I am recovering from an outpatient surgical procedure. No, not cataract surgery because my life has more detours than the Michigan Department of Transportation. Setting up medical procedures has been difficult because my support system of family and friends has disappeared due to perfectly reasonable excuses such as death, job relocations, major medical problems, family responsibilities, and acts of God (ice storms that close airports or land doctor’s cars in ditches).
I would have enjoyed a brief pity party, but…. On what has become a “normal” day, the man I’ve hired to drive and read for me for several years, looked over the steering wheel and out the window while casually telling me that he had emergency surgery to remove a tumor from his spine, had been in the hospital for a few days, and would start chemotherapy. I was in shock and uncharacteristically speechless. A few days later, I tactfully called to ask what days he would be available to work for me. I expected him to say that he would not be available. Instead, this career Marine who is now in his late 80s told me the days he would be able to work for the next four months.
This man inspired me to move forward with the removal of a polyp in the uterus that was discovered after I read a Talking Book from the NLS Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped about gastrointestinal problems. I’ve had every possible GI test over the past three years and worked with two nutritionist to try to find anything that was causing symptoms. The book I read in desperation said that female problems can mimic GI problems. After menopause, doctors schedule regular, yearly mammograms but often tell women that they don’t need gynecological exams. WRONG! Yearly exams are still needed according to my wonderful gynecologist and surgeon. Her nurse also gave me a diet used by women who have morning sickness (soft and bland) since my body was having the same mild symptoms that it did when I was pregnant more than 40 years ago.
My driver was not available for this procedure, but I found a volunteer at my church, a woman in her mid-70s who would go with me to the procedure, take me to her condo to rest, and keep me overnight if that were necessary. Things were going well until the morning of the procedure. I couldn’t find my shoes. When I located them, I bent down and whacked my head with the handle of my briefcase on wheels. My helper experienced last minute surprises before leaving home too. We were now both on high alert—and needed to be.
As I was surrounded by medical professionals ready to take me to surgery, my helper got a call from her daughter who had gone to Urgent Care because she was not feeling right. Urgent Care said her blood pressure was excessively high and had her drive to the Emergency room. I immediately asked for a chaplain or someone who could stay with me while my helper went to the ER. Knowing how long it can take to get admitted to ER and that my procedure would have to be canceled if she did not stay, my helper decided that my procedure should continue on schedule.
I loved being under anesthesia. I was not eager to wake up and face whatever new surprises were waiting in the wings, but I was not overmedicated and learned quickly that my helper’s daughter was scheduled for brain scans. A few hours later as we tried to relax and watch a movie, her daughter called to say that a cyst was found, more tests would be done, and surgery would be performed that day. My helper dropped me off at home on her way to the medical center where successful surgery was performed later in the week.
After several days that seemed to have many more hours than just 24, test results indicated that the polyp and other tissue that were removed were benign. One of my favorite writers, Nora Ephron who wrote Heartburn and the script for My Blue Heaven, was reported to have died of complications from ovarian cancer. This disease is often fatal by the time it is diagnosed. Nora Ephron did not save my life, but her medical history made me pursue the possible causes of my GI symptoms aggressively after I read the Talking Book about GI diseases and their causes. I encourage anyone who is using Talking Books to become an active participant in their help care by doing subject searches of any medical concerns they have. There are also plenty of books on self-help, wellness, nutrition, exercise, aging, retirement, finances, and government policies. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell from Michigan who found hiring caregivers for her husband, the late Congressman John Dingell difficult has now made the needs of patients and caregivers a major priority and is an advocate for change.
I have always preferred comedy to tragedy and have learned from the best by watching the Nora Ephron interview at Drexel University on YouTube and by reading her commencement address at Wellesley. The Most of Nora Ephron is available from the NLS LBPH for anyone who believes as I do that laughter is the best medicine while living with low vision.