Sanker.

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I try very hard to be thankful in my life, even for the bad things. (That’s tough, but I believe you need to be grateful at both ends of the spectrum and all in between.) And I try to recognize and express my appreciation and gratitude regularly and honestly.

Tonight I was thinking about that, and I wanted to share it with you.

I like to be appreciated. I think we all do. I think it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate others. So I try to return favors and give thanks for all the thoughtful little things in my day. Mr. Stuck is the author of a great many of them, so this one’s for him:

thank you for carrying the laundry basket
thank you for opening jars (and bottles and boxes and envelopes and cans and buckets) when my hands hurt
thank you for turning off my Kindle and tucking me in at night when I fall asleep reading
thank you for the flowers you bring home for no reason at all
thank you for remembering the tasks I forget
thank you for doing the vacuuming and sweeping and mopping 
thank you for waking up in the middle of the night to help me with my excruciating leg cramps
thank you for eating whatever I cook without complaint and for trying new things
thank you for telling me you love me every single day
thank you for being able to joke me out of a bad mood
thank you for being my interpreter when I’m not hearing well
thank you for being my cheerleader

thank you for taking the steps to be healthier and happier
thank you for helping me be happier and healthier, too

The more I express gratitude, the happier I am, and the happier I am, the more I express gratitude. My marriage is all the better for it.

Both of us make a habit of saying thank you, not just assuming the other person knows.  This is crucial.

I thank him for things he does and things he does not do. I thank him for decisions he’s made and goals he sets. I thank him for caring about me, caring about himself, and caring about us. I thank him for being a good father. I thank him for thinking of me and bringing home asparagus. I thank him for putting ice melt on the steps. I thank him for making my day – and life – easier.

Yknow, we all have plenty we can complain about.  Despite the impression some people give, it’s not a competition.

I choose instead to say thank you, and that has made a difference.

 

 

Go With Your Elbow.

 

from http://primaryperitonealcancerinfo.blogspot.com/
from http://primaryperitonealcancerinfo.blogspot.com/

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own, and you know what you know.
And you are the one who’ll decide where to go. 

 – Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

 

Mr. Stuck is a former Boy Scout who knows how to tie a gazillion knots, rig up a shelter in a flash, and navigate by the stars.  He was consistently successful in Scout orienteering, where the participants use a compass and a map to go from start to finish on a course via several control waypoints; the one to finish accurately in the least time, wins.  (I once read how a person can navigate by how the moss grows on trees; in the Northern Hemisphere, it grows mostly on the north* side of the tree, and the opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere.  That may work in some parts of the world, but up here in the Pacific Northwest, moss grows everywhere.  Trust me.) 

I’m grateful for his skills, especially for his ability to find his way around.  You see, I have a confession to make: I am a navigational imbecile.  That’s right – I’m one of those folks who can’t find my way out of a paper sack or find my car in a parking lot.  About the only places I know how to find dependably are my workplace, my parents’ house, and my own home, and even that’s debatable sometimes.  And don’t ask me to draw a map to show you how to get there – that’s not going to turn out well.  Sorry. 

The Mister does this kind of stuff for a living; it’s a perfect fit for his aptitude.  His job is to locate underground utilities, and that has taken him to clients in several states as well as all over our own.  Most of the time, it’s pretty straightforward, but some days will find him trudging through swampy terrain, climbing hills, or blazing a trail through thick underbrush; it can be very demanding.  But I know he will never get lost, no matter where he finds himself. 

My lack of a natural sense of direction flummoxes and frustrates him on a regular basis.  I’m a map turner, which means I can only visualize where I’m going if I turn the map so north is at the top.  This makes me a mediocre navigator at best.  For reasons I’m not sure I understand, Mr. Stuck normally has me drive when we’re going somewhere together, unless we’re heading out of town to an unfamiliar place; even then, sometimes, he’ll turn it over to me.  (I think it’s the navigational equivalent of eating my vegetables.)  Even driving around locally, I still get turned around, and I’m often completely confused as to which way I’m supposed to be going.  Poor Mister – he wonders how I can be so smart and yet still get lost in a parking lot.  I don’t know – it’s just how I am.

Back in the dark ages, before GPS units graced cars and cell phones, he hit upon an idea for me.  Given that I would get to an intersection and my instinct would tell me I should be turning left when in reality I needed to turn right, he gave me some keen words of advice: Go with your elbow. 

Huh?  What do you mean, go with my elbow

And then I realized: if I’m pointing left, my elbow is pointing right.  Instead of following my gut or trying to remember from whence I came, neither of which is reliable in my case, going with my elbow means I will most likely make it back.  Brilliant!  It works for me.  (Of course, the GPS also works for me, so I use it.  A lot.  Thank you, GPS inventor!)

Going with your elbow means changing direction, usually 180 degrees, from what you initially had in mind – but it’s not necessarily about driving.  Maybe it means changing a habit and learning something new, like what I’ve been doing as I re-learn how to shop, cook, and eat after WLS.  Maybe it means addressing the negative thinking and turning it around.  Maybe it means ditching the status quo for something new and different.  Maybe it means saying no when you’re used to saying yes, or vice-versa. 

Fifty is approaching quickly, and I want to head the rest of my life in a better direction.  I need a map and a compass so I don’t get lost.  Thankfully, I have a great tour guide and companion in Mr. Stuck.  The path I was on is deeply rutted; it is full of bad choices and littered with their detritus.  I have come to a crossroads; I can follow the well-worn path of getting by, or I can strike out on a different route.

Instead of doing the same old thing, I’m going with my elbow.  Maybe it would work for you, too. 

*Thanks to astute reader Nanette for correcting me — I had the moss thing backwards.  See what I mean?  I haven’t a clue!  Thanks, Nanette!

And How Was Your Week?

Finally.

So last Tuesday, the 10th of December, I went in for my surgery.

We reported in at just after 7 a.m.; actually, I was standing just inside the building near the reception door waiting for Mr. Stuck to take care of the parking fare when the check-in desk called to ask where I was.  I had been standing there a few minutes already, watching him through the window, but I hadn’t checked in because I was pocket-less and he held my ID and insurance card.  Eventually man bested machine, and then he was standing next to me, handing her my driver’s license.  We finished our paperwork and had just found a seat in the waiting area when they called me to prep.

At prep, all of the normal things happened: I was fitted with my bracelets, I changed into my hospital gown and non-skid, unisex tube socks, I settled into the gurney with a blanket (a heated-air blanket, even!) an IV was started, and my surgeon stopped in.  In between, I met several nurses, a nurse-anesthetist, my anesthesiologist, a patient care technician or two, and the assisting doctors.  I also said and spelled my whole name several times and confirmed my birth date to anyone who asked; in the fray I was also answering questions, the same questions I had been asked and had answered before: who is your doctor?  what is he going to do?

I remember being rolled out of there into an elevator and then into the operating room.  The last thing I remember is a nurse talking to me after emptying a syringe into my IV port and putting a mask on me, but even that’s a bit fuzzy in my mind.

Not me. photo credit Zdenko Zivkovic.

I guess it took me awhile to wake up; I was two hours in recovery before I was brought to my room and Mr. Stuck was allowed to visit.  Sure seemed warm in the room; I kept kicking off blankets and requesting ice chips and cold washcloths for my forehead.  No fever, but I was just too warm.  Besides my pain control IV, I was hooked up to a couple of monitors as well as oxygen, because my O2 level kept dipping.  My respiratory rate is slow and always has been, and the monitor didn’t like that at all.  Periodically, the respiration monitor (whatever it’s called) would go off because I wasn’t breathing fast enough and it apparently thought I had stopped.  No, I was still breathing, just at my own, slow, pace.

Each time I hit the button to get more hits of Dilaudid, a cycle began:  the narcotic entered my bloodstream; I would relax and drift off; the alarms would sound as my respiration slowed and my oxygen dipped; I would wake with a start and sharp inhale;  the monitor, assured I was again breathing, would go silent (most of the time), and with my muscles tense and heart pounding I would again feel the pain and need the Dilaudid.  Over and over and over this played out. The oximeter’s alarm was about four times louder than the respiratory alarm and sometimes the alarms wouldn’t cancel once my stats came back into their ‘normal’ zone, and I would have to wait for a nurse to silence them.  This went on from the time I came back to my room until after 2 a.m. — about twelve hours!  It was awful and it just wouldn’t stop.  If the nurses were getting tired of the routine, and they were, you can imagine how I felt.  When they called him, the doctor told the nurses that I was exactly the type of patient who needed those monitors on.  I’m sure he’s right, but it was a long, sleepless night.

Around 2 a.m., the doctor allowed the alarm to be turned off on the respiration monitor as long as they got me a better cannula (the nasal oxygen tube) so my oxygen saturation would rise.  Thank the Lord.  I was able to get a few hours of shuteye until the resident doctors made their rounds some time around 6 a.m..  But at least I finally — finally! — got some sleep.

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It’s me, but the pic’s a few years old.

It took a long time the next day to get discharged, but we finally did, and we made it home after stopping to pick up my prescriptions.  I suddenly took very cold and started to shake; even my teeth chattered.  I had been so overheated in the hospital, but now I was freezing!  This was the anesthesia talking.  Mr. Stuck tucked me into bed with extra blankets and got me my medication.  My belly was bloated and sore; I just wanted some rest.  After a few hours, I awoke to rejoin the family.

I’m glad everything went so smoothly for my surgeon; apparently, chaos reigned (rained, too) at home. Bo, the Epileptic Chihuahua had suffered a couple of seizures. Number One Son ran his car out of oil. Number Young Son’s car has to quickly be rendered safe and drivable to give NOS a way to work. Mr. Stuck’s truck has been inoperable for several days, waiting for a special tool, because it is leaking fuel.  But these are not things for me to worry and kvetch on; my job is to rest and get better.

Today, four days after surgery, here’s what I know:

  • Although at first disappointed that I didn’t get a heated-air gown, I found that the heated-air blanket is just as good.
  • I have five neat incisions from an inch to an inch and a half long on my belly, which is still a little sore inside.  No tape, because I’m allergic, but all 5 healing nicely.
  • I am still burping from a lot of trapped air (‘scuse me), but I am not so bloated now, and I am sleeping well.
  • I’m not hungry, but I am thirsty, so I am constantly sipping small amounts of fluids.
  • Last night I didn’t need to get up and take pain medicine at all during the night.  Yay!
  • I am tolerating strained soup, protein shakes, tea, jello, and water just fine.
  • Mixing ground-up prescription pills into your food and drink is worse than nasty, and I will stop doing it the very moment I can.  Bad memories of marshmallow creme and crushed aspirin came flooding back.  Mr. Stuck says Actigall is worse than anything I’m taking.  I’ll take his word for it.
  • Omeprazole is my new best friend.  After the couch and the heating pad, I mean.

And now, if you’ll excuse me…

liquids
a few of the things on my nutrition pyramid these days.