Healing

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Healing

I like to keep my body parts. I figure each one is there for a reason. But, when all other options have been exercised & surgery is the only option….well, reluctantly, I know when it’s time to fold ’em.

I am not new to surgery. I have had 4 surgeries between the ages of 21 – 32. I’m proud to say, I’ve had success with all surgeries & recoveries. It’s a challenge to walk away healthy without infection or complications, especially when living with diabetes.

It’s been 10 years since my last surgery. It’s been almost 20 years since my last major surgery.

When I found out a few months ago I would be under the knife once again, having major surgery with a 6 week recovery time, I decided to be proactive in preparing so my recovery would be uneventful.

I am only 4 days post op so I may be putting the cart before the horse with this surgery but I want to post some considerations about how to prepare before, during & after.

Before Surgery:

1. Gather a reliable support team that can be there for you before, during & after surgery. Make sure your team knows their responsibilities throughout this process. If someone offers to help, this is one time you can’t afford to say no. Don’t try to be a hero. I never heard anyone talking about the time “so and so had surgery & what a champ he or she was going solo, doing it all on their own.”

2. Don’t go crazy cooking, baking & cleaning. What?!? you say? Shouldn’t I have stuff in the freezer & the house spotless for when I come home to recover? Sure, if you were healthy before surgery to do that, it would be ideal. But consider, why are you having surgery? Your body is not running at full capacity. By stressing yourself out making, baking & cleaning you are depleting your immune system to a point that you may set yourself up for illness before surgery (then, it may be cancelled) or cause infection post-surgery. Although it may be tough, go to the local health food store & buy organic, pre-made meals that one of your team mates can heat up. Same with the kids lunches. I’m not meaning pre-packaged boxed/canned garbage…there are a variety of ‘homemade’ soups, sauces & meals available today that have only a few ingredients & are good for you. Just make sure to watch the sodium content…you don’t want to get all puffy & bloated.

3. Which leads me to my next point….eat clean, well-balanced nutritional meals & snacks leading up to surgery. I mean, we all should all the time but if you have lost focus, now is the time to get back on track. If you don’t have a Juicer, I urge you to buy one. Use it often. Eat a variety of fresh, organic vegetables & fruits. Keep your protein lean. Keep your carbs complex & low GI. If you nourish your body properly, it will be ready to perform at a high level of healing during & after surgery.

4. Test blood sugars more often. Keep them within target. Consult with your Diabetes Team to make sure you are running at optimal capacity for diabetes management. High sugars can cause infection and/or slow healing.

5. Be honest during your Pre-Op visit at the hospital about which meds you are taking. I mean, prescription, herbal & homeopathic remedies as well as essential fatty acids. I take herbal & homeopathic tinctures as well as EFA which I had to stop 2 weeks before surgery as they increased my risk for bleeding.

6. If you are physically active until this point, if the Specialist agrees it is okay, keep doing what you do or alter it to accommodate to your circumstance. I was not able to be as active as I used to be but I made sure to walk 5 – 10 km each day to keep my heart, lungs, mind & muscles working.

7. Get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep a night.

8. Drink a lot of water. More than 8-8oz glasses a day.

The Night Before Surgery:

1.  Pack a cooler bag of simple, instant food that is healthy & wholesome for your hospital visit. Below is what I packed in mine:

– Nature’s Path Organic Instant Oatmeal Plus Flax
– (2) glass jars of Green’s Juice I made with my Juicer
– (2) 1/4 cup containers of hemp seed to add to my oatmeal
– (2) containers of 2 tbsp of Skinny B Breakfast Cereal
– (2) containers of 2 tbsp of Holy Crap Breakfast Cereal
– (2) single servings of plain Greek Yogurt

The Day of Surgery:

1. Ask your surgery to be booked first thing in the morning. You will be asked to have nothing to eat or drink the night before. Some of your diabetes meds may be held. But, with the risk of fasting comes the risk of a low sugar. Being booked in the morning gives you the opportunity to have an IV put in place so that if you have a low blood sugar the staff can give you sugar through it.

2. Remember to breathe deeply, often. Stay calm. Getting anxious over the unknown & probably what won’t happen will raise your blood pressure, heart rate & blood sugar. All the hormones released that cause this will not help with the healing.

3. When you feel yourself getting anxious, visualize what you would love to do 6 weeks from now. Imagine yourself having a successful operation & healing process. Envision how much better you will feel afterwards.

3. Ask questions. Although they may seem dumb to you, they really aren’t.

4. Educate the team in the hospital about your diabetes. They don’t know as much as you do. They can’t! They don’t live with it.

5. Be your own advocate. If something doesn’t seem right, speak up.

The Hospital Stay:

1. Be aware of what’s on your food tray. For the 2 days I stayed, I was presented every processed juice & flavour of jello imaginable. Was that going to help my healing? Nope. It would just spike my sugars. I resorted to my cooler of food I brought. My Greens Juices got me through the first 24 hours. The oatmeal, hemp, yogurt & Skinny B got me through the rest of my stay. The nurses admired that I advocated for myself by bringing the cooler of food.

2. Take the pain meds. Again, don’t be a hero. No pain, no gain does not work. Pain releases hormones that will cause your sugars to go up….and your blood pressure and your heart rate…get it? 🙂 You will not get addicted.

3. Sleep and move. Sleep as much as you can. As soon as the nurse says it’s time to get out of bed, whether you just stand up or take a few steps, it is important to move. It gets the blood flowing which helps your surgical incision heal.

4. Test, test, test. The hospital staff will do that for you a lot too, but I bring my own meter as back up as well. It may not be calibrated to the hospital lab but at least I can report to them if it’s not time for them to test & I know something is off with my sugar. I also wear a Continuous Glucose Meter paired with my pump.

5. Be aware that the grogginess from pain meds can mask a low blood sugar.

6. Be aware of your body. Listen to it. Trust your gut. You know you best!

7. Drink lots of water! LOTS!!

Recovering At Home:

1. Abide by what the instruction sheet & the nursing staff have said. Don’t push yourself. You will not push yourself closer to recovery but closer to a risk of infection & slow it down.

2. Sleep a minimum of 8 hours a night, if your body says to go to bed at 8pm, do it.

3. Nap when you’re tired.

4. Be as mobile as your Doctor has permitted you to be.

5. Inspect your incision(s) daily. If they start to look red, inflamed or have discharge, you need to call your Doctor right away.

6. Test, test, test. Keep your sugars within target. I’ll repeat this again….high sugars will slow the healing process & promote infection.

7. Eat clean, eat well. Keep up with the Greens Juice. Eat lots of vegetables & fruits. Eat lean protein. Keep to low GI, complex carbs.

8. Call on your Team. Refer to #1 “Before Surgery”.

9. Drink lots of water. LOTS!!

These are general guidelines. Your circumstances may be unique & there may be some suggestions I have made that the Doctor has advised against or differently. Please listen to your Doctor. He & you, know your circumstance best.

Never Prepared

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Never Prepared

In all the years the kids were in primary and yes, even high school, I only missed one year of their first day of school. In my mind it was a given I would be there. I had to be there so I could take, what would become, the “First Day of School Picture”. It was very important to me and I felt for them, to be there to tell them to ‘have a good day, be safe, I love you’, giving them hugs and kisses before they got on the bus. The picture I took each year measured many things. Growth, happiness, anticipation, excitement, love, memories, health. I wanted to make sure the kids knew that school was a big deal. It was a positive place to be. Learning at school was as important as at home. This is a pic of Cayla, 9, and Kurtis, 7, in September 2000. Today I showed Kurtis the pic. He tells me he doesn’t like the picture, he thinks he looks like a geek. :p

In this photo, Kurtis is less than 2 months away from the day he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Not knowing the ‘stats’, from the time my kids were born, I kept an eye on how much they drank, peed and gained weight. It didn’t occur to me to look up the ‘stats’ on being a Type 1 parent and the chances of ‘passing’ it on to my children until after Kurtis’ diagnosis. According to the American Diabetes Association, the stats read like this:

Both parents (neither have Type 1) have inherent risk factors that contribute to a child developing Type 1.

A child with a Dad living with Type 1 has 1 in 17 odds of developing Type 1.

A child with a Mom that had him/her before the age of 25 has a 1 in 25 chance of developing Type 1.

If Mom has her kids after the age of 25, the odds go up to 1 in 100.

A parent diagnosed with Type 1 before the age of 11 provides a risk of double that their child will develop it.

Regardless of the stats, in my gut I knew. I spoke with other parents who live with Type 1 diabetes that have the same worries as me. But is the effect of the diagnosis the same as a parent that has no idea until diagnosis that their child may develop it?

I try to put myself in my parents shoes as neither one of them have Type 1. Now mind you it was 1975, but hear me out. I am imagining myself as a parent living without Type 1 who has a child that is diagnosed with Type 1. The ‘radar’ saying “I will keep an eye out, just in case.” doesn’t exist. When that day comes. When my very sick child is before me and the Doctor tells me that he/she has Type 1, finally, because heaven knows in this modern-day of technology and knowledge it seems the awareness of signs and symptoms among many health care professionals still does not exist. I am told he/she will take injections of insulin to sustain them for the rest of their life. My mind would spin. I envision myself being whisked off to the hospital or clinic with my very sick child where I would be expected to take a crash course on how to keep my child from having lows so severe they could die and highs so high they become very sick with ketones with the risk of developing long-term complications, possibly dying from these complications. I would be expected to learn how to titrate a medication that is life saving but can cause death if not treated with respect. I have to learn how to poke my precious child with a sharp needle not once a day but several times. What are kids most fearful of? Pain. What do glucose tests and needles cause? Pain. What does a parent try to protect their child from at all costs? Pain.

I can’t tell you it was easier for me. If it was, it would be difficult to relate to the feelings of a parent not living with Type 1 prior to their child being diagnosed. I was ‘blessed’ to have more experience and knowledge. That’s all. At the end of the day, I am a parent first.

Kurtis’ ‘road’ to his diagnosis began 2 years earlier. He was 5, the same age when I was diagnosed. On one particular day he seemed to be drinking and peeing more than usual. I don’t know how, as he was my strong willed child, but I convinced him to poke his finger without much fuss. His blood sugar 2 hours after he ate his meal was 8.2 mmol/L (148 mg/dL). My jaw dropped. My stomach flipped. I called the Family Physicians office immediately. The receptionist told me to check his sugar after having him fast 12 hours. Now, I do have to say, this was not funny at the time but as a parent and now that I speak of it, it is. 16 hours later, I finally promised Kurtis I would take him to McDonald’s. I never took my kids to McDonald’s!! I was SO desperate & scared, I promised if he let me poke his finger I would buy him a McHappy Meal. He agreed. It is now 10am!! He must’ve been starving! Kurtis’ sugar was 4.8 mmol/L (86 mg/dl). I called the Physician’s office to report back. I wasn’t convinced that this made it all right. I had that gut feeling a parent gets when they “know” something isn’t right.

Fast forward to September and October 2000. From the time Kurtis was a baby he had a history of ear and sinus infections. He lived with one ear infection after another. From one sinus infection to another. He would finish one round of antibiotics and would be onto the next.

As usual, Kurtis had a healthy summer. On the first day of school, as pictured, he seemed great, looked healthy. Once exposed to the school environment of germs, sneezes and coughs, his health slowly declined to a point I knew he was going to be sick. Dark shadows under the eyes and very pale. I would keep him on a tight schedule of bedtime and keep him fed well with healthy, home cooked meals. It didn’t seem to matter.

But, this time was different. Kurtis had that ‘look’ I was familiar with. I was perplexed, he wasn’t getting sick. At that time, for his age group, track pants were the fad. He was always a big boy. Always in or over the 90th percentile in height and weight for his age. When he had a growth spurt he would get chunky and stretch up. Being 7 years of age, I didn’t weigh him often or become concerned if he thinned out a bit.

October 31, 2000. I had sent Kurtis to school with a plate full of treats for his classes Hallowe’en party. As well as making a point of being there in the morning to put them on the bus, I tried my best to be there to see them come home from school as well. As Cayla and Kurtis walked in the front door, I was excited for them. I looked forward to carving their pumpkins and get dressed up for our night out Trick or Treating. As I prepared and fed the kids their after school snack, in the conversation of asking how their day was, Kurtis’ informs me that he didn’t eat much at his Hallowe’en party because he felt sick to his tummy and peed and drank at the water fountain all day. I wanted to throw up. I knew. I didn’t even have to check him to know. But of course, I did.

After explaining to him my suspicions and what I needed to do to confirm, come hell or high water, Kurtis was not going let me check by finger poke. I did a dipstick of his urine. I wanted to cry. The test strip showed 4+ sugar. It was 4:30pm. I called the Family Physicians office again. In the background I could hear Kurtis crying “I hate diabetes” “I don’t want diabetes”. This time I knew it wasn’t going to be instructions to check his fasting. In my mind at that time, all I could think was, I GAVE my baby diabetes.

I believe my emotions with Kurtis’ diagnosis may be a bit different, but not much then parents who don’t have diabetes. In the end, I have come to terms with the fact, it doesn’t matter. It is what it is. BUT, with that being said, and why I write this post is that there are two things I learned that I want to pass onto you. Whether you are a parent that has ‘passed’ on Type 1 to your child or parents that carry those dreaded inherent genes that we know little about ….

1. I cried to my Mom many times about the fact I ‘gave’ Kurtis diabetes. I felt SO guilty!! Being the amazing Mom she is, do you know what she asked me? “So, if you were to chose whether you had Kurtis or he had diabetes, which would it be?” OH MY!! There is no choice! I would have him a thousand times over!!

2. A year later of Kurtis & I grieving (separately mind you, he never saw me grieve) he would sit on the couch trying to inject himself (he insisted) for a minimum of an hour morning and night. I would listen to him cry and wail about how much it hurt and he can’t do it and he hates diabetes …so painful to watch. I finally realized I was enabling him to be pitied for something he had no control over. I don’t believe in enabling people to be pitied. I then realized I needed to empower him. I told him he had no choice. I told him it sucked living with diabetes BUT he could do whatever he wanted to do! I asked him if he saw me wailing and crying over taking my needles? Did he see me feeling sorry for myself? I told him I would no longer tolerate pity. He could share his feelings but could not use his diabetes for pity.

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. Nelson Mandela

For most diagno…

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For most diagnoses all that is needed is an ounce of knowledge, an ounce of intelligence, and a pound of thoroughness. – Anonymous

In January, for the second time in two months I arrive in the Emergency Department.  

I have to be in pretty rough shape to go there.  I can count on one hand how often I have gone for myself.  Having worked in the ER, I have seen people’s definition of what an emergency is.   I don’t want to be one of those people.  But, here I am doubled over in pain again.  Just before heading out the door, I stand with my hands shaking, heart pounding, crying…Googling my symptoms one more time, trying to find a diagnosis that I can fix so I don’t have to go.  Then I think to myself…what if I am dying of something and they can treat it?  That would be really stupid!

So off I go.  The Triage Nurse asks what’s happening.  I tell her.  She takes my history.  Takes my blood pressure.  WHOA!!  I guess I am in pain….155/100.  Ok, I feel a little more justified in being there.  They take me right in.  Ok, I’m feeling even more justified.  

The ER Doctor comes into assess me and has already looked up my health history from the past 10 years! That’s a first!!  I describe to him what I have and am presently experiencing.  I tell him my thoughts about it.  I tell him the tests I have had.  He urgently orders a shot of pain medication in my hip.  The nurse comes in and tells me that it will sting a bit as it is going in.  As she injects it, I comment to her that it doesn’t really hurt.  THEN, she pulls the needle out and man, oh, man…talk about a delayed reaction!!  The burn!  But, if it was going to take the pain away, the burn was the least of my discomfort.

The thorough assessment by the Doc gave me some reassurance that this time there would be a diagnosis.  Although I had an Ultrasound and a CT Scan from my earlier ER visit, which showed nothing, the Dr insists I should have another CT Scan.  In my mind, I am thinking MRI! MRI!  But I figure I will humour him.  

Finally the pain med begins to take the edge off.  During the Ultrasound, the Tech is taking the probe across one spot in particular, over and over.  Let me tell you, that was fun…NOT!  A necessary evil.  Finally, she asks if I have a had a different type of Ultrasound.  I have not and feel a sense of relief that she is deciding to do this.  Afterwards, she informs me the ER Dr will talk with us about the results when we go back to Emerg.  She sends us on our way.

Back in the ER, it takes the Dr a bit of time before he comes to speak with us.  I am terrified. Is it, he still doesn’t know or something very serious?

He tells us he has spoken with a Specialist and tells me I have a condition called Adenomyosis.  OK!  I have an answer.  I have a condition.  BUT, what is it, I ask.  He says he doesn’t know, he has never heard of it.  Huh?!?  So is it treatable?  Is it something I have to live with the rest of my life, because pain and diabetes management don’t go well together.  Is it terminal?  He tells us the Specialist wants to see me in a week to discuss treatment options.  In the meantime, he sends me home on Tylenol #3’s and prescription NSAID’s.

I whip out my phone and go to Google.  I guess the Dr doesn’t have Google or a Medical Dictionary at the hospital (insert sarcasm).

After reading about it, a wave of relief washes over me.  I know what the discussion will be with the Specialist now!  It is treatable.  I will need major surgery.  I am excited.  Really, I am!

After researching more, I realize the many issues I am having with my body the past many years, I now know are directly linked to this one condition.  The surgery will fix these things!  

In less then a month I am looking forward to beginning the recovery process.  In the meantime, I have focused on eating well, taking my vitamins and supplements, keeping my blood sugars tight, getting enough sleep and walking.  Ideally, I would like to exercise more intensely to strengthen my muscles but I am not well enough for that.  I remind myself in a few months I will be able to.   I have been reassured by a few friends who have had the surgery that I will wake up one day on week six of the recovery and realize how great I feel, how rough I’ve felt these years.  The countdown is on.

I am looking forward to my new life.