Saturday, March 01, 2014

(Rolling) Stones and Cycling

Well, it's been quite the journey since December.  On Christmas night (12/25 going into 12/26) I had severe pain under my right ribs.  It started by my feeling uncomfortable - mainly "bloated", thinking I had eaten too much for dinner.  By 8pm I was having trouble laying down and sitting.  By 9:30 I was attempting to find any comfortable position.  At 10:30 I was trying to make myself sick - - thinking I had food poisoning.  By midnight I was crying and begged my husband to take me to the hospital, knowing, without doubt, that something was severely wrong with me.

At the hospital they gave me morphine, which REALLY helped relieve the pain while they tried to figure out what was ailing me.  After a portable ultrasound was brought in at 2:30am, I was diagnosed with gallstones.  Yes, I had my first attack.

A few days later I went for an "official" ultrasound at a radiology office.  They confirmed "many many" stones "bouncing around" in my gallbladder.  It was entertaining (the Doctor was SO excited) and scary...since I knew very little about gallstones or why I had them.  It was especially concerning because they had performed an ultrasound on my gallbladder in April 2013 (for another reason) and it was "clean" at that point.  So, within 8 months I had developed stones...rather quickly as the doctors have told me in subsequent visitis.

After some blood work, I was referred to a surgeon.  When he reviewed my scans he said "You have two choices: wait for another attack and then have emergency surgery; or elect to have your gallbladder out as soon as you can".  There was no "if an attack would happen again"...but WHEN it would.  I elected for the surgery and was scheduled for 10 days later.

There are plenty of people who may have opted to find ways to reduce the stones.  Ordinarily, I would have tried to be one of those people.  But the doctors all told me the same thing: my weightloss in 2013 is the reason the stones developed, and they will not be going away any time soon.

So there I was, at a cross-roads.  I've never had surgery.  Delivering my daughter was the only hospital stay I've ever had.  I certainly wasn't excited to be "electing" to have my gallbladder removed, but considering the pain I might have from the next attack...well, that, to me, was incomprehensible.

On January 29th, my patient husband took me to the hospital at 2:45pm for my 3pm check-in and 4:30 surgery.  At 3:30 we saw that my surgeon left a message on our home phone, saying that he would be running late due to some emergency surgeries that had come up.  At 11pm I was wheeled into the OR, 8 hours after being hooked up to an IV and approx 27 hours after my last meal.  My head was pounding and my mood was best described as "punchy".  At least there was a Zac Efron movie on t.v. to help distract me for a little while.  Ha ha.

Since I didn't finish surgery and post-op until 1:30am, the decision was made that I would stay overnight.  This meant that I was wheeled to another part of the hospital, and I had to be wear leg "pumps" around my calves to keep the blood circulating, to prevent clotting.  I didn't sleep all night.  I went home around 10:30 the next morning - and slept and slept.

Thursday was sort of a blur and I remember feeling "just ok" on Friday when my parents came over to visit.  The drugs must have still been in my system because by the time Saturday rolled around, boy, I felt like a Mack truck had hit me and my insides were NOT happy.

The surgery was done laproscopically: one incision was made in my belly button, two small holes on my right abdomen and one 1.5" incision under my breast bone.  This last incision was the worst.  Any time I moved, I had to hold it.  Any time I sneezed or coughed, I had to hold it.  The best way to describe the pain was to compare it to doing TOO many sit-ups.  Other friends have compared it to a c-section.  All I know is that it hurt to move, roll, sit-up, stand up, etc.  I took some of the pain meds but mostly tried to suffer through the pain. 

There are plenty of other unpleasantries associated with recovery from gallbladder surgery.  This post is not about those things...since I'd rather forget them.  But if you ever find yourself in this situation, please contact me and I'll be happy to provide some insight. :o)

Little by little, over the next 10 days, I started to feel more "normal".  I went back to work on Feb 10th. 

You may be asking yourselves: How did she handle not being able to ride her bike for all that time?!?! 

Well, that was a hard pill to swallow when I first met with the surgeon and he said "you won't be able to do any physical activity for 2 wks".  TWO WEEKS - was he insane?!?  I tell you, once I was back home after surgery, I couldn't even look at my bike for the first week.  It seemed like a foreign torture device.  At about day 9 I tried to sit on the bike.  It was a struggle.  I was "cleared" to ride on day 14 post-op.

On day 17 I made the leap back into cycling by participating on a charity spinning ride at Marty's Reliable in Hackettstown.  It was a belated Valentine's date for the hubby and me.  I spoke to the instructor ahead of time, explaining why I might not be riding as "hard" as the others.  We agreed that I would "take it easy".  About 20 minutes in, I was NOT taking it easy.  I was standing up in the saddle more than I had ever done before. Ken and Marty were next to me - surprised at my determination and hoping that I knew my limit of ability after not riding for so long.  It was a great ride and rejuvinated my desire and passion for the sport!

Since then I've been back on my trainer about 3 - 4 times a week - averaging more than 50 miles per week (this week I've done 66 so far!).  I've worked on riding in harder gears and doing some interval speed sprints.  Ken and I were even able to get OUTSIDE and ride a week ago - having a gorgeous 50 degree day, despite all the snow on the ground.

The NJ Gran Fondo is all but six months away.  Six short months with some long days of training. I think of all the hills, all the miles, all the mental hurdles to overcome.  I am filled with anxiety and excitement. 

Here's to the next chapter...minus an organ...but empowered by the knowledge that I am strong and can do this thing!

Happy riding to all!