Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hope .. Strength ... Courage

Photo from Flickr
For several weeks now I've had interrupted sleep. It began a week before the first attempt of the MRI guided breast biopsy that was cancelled because they discovered I had a heart problem. I couldn't figure out why I kept waking up in the middle of the night. For a while it was every hour or hour and a half. Now it's often midnight, 3 and 5. Tonight i woke up again at midnight. This time I couldn't go back to sleep and decided to get up and write. At least now I know that waking up is because of my heart problem ... ventricular bigeminy is the fancy word. I'm scheduled for a cardiac MRI and to meet with an electrophysiologist but not till mid-May. I met with a cardiologist last week and at least got clearance to move forward with the MRI guided breast biopsy ... so yesterday I was back at the hospital. The last time I had an MRI guided breast biopsy was August 2010 down at Mayo. I fell in the less than 1% that had complications and a hematoma and they had trouble stopping the bleeding. In August 2010 I only had one site that had to be biopsied and it was small 4mm site. Yesterday two new lesions have appeared since my MRI 6 months ago. Both are in my left breast and both are around 1.5 cm. I told the doctor I hope that this go around I wouldn't get a hematoma.

I have learned to calm myself down in the MRI tube. As I was moved in and out of the tube I kept telling myself to just breathe. As contrast rushed through my veins and my body shook from the vibrations I took my mind to the ocean, to the dolphins, to moments of joy and peace. They locate the two lesions and tell me that they are going to clean the area, numb the area ... the doctor asks 'do you feel something sharp?' I know two large needles are going to be inserted into the outer side of my left breast. Unfortunately i say 'yes it feels sharp'. She adds more solution to numb me a little more. She says 'you'll feel a little pressure.' I actually feel more than just pressure but tell myself I can just breathe through it. As the needle goes deeper inside of me I feel it making stops .. each stop stings and I take a deep breath. I have to lay extremely still for the entire time. After putting me back in the tube and running more images they confirm the needles are in the right place and they are now going to remove tissue from the two sites. "You'll feel more pressure and hear some loud noises" the doctor tells me as the needles pierce their way through my tissues and my cells. I hear this drilling sound and I say to myself 'Marilou ... it's okay' and I return to the ocean and I return to that place in my mind that carry moments of joy. I feel a hand on my arm .. the nurse is stroking my forearm 'are you okay?' I let out a muffled yes. The pain was greater this time than last August. Maybe because it was two sites. Regardless, I was relieved when it was finally told it was over.

Unfortunately, like last August, they had trouble getting the bleeding to stop. As a result I ended up not have the post MRI mammogram done (which is done to confirm the location of clips inserted at the lesion sites). I was told to come back in a week and a half for the 'gentle' mammogram. I was happy to be out of there even though I was feeling extremely sore and a little light headed. I stopped at Lunds to get an ice pack. As I was leaving Lund's I got a phone call from a new friend who was checking on me because she new I was going in for the MRI biopsy (a veterinarian whom I met for the first time over the weekend as we came together in a collaborative animal rescue effort to help a very battered and beaten dog). As I'm talking to her I suddenly feel what feels like blood on my belly. "ummm, Vicki .. I just came from the hospital and I think I have a problem. I think i'm bleeding." I could feel blood rushing down my stomach and my chest feeling drenched. "I'm going to pull over." "Yes, pull over right now. I pull into a parking lot and open up my black jacket. My pink Life is Good long-sleeve shirt is drenched in blood, the inner lining of my coat is covered with blood and I feel blood dripping down and the top of my jeans are getting soaked in blood. "Vicki, i'm going to have to call you back." I smell the blood and I momentarily panic. Okay, do I turn around and drive myself back to the hospital emergency room? No, I can't. I have to go let the dogs out ... they've been on their own for 5 hours. I'm almost home. I'll go home, let them out and put pressure and stop the bleeding and assess what I need to do then. So I quickly drive home -- fortunately i'm only 5 minutes away. I feel the blood dripping down my stomach. I rush into the house and let the dogs out then quickly run to the bathroom to grab some towels. Blood is dripping on my kitchen floor. I take my coat and shirt off and immediately apply pressure. The towel gets drenched with blood. I call my friend Laura up. I'm not sure what to do. I'm worried about the dogs. What if I can't get the bleeding to stop? Why is my blood having trouble clotting? It seems like over the past year I bruise easily and my wounds don't heal easily. Breathe Marilou Breathe ... i keep saying to myself over and over. I call my friend Vicki back who happens to work at the vet clinic around the corner from my house. She's a saint and comes over and helps me assess the situation, ensure the bleeding has stopped, puts new bandage on and helps take care of my dogs (not to mention a bunch of other stuff she did to care for me). She's insistent that I rest and that if I start to bleed again that I need to get myself to an emergency room (and no I can't drive myself! .. it's like she can read my mind!) and if I need to I should call 911. I am beyond grateful. It's hard for me to ask for help. I admit it was a welcome relief when I saw her car pull up into my driveway. I am blessed to have such wonderful people in my life ... friends who would come over and help me in a heart beat if i would simply ask or let them.

Today (Tuesday) I am going to be on edge waiting for my phone to ring in hopes that the pathology report will come in. Yes, i'm worried about the results of the pathology report. Will these lesions be benign? more of the atypical ductal hyperplasia? or is it cancer? I am tired, both emotionally and physically. The heart palpitations I have are causing me to not get restful sleep and lack of sleep is taking its toll on me. Yet at the same there's a part of me that feels so alive and so grateful for my life today. I have met a very special person in my life. He makes me feel so alive and so loved. I hadn't planned on falling in love. Truth is though ... I have fallen in love with my life which of course includes my beloved 3 furkids (and especially the animal rescue work I do) .. i have fallen in love with the connections and closeness I have with so many precious, loving friends (both new and old)... and now I am falling in love with a man who has touched my soul and is helping me heal some of my deepest, oldest wounds.

And so ... in the middle of the night and as so much goes through my heart I am hopeful that my health diagnosis, whatever it may be, will be something very treatable and manageable ... i pray also for strength and courage to continue to live my life with passion, purpose and love ... lots of unconditional love.

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