Recovery is a long and winding road

Surgery was January 20th. I am sitting here in my hospital room where I’m starting to think I’ll spend the rest of my life. The surgery was successful. My doctor is brilliant. I don’t really want to go into details on what ended up being a 12 hour surgery.

I have had a few setbacks and even ended up in ICU for a few days. None of my complications were unexpected for this type of surgery. They are just annoying. I’m okay and progressing little by little. I’m now eating real food. I’m walking more. I’m working on my breathing. I’ve been told I should get to go home by the end of the week. Of course, my body will help decide that. Many of my blood counts are lower than they should be so that is keeping me here for now.

I’ve met with a physical therapist, occupational therapist, dietitian, and more doctors, residents, nurse practitioners, medical students and nurses than I can count. Once again I couldn’t be happier with my care. I’ve had wonderful nurses that really seem to care. None of the other people push. I got cleared by PT and OT fairly early thanks to my overall health and fitness and youth. I still can’t put socks on myself, but I can do a lot. Getting in and out of bed is one of the more difficult tasks, but I’m getting better at it. I’m on a super fun low fiber diet for at least a month, but this is where having a retired dietitian and good cook for a mother comes in handy.

All the cards, flowers, notes and visitors are greatly appreciated. It’s been so nice to have people stop by even if it’s for a short time because I need another nap. Having flowers is wonderful since it has basically been grey outside the entire time I’ve been in here. I do have a nice view from the 8th floor of the building I’m in.

My complaints so far are pretty small. One is the fact that every single time I call to order food, no matter the time of day, I get put on hold. Every time. Sometimes for 5- 6 minutes. And then they super annoying family across the hall from me who doesn’t understand quiet hours or keeping your children in check at a hospital. Thankfully that patient went home.

Hopefully the next time I write something I will be on my couch and not in this bed. Until then, thank you for being my friends and for caring so much.


The good in people

I really didn’t know what to expect when I went public a few months ago. For the longest time I wanted everything to be private. I had a very strict no social media policy. My close friends knew and family knew but I didn’t want this out there in the world. I think I was afraid of being treated differently and being treated as sick. And I’ve never believed that I’m sick. I don’t feel sick. I don’t look sick. Saying the words “I have cancer” was really difficult. And then explaining such a rare cancer was even more difficult. There is something happening to my body and it’s not happening to me. My body and mind are fighting this with every power of its being.

I never could have expected the outpouring of love and support from family to close friends to acquaintances to people I haven’t spoken to in 10+ years. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for everything. It all means the world to me. Every text, tweet, email, FB message, meal, it all means something.

If you ever want to find the good in humanity this is it. I’m going through something terrible and almost everyone has rallied around me. People say you learn who your real friends are when you go through something like this and that is so true. And it turns out I have so many wonderful friends. It’s a wide net and I still can’t come up with the words to say thank you. Those words don’t seem enough.

I am one day away from this surgery and have never felt so supported.

Thank you.

The Fight of my Life

20170108_134056When I was diagnosed in August my mom said this was going to be the fight of my life and I never really felt that until now. I have this huge, invasive surgery in a few days. I have read lots on it. I have listened to my doctors; all of them. I think I have now been signed off by something like 5 doctors to have this surgery (all of them think I’m healthy enough). This surgery is going to be a fight, but I firmly believe my body can handle this and that they will get everything. This does not mean I’m not terrified for this surgery. There are a lot of possible side effects, some very scary. I believe that my age and overall good health will help me. I believe in my medical team. I believe I will run again. I believe I will be cancer free. I believe in my own body.

I had the best week and weekend with friends. It was just what I needed. My friends don’t treat me different. While my huge surgery is on all of our minds it doesn’t take over. I still can’t get over how amazing my friends have been. You really learn a lot about people when going through something terrible and the people I have surrounded myself with are the best people I could imagine having with me. Planning to fill my social calendar was the best idea. It has been wonderful to see everyone. And it’s not just local friends; the calls and cards and messages from across the country and world mean the world to me. The biggest positive to come out of all of this has been reconnecting with people. I know I keep reiterating a lot of this, but “Thank you” doesn’t seem to feel like enough. Just know I’ll never forget all the people there for me.

While I greatly appreciate the boxes of goodies from everyone please do not send any more coloring books. I have more than enough from everyone who has sent them this fall and winter. I also don’t need more socks. We will probably need meals at some point, but are not doing a meal train again.

For those of you who are interested in more information on appendix cancer I have found a good resource from the ACPMP – Appendix Cancer / Pseudomyxoma Peritonei Research Foundation.

As I head in for the fight of my life later this week just know I know you are all there with me. Thank you. And so much more.

Surgery Prep

This is mainly social. There are other things I need to do, but seeing as many friends as possible is really high up there. Dinners, lunches, movies and more have filled my calendar and while I would normally yell at myself for over-scheduling like this, but I’m loving every second of it. I have a few lunches still open.

I’ve also had a bunch of doctor’s appointments and I think have now been signed off by 5 doctors to have the surgery. I’m healthy enough and all the tests they’ve done say I’m ready for the surgery.

wp-1484268957763.jpgThis week I finally found two different Appendix Cancer FB groups and they are great. I’ve heard from so many people that had my surgery and are cancer free 2, 3, 5, 9, 11 years later. It’s what I needed to see. Talking to people who have gone through this is so helpful. Yes, it’s a huge surgery and the first few weeks will be difficult, but I will come out strong. And I have my new treadmill, thanks to the best brother in the world, so I can get my walking in without dealing with Wisconsin winter. I’ve used it every day since he got it for me. I will be strong going into the surgery and will work hard after it.

On a sad note, the love of my life, Anamaya, and her parents have gone back to Italy. This little person makes my day every day. I would do anything for her. Include climb under a baby play toy to take a picture. It has been so fun to have her here and see how much she has grown and change. My favorite things is she knows me now. She would fuss with a stranger (to her) and be happy when I took her back. wp-1484268990061.jpg

Next week I’ll get around to packing my hospital bag and move back downstairs to my guest room. It’s much easier to be on the same floor as the bathroom and to be able to lock out the cats as I don’t remotely trust them to not climb on me and my incision.

As far as visiting me in the hospital I have no idea how I’m going to feel so please don’t ask. I will let people know if and when I’m up for visitors. You can also contact my parents.

As always I really appreciate all the good wishes and cards and gifts. I’ve stopped trying to figure out how some of you have gotten my address. I just appreciate it.

My mantra through this all is still Cancer is life-altering, but not defining.”   I mean this. Always. I know all I’m doing is writing about cancer now, but I am still me. I still like doing things with my friends and still love to travel and even have a trip planned to visit the baby and her parents later this spring. Fingers crossed I get medically cleared for that.

There’s a Plan

Let’s just start with I’m overwhelmed. About everything. I met with my surgeon this morning. My case was discussed at their tumor board meeting last night. Once again my scans were inconclusive. That has a lot of meanings, but basically they only have some idea what I look like on the inside. But he does still feel confident with moving forward with surgery and that he can get the disease.

My surgery is scheduled for January 20th. It is an extensive and invasive surgery. It will be 8-10 hours. I will be in the hospital for 7-10 days. There are lots of possibilities in what will specifically be done once they open me up. For those of you who are curious and want to know more it is a cytoreductive and HIPEC surgery. You can google it. Please read reputable sources and not crap like WebMD. My surgeon is Dr. Mogal at the MCW/Froedert Cancer Center if you want to look him up. I have, obviously, done a lot of reading on him, his experience and his research. I will reiterate that I, and my family, completely trust him. He explained a lot to me today and it was useful information.

I will be off work from 6-8 weeks. But it will take 3-6 months to get back to my baseline quality of life. As with the last surgery they want me to be mobile and walking. It will be a lot harder to do this in February than it was in August. I foresee circles around my house.

My next two weeks are filled with pre-operative appointments. They have to check all kinds of things. I am, thankfully, done with chemo at this point. It’s so nice to be more than two weeks post-chemo and to not be going back in for more. My body and my brain need this break.

On a positive note, I had a great Christmas and New Year’s with friends and family.

The whole Sturgess-Hill Family

As always I am open to questions and will answer what I’m comfortable with answering.