Tag Archives: surgery

Less than 2 weeks to go…eek.

Time is flying by and I’m not sure I like it.  Yes, I want to get this over with, but let’s be honest…I don’t want to do it at all.

Monday I had an appointment with a vestibular therapist.  She introduced me to a list of exercises I will need to start doing as soon as I’m awake/alert enough to do so in the hospital and a number that I will continue and/or start once I am home from the hospital.  Eye exercises, inner ear exercises, balance exercises, and a combination of these.  Unfortunately, she said it won’t do any good to start on them now.  It is only after my balance nerve is cut during surgery that these exercises will become crucial to my recovery and the re-training of my brain.

Next week I go in for my pre-op testing.  Not sure what all that will entail yet but they mentioned an EKG and meeting with an anesthesiologist.  Pre-op appointment is at the actual hospital where I will have my surgery.  Glad Mom will be back up here in time to go with me to that.  Hopefully I won’t be a complete mess.

I have to attend a meeting in Frisco on Wednesday, so that will be my last day at work before I start my medical leave.  For once, I am thankful for the lack of projects right now.  Not as many loose ends to tie up or hand off before I’m out.  Best guess right now is I will be out roughly 6 weeks for recovery…back to work in early January.

Not exactly the way I would’ve chosen to celebrate the holidays and my 40th birthday, but if the surgery goes well, the tumor is gone, and my recovery goes smoothly, that will be an excellent birthday present indeed.

Surgery Date Set

Just over a month later, we finally have a surgery date:  November 25, 2014.  The Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

Kind of relieved, but freaked out even more now because that means this is really happening.  The only time I’ve ever been in the hospital or had any type of surgery is when I was 18 and got my tonsils out.  So to jump from that to brain surgery….I do it big!

I’m ok if I just don’t think about it.  If I start thinking about going to the hospital, getting wheeled into the OR, what they are actually going to be doing, etc, then the waterworks start.  “Scared” doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I feel.  I’m not looking forward to this at all.

I keep trying to remind myself what another AN patient said:  On surgery day, I have the easy part.  All I have to do is show up and go to sleep.

Still trying to schedule…

I heard from Dr Mickey’s nurse (Mike) earlier this week (Dr Kutz’s scheduler has still never contacted me the first time).  He apologized for not getting back to me sooner (he just got the message from Kutz’s person on Friday….he called me Monday.  Perfectly acceptable….unlike the woman who never once acknowledged me or returned my calls…grrr…still irritated about that).

Anyway, he indicated that Kutz’s scheduler was apparently out of the office this week (lovely) but that so far, it looked like January would be the first available dates for surgery.

WHAT?!?!

All this time the discussion has been within “4 to 6 weeks” and “definitely before Thanksgiving”.  Now we just jumped to next year?!  I think Mike could tell I was getting upset/emotional and told me to hang in there, that when Kutz’s scheduler is back, they will try to find something better and reminded me “these tumors don’t grow very fast.”  Generally, no, but if you’re the one with it in your head, and you’ve decided to get surgery, having to wait another 3 months (so almost 6 total since diagnosis) feels like an eternity!

I ended up sending a message back to Dr Kutz’s nurse through their online chart thing asking for him to call me because he had been very confident that the surgery could be done sooner rather than later, and especially this type of surgery because one of the goals is to try and preserve the remaining hearing….waiting just increases the odds that that hearing might go before then.

Dr Kutz called me the next day and said he agreed…did NOT like January as an option so he and Dr Mickey had talked and they could do October 28.

WHAT?!?!

Ok, now time for a freak out in the other direction.  lol  That’s barely a week and a half away.  I have stuff to take care of at work, clients to hand off, disability paperwork, etc, stuff to get cleared out at home, my parents have to have some notice (since they are essentially moving to Dallas to help me through the surgery and recovery).  Told him I would talk to my family /work and let him know by the next day but that I would REALLY rather something in November.

After soaking on it overnight, I just didn’t feel like I could get myself in the right frame of mind for sugery that quickly.  AND they had been very clear that I needed to stop smoking at least 4 weeks prior (this date would just barely be 3 weeks).  So I called back and asked them to look for another date.

We’ll see what happens….hopefully this doesn’t mean January.

Is it really that hard to DO YOUR JOB?!

So, on September 29, I let Dr Kutz know I was ready to move forward with surgery.  He said his scheduler would contact me to discuss dates (knowing that, at the time, I was waiting to find out that exact date to back into my quit smoking date….4 weeks prior to surgery).

I waited a few days but didn’t hear from anyone, so called his office and asked.  I was told to give them 7 to 10 days.  If I hadn’t heard from them by middle of the following week, to call back.

So….I waited again.  By October 8, I still hadn’t heard a peep from anyone, so I called Dr Kutz’s office again.  Explained that I was waiting to hear from the scheduler and that it had been a week and a half.  They transferred me to the scheduler (Robbie?) and I got her voicemail (of course).  I left a message explaining who I was and that I had not heard from anyone in 1.5 weeks regarding scheduling surgery and asked (very politely) for her to please call me and let me know the status of this.

Next day….still nothing, so I called again.  And again was transferred to her extension.  And again got her voicemail.  Left another message that I still had not heard from anyone even after leaving a message the day before.  Again asked for a callback.

Friday comes….still nothing.  So I use the online “my chart” thing that UTSW sends out to patients and send a message to Dr Kutz’s office that way.  His nurse responds and after several messages back and forth, I am assured that the scheduler has “just contacted” Dr Mickey’s office to find out available dates.  JUST CONTACTED?! What the hell has she been doing for the past 2 weeks?!  Or even what has she been doing for the past 3 days while ignoring my voicemails?  Seriously.  What.  The.  Eff.

This woman apparently has no clue how stressful and scary it is to make up your mind to have this surgery, then to have to sit around and wait for someone to contact you, give you ANY details, a timeframe, etc.  Add to the mix the fact that I went ahead and started my no-smoking journey on Oct 7 (because I was told to expect surgery in 4 to 6 weeks….only to find out that the first 2 of those weeks, absolutely NOTHING had been done towards scheduling it).

To say that I completely “dropped my basket” would be a huge understatement.  If one had been nearby, I’d have smoked an entire pack of cigarettes to try and calm down.  Since there wasn’t, I screamed and cried, called my mother, and basically had a nervous breakdown for well over an hour.

I don’t understand why it seems like EVERY FREAKING THING with these doctor’s offices takes an act of flipping congress to get done.  First it was all the referral nightmare crap trying to get a doctor’s office to send something to another office (and heaven forbid THEY contact each other to see why they aren’t receiving….no, apparently I need to referee that bullshit and play phone tag between them all for days until they finally get it right…or halfway right).  No something as serious as scheduling surgery for someone who has a job title of “scheduler” sits in a pile for 2 weeks, 3 phone calls, and a half-dozen emails before it gets done.

Seriously.  If I was that non-responsive at my job, I wouldn’t have that job anymore.  Ridiculous.  I am so frustrated!!!!

A big, long update on my stupid neck.

For the past 2-3 months, I’ve been having a lot of pain in my neck, arms, wrists, and hands. It started out feeling like I had just slept wrong and had a kink in my neck but within a few days it went down my arms into my hands. I have had a really hard time lately doing much of anything. The type and level of pain varies so it has been a day to day experience to see how I will feel. Sometimes it is extreme burning sensation, sometimes numb or tingling, sometimes dull ache, sometimes little to no strength in my arms, and usually a combination of all of these in different places. Pretty much anything using my arms and hands is, at a minimum, uncomfortable. Nothing I can do makes the pain go away, but sometimes it not as bad as others, so that is at least a tiny relief.  This happened once before around last Thanksgiving but didn’t get as bad or last as long (or maybe I just didn’t notice as much because of the horrible thing that happened on December 1).

Initially my doctor thought it was just tension/stress. So I started going to massage therapy once a week. While that seemed to help in some ways, in others I continued to get worse. Next, they thought it was signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, so I was sent to a neurologist for EMG and nerve conduction tests. He also ordered an MRI of my neck. The EMG and NCS came back fine, no nerve damage. The MRI showed that I have 4 bulging disks in my neck that are pinching and/or pressing into my nerves/spinal canal/cord.  He sent me to see a neurosurgeon to get his opinion on whether or not I needed surgery or if physical therapy might help.

The neurosurgeon wasted no time in telling me I needed to have Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion to remove 3 discs from my neck. Based on my symptoms and pain levels, he said it would only get worse and that I could have permanent damage, even paralysis, if I didn’t have the surgery soon. He suggested within the next month. Not at all what I was expecting to hear so it completely freaked me out and scared the crap out of me.

Of course I wanted a 2nd opinion, so after collecting a number of recommendations from people, I went to see an orthopedic surgeon. He said, ultimately, yes, surgery is the answer but that I am far too young to have this kind of surgery right off the bat. If we could manage the pain, we could at least delay it for awhile. Then it would just be a matter of what I could live with. So he started me off on pill pack of steroids and said if they were going to help, I should see a noticeable difference within a few days. If not, then the next option was to do an injection in my neck and see how I responded to that. I didn’t see any improvement from the pills so now have scheduled the injection for Monday.

Meanwhile, Mom took a copy of my MRI to a friend of hers from church who she has known forever and who is an orthopedic doctor who treated her for a similar problem in the past. According to Mom, he is one of the most anti-surgery doctor she knows. He thinks I should go ahead and try the injection, that it might buy me some time, but believes I will need to have this surgery soon. Again, not what I was hoping to hear.

My aunt in Memphis had this exact type of surgery done a few years ago. Her neurosurgeon is apparently one of the first to do this type of surgery and is considered an authority on it. So she took a copy of my MRI to him this week to get his opinion. It will probably be Tuesday before we hear anything back on that.

At this point, I have 1 neurosurgeon telling me I need the surgery ASAP, 1 orthopedic surgeon telling me if we can control the pain I can try and live with it but ultimately will need surgery at some point, and 1 ortho telling me to try and get relief from the pain but I will need the surgery in the near future. I’m anxious to hear back from the 2nd neurosurgeon on whether or not he thinks I could have more problems/damage by waiting. That’s the last bit of info I’m looking for clarity on now. I’ve been told that the surgery would involve a couple of days in the hospital, anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks recovery, about 8 weeks in a neck brace, and 8 weeks of no driving. Needless to say, if it comes to that, Mom will move in with me for awhile!

On Monday afternoon, I’m going in for a Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection. It is an outpatient procedure but I will have to be sedated, so Mom is driving up Sunday evening to go with me and drive me home afterwards. She has had this same procedure done before and says it is nothing to worry about, but I worry about everything as it is…so someone sticking a giant needle in my neck is certainly not something I am calm about. I’m trying to be but not there yet.

We’ll see what my 4th opinion has to say about the surgery, but it seems like they are all pointing to having to do it. WHEN is the question. I’m not happy about it at all, especially understanding the whole “fusion” part of it. If I have 3 discs removed, that means 4 of the 8 vertebrae in my neck will be fused together. Which according to the doctors means I can expect to lose at least ¼ of the mobility in my neck. I keep hoping we can at least delay it a year or two and let science improve so the relatively new artificial discs that are now being used in the back can be used in the neck at more than 1 level with success, no fusion. Wishful thinking…

Anyway, that’s pretty much everything that has transpired over the last few months so now you are up to speed. My only experience with surgery or any type of major procedure is having my tonsils out. So to say I’m completely scared to death would be an understatement. I will keep you posted, but I’d appreciate any prayers or positive vibes anyone is willing to send my way.

Not what I wanted to hear.

Turns out all the problems with my neck, arms, and hands are not carpal tunnel but due to 4 of the 7 vertebrae in my neck having bulging/herniated discs that are pressing against my spinal cord. The neurosurgeon I saw today firmly believes that I need to have neck surgery and quick.

I’m scared to death as that was certainly not what I thought I would hear. I thought maybe some physical therapy was going to do the trick but doesn’t look like I’ll be that lucky. I’ve never had surgery in my life (except tonsils) so to have the first time be at my SPINAL CORD I am more than freaking out right now. I am also worried about how this might effect my job. I’m the primary lead on a huge project and may have to step out of that role at the most critical moment when we are about to begin implemetnation. Stupid thing to worry about over my health, but somebody has to pay the bills.

I have some research to do before I make a final decision, and looking to get a 2nd opinion of course, but what he showed me in my MRI scans looks downright scary.

Welcome home, Mazzy!

We picked Mazzy up from the vet around 5pm yesterday.  When they brought her around the corner, all bandaged up and wobbly-walking, I was crying all over again.  I was soooo happy to see her up and moving, even if it was with much effort.  After our (my) emotional reunion, she couldn’t wait to get out of there.  So much so that she, against my trying to guide her the other way, walked into the glass window next to the door. 

Poor baby was still all groggy from the anesthesia and couldn’t really see yet.  I think the only reason she knew me at first was from my voice.  Her eyes were all bugged out and she just had this dazed look.   We managed to get her up into the van and then Mom joined me in crying.  Said I ought to go in there and kiss that vet!!  I would have if he’d come out with her, but as it was, I just wanted to get her home and comfortable.

I have to bring her back tomorrow afternoon to have the drain removed.  Getting her into my car is going to be a challenge.  She has a hard time anyway because of arthritis in her back right leg.  And right now, both her little legs are having a hard time supporting her.  She has some pain medicine that I’m giving her right now, but after reading the info on it, it seems to be more for arthritis than anything. 

She mostly slept last night after we got her home, which was to be expected.  She was still drugged and pretty much out of it.  Around 11pm, she got up and walked around a little so I took her outside to see if she needed to pee.  She didn’t, and walked back to the door so I let her back in and she laid back on her rug.  She wasn’t drinking any water, which they also said she might not want.  But I kept putting a little on my finger and running it around her mouth just in case she got a “taste” for it.  I gave her a few spoonfuls of canned dog food on a plate and she cleaned it off in seconds, so at least she had an appetite.  Considering she hadn’t eaten since 8pm the previous night, I wasn’t surprised by that.  😛 

She didn’t seem up for the walk back to my room.   So I figured I’d sleep on the couch.  Around 1am she sat up and was looking around.  I could tell she was still having a hard time focusing and getting her bearings, so I moved over to the chaise and pulled it parallel to her rug so I could keep an eye on her.  And so she could see that she wasn’t alone.  She finally laid back down and slept for awhile.

This morning she got up, with some encouragement, and went outside to go potty.  That made me feel better.  Then I gave her some food and her medicine and she cleaned her bowl.  Again, makes me feel better.  :)  About an hour later she finally drank some water.

Mom & Dad left around 10am.  I am so grateful they were here with me during all of this.  I don’t think I could’ve handled it on my own.  It’s been a rough few days. 

Mazzy has been resting mostly this afternoon, but I’ve gotten her up and walking around every once in awhile just so she won’t get too stiff and to see how she’s doing.  She’s looking much perkier today.  Even been wagging her tail a little bit.  That makes my heart smile.

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This is my trying to remain calm.

I took Mazzy to the vet this morning.  The verdict?  She has a mammory tumor.  And the size, odd shape, hardness, and speed with which it appeared made the vet think there is a good chance it is cancerous.  Either way, it has to be removed.  If not, he said it would ulcerize (sp?) and could potentially spread.  He said typically this type of tumor likes to spread to the lungs.  She hasn’t been coughing or lethargic (any more so than normal atleast…lol), so those were good signs.

Because of her age, the surgery is pretty risky.  He did a chest xray to make sure her lungs looked clear, otherwise it was probably too late.  Thankfully it all looked good.  He didn’t see any signs of potentially cancerous areas….except one tiny spot that was a MAYBE, but the fact that it was the only one made him think not.  He also did bloodwork on her to make sure all her counts were normal.  If not, again, might not be good to do the surgery at this point. 

He also said I should consider whether or not I want them to spay her while she is under.  Explained the increased risk of uterus cancer and infection at her age.  Also explained the negative aspects as well.

The one thing he said that is stuck in my mind is that one of two things will happen after surgery.  “She’ll either wake up or she won’t.” 

Luckily my parents are here visiting right now so Mom went with me.  Her being the nurse, she could ask the right questions and better understand some of what the vet was saying.  Me, all I could do was cry.

Apparently the vet just lost his dog to a very similar lump that had spread.  And his dog was only 7 years old.  Mazzy is 12.  And the average lifespan for dogs is 12-14 years.  So he says I should be happy that she has lived a long life.  But that doesn’t make me feel any better about the situation. 

About 40 minutes after we got home, the vet called to say that Mazzy’s bloodwork looked good.  So we’re bringing her in between 7:30 and 8:30 tomorrow morning.  He said they should be all done by around noon and that, if everything goes well, she’d be able to come home afterwards.

Please let my baby girl make it through this.