Friday, August 20, 2010

Background: Pancreatitis Round 4

I returned to work in April of '07 after 7 long months on disability, learning how to live again. I was scared and nervous and worried but swallowed my fear and just did it. Getting off that train the first day, buttoned up in my uniform, fluffed and primped to go sell makeup to the masses, I was awestruck. San Francisco is an amazing city with so many sights, smells, sounds, masses of strange and interesting and annoying people, so much frantic and frenzied activity taking place all at the same time. I de-trained at the Powell Street station and as I ascended the escalator a drunk homeless man came toppling down head-first on the other was a harsh re-introduction to the city I loved and knew so well. I was so sensitive! During my self-absorbed suburban health re-build I had lost my edge.

It was familiar to be back at work, if completely overwhelming. I had been missed and many came up to me to ask me why the hell I had come back. I explained with a serene expression that I was grateful to even be back, I was so sick I did not think it would ever happen. It represented how hard I had worked and far I had come, and I was proud. By the end of the 1st week I was in so much pain I had to fill that Percocet prescription and rely on it to get through each day. My schedule was manageable, never working more than 2 days in a row, and my days off consisted of lying around whining, legs throbbing and aching to the point that I actually believed to not have them would have been better. I was unable to do much more than bitch bitch bitch and still can't believe my husband stuck with me through that period. I was still on the Fibromyalgia & Fatigue Center protocol but they had now added a vast round of intense anti-virals, anti-biotics and anti-fungals to the mix, finally having sourced the root cause of this illness. Oh it all hurt so much! As the medications battled the infections, I was victim to every ping and pang, magnified by 20 because of the Fibromyalgia. But I knew my body was fighting and was going to win and just wanted a normal life again. So in my true-to-self fashion...I pushed pushed pushed myself right back into the hospital!

One crisp day in June, a particularly horrible pain day, while I was grooming the dog, I realized I was having a pancreas attack. The pain had become UNBEARABLE the previous few days. Usually I could not get out of bed without Percocet (which turned into Tramadol when my doctor found out and freaked that I was taking it on an empty stomach) and I could barely make it out of bed to the bathroom to pee in the morning. Just walking I felt like I was crushing myself! Those few fleeting moments when I would first wake-up, before my brain had chance to register the pain radiating from its own control center, were the only pain-free moments of my life. I had about 45 seconds to lie there and try not to remember the horrible quandary I existed in. But then the fire, electricity and throbbing burning would begin, as would the struggle that now encompassed my daily life. So as I snipped and glided the clippers over the Yorkies tiny body the mounting stomach pain, standing out in rapt attention from all the rest of the pain, caused me to take notice. I called my neighbor and dear friend and asked in a calm and rational voice if she could drive me to the hospital because I was having a pancreas attack. I felt like a woman giving birth to her 4th child. Totally calm, knowing what to expect, in control. She took me to urgent care, I explained what was going on, moaned, cried and clutched my stomach in the waiting room and waited for admission, for the Dilaudid drip to dull the stabbing and ripping engorging my abdomen.

I was quickly admitted into the hospital and this was by far the worst in-patient care experience of my entire life. My doctor, whom I had a huge language and communication barrier with, blamed the Valcyte & Percocet, coupled with the fact that I had not been on triglyceride meds for a few years now. I COULD NOT GET OUT OF PAIN!!! Pancreatitis is 1 thing, pancreatitis with Fibromyalgia a whole other ball-game. The hospital was dirty, the nurses treated me like a junkie and I began sweating profusely in a sticky fashion after I was started on Cymbalta. I told very few people I was in the hospital, had no visitors, and was completely embarrassed and ashamed to be there. I just wanted it to be over with! I had been through this enough to know the routine and that alone made me cry. I was reading a book called Beachglass that I had randomly picked up at the library. It was a tale of a wayward youth, caught up in the tangle of drug & alcohol abuse, dirty dependency and emotional servitude. She cleaned up her life and grew up and out of the pain. But her roots mirrored mine so eloquently, hitting so close to home it poignantly brought back a flood of emotions and behaviors that had been long buried and not-quite-forgotten. It forced me to reconcile that I had simply displaced all that darkness from my youth with a sun-shiny and happy marriage, never actually dealing with the motivations, actions or consequences of my youthful rage-fueled choices.

It was during this hospital stay God and I had a very intense, deep and important conversation. They spoke to me and made it abundantly clear that if I kept on with the lifestyle of stress, pressure and madness I had established my life around I was not going to make it to my 35th birthday. I sobbed and cried, knowing something had to give, somehow I had to stop this never-ending cycle of destruction and hell my earthly life had become. As the tears rolled and sobs swelled I allowed to pour out of me all the control, anger, rage, frustration, devastation, loss, mourning, loneliness, sorrow and hatred that had entangled itself around my soul. I emptied myself out and went home, sticky and sweating, drug-dazed and hollow. But at least I had excavated, and now it was really time to re-build.

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