Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hysterectomy: Rest and Recovery

Sheesh, Rest and Recovery is usually followed by the name of the last 100 mile race I ran. Well, this is a different type of rest and recovery. Much longer!

The prep for surgery went well. I drank 30 oz of magnesium sulfate at 6 PM, stopped solids and was able to have clear liquids until 4 AM. I didn't feel like the MS 'cleaned' me out like it was supposed to. I guess with my clean diet I don't have that much up to clean out? I had a few BM's nothing out of the ordinary.

Troy had Monday off from school, teacher workshop, so I told him he could choose how he wanted the day to play out. We could get a hotel in Rochester Sunday night, he could swim and spend the day between the hotel and hospital or he could stay home, with Dad returning home Monday evening. Or he could get up with us and leave for Rochester at 530AM. He chose to stay home. I was good with that.

Steve and I left at 530, I had my final cup of coffee at 4. I was calm, was having thoughts of returning home the next day.

Originally, when I was first speaking of hysterectomy with my local gynecologist she told me I would have to have a full abdominal surgery. Much like my incision from the two C Sections I have had. I was just really dreading that recovery. After I met with Dr. Dowdy, my gynecologic oncologist, from Mayo Clinic, he told me that wasn't so. He was going to preform the daVinci robotic procedure, with 5 small incisions. This changed my outlook. I wasn't so terrified of the recovery. Still a major surgery, but no hip to hip incision unless he found cancer.

Steve and I made it to Mayo 30 minutes early as is my nature. We checked in, they showed us to a room where I changed into hospital gown, was tagged, gave myself two fleet enemas (new experience and absolutely NO biggie), a medicated douche, had my IV inserted. Steve placed my boots, clothes, coat into patient bags with my tags attached, took my iPhone (my lifesaver!), my glasses, ID and insurance card. We just waited. I was beginning to get a bit nervous so practiced deep breathing and made Steve participate. He did whatever I told him to do. He was more nervous and afraid than I was.

About 30 minutes later a surgical nurse came to introduce herself. She told Steve to follow us and we would drop him off at the waiting lounge, he would be escorted to my room following surgery. They would call him on his cell as soon as surgery began and with an update every hour. Very nice.

We dropped Steve off and headed for the surgical wait room. I was lined up with a dozen or more other patients, with big curtains in between us. Surgical teams were coming to the patients, asking name and address, talking about procedure, etc. The woman next to me said she had lung disease. The nurse asked if she always used oxygen "except when I'm smoking" ish.

The surgical nurse came to introduce herself to me, the anaesthesiologist, Dr. Dowdy arrived and initialized my ovaries upon my abdomen. He told me that he had decided to complete a radical total vaginal hysterectomy. There would be NO incision and shorter period of time in surgery. I asked him if I would have less restrictions-can I go back to work earlier? No. Still a major surgery, still 6-8 weeks off, just no incision and less surgical time. OK then. He told me that vaginal hysterectomy causes fewer complications than the other types and is a very safe way to remove the uterus, cervix, tubes and ovaries. He told me it is not possible for woman with thick stomach fat or women who have adhesion from prior surgery. He told me the C Sections wouldn't give him a problem.

A few moments later I was wheeled to my operating room. Everyone welcomed me and introduced themselves. It was like a party. Real crazy, outgoing, warm. Dr Dowdy told them all I was an ultra runner and that is what the topic of conversation was. It calmed me. A man told me his mother has ovarian cancer and his sister just had a hysterectomy. Trisha, the surgical nurse I met earlier asked me if I had a dog. We spoke of Topaz for a long time. She asked about the type of dog food I fed him and what races I was going to run for 2011. I could feel the IV drug take over, I began to speak slurred. Kevin, the anesthesiologist told me he was going to put the mask over my face and to take deep breathes. I said OK, BYE BYE! They laughed and I was off to deep sleep.

When I began to come to I heard a flurry of activity around me. Kevin, Trisha and Dr. Dowdy were asking me if I was nauseous (no) in pain (no) cold (no), I felt fine. I was wheeled up to my room, Steve was already there.

It was 230. Surgery began at 1100 and was finished at 130. I didn't have pain, I was very dizzy. My nurse helped me to the bathroom. I was able to move around well so she removed the catheter.

Around 4 Dr. Dowdy came by to recap surgery. He told me I underwent a vaginal hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectoy under general anesthesia. Surgery was uncomplicated. He said my tissue looked healthy, one ovary was enlarged with tumors, some endometriosis that he removed. Preliminary pathology looked cancer free, full pathology report next week. He felt I could be discharged the next day. Amen!

Cindy M stopped by for a visit. So wonderful to see her. We chatted, I was out of it, but so thankful to see her. Thank you Cindy!

Steve headed for home, relieved, about 5 PM to tend to Troy and then get him off to school on Tuesday morning. Steve would return Tuesday around 12 or so.

Monday evening my bladder was so full. I was walking around quite well, pushing the IV tank around. When I went to urinate I could only pass little amounts. My bladder was still full. I was drinking water and taking in the IV. Probably too much liquid.

At 5 AM the urology tech came in to measure my bladder. Full at 800 ml. She catheterized me and drained. Ah, relief. An hour later I was full again at 900 ml.

Dr. Dowdy came in to sign my release papers at 9 AM. I was ready to leave.. I thought. I didn't have an appetite but my nurse said I had to eat something solid before release. I ate a canned peach.

For pain I was taking extra strength Tylenol or Motrin every 6 hours with Oxycontin when necessary. I took the oxy two times. Other than bladder pressure I really wasn't in too much pain. A heating pad on my pelvic area felt very good.

The urology tech came by again at 3 pm, prior to discharge. I was full again at 1100 ml. She was getting worried and I thought my release might be revoked. My nurse called Dr. Dowdy. He came to my room, said that I could do one of two things: learn how to self catheterize myself and do this at home. In a day or two my bladder would settle down and I would be fine. Or, stay in the hospital with a catheter over night. Ugh! I didn't want to stay another night. I wanted to go home. Troy had a field trip the next day, it was his first day of the new semester (Tuesday) and I already missed talking about it. I wanted to be home. I told him I'd learn to self catheterize. He told me it as a piece of cake and the right decision.

The urology tech came back to teach me how. I didn't get it the first time. Darn it! She drained me and said she'd be back in an hour to give me another try. Dr. Dowdy called me and told me she would only observe me this next time, that I had to do it myself. OK. She came back and I was successful. It was kind of painful. My poor girlie parts were becoming irritated and sore.

As soon as I passed the self-catheterization test Steve came back into the room. I told him 'we are out of here'. I quickly changed into my fuzzy fleecy comfy clothing, had Steve pack my bag and we were out of there. I was wheeled to the discharge where Steve was waiting with the car.

The drive home was 2.5 hours. We stopped at Target in Plymouth so I could try to get some pee out. Ugh. Drops. I could feel my bladder filling and was not looking forward to having to drain it at home. Back to the car, back home.

Oh, so happy to be home! Troy had a big hug and flowers for me. Topaz went crazy and just whined and layed his head into my forehead. It was so good to be home.

Tuesday evening I did a self-cath. It went well, I was glad I decided to learn the process so that I could be home. It was absolutely fabulous climbing into my king size Select Comfort bed. Ah. All of my down blanket and duvet. Ah. Hot pad, all set. I slept until 11PM and woke to pee. I walked the 4 steps to the master bath. Topaz, laying at the foot of the bed, followed me into the bathroom. He put his paws upon my knees and kissed my face like I had been gone forever. As I was petting his ears I peed..and peed..I emptied my bladder! Oh, relief. I was so happy. So happy. I hoped I wouldn't need that damn self catheter kit again. I probably just needed to relax at home and forget about it.

Wednesday morning I was able to get out of bed quite well, only a bit of pressure in the pelvic region. I came downstairs and had coffee with Steve. He was taking another day off. I woke Troy, made him a lunch for the Romeo and Juliet field trip to the Guthrie Theatre. Steve took Troy to school and I was wiped out from that little bit of moving around! I climbed back into bed.

Steve came home, tried to walk Topaz but Topaz just kept coming back to the house, looking for me. Eventually Topaz went for a while. Steve did laundry, vacuuming, bathrooms, etc. I told him I was just going to sleep so go ice fishing or something. He headed off to do just that and would be home by the time Troy came in from school at 3.

At 215 I headed out for a walk with Topaz. The sun was shining and it was 30F! A heat wave. I had to feel some sun on my face. I am lumbering on down the driveway, so slow. Topaz is flying around the culdesac wondering where the heck is Mom? I made it about half way to the bus stop when I see Troy and Steve coming down our road. Steve followed Troy's bus and picked him up. Troy hopped out of the truck and walked back with me and Topaz to the house. Troy said 'Mom, this worse than your 100 mile race moving, you are slow moving traffic' yea, it sure was. That little outing had me tired again. I'll have to leave the house quite a bit earlier to actually make it to the bus stop on time. I could feel the pressure and knew it was time for my 6 hour Motrin dose.

Last night I came down to watch American Idol-god Steven Tyler is great on that show. Love him! Slept well last night, no sweats, no emotional upheavals, no menopausal symptoms as of yet.

I drove Troy to school today. Dr. said as long as I'm off the oxy that I can do so. I'm drinking lots of water, drinking prune juice and eating prunes-no painful BMs! Everything is really going well. I ate some canned chicken, Dijon mustard and shredded cabbage today. No more performing self-catheterizing. Ugh. That is something I can do without.

After bringing Troy to school I walked Topaz down the street. Came home and slept a few hours. I finally took a shower-had to laugh to see the doc's initials on my sides.

I think it is time for another nap!

This recovery is going well. I'm physically exhausted, to be expected I know. I will take it very easy and slowly.

Thank you so much for all of the cards, emails, texts, etc. I appreciate it so very much.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Off to the Castle

Yes, that is imagery at its finest. I am a princess heading off to the castle!

This past week I have prepared things at home for my castle stay. Hopefully I have over prepared and will only be at Mayo one night. If not, I have a few dozen meals ready in the freezer. Simply heat up and serve when I return from home.

The pantry is fully stocked, refrigerator is full. The laundry is cleaned, pressed and put away. Linens are changed and house is clean.

Notes for Troy's upcoming field trip, snowboard club, etc. All set.

I have estroven, estroven PM, stool softners, prune juice, gingerale, one a day menopause, many books, DVDs ready at home.

Yesterday I ran hard. It will be my last time for a while. Topaz and I enjoyed it greatly. Bittersweet; like saying goodbye to a best friend.

Last night I packed a bag: favorite down blanket, Magical Unicorn pillow pet, best fuzzy pink robe, slippers and pjs. Hair tie, brush, lotion, many magazines, book, iPhone, thank you cards, lifesavers, gum.

I hope to be back home tomorrow.

It's 445 AM. Check in is at 830. This Princess is on her way to the Castle.

Load up the Chariot, let's get this show on the road. See you on the post-op side!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Big "H": Hysterectomy

Yeah, it's official. I have eluded to medical problems lately. Now it is confirmed and scheduled. Hysterectomy. Total Radical Hysterectomy with Bilateral Salpingo Oophorectomy.

Monday, January 24.

This involves the removal of uterus, both ovaries and of both tubes.(Insert SCREAM here)

I've put it off for six years. I only hope that I don't regret putting it off as long as I have. It was just never the right time, I had too much to do, races to run, who wants to sit around for 6-8 weeks for recovery and was it really necessary?

Ever since my Mom was diagnosed with Stage III Ovarian Cancer six years ago I have had ovarian cancer screenings every six months. My local gynecologist told me every six months that she felt I should have a hysterectomy soon (but not how soon), that the cancer screenings I was having were better than nothing, (but not that good), that it was too bad I wasn't in menopause yet because sudden surgical menopause is a bitch. So I waited. I continued with a trans-vaginal ultrasound every six months, a CA 125 blood test and promised myself I'd have a hysterectomy..soon...whenever that is..

Six years later and I have begun to have pain. Now, I have a high tolerance for pain. I have had 'doubled over at the waist' kind of pain from my ovaries. Sharp, jabbing pain. It scared me. My periods became heavy nasty affairs that I had never ever had before. My ultrasound showed tumors for the first time. My CA125 has increased for the first time. This time I took hysterectomy seriously.

I made an appointment with a gynecologic oncologist at Mayo Clinic for a second opinion. He looked at my familial cancer tree. See, my Dad created this document for I and my sister after Mom was diagnosed. It goes back 4 generations and lists all of the cancers with the relations. Very awesome. My surgeon commented on how great it was to have my 'cancer tree' at his fingertips. He then examined me. He asked me what the hell had I had been waiting for. My reasons (excuses) sounded ridiculous coming from my own mouth. I told him so. He did more than suggest a hysterectomy. He insisted. I let him schedule one for me.

The hope is that this will be proactive to cancer, not a treatment for cancer. During the surgery he will send tissue to pathology. If no cancer, he'll finish, I'll be on my to recovery. If there is cancer, he will remove it and I'll treat as necessary.

I am actually very lucky. My Mom gave me a gift of knowledge that she didn't have. She didn't realize she was at risk, didn't realize she should be screened, didn't realize that she could lessen her risks with diet and exercise.

I have had CA125 tests every six months, trans vaginal ultrasounds every six months, prescription for birth control pills as they are a risk reducer, genetic counseling, genetic testing, etc. I know my risk.

I am fortunate that I have accrued enough sick time so that I will have a paid leave of 6 weeks. I will have a job to go back to. A job that I really love and am really going to miss. Students have told me they will miss me, miss talking with me 'and who is going to bring us Bath and Body lotions and soaps?' I brought in a few of each today for my desk so that they don't run out while I'm away. I told them to think of me while I'm gone.

..and then I think..oh my god, what am I going to do for 6 weeks? I will go back to work in the SPRING. SPRING. That's crazy. 6 weeks? Really?

..and sudden surgical menopause? Great. Sweet. Memory loss, hot flashes, no desire for sex, fatigue, irritability, mood swings, depression, anxiety, insomnia, weight gain, joint pain, stiffness to name a few. No wonder I put this off. I am not a candidate for HRT because of my cancer risk.

My surgeon told me that because I am lean, fit and strong that I should recovery quickly. He told me that I am at a lower risk for infection and other complications because I am in great shape.

He told me I may have to scratch Zumbro 100 for April; or not? I make a great cheerleader. I can work an aid station. If I can't run I'll be there to help out.

I've changed my way of thinking. 6-8 weeks of recovery is a whole lot better than treating for cancer. I'm now looking forward to the surgery so that I can heal, recover and move on.

So ultra girls, do tell: how long post hysterectomy until you ran your next 100? Or until you began to train for it, or until you began to RUN?

Wish me luck. I need it. 6 weeks of recovery. Good grief.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Last week I received a pair of Yaktrax in the mail to test. I had mentioned in my post regarding Tuscobia 50K that I have never tried Yaktrax , Kahtoola or any other spikes and what do you know-Yaktrax to the rescue!

Because it was 40 degrees and rainy all day on December 30 and then froze during the night I had a nice icy surface to try the Yaktrax out December 31. I decided to run my neighborhood route-not wanting to venture out driving on the glare ice roads to the State Park.

I began in the darkness, without a headlamp. I wanted to enjoy the quiet darkness to decompress, meditate. I felt all ‘peopled’ out and just wanted some quite time.

As I walked down the driveway I could see a glare off of the driveway from the moon as I walked to the street. Topaz bolted down the driveway and skidded into the cul-de-sac as he turned the corner. Ha, it was slippery!

I bent down to touch the surface. Real icy. I moved my feet forward and back upon the ice, no slipping. I could kind of feel the coils catch the ice, the sensation was little different that without the Yaktrax. I was ready to give these things a try.

Apprehensively, I began to jog. Initially I could sense that there was something attached to my shoes. I was wearing trail shoes with a substantial lug sole. The Yaktrax only added a few ounces. I could feel the coil inbetween the sole and the ice. As I became more comfortable with them I began to run. Before I knew it I had forgotten all about the Yaktrax. I was enjoying the run through the neighborhood, watching the sunrise, laughing at Topaz as he rolled in the snow to cool down.

I was testing the Yaktrax Pro. They attach to the shoe with a soft rubber frame which has coils that run along the bottom of the shoe. They are spikeless but give great traction in ice and snow. I was very impressed with the grip they gave.

Since December 31 I have worn the Yaktrax for 45 of the past 80 miles I have run. The miles without the Yaktrax were miles upon snowshoes. They have held up great-there is no wear that I can see. I have worn them in weather as cold as -14F, in light fluffy snow, packed snow and ice.

Thank you for sending them my way!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Onto 2011!

It is hard for me to believe that 2010 is already past and here we are, into 2011. Speedy!

I think I just finished up the best holiday ever. It was so wonderful to have the whole family home again. Tyler had a few days off of work so he was able to stay home and then commuted on the days he had to work. We really had a great time. I was smiling and laughing the whole time, just feeling great.

I decided to take the whole Holiday off from work. It was so much fun! We went sliding, skiing, movies, travel; a whole lot of fun. Just fabulous!

I was also able to spend some time at Afton with my friends, I had a few runs with my sister and long runs with Topaz. Really a great Holiday.

This past year I just wanted to spend a whole lot of time at home. I'm so glad that I did! 2010 brought on a whole lot of change. Troy entered high school, Tyler graduated from high school, moved out and entered college, I took a break from ultra running and focused on bodybuilding for a few months, then ventured back to running.

I am not sure what 2011 will bring. I have some medical issues I have to take care of. I was beginning to have some problems as my planned BB show arrived in October and had to put it on the shelf.

As for races I have two plans. If all goes well I’d like to compete in the Ultra Gnarly Bandit Series as I outlined earlier. Four 100 mile races that UMTR is putting on. If all doesn’t go so well I have entered the Monster Series as a back up. Gotta have a back up plan! The Monster Series is a group of races that Team Ortho puts on. The first, Polar Dash, took place on the 1st. I enjoyed it very much. The second race is the Get Lucky in March, the Minneapolis Marathon in June, the Minneapolis Duathlon in August and the Monster Dash in October.

I’m also going to do a number of snowshoe races this winter. In the past I have only competed in the Northwoods Snowshoe – the snowshoe marathon in Duluth – last year was the last year it was held. I’m going to do the snowshoe half marathon in River Falls this Saturday and a 20 mile snowshoe at Murphy in a few weeks. I imagine I’ll run the Winter Carnival ½ marathon, too. It is suprising that there are so many races in January in Minnesota. I am having a sled put together by Ed at Ed’s Wilderness Systems. I want to practice pulling this winter, become confident with my equipment and winter camping; then go for the 75 at Tuscobia next December. Woot!!

I no longer make "New Year Resolutions". Most of the ones I have made in the past I followed through with and they became lifelong habits. For 2011 I am grateful, I am living in the moment, I am feeling joy. That's enough for me.

Happy New Year to you all! 2011 will be all that we want it to be!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Team Ortho Polar Dash 10K

After running my first Team Ortho race last year, which was the Polar Dash 10K, I just had to come back for another Polar Dash. It really is a 'cool' race. Try cold-downright brittle frigid cold.

Last year I arrived an hour before the start and had to walk 2 miles to the start. With -20F windchill this morning I left earlier for a closer jog to the start. I still had to register so that meant an out and back before the race began.

Our thermometer at home showed -6, windchill of -28F. Minneapolis/St Paul 2F, -17 windchill. I decided to wear two pair of pants, two long sleeved thin tops, jacket, heavy turtlefur hat and neck gaiter, thermal gloves and wind mitts, smartwool socks, inov 8 gortex shoes.

I arrived to race start in plenty of time for close parking. I brought my heavy hooded coat to wear over my running clothes to the registration. I was toasty! Registered for the event, on a lap top, no writing on an entry form here, and entered the Monster Series. I noticed that there were shuttle buses for today's race but I didn't want to get cold waiting around for a bus. Although, the buses were prompt after the race and the organizers had gear drop. Amazing. So well organized and really, Team Ortho thinks of everything. I am very impressed with this organization.

I trotted back to my car, surfed the net, read a bit, undressed..dressed and finally went back to the start with 10 minutes to spare. The Shriners Hospital was headquarters. We were able to seek shelter in the lower level of the parking ramp-there were even heating torches to huddle under.

A fuzzy penguin announced that the race began in 4 minutes to I shivered out to the start line. I couldn't help but laugh all the way to the start line. Here are 2000 people, Minnesota hardy, ready to run a 10K when it is -17 some windchill, just for fun. What a great way to kick of 2011! I loved it.

I had no goal time really except with a hope to finish under an hour and a second faster than last year. I didn't believe this to be possible as I ran one of my highest mileage weeks this year plus skied for a day. It is only Saturday I have tomorrow to add to the weekly mileage. I'm at 72 so of course I'll run 8 to make an even 80.

I did't hear the start but pretty soon we began to shuffle-I wasn't cold but every once in a while a gust would find my eyes. The rest of me was totally covered. I crossed the start line, heard my chip buzz and started my watch. Off we went!

The course was pretty clear of ice, there was a bit of clumpy snow here and there but it was much better than what I've been running on lately. I didn't bring along my iPod, I was just going to listen to conversations around me.

We ran along the Mississippi River, up a few hills and down, a nice portion of the Twin Cities Marathon course. I had to pull down my turtlefur neck gaitor, I was getting warm. I removed my gloves as I ran up a hill, stuffed them into a pocket. I would retrieve them as I ran against the wind later.

There were course Marshall's along the course, cheering and ringing bells, taking pictures. Poor people! They were bundled up but were not running. They had to be freezing. Every one I ran past I yelled Happy New Year and they would comment on my big smile. I was having a blast. I felt great, so awesome to be running in the New Year.

At the turn around I looked at my watch and read :28. Good deal. Keep it up. Wow, made the corner and holy wind. The gusts were right at us. I pulled my gloves and mittens back on, pulled my hat down over my eyebrows and my neck gaitor up over my nose. It is quite a feeling to be running downhill but not gaining any momentum because the 35 mph wind is adding so much resistance. Crazy! I was still very comfortable, running within myself, enjoying the course.

Mile 5 and I heard a woman say "Bald Eagle" and point straight above us. There is was, gliding through the wind, effortlessly. So cool.

My eyes were watering from the wind, eyelashes freezing together. No snow today, just wind.

I crossed the finish line in 55 minutes, a few minutes faster than last year. Woohoo!

I stopped my watch and heard comments on the big smile I was wearing. It was awesome fun, everyone should be smiling! I collected another fabulous medal and was handed a Whole Foods bag-filled with banana, muscle milk, salted nut roll and other assorted goodies. Hot drinks were served, water, whatever you needed. What a class act.

I walked to my car a whole half a block away, stripped out of my wet clothes and into dry fuzzy fleece. Ahhhh...a fantastic way to start the New Year :)