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The Secret Blog from Day 3 & Mom's Lung Scan

Updated on February 13, 2012

10 p.m., Thursday Night

(The previously unpublished blog from my fourth evening in the hospital)

Mom is pissed at me right now. (I know, mom. You don't think you're pissed, but I know you are.) She wanted to stay at home tonight, but out of my fear, I asked her to stay. You see, I thought today was the day they were going to be taking out the epidural stuck in my back. The same epidural that feeds a constant drip of serious pain medication to the area of the TRAM Flap(it's a cut from waist to waist). That medicine is in addition to the happy button that also feeds pain meds into my epidural and the extra Dilaudid and various other meds given by injection or orally to help control the pain.

She went home this morning to go see my dad. She took him to go get his weekly shot, take him to lunch, then resupply his food before returning to the city this afternoon. I know she should be with him and I'd hate to deal with the guilt if anything ever happened to him while she was here with me -- her 43-year-old daughter -- but sometimes, you just need your mommy.

Shh! Don't tell my mom...

She's going to hate me even more for writing the following, but I'm hoping she won't follow the link in her email system, anyway. Ooo, or maybe I'll sneak into her email and delete it. Shh! Don't tell her. No, really. I know I have relatives and some of her friends reading this, so please, don't tell her!

I need to preface what I'm about to say (just in case she does read this) with the biggest "THANK YOU, MOM!" I could possibly give my mother. I wouldn't have been able to get through this very long process and crazy surgery without knowing I have your support. I'm not an idiot...I know you would help us through these fucking surgeries no matter what. I know you are worried about me. I know you would put yourself in my position to take away the pain I'm feeling. I know your heart is in the right place.

Now, (in case you do read this) take a deep breath. Mom, I know you didn't want to return to the city this afternoon and likely, you are emotionally exhausted by watching another daughter's body get sliced up. Still, I didn't need you reminding me of your extra effort any chance you had upon your return; even at one point as I lay in bed, trying to hand me my heavy laptop to place it back on the bed table, apparently thinking I was going to outstretch my arm and take the 11-pound machine from you. Yes, I'd happily pull out my stitches and create bulging hernias in my stomach so you don't have to get up out of your chair.

A short while before, my lunch was brought to my room and my mom made space on the table by removing the computer from the small rolling table.

"Well, maybe I'll check my e-mail while you're eating. I haven't been able to check my e-mail in days since I've been stuck here. Joey, how do I get into my e-mail," she asked as I tried reaching for a plastic fork just out of reach. "Joey, what do I do?"

"Mom, can I show you after I eat something?"

"Oh, crap. I just want to check my damn e-mail."

"Okay, here," I explained what to do.

"Oh, shit. I don't get it, Joey. You know how I am with these damn things. What do I do?" She sat there like she wanted me to get out of bed and sit with her to explain how to retrieve her e-mail.

"Turn the screen to me so I can see it better." She did. I explained once and tried to return to my lunch. I tried explaining again and again, fitting in a bite here and there. I tried opening a juice container, but the meds took away much of my strength. I tried reaching for a straw with little luck. And all the while, my mom sat there becoming more and more frustrated and angry because I wasn't helping her more.

"Oh, screw it," she said. That's when she tried to hand me the computer.

"Mom, what do you expect me to do?" I had no place to put the computer, let alone the strength to outstretch my arm and grab it from her.

After a pause and loud huff, she did get up out of her chair and place it there for me (which she did through her usual groaning and an "Oy." Okay, she's got bad knees and most of the time she makes those motions when rising from a chair. Boy, don't ever try to type after you've been given an Adivan.)

"What is the pain going to be like when they take out the epidural?" I asked a nurse who'd been in the room, rolling her eyes at my mother's behavior.

The nurse came to the side of the bed, reached over the rolling bed table, took my hand in her warm hand, cupped it with her other hand and very seriously and quietly said, "You're going to feel your body."

I know the full meaning of that statement. One word...childbirth. I am terrified by the potential level of pain when they remove the epidural from my back. The epidural, I've had to explain to my mom several times, which keeps my pain under control and keeps me "looking good," as my mom says. Regardless, the pain is still there, only it is masked by the constant drip of morphine and whatever else they shove into the tubing.

"Yes, but you're healing," said my mom.

"Yes, that's right, but I don't think it's registering in your brain why they are keeping this epidural shoved in my back," I said.

She commented, she thought it was used for saline, not realizing it held a constant drip of painkiller. They generally have a good reason why they'd keep a constant drip of pain medicine.

"The pain isn't going to go away once they pull out the epidural." I am going to begin feeling everything they've protected me from thus far. I really feel sorry for the women who were the first few to have this surgery when the doctors were still trying to figure out the best path for pain management.

Although I hadn't been watching television more than a few short times all week, my mom asked me to turn something on. I complied. It was a show she had never watched and didn't know the story. That didn't matter.

Mom wants to pick a fight

"Turn it up. I can't hear it," she said. I complied, pressing the "up" volume button on the small box that housed not only the controls for the TV, but also the more important button to call for a nurse. "I can't hear it. Turn it up some more." I did. She still wasn't satisfied.

Mom was sitting with her feet up on the makeshift chair/bed to my left and the control box, wired from the wall behind me, rested on the bed beside my right hip. The volume seemed loud to me, but she wouldn't stop complaining that she couldn't hear the sound from the small speaker. If I'd turn it any louder, it would have been blaring in my ear. All week I'd avoided any noise, not even listening to the books or music on my Mp3. I tried to make her understand this, but she only grew more agitated.

"Fine, then I'll read my book," she said. A moment passed before, "Joey, aren't there any brighter lights in here? I can't see what I'm reading."

I don't know, mom. Let me get up and find one for you. "I don't know. Just look back there on..." before I could finish, she blew up at me.

"Oh, forget it! I'll just go to sleep!" She got up and turned off the dim light the nurses kept on during the night so they didn't have to turn on the bright fluorescent light above the bed when they came in during evening checks.

"You've got to be kidding me," I said. Other than the television up on a platform by the ceiling, the room went completely dark. "The nurses said they want that light on at night,"

"Well, what the hell do you want me to do?" She was getting more worked up as she turned the light on and began yelling at me.

"Wait! You can't do this now," I insisted. "You really need to take a step back and see what you're doing. This has got to stop!" Was that going to work to stem her pissy mood and an escalation of impending warfare? Was she going to realize she was picking a fight with someone who could barely move, let alone defend myself with anything above a loud whisper because even talking loudly hurt?

It did. She stood still staring at me for a moment, then replied.

"I'm just going to sleep." She lay down facing away from me and drew a blanket over her body.

I knew she wasn't sleeping and aside from my quickening heart beat, I could hear her frustrated breathing and feel the tension surrounding her body. I knew she wasn't sleeping and it made being in the room with her nearly unbearable. That didn't last long before she got up.

"You know what? I'm going home."

What you must understand is that when Mark came by the hospital after work that evening, I told my mom she should go home. Especially after she was getting pissy about every little thing since returning that afternoon. I knew she was tired and sick of being at the hospital. Still, she had said, with just enough guilt in her voice, "No, I'll stay."

Things only got worse after Mark left and by the time of the escalating fight, it was already past 10 p.m. which left me worried she might be too tired to drive home, 45 minutes away. My worrying didn't stop her, she collected her things and left.

Okay, yes, I was a little relieved that she left, but that didn't stop me from crying after she was gone. Not because I was alone, rather because here I was, stuck in bed, in pain, trying to make it through this horrible first week and I needed to keep my mind positive. I felt as though she ripped away all those feelings of strength and filled me instead with anxiety and stress.

The more I cried, the more I felt like all the bad energy of the day draining my body's healing resources, creating a more difficult and longer recovery. It was a rough night filled with morphine-induced nightmares of my mother yelling at me.

A question of motive

Why do you think mom was a bitch that evening?

See results

Lung Nodules samples (not mom's)

This sample shows how an X-ray doesn't show nodules (these are NOT mom's X-rays)
This sample shows how an X-ray doesn't show nodules (these are NOT mom's X-rays)
This sample shows how a CT Scan can better detect lung nodules (again, these are NOT mom's scans)
This sample shows how a CT Scan can better detect lung nodules (again, these are NOT mom's scans)

A sample of a lung CT Scan (NOT my mom's)

Now, the rest of the story, three weeks later

Mom never returned to the hospital the next few days before I was to go home. And I understand that she was tired of being in the hospital. It could be just that, but it might have been more on her mind.

Recently, we found out there might be a problem with my mom's lungs. She said they told her she may have polyps on her lungs. It turns out, either the person telling her this described the wrong condition, or mom just heard it wrong. Whatever. All we knew was that she had to have a computed tomography (CT) scan to see what was going on with her lungs and see if there's a reason why she is short of breath a lot.

Mom's Lung CT Scan results

She had her scan today and found out she has three nodules on her lungs. They're too small to do anything about and most people live with them. They'll do another scan in July and another six months later to see if there's any change.

“If it grows, I might have a problem,” said mom who added, a lot of people have this and they live it. “If the thing has grown (by July), then kiss my ass goodbye. The only thing they’re concerned about is that I’m out of breath and tired all the time.”

"So, what does that mean?" I asked.

“It means they don’t know.” She added, it’s not healthy to have cat scans too often. “So, what do you do? It’s like your father. He’s been living with a blockage in his artery. There’s nothing you can do.”

At her appointment, they asked her what high school she went to because any public buildings from the 40s and 50s had asbestos.

“Well, we all die, but I’m not dying yet, so I can drive you nuts for a few more years.” Somehow, this reminds her of travel plans and she begins discussing that. "I met this very nice man who was doing my breathing test and he wants me to adopt him. He’s from St. Croix, and of all the islands in that area, he says St. John is the best."

"Mom, focus. Tell me more about what they found."

“Right now, it looks like nodules.”

“What the hell are nodules?”

“They’re little dots; little growths.”

She reads the report. She has these nodules on both lungs and they are approximately 5.5mm.

If there's no change, there's nothing they can do. Even if they find they grow larger, there’s nothing they can do except radiation. If they did surgery she would die from the surgery. “It’s a major operation and very dangerous. It’s safer to leave it, so I’m going to leave it, have fun and enjoy every day of life. Period.”

She explained these nodules are common and they wouldn't have known about them had she not had that heart attack scare a while back. I'm sure that was part of her stress that night in the hospital and she was concerned for her own health as well as mine. (Or, she was just tired of being at the hospital and showed it by being a bitch)

“So, the nodules are fine. It’s whether they turn into tumors. That’s when you’re screwed.”

“How can they tell it’s not cancer?”

“They said there’s no mass to the nodules.”

So, that's where we stand with mom's lungs...a big wait and see.

Why tell the story about the third evening now?

Why tell now? Because everyone has shitty days. It's generally not helpful to have that type of day when you are helping to care for someone in the hospital, but I understand, nevertheless.


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