I have gained 10 to 15 pounds in the past three weeks. It’s all water. And it’s all hanging out below my belly button–mainly in my feet, ankles, and legs. I still have fluid around my right lung, but now I have a tube for draining that myself. Anyway, my lung cavity only holds a measly three or four pounds of fluid. I thought that was bad. Now, the rest is in my thighs. Which look and feel like tree trunks.
I finally called my doc last week and he immediately diagnosed what is hopefully the problem and got his people to schedule an appointment to diagnose it and fix it. I was relieved–finally, a quick fix. None of my other post-surgical problems seem to have quick fixes. Only it hasn’t been so quick. His people ended up scheduling the appointment for a week and a half away. So I called back–“This problem feels–and sounds–urgent. Isn’t this urgent? How am I going to live with this for another week and a half?”
The nurse practitioner giggled at my question.
“Elevate and wait,” she said.
But that’s what I have been doing for a week and a half already. I’m really uncomfortable. Isn’t this serious?
“No,” she said. “Elevate and wait.”
So here I’ve been sitting, elevating and waiting, in basically the same position I have been sitting for the past almost-week and a half. My appointment is finally tomorrow. My mom bought me support hose which help me feel a little more comfortable and help my feet fit into my shoes (thanks, mom. happy mother’s day). I have almost made peace with watching too much T.V. because if I try to do much else for too long, I get too uncomfortable. I just read in TIME Magazine that brain function starts to decline after 27. I worry it’s happening to me faster than average.
I sometimes wonder if doctors think about what they’re saying before they say it. If they had to go through what they ask their patients to go through, would they speak about everything so blithely? My onc is an active guy–would he like to sit on his butt for three weeks with swollen, aching feet and legs, relying on his family and friends to help him out with everything? I’m not wishing ill on my doctors… I just wonder.
The doc who put in my lung tube, too, was so nonchalant about the whole thing that I was completely unprepared for the help I would need after and the care of the drain site itself. The procedure was so “not a big deal” and so “not painful” that I had to cancel all my plans for the next few weeks because I was in pain (still am a little) and not moving around so easily. The tube itself isn’t just a tube that comes out of my skin–there’s a whole contraption attached to it, and I have to wear a huge dressing over it at all times.
When I saw my new semi-permanent dressing for the first time it made me question–do docs expect that people go out and live normal lives when they’re not at the doctor? How am I supposed to wear normal clothes, shower, feel beautiful, feel comfortable when I have a dressing huge under my shirt that makes it look like I just escaped from the hospital? Did the doctor, did the nurses, did the scientists who designed this stupid tube think about what they were making?
Maybe they think, with the tube as with the fluid: that for me, this is temporary. This girl is young and all of these things are steps toward her making a full recovery. I think: I have been feeling awful for what feels like an eternity. I seem to keep getting worse. When will I feel better? When will I be self-sufficient again? Next month? Six months? Next year?
Time brings some acceptance, some change. The scar that used to cause me a lot of anguish I hardly think about anymore. The dressing is a little fun to try to creatively hide with various hang-y shirts and sweaters. The lungs are still in pain, but at least I can drain the fluid whenever I want; I get some comfort out of that. I have been sleeping somewhat better and moving around somewhat easier and taking a little less insulin.
I haven’t accepted my tree-trunk legs. In fact, they feel a little worse, a little more full of fluid, every day. But at least I have only one more day of elevating and waiting. And another thing I can say to my doctors: I lasted a whole three weeks with fluid-filled legs. I lasted months with a fluid-filled lung cavity. Whatever other painful waiting periods you throw at me–I won’t be happy, but I can probably last through those, too.