I went to the Infectious Disease specialist, Dr. Kumar, and he noticed right away how knowledgeable I was, and how much research I had done on my own. In a way, I think that helped him communicate with me. He was showing me scholarly articles that I had already read on my own to better explain my situation. Jarrod and I both agreed it would have been a bit more encouraging if he had just been able to tell us the information rather than site articles, though.
Between Dr. Kumar, Dr. Coster, and another doctor, we worked up a plan to get rid of the infection the safest, hopefully fastest way. But it won’t be pretty: After showing improvement with the 2 antibiotics, it was decided to bring it down to one for safety, removing the Cipro. I continue to see gradual improvement with just the one, and it has been a week since it was changed. Next Thursday (a week from today), Dr. Coster will surgically open and debride the infection, removing all fluids and infected tissue, and then leaving the wound open to heal from the inside out. This is to eliminate the environment where the bacteria are thriving, and make the single antibiotic as effective as possible. (Don’t worry, I won’t post photos.) Once the open wound has healed entirely, and the infection is 100% healed as well, Dr. Coster will then surgically remove the scar tissue and make my breast cosmetically correct again.
My estimated treatment will be approximately 6 months long. I’m hoping though, with the slight improvement I’ve already gotten, that I won’t have to be on meds that long. I hope it heals faster than that.
Another piece of this puzzle won’t be figured out for a few weeks yet either. We know I have the rare atypical mycobacteria infection, but we don’t know which strain or which medication it is most sensitive to. Those tests take about 6 weeks to get results back. Once those results are back, perhaps I can be on the one antibiotic that will knock this out the fastest… still hoping for a quicker recovery.
But I know these things take time. I’m trying to keep myself out of the intensive research and anxiety, keep my eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel and the wonderful man supporting me, and remember this too shall pass. I have a great team I’m working with, and this will get better.
As most everyone knows by now, I had a breast reduction on September 1, 2017. It was a pretty drastic reduction, but was deemed medically necessary because of the pain it was causing my back, shoulders, neck, skin, etc. I was excited to get it done! The surgeon, Dr. Coster, assured me he wouldn’t go too small, since I felt it was a part of my identity. However, immediately after the surgery I was extremely unhappy with the results. The pain from having large breasts was gone right away, but I felt he went WAY too small. He again assured me that with healing, they would settle and be exactly what I wanted. I had no choice but to take his word for it. As the settling of my breast tissue progressed, it felt lumpy and bumpy and sometimes painful. But overall, it wasn’t a terrible process. I must say though, still not too thrilled with how small he went, I would have been happy with about another cup size larger. But there’s really nothing to be done about that now but accept it and move on.
Fast forward to 6 months later, in March of this year. There was a painful lump about maybe the size of a large marble that was not going away in the top part of my right breast. I made an appointment and talked to Dr. Coster about it, and he told me it was still settling breast tissue, and not to worry too much about it. But it didn’t go away. And it continued to be painful.
In April I had an unrelated illness, a tonsil infection, for which I was given 3 weeks of antibiotics and steroids for the inflammation. To my surprise, the lump in my breast went away as the tonsil infection went away. I really didn’t think much of it until the steroids and antibiotics were done. About a week later, the lump in my breast came back. I made an appointment, and in the 4-5 days it took until that appointment date, the lump quadrupled in size and became much more painful.
Still, when I saw the Dr. Coster toward the beginning of May, he told me it was just settling breast tissue, and I explained what happened with the course of treatment I had for my tonsil and stressed the pain and concern I had. So he gave me some stronger antibiotics. They did no good, so after a week I was prescribed the same antibiotics I had been on for my tonsil. So another week later, the antibiotics had not worked, and he did an ultrasound. He found a pocket of fluid, and aspirated some of it with a needle (NO fun at all, I say!!). He sent me home with more of the same antibiotic and low-dose steroids. It started to do a little better with the steroids, but as the dose decreased, the swelling increased again. No relief.
1 day before my next appointment I got a call from the nurse saying the fluid they aspirated had been sent to the lab and cultured. The nurse said the result was a super-rare bacteria in the same family as Tuberculosis. She said to keep my appointment and the surgeon would explain in more detail and discuss treatments during that appointment. So yeah, if you know me, you know I want as much information as possible for whatever new thing happens to me or a loved one, medically. Science and medicine fascinate me. So I scoured the internet for information about TB-type infections of adipose tissue (fat tissue). I found a large number of options of what the infection could be, looked up case studies, and went to bed that night knowing this would be a very long process.
The next day at my appointment, Dr. Coster told me this was a non-tuberculosis atypical mycobacterial infection. That is basically a long way of saying this is a very, very stubborn and medicine-resistant infection that will take anywhere from 3 to 12 months or more to heal with the proper antibiotics and the potential for surgery to remove infected tissue. Seems it has a slightly rising occurrence in post-surgical patients, but usually with breast augmentation rather than reduction. No known cause other than just environmental exposure. He had only ever seen one other case in his entire career, and he’s a pretty experienced surgeon. He also said NO PREGNANCIES because nothing about the treatment is pregnancy-safe. He gave me two antibiotics which have some pretty severe possible side effects – Ciprofloxacin and Clarithromycin, and this note.
This was on Wednesday, May 30th. Jarrod and I had been actively trying to get pregnant, so there was a very small chance that I could have conceived during the 2 weeks since his vasectomy reversal. I took an early-detection pregnancy test that day, being only a couple days from my expected period, and it was very clearly and plainly negative. So I started taking both medications immediately.
As of today, 6 days later, there has been no improvement. The lump is a little bigger, and now takes up about 1/3 of my entire breast. It is painful, and I can no longer go without wearing a bra to bed, which is miserable for me. My skin is discolored where the lump is, and without the medical knowledge of this possibility, I am concerned this infection will come through the skin.
I have an appointment with a specialist at the Center for Infectious Disease tomorrow (Wednesday), and hopefully he will have answers as to what medications will certainly work. Hopefully the lab culture results have come back to show what medications this bacteria is sensitive to, and we can hit it hard and kill it! At this point I am open to anything, even surgical, to get this gone as fast as possible. Neither Jarrod nor I want to wait an entire year or longer to get pregnant, considering our ages and the financial and emotional investments we’ve made in our reversal surgeries. But I know being healthy first should be my first priority. I just want this bacteria out of my body!!! It’s not welcome here, dammit!
It is also very important to mention here that Jarrod has been amazing through this all. In our 9 months together, he has been there for me through my tummy tuck and breast reduction, a couple nasty tonsil infections, of course my tubal reversal surgery, and now this. Seems I just can’t stay healthy these days. But he is absolutely amazing, supportive, helpful, and always listens to my rants and anxieties, and puts up with my ridiculous amount of intensive research that is admittedly entirely excessive. He’s the absolute best husband and best friend, and I don’t know what I would do without him by my side.
To be continued in “Part 2” once I have some more answers, and perhaps some progress in the right direction…..
I could razzle dazzle you with all manner of linguistic gymnastics to explain why I haven’t written a new blog in literally months, but it would just be an elaborate smokescreen, you see, to obscure the truth, which is that I was simply too lazy to write one. There has no been shortage of things to write about, as you will soon see, and in fact the sheer volume of goings-on around here is proving a little overwhelming; it’s been so long since I’ve written anything, and so much has transpired in the meantime, that I’m not altogether sure how to tackle this thing. I guess we’ll figure it out, or not, together.
I’m going to try to keep this particular post contained more or less to one subject, because otherwise it’s doomed to become an unwieldy, lumbering behemoth. Besides, there are many things, good and not so good, happening around here, all of which are worthy of their own post. Throwing too much into this one would just dilute their individual significance. I know better than to promise anything with regards to how frequently I’m going to write new posts, but I will say that I INTEND to write more often, and give all these things the attention they deserve. For now, I’m sure you will be delighted to know that the subject of this one will be the loose, dangly collection of objects I carry around with me wherever I go: my testicles.
You see, on the way back from Colorado (where we got married, you’ll remember), Shauna and I discussed at length what it would be like to have kids together. It really just amounted to a fun conversation to help pass the time during the long car ride; after all, we had both had the necessary procedures to prevent us from ever being able to have more kids. In order for us to have kids together, it would involve both of us having surgeries to reverse those procedures, which would involve a lot of money, travel, and recovery time…at the end of which we would have diminished odds of actually conceiving, anyway. We ended the conversation by basically saying sure, it would be awesome to have kids together, but we simply met each other too late in life for that to happen. The subject didn’t really come up again until this spring, when we were laying in bed and one or the other of us said something, and the other one said something back, and next thing you know we were on a plane to North Carolina to get Shauna’s tubes untied.
We scheduled my vasectomy reversal at a clinic (brilliantly named “The Reversal Clinic”) in the town of Muskogee, Oklahoma – a town immortalized in the classic song “Okie From Muskogee” by Merle Haggard. Because of my love for this song, I had high hopes that we were headed for a town where even squares can have a ball; where they still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse, and where white lightnin’s still the biggest thrill of all. Instead, we drove into this shithole town during one of the most vicious rainstorms I’ve seen in all my born days, and the only bad thing about that is that the whole town didn’t get washed out to sea in the process. There were so many things to dislike about the city of Muskogee, OK that for me to dig too deep into it would threaten to overtake this entire post, but suffice it to say that, you know, maybe don’t go there. Unless you want a cheap vasectomy reversal.
Anyway, my surgery was done by one Dr. Wilson, who was kind of a weird guy, and in fact the whole experience was kind of weird. Shauna and I walked into the clinic to find not a single soul to greet us, but instead a note saying someone would be with us soon. Eventually Dr. Wilson showed up, got me checked in, then retreated to the back to put on scrubs and get the procedure underway. This seemingly one-man operation did not immediately feel me with confidence that my nards were about to literally be in the hands of a qualified professional, but I decided to go with the flow because YOLO, I guess. I was awake for the procedure (a local anesthetic was used to numb the area) and Shauna was allowed to be in the room with me. From her vantage point she was able to see a lot of what was going on (I, thankfully, could not). Fortunately she has a healthy curiosity and interest in such things and the sight of my scrotum flayed open like a butterflied pork chop didn’t gross her out. The whole thing took about 90 minutes or so, and then we were on our way. Dr. Wilson, I salute you, wherever you may be.
We stopped at a pharmacy to pick up a couple prescriptions, and then went to the bed and breakfast where we were to spend the night. It was good, not great; by Muskogee standards it was probably the Ritz, but Shauna and I are from Newton, IA where perfection is demanded and bullshit of any kind is NEVER tolerated. The next morning we got on the road and headed home. The recommended healing time before attempting “relations” was two weeks, and I don’t mind telling you that we have stuck unyieldingly to that medical advice, being the responsible adults that we are and whatnot. We’re both realistic about our expectations…and to be sure, they are tempered a bit by other things going on, particularly health issues that Shauna is currently dealing with. Now that I’m more or less healed, I can absolutely say that I am incredibly happy that Shauna and I went through all of this. It was pretty overwhelming at times (the general tone of this post doesn’t really let you know some of the actual anguish we had to go through to make all of this happen, but as they say, we laugh so that we don’t cry). I’m glad it’s all done, I’m beyond excited to be able to have another kid (or kids), and there is no one on Earth who I’d rather go on this journey with. Shauna…you are amazing.
Earlier this week I had my tubal reversal follow-up appointment with the doctor I chose to be my OBGYN here in our hometown, Dr. Johnson. He’s new to the clinic, and has quite a lot of experience in his field.
To back up a little bit, I did have a consultation with him before my tubal reversal. I wanted to get a check up with a doctor and discuss my overall health and age in regards to going through another pregnancy or more. He informed me at that time that a tubal reversal is not a simple surgery that I will have an easy time finding a doctor for (he didn’t know I was looking into Dr. Monteith yet), and that it wasn’t cheap. He recommended I look into in vitro instead. He also said that natural fertility decreases after age 35, and even more after 40… And that there is a risk with pregnancy after c-section (which I’ve had 2), no matter how long it had been. That the scar tissue can cause a problem with placenta attachment, and even embryo attachment. He wasn’t necessarily discouraging me from being pregnant, but he was laying out all the risks for me, which is exactly what I wanted. No nonsense. I told him I was already looking into a specialist to reverse my tubal, and he wished me good luck.
To Jarrod and I went to North Carolina, as I’ve already written about. We had a fantastic experience with Dr. Monteith at A Personal Choice, and he sent my surgical records and after-care instructions to Dr. Johnson.
Then, as I was saying, I had my follow-up with Dr. Johnson this week. He took all of Dr. Monteith’s instructions very seriously, which I’m very pleased with. Said everything was very thorough, and read to me exactly what I am to do when I get a positive pregnancy test. Which is: get in to see him as soon as possible, start getting regular blood draws to check my hormone levels, and when they are high enough have an ultrasound to check for proper implantation of the embryo. From then on, take care of myself and prepare for a baby!
Jarrod’s vasectomy reversal is scheduled for May 16th, so it won’t be long at all now! He will post about his experience when it’s all said and done. We’ve heard different things about how it will go afterwards. Some people say it could take months for his sperm count to climb up to impregnation levels. Some people say he has the chance at getting me pregnant right away. But Jarrod and I both agree – it will happen when it happens. We aren’t concerning ourselves with following a calendar or stressing out over any of it. We both believe we will conceive soon enough. If, after a year or so, nothing has happened yet, we will talk to the doctor about testing. At this point, I think we would deny any fertility treatments if it came to that. But that’s so far into the future right now… we figure we will cross that bridge if and when we come to it.
Jarrod and I got married very quickly. Within 10 days of making our relationship official, we had run off and eloped without telling many people until it was already done. In the days leading up to our marriage, the entire trip there and back, and the months since then, we have discussed the possibility a few times of having more children. The first couple times it came up, we knew we wanted to have a baby together, but we also knew our relationship was very new, and we needed to have some experiences and life together before we made any more life-changing, permanent decisions. Not to mention our 6 kids needed to live together and get to know each other as well. Lots of changes occurred all at once, and we all needed time to adjust to that new life as a family.
Earlier this year, the topic came up again, and Jarrod and I really got into the details of it all. We talked about how having a baby of our own would affect our relationship, our kids, our careers, and all other aspects of our lives. We discussed how we both yearned to have a baby together, in a stable and healthy relationship where we would share parenting responsibilities 50/50. We know we are a great team in the other aspects of our life together, and we decided we would be amazing parents together to a new baby. Not to mention the great help we would have from the six older siblings!
The problem with this plan: I got a tubal ligation when I had my youngest son Cory back in 2005 (a decision I regretted immediately). And Jarrod had a vasectomy a few years ago when he and his ex wife divorced. So, I started doing research to get those surgeries reversed. Within a few days of starting the research, I had applied at 3 tubal reversal clinics with my surgical report and medical history. I was denied by one place because of previous c-sections and scar tissue. I never heard back from one. And the place that accepted me was the one I wanted to go to anyway – lucky me!! For Jarrod’s reversal, there really was no acceptance process since vasectomies are typically all done about the same. We just chose a reputable place closer to us at an affordable price.
And that, my friends, is why we went to North Carolina this week! I think everyone was just under the impression we went on a small vacation. But really, it was for my tubal ligation reversal surgery. The rest of this post will be about the story of our trip, so read on to know how it all went!
Jarrod and I flew out to Raleigh, North Carolina to go to A Personal Choice‘s surgeon Dr. Charles Monteith. When we arrived in Raleigh, we checked into our studio suite at Hyatt House, which we got for a very reasonable discounted rate through A Personal Choice. The room was absolutely amazing. The bathroom had a very large walk-in shower, it had a very comfy king sized bed, and there was a living room area with a couch and TV, and a full kitchen complete with stove, microwave, fridge with freezer and dishwasher! The neighborhood was urban, but new and clean. There was plenty to do right within walking distance. Movies, restaurants, entertainment, and even a pharmacy for my post-op pain meds. To get to my appointments, there was a driving service set up through the clinic. I was able to get rides back and forth to my pre-op consultation on Tuesday, my actual surgical procedure on Wednesday, and my post-op check up on Thursday through their service. They were prompt and courteous, and made Jarrod and I both feel important.
On Tuesday, my pre-op consultation was pretty simple. I got all checked in with my ID and a few remaining papers to sign, as most of the paperwork had already been done from home with their guidance. Jarrod and I met with a couple nurses and Dr. Monteith himself, and we had the procedure explained to us. Then we went back to the hotel and found a few things to do to keep busy. We went out for supper, and went to a movie, and enjoyed the much warmer weather.
On Wednesday morning I checked in at 8:45 am for outpatient surgery, and was released around 12:30 pm. It was a very quick, easy process. All of the nurses, anesthesiologist, and doctor were very knowledgeable and proficient in the process. It was like clockwork. As I was being prepped for the operating room, I was given a pin to put in the patient map. Jarrod was given detailed instructions on how to take care of me postoperatively, and was even tested on it when I was in recovery. As I was getting dressed and preparing to be released, they let us see the clamps that had been on my Fallopian Tubes, but they wouldn’t let us keep them.
Once back to the hotel room, Jarrod and I ordered lunch through GrubHub and just layed in bed and watched TV most of the day. At on point we went and sat on the patio outside because I didn’t want to miss the delightful weather. At supper time we ordered in Italian food and Jarrod ran to the pharmacy and rented a couple of Redbox movies to keep us entertained. Unfortunately I couldn’t sleep that night more than just a few minutes here and there, though the pain really wasn’t too bad at all. It just felt like bad menstrual cramping.
On Thursday morning we got up, got our stuff all packed up and ready to go home, and took advantage of the Hyatt House’s complimentary hot breakfast buffet, which was delicious! Then we went to my post-op appointment where they changed my bandage and made sure I was set to travel back home. I was okay until we spent several hours in airports and airplanes… by the time we got home I was in a great deal of pain. I went to bed very early and slept over 10 hours. Jarrod woke me up a couple times overnight for pain meds. He really has been absolutely priceless. The best caretaker I could ever ask for!
Anyway, so we kept the whole process hush-hush because we didn’t tell the kids about it until today. Now all the kiddos know, with mixed reactions. So we decided to release a blog post about it for all our family, friends and followers. Jarrod will write a post about his reversal experience when his happens in May, so stay tuned for that.
We’re super excited that we’ve been able to start on this process, and are looking forward to what our future holds. Thanks for reading along!
It also needs mentioning here that flying out to Raleigh and back was my very first time ever in an airplane! I had never before experienced flying and I must say, I really enjoyed it!
For me, 2017 started in a very stressful, dark way. The photos I posted of the party with my friends is only what I put out there. It was not the whole truth of the night… not even remotely. You see, I was in an abusive relationship. I had made it clear I wanted to spend that time with the guy I was seeing, but when he refused, I decided to spend time with my friends. So in return, he was blowing up my phone with absurd, wildly inaccurate accusations, insults, and shaming for enjoying a night without him, and more so, a night with people other than him. I was miserable. And yet I allowed it to continue.
A month later, in February, I lost the job I loved as a Veterinary Assistant. I had finally been able to get to the cause for my chronic hip pain, and a diagnosis of a permanent and progressive condition (hip dysplsia) was enough for my boss to fire me. Legal? Probly not. It was discrimination for a disability. Especially since I had requested a very reasonable and possible accommodation and was refused. But the fact was, I couldn’t do the job the same anymore. I couldn’t be on my feet for 8 hours, and so I was let go to pursue other avenues.
At the end March I had my first skin removal surgery, my Panniculectomy, followed by a 6-week recovery period. During my healing process I was actively looking for a job, including attending several interviews. All I could really find where I didn’t have to be on my feet all day was office work. Tele-sales, mostly. I interviewed at 3 or 4 different places and none of them offered me a job, saying I needed direct sales experience. After just so long, and so many refusals, I started widening my options. I started applying at places I’d have to stand but could be accommodated. Pizza Hut was one of those places. I figured being a delivery driver, not only would I be able to sit (driving) most of the time, but I could also be outside, and not have to stay in a stuffy building day after day.
In June I was hired by Pizza Hut as a driver, which is where I’m still working today. It’s a fun, laid-back atmosphere most days. The management isn’t too strict, and the majority of the customers are pretty chill. I definitely have the flexibility to accommodate the hip pain and still earn a paycheck, and that’s what matters to me.
In July, after months of persuading him, I was allowed to go to the Freedom Rally with the guy I was seeing. The rally itself was a blast, but it was then I finally realized I needed to get away. Why it took me nearly a year for that to actually click in my head, I’m not sure. But it was then that it did. I deeply enjoyed the weekend – the atmosphere, the bikes, the concerts, and everything else the rally had to offer. But I knew that when the weekend was over, it was time to start planning the end of that relationship. It took me a few weeks to finally build up the nerve to do it because I knew he would be very harsh, loud, threatening, and insulting…. but one night in August I told him it was over, and that he needed to move out. It was a very dramatic 3-4 days, but once all of his stuff was moved out, I was free to be myself again, and my boys were free to be themselves again. A big sigh of relief.
The next day, I confessed my attraction to a co-worker of mine…. one I had been talking to and building a very strong friendship with. That co-worker just happened to be Jarrod – so as you can see, that turned out well! 🙂 In less than 10 days of non-stop texting and spending every waking moment together (which was a lot because we couldn’t shut up long enough to sleep much), we ran off to Colorado and got married. Our families and friends really didn’t get it, and they likely still don’t, but we both KNEW within the first 48 hours that we were meant to be together. We’ve never been so sure of anything in our lives.
When we got back from Colorado, I had another skin removal surgery. This time a revision of my Panniculectomy and a breast reduction. And then Jarrod and his 3 daughters moved in with me and my 3 sons. Over the last 4 months its been an interesting set of challenges blending our families. And though there will likely always be some sort of “us vs. them” mentality between the boys and the girls, it is certain all 6 of the kids can see the love and respect Jarrod and I have for one another, and that has brought about a level of acceptance that has made everyone settle in pretty well.
Our families have now celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas together. Blended. Successfully, with very little opposition. No big arguments. No family feuds. And now we are about to end 2017, and begin 2018 together. A new year. New challenges and goals. A new chapter.
The year started off dark and hopeless, and has ended completely the opposite – bright and hopeful! My family has doubled in size, and the man I am sharing my life with is my best friend. We laugh together, dream together, complain about the same stuff together, plan for our future together, and spend every waking (and sleeping) moment by each other’s side. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Other happenings in 2017:
– Surgery on my back to remove a lump
– Traveled to St. Augustine, FL, and back home north through Ohio and back west to Iowa, hitting 14 states en route.
– Attended a Pop Evil Concert
– Got my voodoo doll tattoo (by Barron @ Hot Rod’s in Newton, IA)
– Moved back to Newton out of Otley
– My friend Amber got veeery sick, but then got better after a couple months.
– I had a Panniculectomy (tummy tuck)
– Attended a Highly Suspect concert
– Attended a Def Leppart / Tesla / Poison concert
– Threw Andy a birthday party – age 15!
– Attended a Stone Sour concert
– Got hired at Pizza Hut
– Attended the Freedom Rally
– Threw Evan a birthday party – age 13!
– Took the boys to Adventureland
– Set off our own fireworks legally on the 4th of July
– Threw a birthday party for Cory – age 12!
– Witnessed a solar eclipse.
– Ended a very bad relationship.
– Attended the Rocky Horror Picture Show reunion
– Traveled to Colorado and saw the Rockies for the first time AND…
– Fell madly in love and got married to the best man ever!
– Became a grandma!
– I had a Panniculectomy revision (tummy tuck again), and a breast reduction
– Went to Chicago with Jarrod for an entire weekend for RiotFest
– Also in Chicago, visited the Gallagher house (Shameless)
– Got matching tattoos with Jarrod
– Started dreadlocks
– Took Evan to his first concert to see Hollywood Undead
– Got a Halloween tattoo (and so did Jarrod)
– Took all the kids trick-or-treating
– Went to a Highly Suspect concert again. 🙂
– Hosting a very LARGE family Thanksgiving
– Attended a Seether concert
– Spent weeks planning Christmas gifts for the family and making the purchases.
– Started this joint blog with my dear hubby
– Celebrated not only one, but TWO successful Christmases with our whole family
– I got my lip pierced twice (snakebites)
– And finally…. NYE at home with the family!