dear friends.

and afterward, i shall probably have to recuperate for a bit. i will miss out on some activities, such as readings of some of my favourite local writers, which is a drag, but i will be ensconced happily at home and stay warm and snug, let myself be pampered once more by Charles, which is quite a wonderful thing.

Unless my surgery ends up being more than just a laparoscopic procedure,  I don’t expect to be in the hospital long, hopefully just a few days. There may be some silence from me the first day and the one after. We’ll see. I am not particularly known as a woman of few words. Either Charles or I will update friends who are on FB and family who aren’t…

In the meantime, if you have any recommendations for good books, youtube videos you’ve enjoyed or any other activity suitable for a recovering shut in during the second  half of January, please do send them my way.

 I know you, my dear friends and loved ones, are thinking of me and sending me love and courage. I appreciate and care for all of you very much. I have everything to be thankful for. and when this is over, watch me rise…i’m like those cicada that hide in the earth beneath the trees for years, sustaining themselves underground, who come up to the surface and sing their hearts out. buzz, buzz, buzz….although the analogy stops there. i plan on instigating more than one day of mayhem.

life!

November 12, 2010

a year ago on this day i was fighting for my life on an operating table. miraculously…i pulled through. the doctors removed my colon; the operation took six hours, and somehow, i made it. i made it when all the odds were against me, when all the doctors were telling Charles the choices were death in ICU or death in surgery. and yet, i didn’t die. i’m here. i’m here.

tears. i cry, still out of fear that i almost didn’t make it, out of a kind of emphathetic grief for being lost to Charles and those who care about me. it’s very strange to have gone thru such a health crisis without really knowing i was going thru it at the time. and then to wake up and learn that i almost didn’t make it. overwhelming. mixed feelings of ebullience for having survived, the grieving feeling, and fear faced with confirmation that life is so damn fragile.

i have nothing but gratitude for my existence, for Charles, for my dear friends. all of the people who were sending me healing thoughts and prayers. for every taste, for every sunrise, for every annoying itch, for every sneeze, for every breath, for every moment shared with someone i love, i am grateful.

i am in love with being alive.