The Long, Strange Trip

What’s on the iPod: Got to Give It Up by Marvin Gaye


So here I sit in my kitchen on what I can only call a Scottish Sunday — drizzling, all-day rain that pulls the explosion of lush spring greens that much closer to the earth for both sight and touch — and I marvel at how so many unexpected days away can feel like a rebirth.

To be away from home on vacation would be shocking enough of a re-entry for a body without any added stress, such as surgery and unexpected complications. Alas, mine was the mirror opposite of anyone’s description of a vacation.

It started out as expected. I went in for surgery Thursday, May 9th. The liver hemangioma – benign birthmark tumor — was big and had to come out. How big? Ah, we’ll get to that.

Surgery was fine. I woke with a “stern” look, my daughter said — central line had been inserted, which is a tube run through your nose right into your stomach. I awoke feeling that rawness and obstruction in my throat. Little did I know that would be the least of my worries.

Things progressed well those first two days. Recovery with the aid of an epidural is amazing. I felt like I could kick ass and take names. So on day three I was motoring around my room, IV in tow, and sitting up in a chair feeling like nothing had happened beyond having IVs in my arm and my arse hanging out of an ugly gown.

Too bad all of day three wasn’t like that.

I’d been given my first post-surgery “meal” of broth and Jell-O (no one is vegetarian, it seems, on a liquid diet). I ate, but then my stomach around my stitches started to hurt. Not nausea, HURT. It was about 30 minutes later we realized my epidural had come out. Know that kicking ass and taking names? My name was apparently on someone else’s list. I was getting kicked royally.

The backup plan went into effect — morphine intravenously. Thirty minutes in, I’m fine. Not great, just fine. Then the vomiting started.

Won’t go into great, disgusting detail, but the intestinal part has to “wake up” after surgery. Mine didn’t. Instead, it created a speed bump of sorts that forced all southbound traffic north. That detour lasted all night and into the next day, when I finally succumbed to vomiting exhaustion and agreed to let them put that stomach pumping action back into effect. Despite my stubborn reluctance and the initial discomfort (and ongoing raw throat), I felt instant relief.

From day four through day seven, I was on a new mission — get the intestines to stop the Rip van Winkle impression and get moving again. No food, just IV fluids and medication intravenously. Meanwhile, my staples — fifty in all — were healing while I wasn’t noticing. I was becoming more mobile every minute, and I took full advantage of orders to get up and move around as  much as I could.

By Thursday of last week, the had done a few “clamp” tests in which they disconnected the pump and clamped the hoses to see how my stomach would respond. I passed the tests, so the nose tubing all came out at 10:12 am Thursday morning (not that I was keeping track or anything). One more milestone met.

The next milestone was tough. Remember, I’d not eaten anything of any substance since lunch the day before my surgery. So they weren’t eager to start me on a regular diet lest my stomach object. So I got my first “meal” of broth and Jell-O Thursday night. I’d love to tell you how satisfying it was to have food again. I can’t. That wasn’t food. It was glorified water. And I’d have one more of those “meals” before I saw my first solid food — tilapia and rice — on Friday night. Thursday and Friday were lessons in patience as I tried to ignore growing, intense hunger pangs.

Nine days after I’d had surgery, they released me from custody. My staples were removed Saturday morning before my discharge, so I have just one follow-up appointment before my life becomes my own sort of normal again.

What about that hemangioma? I mentioned size. It was large — giant, as the surgeon had labeled it — and it measured over 20 centimeters, though he’s not sure how much bigger as he was rather busy removing it. One thing the surgeon did say — I lost a cool 15 pounds the minute he removed it. Add that to the weight loss from not eating and I’m down to what I weighed in 2005, which is where I’d been targeting with all this fruitless diet and exercise. No wonder I couldn’t lose weight — I was carrying the weight equivalent of rather hefty newborn twins. It showed. I looked pregnant.

No matter now. I’m healthy. I’m healing. And I’m home.

While all this was happening to me, things were happening elsewhere. The day after my surgery, we lost my mother-in-law. I felt awful not being able to mourn her properly. She was a sweet person, a soulful, fun-loving irreverent trailblazer who did so without broohaha. A woman to be admired and loved. And I did admire and love her. I’ll miss her terribly, maybe because the time I knew her was so short.

But here on the blog, things were also happening — better things. I want to thank profusely my dear friend, Paula Hendrickson, for not just picking up Writers Worth and running so beautifully with it, but for volunteering to do so and really putting her all into it. Paula, I love you. You’re good people, and I will return the favor someday. Thank you.

In fact, there are a number of thank-you wishes I’d like to send out — to Anne Wayman, super chum and partner on the 5 Buck Forum, for picking up the slack caused by my absence there. Your wishes, prayers and vibes were felt, dear friend. To Cathy Miller, for a nice surprise — my own private MD, waiting for me when I got home (Build-a-Bear bear). So thoughtful! Love you, friend. For Wade Finnegan, who continued to promote my blog and Writers Worth while I was under the influence of some heavy pharmaceuticals. That’s why I adore you, Wade. You give without prejudice.

And thank you to all who put together posts for Writers Worth and shared of themselves — Walt Kania (whose post will appear here tomorrow) and C. Hope Clark, both newcomers to Writers Worth and this blog; Yolander Prinzel, who is an offline inspiration, confidant, and sister; Jenn Mattern, whom I love like family; Cathy Miller, who makes up one corner of the Mattern/Prinzel/Miller/Widmer box of wild, offline conversation; to Kathy Kehrli and Bob Calandra for having my back on projects as I continue to heal; and Paula Hendrickson, whose open nature and infectious spirit graces this blog’s conversations daily.

And thank you all who wrote, posted, or sent private wishes, prayers and vibes for my recovery. The power is in the numbers, and you all came out in droves. I’m truly blessed.

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  • Cathy Miller May 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Whoa. You never do things half-way, Lori. What an ordeal. I'm glad you're home. Nothing feels as good as home.

    Paula did a great job caring for your blog, as did Anne with the 5 Buck Forum. We missed you, but now you have just one mission – taking care of yourself.

    Wishing you a full and speedy recovery, my friend.

  • John Soares May 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Wow Lori, what a difficult time you've been through. Sometimes a lot of life's unpleasantness comes at us at once, but then we get a long period of calm and happiness.

  • Allie May 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Glad to see you're back and doing better!

  • Devon Ellington May 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    What a difficult week. I'm so glad you're home and on the road to recovery!

  • Jenn Mattern May 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Welcome back Lori! I'm so sorry about your mother in law. But I'm so happy you came through the surgery well and can start getting things back to normal. You're always an inspiration.

  • Lori May 20, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Oh, Cathy. I'm the walking illustration of oddity, I swear. The surgeon says that the liver, normally, is much smaller on the left side than the right, where my tumor was. Not mine, fortunately. My liver was abnormal in that the left side is bigger. Hey, it meant I lost much less liver than thought, and my liver function returned to normal immediately after surgery. AMEN.

    John, those nine days were a time when my meditation practice played a huge role in my mental well being. Being able to surrender the frustration and pain and concentrate on the higher power made a huge difference. There was a sense of calm despite my being hungry, and I was able to get to that place where each milestone was celebrated instead of pushed aside in order to get to the next one.

    Allie, thanks. Very glad to be back!

    Devon, it was tough, but I'm fortunate. I'm healthy again. My roommate, suffering through stage 4 ovarian cancer, was just looking to extend her life another year, two years. I felt awful leaving, knowing that's all she wanted to do, too.

    Thanks, Jenn. I'll miss Possum (her nickname — speaks a lot to who she was inside). We shared so many impromptu laughing fits and spirited discussions on quantum mechanics (oddly, she made it so much fun to talk about). I didn't have her in my life but 16 years, but they were great years.

  • Paula May 20, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Yowza! What an ordeal, and then to lose your mother-in-law last week, too. Too much for one family, but thankfully you're home and on the mend.

    I was happy to copy & paste a few posts in your absence, which is pretty much all it took. You had a plan in place. That made it simple.

    So, when you say 20 centimeters, I hope that's the circumference, but IIRC, they usually measure the diameter. Again: Yowza.

    Now go relax, read a book, smell some spring flowers…and ease yourself back into daily life.

  • Lori May 20, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    No, here are the measurements (roughly): 20 cm X 15 cm X 11 cm.

    My poppy just burst open this morning. I love that flower. 🙂

  • Paula May 20, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Back to my word of the day: Yowza!

    My purple irises are beginning to face, but the huge yellow ones are about to open, and there are some two-tone irises a that should open within the week…and somewhere I have lavender irises, but I can't remember which clump is which.

    I just wish I had some magenta double peonies – by far my favorite flower.

  • Jake Poinier May 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Holy cow, Lori! I fall off the radar for a few weeks, and this was *not* the news I expected to come back to.

    In any case, a bucketload of belated healing thoughts & prayers headed eastward from the desert!

  • anne wayman May 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Per usual, I get notice of your post hours late on the left coast… you know I love you.

  • Meryl K. Evans May 20, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Lori, been watching your progress and rooting for your recovery. Cathy's right — you don't do anything halfway! Glad you're OK and progressing in the right direction. I'm also sorry about your mother-in-law (lost mine in January). Sending Texas-sized hugs and good thoughts your way.

    Paula did a great job. She reminded me to spread the news of Writers Worth Week.

  • Lillie Ammann May 20, 2013 at 11:16 pm


    I'm glad you're doing well after all the difficulties. My condolences to you and your family on the loss of your mother-in-law.

  • Lori May 21, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Our double peonies were brilliant this year, Paula. And short lived–rain stripped them of their petals way too quickly.

    Of course I do, Anne. 🙂

    I'll take that Texas-sized hug, Meryl. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Lillie, thank you. I appreciate the sympathy and what I'm sure were your prayers that helped me over all this.

  • Sharon Hurley Hall May 21, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    What an experience, Lori! Glad you're back home and healing.

  • Lori May 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Me too, Sharon. 🙂