Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Life's full of surprises... as is your abdomen.

So, yesterday was the oophorectomy and the reconstruction continued (part 5?). I think at least 4 prep nurses came in, which was fine, since Dad and I are old hands at the pre-op prep. My name is Rica Mendes, I was born on June 20, and I'm here for thus-and-such procedure. I so wanted to tell one of the nurses, "My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die," but the last nurse to come in didn't seem like the "Princess Bride" type.

As always, Dr. Nordberg came in, on time, looking dapper in his suit and tie, pleasant demeanor, purple marker in hand. I felt like a road atlas after he was done with me - circles and squiggles all across my chest, under my arms, and a bit below. Dr. Ratner never came in - she had a procedure earlier in the morning that was running late. The anesthesiologist came in and explained he'd give me a TAP block, and additional local anesthesia to my abdomen to ensure the least amount of pain.

I never get over the walk into the OR. Not the actual walk through the hallway, but the entrance into the OR. The room is never as dark and calming as on "Grey's Anatomy." It's bright, you can see the sound-proof ceiling tiles, the floors are white with minimal splatters of iodine staining. Various nurses are attending to tons of trays, and the operating table is there, with arms out, a Hannibal Lecter looking mask sitting where your head goes, and the blue cloths all around. I get that flash of, "Why do I feel like I'm being mounted on a horizontal cross?" when the nurses help me up onto the table and put my arms out to my sides and tell me not to move. There is nothing to do but to stare at the ceiling and the four operating room lights with those weird handles in the middle of the bulbs. This anesthesiologist didn't play music like the others, so I can hear the clanging of tools and the tell-tale, "Ok, we're going to give you a little something in the IV and then some gas and you'll fall.... " And that's about it. I lose all sense of time. I lose all sensation. And I wake up in that awful fog.

I hate coming out of anesthesia. As a result, I'm usually fast to come out - once I start waking up, I'm up.

But not yesterday. I was in that loathsome fog for way too long. I was too sleepy for too long. I had no compunction to move. I couldn't stay awake. I was too unaware of where I was, and what was going on around me. I hated it. I forced myself to try and snap out of it. I saw my friend's little sister, Kara, a recovery room nurse, and called her over. I made her talk to me. But that wasn't enough. I felt bloated - like the blueberry girl in Willy Wonka. I was sore. Something wasn't right. I was parched. The saliva glands in my mouth were in pain. My lips were sticking too much to my teeth. My throat felt way too dry and scratchy. My dad and son kept coming in and out and I couldn't keep my eyes open long enough. I felt clammy. I felt sweaty.

I felt like shit.

Something wasn't right.

I asked to go to the bathroom, and I was walked to the bathroom. I could barely feel my feet. I didn't know if I was upright. I was overly disoriented,. This wasn't right. I got to the bathroom, and all I felt was cool. I started to feel a bit like myself. I didn't even have to go - I just needed to move. Walking back to recovery felt better.

It was too hot in the recovery room. It was too cozy. It was like a womb. I had to get out. Finally, we left, but I still couldn't wake up fully. I dozed off in the CVS parking lot as my dad and son got my meds. The warm, summer breeze felt good and lulled me back to sleep repeatedly.

Ironically, once home, I couldn't sleep. Percocet, Ambien and more, and I couldn't sleep. It was awful.

And today, forget about it. I felt inflated - still. My stomach hadn't been this rounded since I was pregnant. Something was just off. I spent time in the hammock. I couldn't go to the bathroom. I couldn't move without pain - pain focused on the right.

Finally, it got to be too much. I broke down and cried. I called the doctor's office, furious, that I still wasn't "right," that I was still bloated, that I still couldn't go to the bathroom after 2 days, and that she didn't bother to see me before or after the surgery. I was neglected and something was wrong.

After too long, earlier this evening, the surgeon called me. She explained that they inflated me with gas to be able to see my abdomen clearly, and that the gas would pass. She also explained that she had come to see me in recovery - she even drew me a picture. I have zero recollection. That sent me into a panic.

But then, the fun part - they removed a 3-4cm cyst along with my right ovary. That's not small. That's big. They were going to biopsy my ovaries anyway, but holy crap! I cyst! I panicked again.

Dr. Ratner explained they decided to check out my liver and other organs. All was clear. But that cyst on the right side was not easy to remove (hence, the extra pain). But the good news - it was benign. Everything was benign.

So I am further in the clear. But far less than whole.

Good? Bad?

Right now, I'm on Percocet, so I'm in no position to make any sound judgements.


  1. hi Rica, loved your report pre-op dissing Angi Joli. Wonder how she would be feeling in your shoes now post-op? Sorry to hear your troubles. Thankfully nothing is benign. But that doesn't take away from the situation that you feel crap and probably scared. Great to hear that your dad and son were (are) there for you. Your son must be going through hell at the moment - only natural. You dont really know me but know of me, but I buried my father two weeks ago. Didn't get back to England in time, but my mum was one side of him and my brother the other side of him when he breathed his last. I arrived only hours later. It is difficult to tell your dad you love him by text at an airport checkin! But his passing was peaceful and well managed. You on the other hand seem to be in one continual battle for life. thank god it is for life! you have a great new job with pepsi, then this knock back. But only you could write what you do, and write it so eloquently, from your sick bed. I salute you and pray you make a fast recovery only so that you can write more poignant blogs about and against cancer and the whole media industry that at times conveys it not always in the most approriate way for patients but for the media's own interst. Keep strong - Live strong. Marcus - presently working in Spain.

  2. Hi Rica, I was actually just reading up on your cancer journey and had a quick question about your blog. I was hoping you could email me back when you get the chance, thanks!



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