Phoenix Rising – The Surgery That Wasn’t

I took some time off from blogging over the holidays, and holy moly, do I have a lot of catching up to do.

I am continuing the sharing of my medical journey in hopes that it will give some comfort to others who may be going through similar issues. It’s nice to not feel alone.

I was supposed to have surgery to remove the tumors from my right ovary yesterday. The story of all that “fun” and surrounding stress are documented here” Take My Uterus Please

That didn’t happen, because it was discovered that my blood pressure was dangerously high (187/111) at that appointment and not any better at home that night)

I was shocked to say the least.

I am used to being “disgustingly healthy” (direct quote from a doctor) and an athlete with no health issues other than my girly bits giving me trouble as I approach menopause.

Now I’m a “sick person” ?

This is beyond difficult to wrap my head around, and I am trying very hard to not let it make me depressed.

This also ruined my carefully laid/on a strict timetable plans which included being recovered from the surgery by Feb 1st so that I can concentrate on working/having a more steady paycheck (although I’ve done well with the writing/photography/performing over the last month) and less financial uncertainly/stress.

I’m really not budgeted to keep up the COBRA premium benefits past the end of this month and was planning on switching to a cheaper individual plan (which would pay less for this sort of thing) but I have no choice now as my health (and maybe life) depend on it.

Last Wednesday I was given an emergency dose of Clonidine in office to lower my BP out of the danger zone. I was also given a prescription for Amlodipine 5mg per day. It didn’t get me down to below 150/90 so I was instructed to double the dose this morning. Of course, I’m not allowed to drive until I know how it affects me, so no trip to the doggie park for Mr Frodo.

Wow, less than a week ago, I was fire dancing at First Night in leather pants and a bustier and now I’m a fragile old lady on medication who’s not allowed any strenuous exercise nor to even drive?

Inconceivable… (yeah, I know, “That word, you keep using it; I do not think it means what you think it means…” )

On September 14th (yes of this last year, just a few months ago) my blood pressure reading at the doc’s office was 116/70 (hadn’t been at work or drinking coffee that day so I was super calm), it started slowly creeping up from there over the next few months (but I’m often stressed just walking into a doc’s office and it if was a morning appointment after I had a latte that also raises pressure, so it did not attract any attention) It was pretty high the day of my uterine surgery, but I was super stressed out/anxious.

My cholesterol, blood sugar, thyroid and metabolic blood work is all good. What I could see of my EKG looked good; but then again, I didn’t get enough of a look to note if there were any prolonged QRS complexes or ST segments.

My stress level has been off the charts, and although that may not in its self be the root cause given my bad family history, it’s certainly not helping. Neither is having to leave tumors in my ovary for an as yet unspecified period of time.

I’ve worked through the initial phases of shock, depression and anguish and am back in fighting mode.

The first thing I did was get off the birth control hormones as they can contribute to high blood pressure and stroke in a woman my age.

The next thing I did was stop caffeine. I was able to order some decaf green beans from my usual supplier to roast, so I can still have lovely home roasted coffee/lattes.

Cold Turkey off of caffeine and hormones at the same time-Do I know how to party or what?

I also quit rinsing my mouth with salt water, which I was doing several times a day to assist in healing from the wisdom teeth extractions and mouth irritation from the braces.

I am getting back to my healthy eating habits (holidays pretty well trashed those) making a concerted effort to get back out for what exercise I’m allowed right now, and am trying to keep a good attitude.

Whenever life has thrown me ugly challenges (or tried to outright kill me, which has happened more than once) I always come back stronger.

As a Scorpio, one of my signs is the Phoenix.

I’ve risen from the ashes before (albeit slightly singed), and I’ll do it again.

Who knows, I could end up writing a successful book after all is said and done.

How timely that I’m sitting here looking at the sculpture that my dear friend Christina gave me for Solstice this year to commemorate the naming of my homestead “Phoenix Grove”.


Ah life, it’s always an adventure…


Part Deux…posted as a service to those who have been “given way too much well meaning good advice” in times of stress

My friends have been a constant source of love and support.

With that said, whenever someone is going through a medical challenge they are often overwhelmed with advice…

I am offering up the following excerpt from an email I sent to friends and also posted as a FB note.

(It’s amazing how many people immediately responded sharing their own stories of being almost “loved to death” by their friends who didn’t realize that the well meaning onslaught of advice is overwhelming and stressful in its self.)

Between the three months of constant pain dumping stress hormones into my body at an alarming rate and all the other job/financial/death of a friend/creepy neighbor guy bugging me/surgery/tumor/etc… stress combined with the holidays (getting away from my normally very healthy eating habits) and not being able to exercise (my number one stress reducer) due to surgery recovery and prior to that hemorrhage, my body is pretty messed up and I’m most definitely “off my game”.

I had one friend ask me if I had not had my blood pressure checked in a long time (wondering how in the heck it could get that bad undetected) it was a good question; here’s the answer.

On September 14th (yes of this last year-just a few months ago) my blood pressure reading at the doc’s office was 116/70 (hadn’t been at work or drinking coffee that day so I was super calm), it started slowly creeping up from there over the next few months (but I’m often stressed just walking into a doc’s office and it was a morning appointment after I had a latte that also raises pressure, so it did not attract any attention) It was pretty high the day of my uterine surgery, but I was super stressed out/anxious.

My cholesterol, blood sugar, thyroid and metabolic blood work is all good. Up until this point in my life, I have always been considered (by doctors) “disgustingly healthy”.

Many of you had given me excellent advice and insight.

I am going to state a few things here in hopes no one thinks I am disregarding or disrespecting their advice.

Everyone is different, and what works for one person, may not work for another.

Yes, I am aware that meditation helps.

However, at almost 50 years old, I have tried just about every method of counting breath, being aware of breath, Buddhist chanting, etc…

Sitting meditation is not my thing/is not in my psychological make up and has never done anything but frustrate me.

What DOES work to get me into a meditative state is “moving” meditation: yoga, walking, running, gardening, playing music/drumming so I’ll be concentrating on that. (I will however be trying the recordings that a friend sent me as I can lay and listen to them I the nest)

I have received numerous strong opinions/advice on diet (most with scientific studies to back up the claims) that a specific diet raw/vegan/vegetarian/paleo/south beach/fad diet de jour/etc… will take care of this without medication. Much of this advice directly conflicts with what the last person just told me and everyone is equally as passionate about what they believe will help (this is actually starting to add to my already monumental stress)

My body weight is normal (but on the high end of normal now, which means I need to get back to my workout schedule as soon as I can)

I am making my changes/taking action in steps.

I do have a medical and science background and do a lot of research (from diverse sources), so I am not stumbling blindly into this nor am I uneducated about how the human body works.

If I change absolutely everything at once, in addition to stressing out my mind and body, I won’t know what did and didn’t contribute to the cause or the cure. (I may never know due to the heredity factor, but science geek girls wants to try to know)

So I am going about this in a decisively methodical manner. (ooh, say that three times fast)

I’ve already cut out caffeine and my birth control hormones; both of these were done cold turkey last Wednesday, as they are known contributors and were easily in my control (and that 187/100 reading scared the hell out of me).

I was thrown into an unscheduled menstrual cycle (yeah, that was fun) which just ended yesterday. The caffeine wasn’t bad as I wasn’t drinking enough to create withdrawal. I love to roast and drink my own coffee, so I ordered some decaf beans/blends to roast and am happily enjoying equally wonderful morning lattes (it is my ritual) and not missing the caffeine. I will occasionally enjoy green tea, but am careful to have it only early in the day so it doesn’t mess up my sleep. Other than that, I’m drinking Hibiscus Bliss tea from Mad Hat.

I also stopped rinsing my mouth with salt water, which I was doing several times a day in order to heal up the wisdom teeth extraction sites and the abrasions from my braces (honestly, it’s like having a cheese grater in your mouth sometimes) No you don’t swallow it intentionally, but some does go down.

I don’t eat a lot of salt, I use it in baking because well, that’s chemistry is is sometimes required to get things to work properly, but in any other recipe I cut it in half, if not out completely.

I do not eat fast foods and rarely eat processed food. I even make my own soup and stock.

Since I know my eating habits went to heck over the holidays, and that is part of the problem, I’m getting back to the things I (through research, medical knowledge and trial and error with my own body) know work for me. (your mileage may vary)

I eat as much fresh, local and organic produce as possible (I have an organic garden in my back yard) and I try to eat my food in as much of an unprocessed natural state as possible.

I do eat eggs (my cholesterol numbers speak for the safety of them as does the current medical research) from my own back yard chickens, humanely raised and fed a vegetarian diet and free range during the day.

I eat salmon, and small amounts of other meat (occasionally, not every day) that is local and humanely raised as possible. If I want a burger or to make chili, I use organic buffalo (I’ve even been to the ranch it comes from).

If I eat bread or pasta (rarely) it’s whole grain and usually home made.

I have been a vegetarian; it does not work for me. I have no intention of becoming vegan. I understand that you who are are passionate about it think it is the best thing for me and the planet; please stop telling me to do it over and over again. (this is adding to my stress)

The same goes for you paleo folks (or anyone promoting any highly restrictive and/or fad diet) it is not going to happen, please stop adding to my stress by lecturing me about how your food plan/diet/philosophy is the best and only way to do it.

I have one latte in the morning with milk. It is organic, family farmed milk.

I DO NOT eat/drink Soy. It makes me violently ill, and there is plenty of research out there proving that it is pretty darn bad for us in the amounts/manner in which it is marketed by “big agri-business” as an alleged health food. I consider it little more than poison. If you’re interested do the research but for gosh sakes, please stop telling me to eat it.

I do not and will not eat “veggie patties/burgers” My philosophy is that the less processed a food is, the better able our bodies are to process it and utilize the nutrients. (see above note about eating food as unprocessed as possible)

I currently have one small glass of red wine in the evening after dinner. (yeah, I had quite a bit of champagne over the holidays, I’m a naughty monkey) and am doing my best to stick to that. I will, for the time being be turning down invitations to the wine shop, wine tastings and parties where it flows too freely (it’s too easy to say, “Sure one more little bit would be awesome” and or have your glass topped off when you’re not looking and end up consuming more than planned)

I am not allowed to do any strenuous exercise for the time being, so walking the dog (better, going to Ft Steilacoom dog park and walking around and around the big area not having to deal with a leash/keeping the dog in training mode) yoga (will start back up once I’m convinced of the safety of driving on the current medication dosage) and some poi spinning/hula hooping will have to do for now.

One of the biggest things I need to do is to decrease and manage my stress.

There will be times when I want/need to talk about all of this, and times where I need to not accept a call/return an email so that I can think of other stress reducing things. Please don’t take this personally.

I will ask that those who are super passionate and maybe upset because you love and care about me, please stop and think about how repeated (and I mean if I don’t answer turning around and calling right back a few minutes later after leaving a near hysterical voice mail message and then sending me an email YELLING (yes, all caps and underlined) demanding that I call you, take actions (based on you not even reading my email/knowing what I have or haven’t done) and doing things that are against my ethics (oh say like LYING) affect me.

There aren’t words to describe the feeling of going from “disgustingly healthy/athletic” to “sick/not even allowed to work out”. It is very depressing.

I need less stress not more and I know that none of you are trying to add to my stress (the vast majority of you are not), you are only trying to help me and are unaware how it comes across.

You have all been wonderful in your own way and I greatly appreciate the calm words of non-judgmental/non-lecturing support. (and I’m really amazed to know how many of you have dealt with this yourselves; it makes me not feel alone in it)

If any of you got through this long missive, thank you for reading and understanding.

I have another doctors appointment on Wednesday and will know more then.