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Posts Tagged ‘surgery’

Ten warning signs you’re an adult

In aging, behavior, children, domestic life, family, life, Medicine, women on April 9, 2012 at 12:07 am
My Mortgage Docs to be Reviewed by an Expert

My Mortgage Docs to be Reviewed by an Expert (Photo credit: Casey Serin)

We all know the standard metrics: graduate college, grad school, marry, have kids, acquire property and a vehicle.

I never had kids, so that typical dividing line into Maturity escaped me.

But for many of us, different moments mark a definite end to innocence.

Here are ten that resonate for me:

Taxes!

I grew up in a family of freelancers whose approach to paying income tax — which is never deducted at source, for those of you who’ve never done it — was, hmmm, variable. One day my Dad said, “I have two pieces of advice for you about taxes.”

“Running and hiding?”

Suffice to say I now have a very good accountant and genuflect to him deeply.

A mortgage

In New York, getting a mortgage is like some bizarro obstacle course littered with lawyers with out-stretched hands. Check, check, check, check!

Knowing — and caring about — your FICO score

For those of you outside the U.S., this is your credit score whose quality determines whether life is pleasant (low interest rates on mortgages, car loans, credit cards) or a hell of slammed doors refusing you access to any sort of credit. Surprisingly few consumers realize what sort of leverage you have with a good score — a lot!

Giving informed consent for my mother’s brain surgery

That was very weird, given how deeply private she always was. I looked, literally, into her head, staring at the four-inch tumor on X-ray that soon, successfully, came out.

Putting my mother into a nursing home

Pretty much the hell you’d expect: having to sell 95 percent of her things and make consequential decisions quickly. Being an only child makes it both easier and harder.

Getting a colonoscopy

For those of you under 50, something to look forward to! (And those putting it off out of fear, it’s no big deal. You have one wearying day beforehand to cleanse you colon, go to sleep during the procedure. Done.)

Knowing your neighbors

When you’re young, single and often behaving badly, you may not want to know your neighbors. Who was that guy/girl skulking out of your apartment? What were those weird noises at 3 a.m.? Once you’re a bit older, maybe traveling for work, maybe with a place you own and/or value more than a dive shared with six roomies, having kind and watchful neighbors is a wonderful thing.

Regular mammograms/Pap smears/prostate exams

I’m always a little stunned when I hear of someone, (who has health insurance, which in the U.S. means these are no-brainers), who skips these essential tests. No one wants to hear bad news. My mother has survived breast cancer, so mammo day is always a little shaky for me. But seriously? Just do it!

Joining a faith community

No disrespect to atheists and agnostics. But for many of us, finding a congenial place to nurture your spiritual growth is a major step. It’s easy to focus solely on family/work/friends/fun — until the shit hits the fan.

Making a will/living will/power of attorney/health care proxy

So cheery! But if you have been fortunate enough to have accumulated anything of value, it’s worth deciding who to leave it to. And facing any sort of major surgery — even childbirth, my mom-pals tell me — means facing the scariest of fears about mortality or severe injury.

How about you?

What milestones have marked your path to adulthood?

One (slow, halting) step at a time

In aging, behavior, Health, life, Medicine, women on March 2, 2012 at 12:06 am
English: Walking with the parallel bars

Image via Wikipedia

There’s a new sound in my life — the click, click of my sexy French crutches — as I learn to walk normally again after two years of 24/7 pain and a gait so altered I started to look like Quasimodo, that ruined my shoes and swelled my right foot and increased the diameter of my right calf by an inch from overcompensation.

It’s been almost a month since my hip replacement, and I’m learning to trust my body again. It feels really good to stretch, to break a sweat and (yay!) to reach my toes.

“Patient”  — the adjective, not the noun — is not my most obvious quality. This recovery, from full hip replacement, includes dire warnings about doing too much too soon and how not to push it. More is not better. But you don’t know you’ve done too much until…

Daily, I circumambulate our apartment building and garage in warm, dry weather and our apartment building hallway, where 12.5 laps equals a mile, when it’s wet or really cold. My goal is a daily mile, only after which do I get to shed my $38/pair white surgical stockings I wear 23 hours a day to prevent blood clots.

Physical therapy, three times a week, (and $60 week in copays), is slow, incremental, dull, repetitive — and utterly essential to a full recovery.

When I met my surgeon, I handed him a list of a few of my many sports, and asked how soon I would be back at them. My softball team, having missed me for two years, keeps asking when I’ll return. I’m hoping within six months; friends my age (and much older) who’ve had this procedure have since climbed the Great Wall, hiked Guatemala and climbed four flights of stairs without trouble.

I’ve had to recuse myself from real life for a while, missing a friend’s book party, unable to get to my regular hairstylist in Manhattan, a 45-minute drive or train/cab away, closed off from movies, concerts and anything that would require me to sit more than than 60 minutes at a time I’m allowed.

Maybe because I did a silent 8-day retreat last summer, I’ve really appreciated a time of peace and quiet, of reflection and withdrawal. For weeks, I had to rely fully on my husband for the simplest of tasks, from helping scrub me in the shower, (after an 18-day wait!), to putting on my left sock and shoe, counting out my 10 pills a day, cooking.

I miss his companionship since he returned to work this week, leaving home at 7:30 and only returning 12 long hours later after his commute.

Soon, I hope, I’ll once more be my usual blur.

A new definition of love

In aging, behavior, domestic life, family, Health, men, women on February 17, 2012 at 1:08 am
Love heart uidaodjsdsew

Image via Wikipedia

What’s romantic?

What’s loving?

What makes you feel cherished?

The past two weeks have revealed new sides of my husband, even after 12 years together. I knew he was fun, funny, kind, affectionate.

But since coming home from major surgery, the replacement of my left hip, I’ve seen, (as has he), wholly new sides to his character.

Our days right now are so overwhelmingly focused on my health and healing, (including avoiding infection and complication), that I’ve gotten the whole bed to myself while he sleeps on the (too soft) sofa. I bought a bottle of chlorhexidine, (what surgeons use to scrub their hands with), and latex gloves and, once a day, he uses both to clean and dress my incision.

He’s been making meals, buying groceries, doing laundry, (which he normally does), helping me in and out of bed, putting on my shoes, socks and sweatpants. Helping with sponge baths, since no showers are allowed for two weeks.

The hardest part? Wrestling me in and out of my (so sexy!) surgical stockings, thick, tight white hose that go up to my thigh and which I wear 23 hours a day to help prevent clots.

He hands me the 10 pills I need every day, at the time I need them, after drawing up and taping to the wall our daily schedule that starts at 7:30 a.m. and stops at 6:00 p.m. He cranks up raucous rock and roll to boost my energy for physical therapy which I have to do two to three times a day. He brings me me a well-hammered ice pack (four times a day.)

He walks slowly and patiently with me as I do my crutch-aided circuit a few times around the garage.

As someone who prides herself on being feisty, strong, quick-moving, independent and modest, you can imagine how this has felt for me. Weird!

It’s one thing to be seen naked when you feel sexy, quite another when you’re bruised, sore, covered with surgical magic marker notations.

Instructive, to say the least.

He apologized this week for not getting me a Valentine’s Day present; I brought him shoes, socks and a sweater from one of his favorite shops, Rubenstein’s in New Orleans.

I can’t imagine a greater gift than a man willing to give up three weeks’ vacation to nurse me back to strength.

Healing is emotional as well

In aging, behavior, Health, life, Medicine, sports, women on February 11, 2012 at 2:19 am
Doctor's office again

Doctor's office again (Photo credit: Sidereal)

One of the most essential elements of healing a body that has been injured, damaged or ill is to soothe and comfort the psyche, the soul of the person whose corporeal armor has, in a significant way, (even in the aid of better health), been pierced.

But it’s the piece that is consistently left out. When you leave hospital after a major surgery, you’re handed a thick sheaf of instructions, some in boldface type, all of which are — of necessity — focused on the physical.

Who addresses the needs of the soul?

Which is why, when I met a fellow hip patient in the hallway, a former dancer, a woman my age, we couldn’t stop talking to one another about how we felt.

Not our bones or muscles, but our hearts and minds.

A sense of shame and failure that years of diligent activity and careful eating and attention to posture…led us into an operating suite. The feeling of isolation, of being cut from the herd of your tribe, the lithe and limber, the fleet of foot. The fragility of suddenly relying very heavily on a husband whose innate nature may, or may not be, to nurture.

And a husband who knows all too well that physical intimacy is almost impossible, sometimes for years, when your loved one is sighing not with desire but in deep pain. When your hips simply can’t move as you wish they would, and once did. It is a private, personal loss with no place to discuss it.

I’m deeply grateful to know a few women like me: feisty, active, super-independent and all recovering, now or a while ago, from hip replacement. Every tribe has a scar, a mark, a tattoo.

Ours is  a vertical six inches.

Time to wear it proudly.

The Bionic Blogger Returns…

In blogging, Health, life, Medicine, women on February 7, 2012 at 7:41 pm
Here’s an update:
I entered the hospital early Monday morning for hip replacement surgery and in a very short period of time  — a little over two hours — my doctor told my husband Jose, that it all went well.  He even handed him a small x-ray showing the new device secure in its place.
I’m scheduled to be in the hospital for three days and the physical therapy team assigned to me hopes to have me walking down the corridor by the end of today, my second full day.
My husband was kind enough to develop an email blast list, containing the names of family, friends, colleagues, etc.  This allows him to write one letter and send via the list which then goes out to our circle of support.  Well wishes have poured in from Tucson to Tel Aviv to Toronto.  One friend who was at the Pyramids in Egypt even wrote saying he was “sending the power of the pyramids” to me as he thought about me.  Flowers have started, with one NTC friend, ending a lovely bouquet of pink, yellow and orange flowers.
My hope is that I will be posting once again as soon as Friday of this week.  Stay tuned, thanks for checking in and for all your good wishes.

Thanks to blogging and a bum hip, I’m a cover girl!

In beauty, behavior, blogging, Health, journalism, life, women on October 27, 2011 at 12:42 am

Too weird for words, really…

It all started out thanks to my blogging for True/Slant, which is where the editors of this magazine found my writing and liked it enough to ask me to write about my miserable left hip, whose arthritis worsened severely in January 2010, just in time for me to combine writing a memoir with — agonizing pain! Five specialists! Xrays! MRIs! Heavy painkillers!

The corticosteroids I took to reduce the inflammation then destroyed the bone in my hip — necessitating hip replacement (which I am trying to get up the nerve to just get done.)

Joy.

The cover shoot was a hoot. Five (!) strangers converged on our small suburban apartment: an art director and photographer from Atlanta, a make-up and hair artist from Chicago, a photo assistant from Brooklyn and a wardrobe stylist from New York City who brought an entire garment rack filled with possibilities they had chosen for me, based on my many bossy emails of what I refuse to wear and (shriek) my clothing size.

Brave souls, all of us.

It took 4.5 hours to achieve this shot. What you can’t see is the July sweat dripping down my back, nor the photographer sliding up and down my living room wall for support, also drenched from non-stop focus and exertion. Nor the art director, Susan, peering after every shot at her laptop to see how it all looked.

Luckily for me, the photographer, Kevin, and Susan and I had had time the day before to enjoy a long, leisurely lunch and have a chance to get to know one another personally, which made the shoot much less scary than it might have otherwise been. They’re lovely people, warm and down-to-earth, so I never felt intimidated or nervous.

(Thanks to my new book and other projects, I’m fairly used to being photographed for national publication. I even had my pic taken in a bathing suit for some paid web writing I did about my hip.)

The necklace is my own (Ann Taylor), as are the invisible earrings. I’m leaning against our sofa, with lots of artificial light thrown in. The curly hair is natural.

I never thought in a million years this might happen, but it’s already prompted some kind and supportive emails from AT readers.

Here’s a link to the issue…although you can’t access my story (!) online.

The Medical-Industral Complex Will Just Have To Wait A Little While Longer For Me

In behavior, Medicine on May 3, 2010 at 4:25 pm
A thoracic surgeon performs a mitral valve rep...

Image via Wikipedia

Went to see the orthopedic surgeon this morning who asked — sort of like ” Wanna latte?” or “Want to see a movie?” how I felt about having my left hip replaced within the next seven months.

Not an option, I said. He insists it will be within the next two years.

Sigh.

Am I the only person (or maybe the only person of the female gender?) in the United States who doesn’t get all excited by the notion of being cut open? Who finds it wearying to keep having to explain how I feel about my health and proposed treatments/medication/therapy/surgery? I feel like I’ve moved to Azerbaijan or some rural outpost of a small African nation where my mouth is moving, but the sounds coming out of it are so unfamiliar as to be disorienting to the listener.

No, I really don’t want: to swallow fistfuls of pills daily; sign up for major surgery; worry that my needs to be treated like a human being are scary or difficult for the medical professionals I deal with.

I think this is deeply cultural. How we feel about our bodies and the people we allow to help us heal is very culturally determined; I grew up and spent 30 years in Canada. Rates of orthopedic surgery are lower there, maybe because the rates of obesity (which aggravate joint pain and mobility) have traditionally been lower and because surgeries aren’t as lucrative or profitable for the medical-industrial complex.

When you see a doctor, do you care if they care about your feelings?

Or do you just want everything fixed now, everything else be damned?

Whose Nose Do You Have?

In women on April 25, 2010 at 11:36 pm
Nostrils by David Shankbone

Image via Wikipedia

Loved this poignant essay in Elle about a young woman regretting her nose job that took away the nose that resembled her Dad’s, who is now dying:

And then there was my nose—his nose—which grew more exaggerated at the onset of puberty. It became the focus of my self-loathing, a manifestation of all my shortcomings as a girl. Altering it was one way, at least, that I could become more feminine.

So, a few days after high school graduation, I finally got my nose job. The surgery flattened the bridge of my nose but left it with a lengthy tip and asymmetrical nostrils. A second procedure shaved down the tip and reshaped the nostrils. As promised, it made my face softer. Less self-conscious, I began to put more care into the way I dressed and even wore a little makeup.

But the anxious, tugging sensation in my chest was still there. Surgery eliminated the one problem that had so preoccupied me, but it forced me to acknowledge another, bigger issue—my sexuality—that would make me a failed woman in my father’s eyes.

I definitely have my Dad’s nose, one that looks a little better on my two half-brothers. But I couldn’t imagine changing it.

Who do you most resemble, your Dad or Mom? Have you surgically altered any of your features?

Designer Labia? Count Me Out, Boys

In Medicine, women on November 12, 2009 at 11:24 am
Doctors conduct a vagina surgery on a patient ...
Is this really the place for a scalpel? Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

British women are lining up to nip and tuck their lady parts, reports the BBC. The surgery, performed to make the labia, the external vaginal lips, more attractive isn’t new, but last year saw a 70 percent jump in its popularity. Labiaplasty (warning, graphic photo attached), is done for a combination of aesthetic and functional reasons, surgeons say. It’s increasingly popular worldwide, sorry to say.

One doctor tells the BBC:

“They’ve gone a bit over the top. Essentially this is just about removing a bit of loose flesh, leaving behind an elegant-looking labia with minimum scarring. The procedure won’t interfere with sexual function.

“Women want this for a number of reasons – some find it uncomfortable to ride a bike for instance, but for the majority it is aesthetic, that’s true.

“Lads’ mags are looked at by girlfriends, and make them think more about the way they look. We live in times where we are much more open about our bodies – and changing them – and labioplasty is simply a part of this.””

“Elegant-looking”? Please, show me (no, not literally, thanks) a chic set of male genitalia — or a bunch of guys lining up surgery to make sure their boy-bits are as attractive as all those in porn magazines, terrified to be considered unattractive by their female (or male) sexual partners.

Any guy who’s wigged out by a woman whose vagina doesn’t match his porn-fueled fantasies is really a very sad little thing and any woman who cuts her flesh to please him and his ilk needs to re-consider.

Want sex, even with your allegedly imperfect labia? Try a little candlelight, a little wine, a little — acceptance?

Life After Stitches (or Staples)

In Medicine on July 21, 2009 at 2:20 pm
DSC02468

Image by Andy G via Flickr

One of the best writers at The New York Times, I think, is Dana Jennings, an editor there, who has been writing about his brutal and exhausting battle with prostate cancer. Unlike much Times’ copy, which can be polite, accurate but bloodless, Jennings’ personal essays on this subject practically jump off the page and grab you by the throat. They’re not always fun, but they remind me, anyway, what great writing is about.

In today’s Times’ column, Cases, a weekly, long-running feature about the personal experience of illness or healthcare (open to all writers, I’ve written two of them), he writes eloquently about the many scars his body now carries, from childhood mishaps to major abdominal surgery to acne scars on his back. His honesty is extraordinary, and, I think refreshing.

“For all the potential tales of woe they suggest, scars are also signposts of optimism. If your body is game enough to knit itself back together after a hard physical lesson, that means you’re still alive, means you’re on the path toward healing…The scars remind me, too, that in this vain culture our vanity needs to be punctured and deflated — and that’s not such a bad thing. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, better to be scarred and living than a dead lion.”

As someone with coconut knees (tiny indentations on the top of each, like a coconut, from one arthroscopy apiece) and two scars on the inside of each wrist — one, a half-inch souvenir of a motorbike ride in Thailand gone awry and the other from scraping against a wet wire during a gale-force wind while sailboat racing off Long Island Sound — I value my scars as well. Like Jennings reminds us, they’re the roadmap of our lives, reminding us, and those who get close enough to see them, of some of the best, and worst, places we’ve been.

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