SKINNY IS JUST FINE, BUT THIS IS RIDICULOUS!
It was so darned noisy in that hospital that I did my walking around the nurses station and everything else that they wanted me to do, no matter how badly I felt, just to get to go home as soon as possible. When they finally did send me home, my mother was able to move-in to help take care of us, which was a real blessing. It was about two and a half months later that I began to have radiation treatments. We lived in Pomona, at the time, and Greg had to drive me into downtown Los Angeles for the treatments. Half the time we thought that the drive was worse than the treatments were, but it really helped me to have Greg there beside me. After the first week of radiation I started getting very sick. I was living on Maalox and could not hold down any food at all. I was throwing up constantly, and would cringe any time food was even mentioned. I lost about 55 pounds as was the thinnest I had ever been, but also the weakest. I do not recommend this method as a quick weight loss after having a baby!
The tumor was positioned from C1 to C5, inside the spinal cord, which was located right behind my throat. The technicians would draw a blue pen line down the back of my neck so they would be able to know exactly where to line up the radiation machine. The treatments made my mouth very dry and I had difficulty swallowing. Food just tasted terrible to me, even the chocolate which I dearly loved. So, I just avoided eating entirely. My mother made a chart that she put on the wall and whenever I ate four or five bites of french toast, she would give me a star. She was very encouraging and supportive, and she practically took care of Lindsay single handedly. I could sometimes get up and watch while she bathed Lindsay and I could occasionally hold my baby and give her a bottle. But towards the last week of treatments, I was feeling so poorly that I wasn’t even able to show any interest in the cute little outfits that my mother had Lindsay dressed in. All I could do was just lie in bed and concentrate on not throwing up.
In July, Greg and I attended his 10 year highschool reunion. I remember being so happy that I could fit into an old purple dress of mine since I had lost so much weight. But my throat looked like I had been under a sun lamp too long and had gotten badly sun burned. Of course that was from the radiation.
Besides, who would sit under a sun lamp just to have a vertical stripe down their throat? At least I was able to get up and dressed and go to the reunion and we did have a very good time together.
After the radiation was all over, the neurosurgeon wanted to send me to the City of Hope to have an MRI done. That was the only hospital in the area that had that type of machine. We questioned him about what an MRI was and he told us that it stood for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. He explained that basically it was a very good x-ray machine and it would show them what was happening inside my spinal cord. Besides, he said there were no needles involved and that made me happy. So I said, fine…I’ll do it!
TAKING JESUS ALONG FOR THE RIDE?
Now having an MRI is somewhat like pretending you’re a long loaf of french bread that they shove into a very tight fitting oven. Then they turn it on and things go bang and plunk and hammer very loudly, and you’re left in there for a long time to bake! Sometimes they pull the french bread out to see if you’ve cooked enough. One of the first questions they ask is “are you claustrophobic?” Thank God, I’m not, but after one of these tests I think I could become claustrophobic very easily. They strapped my head down so I couldn’t move and told me to push my arms into my sides as they slid me into the machine. I thought, I just won’t open my eyes and I’ll be ok. There is a speaker connected to the inside so they can talk to you and remind you not to move. I made the mistake of opening my eyes and saw the top of the machine just about 6 inches above my nose. Close your eyes, you idiot! I thought. “Are you ok, Mrs. Janssen?” the technician asked. Yes, I lied, again.
They told me that the first test would take about fifteen minutes and for me to try not to swallow. What is it about swallowing or yawning, or any of those involuntary things, that are easy to control until someone says not to do them? When the hammering began I prayed, Lord, I don’t think I want to be in here! Please help me to be somewhere else. Now my husband and I had been avid tennis players, before FRED came along, so I just decided to play a few sets in my mind. (I enjoy it when I play tennis in my mind, because I make sure that I always win). Thankfully the hammering stopped, after what seemed like a very long time and I could breathe and swallow. Then the hammering would begin again and I would talk through the Lord’s prayer, the 23rd Psalm and a few other prayers before it would stop. I had to make sure I didn’t talk too fast or I would have to start the series all over again. This was the first of many MRIs to come, over the years. I’ve also included taking trips to Disneyland, in my mind. That way I could enjoy going on all the rides, but never had to stand in any lines. Through it all, through everything, I always take Jesus along with me.
WELCOME TO “LA-LA” LAND!
About six months to a year, after the last surgery and I had gone back to work, I started having pain in my left arm. It felt like someone was inside my arm, pulling all the veins and tendons very tightly. Try to explain that to your doctor!! He told me that this type of pain was typical after having so many surgeries and that my arm could even go numb for some time. I tried a TENS unit which didn’t seem to help, so my neurologist prescribed this nice little green pill. I called them my happy pills because, when I took one, I would be pain free for about three days. The problem was, that I really didn’t care about anything for those three days. I would get home from work on Friday and if there wasn’t anything planned for the weekend, I would take a happy pill and would be in “La-La” Land for three days. Well that wasn’t too good so the doctor changed my prescription to a little blue pill. With this one I only lost about a day and a half. But with a baby, that is also too much time to lose. Next it was suggested that I drink a little Wild Turkey every night. The nurse said, “you’re going to send this girl to Alcoholics Anonymous in less than a year, at this rate!” Thankfully I hated the taste of hard liquor, in fact they might as well have told me to eat a turkey every night, which, as you recall, is on the NO side of my picky eaters list! YUK!
So I was told to try taking aspirin, and I did just that, until I overdosed on it. I remember going to a movie with my best friend and towards the end of the movie the soundtrack started to go haywire. I looked around and wondered why no one else was noticing the problem and was complaining about it. After the movie my friend and I stopped at the restroom and the same soundtrack problem occurred there. I tried to explain to her how everything sounded funny. She was concerned but assured me that there was no sound track problem and that is must be me. Oh great! I thought, back to the doctor. When I told him how much aspirin I had been taking he informed me that I was taking too much. That it can make your ears ring and everything sound fuzzy and far away. Sure enough, when I stopped taking the aspirin the sound track problem went away. Well, now what was I supposed to do? It was suggested that I try using ice packs. So, when I got home from teaching school every day, I would wrap an ice pack around my arm and that seemed to help dull the pain a little.