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Thursday, October 29, 2009

I'm HOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMME!!

Praise God, I'm home!

;)

I'm feeling actually... sort of... GOOD! I feel the old Han-nah coming back. I'm starting to feel like myself. My dad and I took a walk around the neighborhood tonight, and I feel tremendously blessed to be able to enjoy the cool fall air, and to be able to walk without my joints bugging me! Just a few weeks ago, I could barely make it up the driveway because my joints were so stiff, I had so little energy, and was so very sick.

I'm still having sharp pain a time or two each day, but it is usually lasting for less than an hour and is very manageable with the pills -- so, so much better, praise God. The pain specialist did come back and suggest a low-dose antidepressant that would probably help with the pain. Since the pain seems to be going away, I'm reluctant to add into the mix another med I'd need to go on and eventually taper off. I decided to hold off on taking it, but it's nice to know what the next step might be should this continue or worsen again. The doctors all continue to iterate that this is quite rare, mysterious, unexpected, and unusual. Hopefully it is going away for good!

The doctors recommended that I plan to take it easy and lie around for another week. I asked them if I'd hurt anything by going back to school next week. They said I wouldn't, but I could expect to feel very tired. I plan to talk with my advisor and Campus Life tomorrow, see what they think, and email my professors. Tentatively, I'd like to try to just make it to class this coming week, then try to see if I can catch up after that. We'll see what my advisor and professors say. At this point, I really have no clue what I can expect - if I'll be able to finish the semester or not, if I can finish some classes but not others, if I can still graduate in May... but I'll leave that in God's hands. He will give me the grace to deal with whatever outcome, and I'm confident He will glorify Himself through this situation.

The doctor did unequivocally state that I have to hold off on the weight lifting for several more weeks... sad day. I mean, I was hoping to beat my previous deep squat record before Thanksgiving. And what will become of my biceps of steel?? In reality, long-term, I'm looking forward to hopefully enjoying greater energy, nutrition, and an arthritis-free existence that will allow me to work out again!

More happy news: I am able to eat anything I feel like eating! Salad, fruit, ice cream are probably my favorite things right now -- for the last two years, I've been unable to eat those foods. I pretty much lived on simple carbs and chicken. Sometimes I lived on a completely liquid diet. Every now and then, I'd just try to be normal, go have fun and eat out or eat stuff outside my "safe" foods, but they always made me hurt and feel sick. I mean, even chicken and rice made me sick. Even when I did get hungry, everything I put in my mouth made me feel bad. By this fall, I could hardly keep enough food in me to take my meds. I'm incredibly thankful to be able to eat again! I still eat pretty slowly, and I still feel a little self-conscious when I eat, for some reason, but it's getting better.

Possible overshare for those of you who are interested: managing Squirt (my ileostomy) is no problem or trouble at all. If you have any questions about him or anything, please feel free to ask. I know it's a lil' gross, but if you're curious, feel free to ask. I don't care. ;) He is much easier to deal with than ulcerative colitis, and I'd be perfectly content to keep him for the rest of my life. To be able to
a) eat,
b) process food,
c) not have to constantly run to the bathroom, and
d) be free from the constant pain and feeling sick, dizzy, and tired
is simply unbelievable. Unbelievable. I can't even express it. It may sound stupid, but please don't ever take stuff like that for granted, folks. I don't think I even realized how sick I felt all the time until I started feeling better after surgery.

Well, I'll continue posting updates, so if you want to, keep checking back in. Please pray that there will be NO more need for hospital visits until my next surgery (tentatively, sometime in December)!

Please continue to remember my family. They have been through so much and are so very exhausted - physically and emotionally - at this point. Pray that God will just allow them to rest and be restored - body, mind, and soul. Pray also that God will somehow use my illness and surgeries to deepen their knowledge of Jesus.

I know I keep saying this, but each prayer and comment and note and call and meal and flower and visit is so encouraging. Thank you, truly.

Hannah ;)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Homecoming??

Hi, everybody!

Just a quick note to say that I have had very little pain since last night! I talked to Dr. A not too long ago, and he is talking about sending me home tomorrow!! I am really happy. Haha. I was just whining this morning about nothing changing... Maybe God was just waiting for me to be totally surrendered to Him (which is where I should be all the time). Well, He certainly gave me some great encouragement!

I also talked to the pain specialist. He didn't really break any new ground. He thinks that the pain will probably continue to decrease and we should just stay with the current treatment. Since I'm feeling better, I don't really want to mess around with other meds and stuff, so it's just as well.

I was also reminding myself that being here in the hospital a few weeks after surgery isn't so bad. I was really sick when I went in, and also, I'm on steroids, which complicates healing, makes infection more likely, etc. So, this wasn't entirely unexpected.

Please continue to pray that the pain will stay away for good! Pray that the doctors would have wisdom to know what meds I should keep taking at home. Also pray that the taper off the steroids would continue to go well. I still have two more weeks of steroids, and often have trouble with energy, dizziness and emotional stuff even after I've been off of them for a few weeks. That plus recovery from surgery has the potential to make the next month or so pretty rough.

Soon I will need to start communicating with my professors about if my classes are salvageable or not. I will also need to see if Dr. A will actually clear me to go back first... but that's all for tomorrow. So I'm not worrying about it today! ;)

Thanks for all the prayers and encouragement!

Hannah ;)

Still .... Here....

Sorry for no update yesterday... I was pretty tired. Yesterday the doctors stopped my little pain button - so now I am FREE! No IV pole attached to me, which is nice. They are trying to use pills to manage the sharp pain, which means I'm sortof overmedicated most of the time, which is a little annoying. And I still had to go back to the IV pain medicine last night. So we shall see...

Today I will talk to some Pain Specialists (how'd you like to specialize in pain? Shouldn't it be Pain Relief Specialist or something?) about how to manage the pain. Please pray that they might have some different ideas about meds or ways to deal with this pain. As Dr. A reminded me yesterday, the good news is that this pain is not a symptom of an infection or a rupture or something going terribly wrong. It's just pain. The bad news is... it's painful. ;)

Yesterday I was a little frustrated. I've been back in the hospital for nearly a week again now, and I don't feel like I'm making a lot of progress. I want to go home, school is weighing on my mind, I've eaten pretty much everything on the menu about 5 times, I get woken up every half hour after 4:00 am, I'm bored, tired, drugged... My mom reminded me that my frustration was really with the God who put me in this situation, and that the Bible calls frustration anger. I was angry at God. Ouch. Well, it was true, and I am glad my mom confronted me on that... so I asked God's forgiveness. I don't understand why He's taking me through this, and it's not pleasant or fun, but I know that He has a plan -- one that I may never see -- and He has promised to work all things together for good for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. I don't know exactly what He hopes to accomplish, but I pray that my attitude will reflect His love and grace.

A verse that has been on my mind is Romans 8:32 - "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all -- how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" If God gave up His own Son's life to provide a way for us to have forgiveness from our sins, there's nothing in the whole world He wouldn't do for us! So if God wants me to endure this hospital stay and feeling bad for a while or even for the rest of my life, I can be confident that it is for my absolute best. God is so good.

Prayer requests:

  • Please continue to pray for my family. I've been sick for a long time, so their lives have been in a weird holding pattern for a long time. It's starting to weigh on them.
  • Pray that the pain would go away and not come back
  • Please pray that the pain doctors have some good ideas
  • Pray that, no matter what, I would keep my eyes fixed on Jesus
Hannah ;)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sleepy Monday

Hi, everybody!

Hope everyone enjoyed the lovely fireworks show last night! I watched the storm roll in from my picture window.

Yesterday was pretty good. Honestly, you can tell I'm doing better because I'm starting to get bored! ;) I'm learning to take things slowly even when I feel fine -- that helps my stamina continue throughout the day. I had a few visitors yesterday, which was awesome! Thanks so much for coming!

I've been really tired today -- slept almost all day until 1 pm. Looking back, I was really tired last Monday through Wednesday. I think it's just a factor of where I am on the steroids - I'm slowly tapering off them, so when I decrease the dosage each week, I get very tired. Then, I can't sleep for a few days. It's weird, but at least it's predictable! And only a few more weeks, and Ill be off them for good, hopefully.

I talked to Dr. A today. He continues to be a little stumped about the cause of my pain -- his best guess remains inflammation of the abdominal wall. This will just take a while to clear up - there is not much to do besides treat the pain and inflammation, which they are already doing. He will continue monitoring for and treating infections, and today I'll continue taking oral medication around the clock and try to use the IV pain medicine as little as possible. My pain is well-controlled using these methods. The only difficulty is that I want to go home, of course, and so I need to be able to control the pain without IV meds, so we need a plan for oral medicine that will control the pain. Tomorrow we'll work on that. The healing process is slow, I guess... so I'm just trying to be a patient patient. My mom pointed out that I'd just be lying around at home if I weren't lying around at the hospital, so if I'm comfortable here, I might as well stay. I'm starting to feel a little cooped up, though... but I have plenty of time to plot my great escape from the hospital!

Thanks for your continued prayer and support for me and my family! Please pray that I would trust God and not get anxious or frustrated with still being in the hospital. Also pray that I would be a light for Christ here at the hospital! He is truly good all the time.

Hannah ;)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blogging: The New Cure for Insomnia?

Hello, everybody!

Thanks for all your continued prayers. Today was a pretty good day; I took a couple walks outside, which was wonderful. I am still on a pump of pain medicine, which is working well to control the pain. Tomorrow I may switch to try some different oral medications. Hopefully, over the next day or two, the doctors and I can identify the right combination of pills that will keep my pain under control if I should have severe pain at home again. It is still rather disconcerting to have no idea what is causing the pain... but I know that God, not the doctors, is the one who made me and is in control of what's going on inside my body. Thankfully, God has allowed the doctors to rule out all the possibilities that would require emergency surgery -- that's a good thing!

In more exciting news, I've been able to eat today -- still very slowly, and not a ton, but a good amount -- without feeling weird or sick or overly full. Praise God! I've also been able to eat small amounts of food I hadn't been able to enjoy for over two years -- a few bites of salad, grapes, and ice cream!!! Oh boy.

My sleep has been rather erratic (or absent) for the past few days. Last night, I only slept from about 11:00 pm until about 2:30 am. I did nap for about an hour this morning, and for another 45 minutes around noon. Hopefully the naps didn't mess me up too badly and tonight I can get a little more sleep! I can definitely tell a difference in how I feel after a good night of sleep.

Please pray that I would not get discouraged. At this point, I've been in and out of the hospital since the first week of October. I know it's not that long at all, but today it seems like forever. I was so hopeful of bouncing back really quickly from surgery, but my expectations don't always match up to God's plan, and His plans are always perfect. I want to use this time to be a witness for Jesus, so please pray that I would just radiate His love to the staff and anyone who comes to visit me. Pray that my attitude and words would give grace to those who hear.

I know I keep saying this, but I am so thankful for my family! From emails from my grandparents, my dad and mom by my side all the time, Joseph DJ'ing and Andrew praying... they are just stupendous and I'm so thankful for them! Please pray that they will get good rest, not be stressed, and that God will multiply their time. Also, so many little troublesome things have happened -- Andrew's car got rear-ended on the way home one day, then his transmission broke... my parents are remodeling the downstairs, and therefore haven't had any cabinets or a full array of kitchen appliances for a few months... little complications that just add up. Pray that God will just continue to provide peace and calm to their souls!

Thanks again for all the calls and visits and cards! They all mean so much to me.

Hannah ;)

Friday, October 23, 2009

There and Back Again

Thursday started early.

Mr. Mystery Pain had returned. In full force.

After a few hours in the Emergency Department, we made our way back to 4 North. Different room, though. Lots of familiar faces up here... and they are all great, but we sort of hoped to never see them again. Despite many tests and scans, the doctors have ruled out a lot of scary bad stuff, but remain in the dark about what might be causing pain this severe. Thursday was a long night... we are trying to prove that it is indeed possible to survive without sleep.

So, the plan for tomorrow is to try to catch up on sleep, get the pain under control, continue being treated for an infection, and hopefully work towards being able to manage the pain at home. If you'd like to come visit, please call first. If no one answers... we're sleeping and/or considerably drugged. ;)

Thanks for your continued prayers for peace, comfort, strength and rest.

Cathy & Hannah ;)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

Hi everybody!

I'm at home!!! Woo hoo! :)

Sorry for the lack of updates for a bit. Monday I felt very tired and a little out of it. I was finally was able to sleep, so I just slept and rested pretty much the whole day, which made me feel great! I also got some more tubes and lines and stuff out. YAY.

Tuesday found me watching Looney Tunes (yes, I am five years old) and convincing the doctors it was time to go home. I didn't have to try very hard to persuade them. I mean, I'm cute and all, but I'd been there for what, almost a week? Definitely time to go home.

I also met with the ET nurse again (my nice one, the one I saw before surgery, not the one I saw on Friday). She is super awesome and gave me lots of sample bags and stuff to try out on Squirt. She also told me I can call the manufacturers and ask for free samples to try out. Haha - like Costco for stomas.

Finally, they let me go home! I was all done, every last tube and drain and IV out, all the discharge paperwork signed. The most exciting moment for me was when I had to review my list of medications. I can discontinue almost all the treatments and pills I've been on for the last two years! I no longer need them. YAAAAAAAAAAAY! I have to keep taking steroids for a while (boo), but eventually I will no longer need them, either. My huge collection of pills, IV stuff, and medical equipment will have a Viking funeral very soon.

I talked to the whole she-bang (referred to as "The Team," comprised of my surgeon, Dr. A, and his doctors-in-training who possess varying degrees of people skills, bedside manner, sleep deprivation, and medical knowledge) one last time. I follow up with Dr. A in three weeks. I asked him about school and stuff -- I'm supposed to call him at the end of next week, and we'll talk about it then. Hopefully he will be like, Oh, you're doing great! Finish the semester, start training for that 5K, lifting weights, fill out med school apps, and study for the MCAT! But maybe not. We shall see. Also, it depends on my professors. It may be that, even if I'm released at the end of next week, I've just missed too much school -- even before I went in for surgery, I had been out for over two weeks. Add that to surgery, and I've missed at least 5 weeks. That's a lot. I am not sure what will happen or how God will work out all the logistics of school, scholarship, housing, graduating, etc., but I am confident that He will, and that the best thing will happen.

I made it home just fine. I'm starting to taper off steroids over the next couple of weeks, which always makes me reallllly tired (and they make my cheeks puffy!), so I feel a little wiped at times, but otherwise I am feeling -- while not quite myself yet -- good. I watched a movie with Andrew, played cards with Joseph, and we watched more Looney Tunes. ;)

Thanks so much for all your prayers and support and little comments on the blog -- I love reading them. A few prayer requests:
  • Please continue to pray for my family to have some extra time to just relax and decompress! They are so busy trying to catch up on all the stuff in their lives that has taken the back seat this last week for my sake. Also... I know I've stressed them out a lot, especially this weekend when I was so very sick.
  • That I will not worry about school stuff
  • That I would continue keep my focus on Christ and use this extra time to grow closer to Him, and that He would use this situation in the lives of family and friends to bring them closer to Him
  • Finally (and this is the least of my concerns), I'm having trouble eating more than a few bites of food at a time, which is a little weird and frustrating. I feel really strange and self-conscious when I eat. It's hard to explain, and I'm not sure what's going on. It's like the little kid who really, really wants to go down the slide, but gets scared at the top of the ladder. I just have to ease back into eating after a few years of really weird eating habits, I guess. Eating no longer is painful, however, which is new and wonderful.

So far today, I've just been chillin' out! If you want to come visit, I'd love to see you - really! Just call first and talk to someone to make sure I'm not sleeping or something.

Hannah ;)

Monday, October 19, 2009

First Monday Without a Colon

Hi, everybody!

Yesterday was a better day physically, but a little tougher emotionally. I hadn't slept for more than two hours in a row since surgery, and that plus being on steroids (oh yeah, and maybe the whole major surgery thing, too) started to take its toll on me. There was much messing with tubes and drains and IVs yesterday when all I wanted to do was hang out with family. I got rather worn out and frazzled with all the poking and prodding and lack of privacy. Fortunately, my lovely mom comforted me, things settled down, and I enjoyed seeing some great people yesterday! Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by.

Yesterday my surgeon came by and talked with my parents (Joseph and I were off exploring the pretty fall weather - wasn't it nice outside?). Hopefully I can go home in the next few days. I will spend two weeks at home resting and recovering, then I will have a follow-up appointment to see how I'm doing!

Please pray for wisdom for me to know what I should do about school -- should I do absolutely nothing for these next few weeks and just rest? Should I drop out for the semester? Or should I try to keep up with homework as best I can? I don't want to do too much, and jeopardize my recovery, but I don't want to do nothing, then try to abruptly jump all the way back into school and life. I don't want to make a choice because it's the easy way out, but I don't want to make a foolish choice out of stubbornness, either. God will guide my steps and hopefully will help my parents, doctors, and professors give me sound advice.

Today the plan is to decrease some of the pain meds to see if I can progress to being hooked up to less stuff! That would be nice. I'd still welcome visitors -- if you can, perhaps try to call and make sure I'm available when you want to come visit!

This morning, one of the wonderful doctors who took great care of me on Friday night when I was in so much pain came by. They are still not really sure what caused the pain. The current thought is that I have peritonitis -- that the lining of my abdominal cavity is inflamed -- and that a drainage tube was suctioning on the very irritated lining. The tube was removed on Saturday morning, which has dramatically decreased the pain. I still have pain and tenderness in my abdomen, so they seem to think there's still some degree of peritonitis going on. Hopefully it continues to heal up and not cause further problems.

Thanks again for all the prayers, cards, meals to my dear family, visits, etc. They are much appreciated. Your love and support is just amazing and a huge encouragement to us. My goal is still that God will be honored through this hospital stay and my recovery. I am also so very thankful for my dear family's help over the last few days when I've been feeling so poorly. They are just fantastic, and God's love and presence and selflessness have truly been palpable at times.

Hannah ;)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bored

Hi everybody!

I'm doing better -- I'm tired of talking about me . . . feel free to come for a short visit and tell me what's going on with YOU! ;) Keep in mind it's a small room, though.

Thanks for all your prayers and comments! We really appreciate it. Everyone slept quite well last night.

Hannah ;)


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Discomfort

Well, things were going so great on Friday... Until after dinner.

Hannah has a great team of doctors... Two of them showed up in the middle of the night last night. Hannah was, shall we say, extremely uncomfortable and, um, vocalizing her discomfort .

Still not sure what is causing the pain, but the doctors faithfully provide pain relief and symptom management. More tests may be ordered if the discomfort does not resolve.

We ask you to pray for wisdom for the doctors, for relief from pain, for healing of the surgery, for no complications. Pray, also, for some sleep for members of the Hale household, especially Mom and Dad.

We praise the God who created Hannah. We trust that, in God's wisdom, this will be for Hannah's good and for God's glory. May the Lord be honored in this circumstance - as we walk through it and as you pray for us.

If you were inclined to visit Hannah on Sunday, could you first check this blog? If she is up for visitors, we will post acceptable times to visit and appropriate length of time for you to stay. No post? No visitors, please.

May God be glorified as His Saints gather to worship around the globe on the Lord's Day, tomorrow. Thank you for your prayers, love, and concern.

In Christ's love,
Cathy Hale

Thursday, October 15, 2009

No Pain, All Gain

Hi, everybody!

Thanks for all your prayers and calls and notes and comments! As I woke up from surgery last night, my first thought was that, for the first time in ages, the pain in my stomach was gone! Dr. A came in, all smiles, and said that everything went great! I was pretty sleepy, but very excited. I kept waking up in the night -- but only because I was so happy to feel good. Mama kept asking if I needed anything, but I didn't -- we were both just giddy because my colon was gone and I felt so much better!

Today I walked around the unit several times and sat up in a chair for a few hours. Other than some very minor soreness around my incisions, I have no pain! I started drinking clear liquids and I'm hoping to work my way up to something a little more substantial pretty soon, or else my nurse is going to have to start watching her back -- I might just eat her.

I am so very thankful that God has brought me through this major surgery! I'm so thankful for my surgeons -- they did a brilliant job, and the whole surgical team is using words like "beautiful" and "great" to describe how the surgery went! One student told me I have fantastic organs - apparently my liver and gall bladder are pristine. Another told me that they made me "the cutest little J-pouch ever." Well, shucks, I'm blushing, doctor.

Please help me welcome Squirt the ileostomy. He was born yesterday and has been doing quite well. I'm learning to take good care of him.

Praise God - this is exceedingly abundantly beyond what I could ask or think. I had no idea what to expect, but I sure didn't think I'd be running laps (okay, so maybe shuffling is a more accurate description) and feeling the best I've felt in months the day after surgery! I am just blown away by how well I'm feeling. My doctors are just thrilled.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support of me and my family! Please pray for a good night of sleep for my mom - I kept her up last night, and the doctors get us up around 4:30. Also pray that I will be mindful of having a good testimony with the staff here. Pray for opportunities to show them the love Christ has shown me.

Okay, goodnight!

Hannah ;)



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

First Report

2100 hrs 10.14.2009
Hannah does first pull-up on bar over her bed.

Sarah gasped.

Daddy said, "C'mon! You can get one more!"

Doctors don't know. Mom was out of the room.

If only there were two trapeze bars, she might be doing giants by Friday.

It's hard to keep a good girl down.

Surgery Outcome

After beginning at 11:30 this morning, at 5:20 this afternoon the surgeon appeared in the waiting room to announce to us that Hannah came through the procedure in great fashion. He was very pleased with the way everything went. The "offending organ" was extracted and the new "connection" was fashioned. Was that stated with sufficient parental dignity? In speaking with Hannah just minutes ago, she can feel pain from her incisions, but she feels no abdominal pain now!!! When the surgeon asked her how she was doing, Hannah answered "Fine, but the question is, 'How did YOU do?'" Dr. A assured her that he had done very well! Going now to get Hannah settled in her room. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His love endures forever! Thanks for your faithful prayers and encouraging words along the way!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How to Spend Your Two-Year Anniversary - The UC Edition

Today I took a trip up to the attic. After rummaging around in the boxes, I finally found it: my planner from 2007. I wanted to find a date that's rather important. Of course, I didn't remember the date, so I had to look it up. My diligent search was rewarded and I pinpointed the day I was finally diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

By the time I was diagnosed, I had been sick for almost a year and a half. It's a good story, but doesn't bear repeating now. Some day if I get really, really bored, I'll write about it. But today I'm not really, really bored. I'm just dingy. :)

Anyways, I flipped through the pages and discovered that on October 15, 2007, I woke up from sedation to hear the doctor tell me, "You have ulcerative colitis." He continued with some snide remarks about how terrible my colon looked. I remember laughing at him (I was drugged, okay?) and telling him that "ulcerative colitis" sounded made-up; what did I really have? Well, it's been about two years of fun and games, and this year, I will celebrate in style. On my two-year anniversary of diagnosis, I will celebrate by waking up in the morning for my first full day of life without ulcerative colitis! I'm so dramatic.

All my pre-op stuff today went well. As I've practically come to expect, both nurses I saw were just wonderful. Can I just say how great every single nurse I've had has been? I'm incredibly thankful for that. I'm all set -- got my ileostomy sited, they took my blood, asked me my life story, medication list, family tree, car insurance information, elementary school grades, favorite color and musician, got a wrist band, and (no kidding) an orange ticket that says "admit one" on it for surgery! But don't worry, I didn't tell them all that stuff -- I just stuck with name, rank, and serial number.

So here's a picture of where my ileostomy (stoma) will be. The nurse and I chose a good spot, and she marked it with a smiley face:


So now I'm done! I guess I should pack some stuff to do at the hospital! God is continuing to bless me with peace that only He can give. Honestly, I'm not at all nervous -- just excited to get better. I would ask for prayer for a few things:

  • My surgeons: they're the ones who have to do all the work. 6+ hours of standing and cutting and whatever else surgeons do. Hopefully they sleep well tonight. ;)
  • My body: it's not in great shape. They hoped to do surgery when I was well-nourished, not flaring, and not on high-dose steroids. I have sort of failed at all three (except that my colon looks like it's beginning to heal, which is encouraging), so there is a lot of possibility for complications in the actual surgery, in the immediate recovery, as well as long-term.
  • My family: this is very tough on them. I'm creating a lot of stress and difficulty, I'm sure (I know, there are easier ways to get attention. . . I just haven't yet figured out how to get that attention without being sick), so just pray for peace for them. Also pray that I won't set them too far behind on work and life and stuff like that.
  • Overall, just that Christ would be honored! I want my life to glorify Him and I hope that He will use this situation to let me talk to others about how great it is to know Him!

Okay, the next time you hear from me, I will have evicted my epically failing colon and hopefully be on the road to recovery! I am going to try to teach my mom how to update on the blog so she can write tomorrow. So. . . check back in tomorrow and see if I'm a good teacher (or if my mom's a good learner).

Hannah ;)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Two Days


Hi, everybody!

I found some good illustrations of what surgery will accomplish. I got it from jpouch.net, who got it from the John Hopkins Colon Cancer website. The second picture will be what my guts will look like by the end of Wednesday! The third and fourth pictures are what they will do 6-8 weeks after I heal from surgery 1.

So I talked to the nurse and it's official: Surgery 8:00 Wednesday morning. The nurse said, "We'll need you to be there two hours early." Oh, so you mean I need to be there at 6:00? OK! I'm fine with that. I get to take a 6+ hour nap at 8:00. My poor parents, however... bwah ha ha. They will be pretty sleepy. Bring them lots of good, strong coffee and chocolate. Maybe my anesthesiologist can also hook them up with some tranquilizers or something.

Tomorrow, I'll visit the hosptial for my pre-op appointment. I'll also meet the ET (enterostomal) nurse. The nurse will check out my tummy and decide where my new friend the loop ileostomy should take up residence. That's where the surgeon will pull my intestine through the abdominal wall so that I can poop for the next few months. My stoma will look like a peeled cherry tomato or a pair of lips or something really cool like that. I'm accepting submissions for a name for my stoma. Sarah suggested Obama, 'cause he's full of you-know-what and always spewing. :) If you can think of anything, I'd welcome your suggestions! Bob? Rosa? Mt. Vesuvius?

Overall, I'm doing pretty well. OK, I feel pretty awful, but that just makes me excited to get this sick organ out of my body! I'm looking forward to getting healthy and strong and feisty and hyper again. :) I also thought that I would post a picture of what my stomach looks like now. I might post a really cool battle scar picture later, so this way you have a comparison:

Actually, this is from ATLS (Advanced Trauma Life Support) Training last year. I was a model for the nurses and doctors getting certified to take care of trauma victims.

Since my surgery is laparoscopic, my scars won't even be that cool. The biggest incision will be just 4-5 inches long. I'll also have multiple little incisions. Pretty crazy that they can take out an organ that's 5-6 feet long without leaving giant zipper.

Hannah ;)

Friday, October 9, 2009

I'm home!

It was a long day, but I'm thrilled to say that . . . I'm home!

'Night everybody!

Hannah ;)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Limbo

Yesterday was a little weird. I'm not sure what exactly to think.

I had my scope yesterday, and the results are good, but confusing. My colon actually looks pretty good -- it appears to be healing! No one is sure exactly what this means.

My surgeon is totally on board with doing surgery soon -- I'm scheduled to have it on Wednesday. He said that regardless of how my colon looks, he believes it's clearly not functioning properly and is making me very sick. The fact that it looks good will make surgery easier than anticipated, and I'll probably be able to have it in two steps instead of three. If ulcerative colitis is all that's going on, surgery will bring resolution to my stomach problems, pain, fatigue, and arthritis.

Here's the difficulty: my GI doctor now seems rather uncomfortable about doing surgery, since my colon looks healthy, but I'm still pretty sick. His concern is that I may have some other medical condition in addition to UC. Removing my colon will cure me of ulcerative colitis, but if some other problem is what's causing my symptoms, surgery won't make me feel much better. Since all my labs and tests and scans are negative for pretty much everything, he has absolutely no idea what else might be causing my symptoms.

So . . . on the one hand, surgery is still the right choice. All the doctors agree that I have UC which is not responding well to treatment, and the colon will need to come out. On the other hand, my GI doctor wants me to understand that I will have this huge surgery, be cured of colitis . . . and still might not feel good. I may find that many of my symptoms are actually being caused by something else. Something else that doesn't show up on any scans or tests. Something that they don't know how to treat. That's frustrating and disappointing.

I have a list of reminders to myself on my desk. One of them says, "Trust in God, not the means and gifts He provides." While doctors and tests and treatments and surgeries help many people, God is always the one controlling the outcomes. Yesterday was a good reminder to put my faith in God, not in the means He may use, like doctors and medical technology. I'm not sure what the outcome will be, if surgery will make me feel better or not. Hopefully so. Hopefully all that's going on is my body reacting to the stress of a sick colon. But if not, if something else is going on, and I continue to be sick despite surgery, I'll trust God to give me strength to deal with that possibility!

The current plan is for me to go home today (yay!) and try to survive at home until I have surgery next week. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors to decide how to treat and manage my symptoms until I have surgery.

Hannah ;)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Contact the Guinness Book of World Records...

... tomorrow is colonoscopy #8!

This must be some sort of a record, to have 8 scopes by the time you're 22. To quote my doctor, "I just really like sticking little cameras in your body."

Greeeeeaaaaat. Creep.

The good news is, this is probably the last colonoscopy I will EVER have.

Benefit #2 of not having a colon -- no colonoscopies.

(You recall that benefit #1 was no colon cancer).

Interesting side note: In the past two days, I have received multiple spam emails, all touting the benefits of colon cleansing. Irony?

Hannah ;)

Hi, Everybody!

Dear friends,

I wanted to let you know that I'm in the hospital and will most likely be having surgery quite soon. My ulcerative colitis has continued to get worse, in spite of high dose steroids and a double dose of Remicade. Since my diagnosis almost two years ago, I've exhausted all the treatments that medicine has to offer, from limited diets, supplements, medications, etc. My doctors believe that there is nothing else that can be done but to take out my colon. I couldn't agree more. I'm excited to get rid of this sick organ!

Surgery will leave me with a temporary ileostomy (piece of small intestine pulled through the abdominal wall. My solid waste [poop, for those of you who prefer technical terms] will accumulate in a bag that I'll wear on my stomach). Eventually, I will have either one or two reconstructive surgeries that will enable me to eliminate waste more normally.

It's not an ideal situation for me to have surgery when I'm this sick, but unfortunately, it appears that I don't really have any other choice. The longer I wait, the sicker I will get, and the higher the risk of complications becomes. The doctors are running tests tonight and tomorrow to make sure that surgery is the best option. I'm really blessed with great doctors who truly care about doing the best thing for me, which is excellent.

The good news is that these surgeries should cure me of ulcerative colitis and arthritis! Having no colon will change my lifestyle a little, but I will be able to stop taking practically all my medications, eliminate my high risk for colon cancer (I mean, you can't get cancer in an organ you don't have!), and I won't be sick, tired, or in pain. While I'm not excited to miss a lot of school and undergo radical surgery, this is where God is leading, and He has given me total peace with it. I'm excited to have a chance to get healthy again.

I'll be in the hospital for a while. After I'm out of the hospital, I'll spend a couple weeks on semi-bed rest at my parents' house in Grapevine. I am not a big fan of just laying around, so I'd welcome any visitors, books, movies, TV shows, games, activities... anything that will keep me entertained without being overly demanding!

I'd also really appreciate your prayers for me, the doctors and my family. My poor family has enough to deal with without having a kid in the hospital, so pray for God's grace and strength for them! The next two days will decide if/when I will have surgery, how many stages of surgery (2 or 3), and if I will stay on steroids throughout this time, which would complicate my recovery. Please pray that the doctors would make a wise, timely choice.

A good friend reminded me that instead of focusing on pursuing goals (like being healthy, finishing school, having a career, finding a husband/wife) it's so crucial to just focus on pursuing Christ. That way, no matter what happens, I'm doing His will and will glorify Him. That's my prayer, that I would honor God and be a light for Him through this situation! Thanks for the reminder, Destiny! :)

I'll try to update to letcha know what's going on. If you're interested, you can check! Can you tell that I'm a little bored? Got some morphine in and feeling good...

Thanks for all your love and support,

Hannah ;)