In our household, we--or, honestly, just I--have a way of describing things that aren't going so well:  "This sucks a monkey's large, hairy penis."

The good news:  I am healthy.  My brain tumor hasn't grown, and I don't have any other conditions that are life threatening.  I do recognize that this is incredibly good news, and I'm relieved and grateful.

The bad news:  the last few days have definitely sucked a monkey penis.

On Tuesday I had an MRI and an appointment with my neuro-oncologist at Duke Medical Center.  This means that Monday was spent driving to North Carolina, and grappling with the awareness that I was about to have a test that might let me know that the tumor was growing, and that my life was going to be far shorter than I want it to be.  This is true all the time, for all of us--we have no idea how much life we have left--but the MRI makes that vague, easily ignorable truth far more palpable for me.  When I got to my friends' house in Fayetteville Monday night and James asked me how I was, I burst into tears.  That was Monday.

Tuesday I managed to be in a state of anxiety that kept me from being weepy.  I was wound up, wound up, wound up.  Catherine generously came along while I had my MRI (this time the nurse didn't have to go probing around inside my arm with the IV needle, looking for the vein, so that was cool), and she sat in the waiting room with me for 90 minutes until we were called back to meet with Jim.  He was great, as usual, and the appointment was generally quite reassuring, given that the MRI showed that the tumor hasn't grown at all.  Then I drove home, the relief taking the form of exhaustion.  I was wiped out.  I got home with enough energy to spend a little while snuggling with Biffle, and then I had to go to bed.  That was Tuesday.

Wednesday afternoon at around 1:00, I was hit with an abdominal pain so sudden and so awful that I had to stagger, bent at the waist, to the door, collapse on the stairs, and say to Biffle, "I need help."  He took me to the ER at MUSC.

I find that I want to describe the pain, or its effects, but I'm going to resist that reality-TV-drama urge.  Pain is hard to communicate--it's so deeply personal--there's no way that anyone else can actually feel the pain that you're feeling.*  Indeed, they might think that you're a wimp, or that you're faking it.  I was neither.  It was bad.  I freaked the resident out so badly (she looked terrified) that she brought the attending physician to me very quickly, and the attending was incredibly matter-of-fact about pain medication.  "Your heartbeat is fine, you're not running a fever, so you get as much pain medication as you want.  There is no need for you to be in pain."  They gave me a very large dose of something very powerful (Biffle informed me that it sells for big bucks on the street), and it lowered the pain level from a 9 to a 6, I said.  When the attending heard that I was still at 6, she gave me another dose--and that fairly well knocked me out.  Which was good.

At any rate, after nine hours in the ER, they determined that I had an ovarian cyst rupture.  Totally harmless, nothing to worry about.  Claire, who coordinated with Biffle to trade off Maybelle and Alison duties, drove me home.

Today I am worn out and sore.  I have done my best to answer the emails that I haven't gotten to all week because of the medical drama that is my life.  I've canceled all my afternoon appointments.  I'm going to try to relax.  This holiday season has already felt pretty challenging to me, given that Dec. 24 is the anniversary of the seizure that revealed my brain tumor.  As of today, I'm ready for the whole season just to be over.  We've had plenty of action, thank you very much.  Now I'd just like to take it easy.

*This may sound like my own insight, but in fact it comes from a conversation with a friend who deals with a lot of pain in her life, and from Elaine Scarry's The Body in Pain.


Sarah said...

Oh wow, I'm sorry. I've had that before, a few years ago when I still lived in New Bedford I had to be rushed to the hospital in exactly the same way, although Declan said he enjoyed getting to use his hazards while weaving through traffic at a high rate of speed. Feel better quickly.

Cassie said...

Sending you warm waves of love, peace, and noneventfulness, Alison. You've had more than your share of the alternatives lately. I'm so sorry you had to go through all that, but I'm glad you had good people at your side to help you manage getting through it.

2011 is a new year. Repeat.


Ian McCullough said...

My "sucks" term is "sucks gangrenous donkey dong"

Tara said...

That IS a sucky week! Yikes! Loved your description of pain...very true. Glad you're doing better!

Amanda R. said...

So sorry you've been through that! Hope you are feeling better--sending good vices your way.

Much love from Cookeville,


Kenneth said...

Eesh, sorry about your pain. That sounds horrible.

Sarah Bush said...

No fun, Alison! The holidays have come to be a not so fun time for both of us, it seems, and I will be thinking happy, healthy, and restful thoughts for you throughout the rest of the Christmas season. I hope to see you in Cookeville!

The Dad said...

You need a long, low expectation time off with lots of people around you to help... Hmmm... where would that be.

We are changing the para-diggem of Christmas. Come and have some fun.

The Dad

Alison said...

Thanks, y'all, for the support and sympathy!

Sarah M: I did know that you'd experienced this--you're one of two people I know, and I may have questions for you. Oddly, Biffle drives very, very safely and carefully when there's an actual crisis. No weaving through traffic at all.

Ian, thanks for the new "sucks" metaphor. I also use one I learned in junior high, that something sucks a dead dog's hairy penis.

Sarah B, I'll be sending happy thoughts your way, too. I'm thinking about you all a lot.

And Dad, I hear you--keep your expectations low, and I'll bring my gripey, irritable self to Cookeville.

Deandra said...

I'm so sorry to read this. Rest well. you deserve it.


KMB said...

We're not very clever around here - it's: "sucks big giant box of stupid rocks." Hugs & hang in there!!! I swear for two years after my surgery I spent every other week in some or other doc's office with a new brilliant ailment or condition, as if my body was systematically dismantling itself. I even joked to my GP that I was calling his office the "mechanic's garage" and the hospital "the dealership." I think after such a major surgery your body just lets go, and more things pop up, often with great emergency. But know that on Sunday I'll be 48 months--I'm still here. You are too - hang on to that. I know sometimes it's all that you can do. And it's ok for that to be enough right now.


Sarah said...

Ask away man. I am a veritable martyr to the ovarian cyst and therefore an expert in my own mind.

Aaron said...

I find that the author of Hyperbole and a Half has solved the problem of not being able to accurately communicate one's pain.


on another note, my word verification is "saggy"

Amanda R. said...

Ugh!! I meant "vibes" of course. Would not want to wish vices on you or anyone!

Amanda R.

Alison said...

Aaron, your Hyperbole and a Half post (here it is as a clickable link) is awesome. Using this framework, I was at an 8 before the medicine started flowing into my veins, and then I was probably at a 5. Then after they gave me the second dose, I was at 1 or 2.

And Amanda, rest assured I love the idea of "good vices" being sent my way--like, you know, excess chocolate or something.

Alison said...

Oh, and Kris! OMG! 48 months is fantastic! Hurray!

Deandra said...

I absolutely love the pain scale on the hyperbole & a half site. Thanks for sharing Aaron! The time I had my appendix rupture and discovered I was allergic to morphine, so they stopped giving me pain medication, there was a moment that felt like an 9 - I think of it now as the time that breathing was no longer involuntary. I may share this with some medical faculty I work with...

Abi said...

It is so frustrating to me that the attending was such an ass!!! Functional ovarian cysts may be benign, but they can still hurt like hell.