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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Post Op Update

Many thanks to my mom for her lovely blog after my surgery on Tuesday! Like she said, God has been SO good! I had a few rough hours in recovery, but eventually they got my pain under control, and it has STAYED under control with minimal drugs! I didn't really sleep much the night I had surgery (couple stress doses of IV steroids will keep you up all night!), but I wasn't really in much pain. My muscle pain that's been giving me so much grief is SO much better than it normally is! You may recall that this pain was worse than my post op pain from my last surgery. So it's an incredible blessing to NOT be dealing with much of that pain!

All I can keep thinking is how good God is and how many people must be praying... this is the easiest time I've EVER had post op. On Thursday, I got up and moved around the room a bit... it's been really tough to get around because I am hooked up to SO many tubes and wires! But it's hard to keep me down when I am feeling okay!

As you recall, Dr. Saturday didn't close up my pelvis - he left it open. He said that it was full of infection and pus. So good thing we did the surgery, right? ;) He packed the wound with gauze. So, on Thursday afternoon, I met the wound care nurses. They pulled off the tape and started taking out the gauze. (WARNING: Slightly graphic..)

Have you ever seen those magic tricks where they pull a scarf out of their shirt, and the scarf just keeps coming out? That will give you an idea of what it was like. All told, they unpacked a cantaloupe sized pile of gauze from my pelvis. That felt... very strange. Then they stuffed a piece of foam (about the size of my foot) in the wound. They sealed it up with tape, and attached the little tube to the Wound VAC thing, which sucks the edges of the wound together. The process took an hour and a half. The wound is 10 cm long x 8 cm deep. My wound bled through a couple layers of towels and I was very thankful for my little button of dilaudid (pain medicine).

It was not fun. Thankfully, although the process was very painful, the wound actually feels better with the WoundVAC on and the pain faded pretty quickly, although from time to time, the "pulling" feeling gets pretty painful. Unfortunately, they have to repeat these foam and dressing exchanges three times a week... for the next 6-8 weeks. And I cannot get the wound area wet, either, so no baths or showers for 6-8 weeks, either. But I am confident that God will give me the strength to get through each dressing change (and give my family the grace to deal with me being smelly from no showering, haha. [Of course I am taking sponge baths]).

My stomach has done GREAT this time... my anesthesiologist, in addition to giving me the triple lumen subclavian line, did something a little different with the anesthesia, since I tend to have a lot of nausea and stuff for several days following my surgeries. Whether it's what he did or God's grace, or a combo, I was eating the day after surgery, and I've had very minimal nausea! And I'm actually hungry! Mom brought me Chick-Fil-A last night. ;)

My friend Kendra just finished her first day of chemo. It went well. She has another day tomorrow. Please pray for her and her family! She is pretty sore from her port placement still.

Yesterday afternoon and evening and today have been nice and low-key. I've been blessed with several very, very special visitors! And received so many nice calls and texts and messages... thank you to each one of you for your love, care, and support...

Hannah ;)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Surgery #4 Completed! (A Report From Mom)

Hannah started the day with a few tests. No, not any scopes or blood tests. Not any poking or prodding. Microbiology tests. In Fort Worth at TCC. Specifically, two lab tests and one multiple choice test. It turns out that PA schools desire a 4 unit Microbiology class with lab and Hannah only had a 3 unit Microbio class. So, having enrolled in summer school at TCC, she made it to Fort Worth to take these tests - and had to leave before the lecture in order to get to the Dallas hospital in time for Pre-op check-in.
I guess she checked in at the proper time - and then sat around and waited a few hours. (Is that why she is called the Patient? Patiently waiting and waiting...)
Her Daddy and I arrived just as they took her to the Pre-op area. We got to sit with her. And wait patiently. She was a little jealous of the Sonic drinks we held, and our Weinberger Deli bag holding two of the most amazing sandwiches. We did not eat in front of her, since she had only a faint remembrance of food from the night before.
At 4:10 they ushered us out of the back halls of Pre-op and whisked Hannah off to surgery. Their plan was to give her some laughing gas and then add tubes and IV while she was not aware of what occurred. Evidently the laughing gas failed to knock her out. The anesthesiologist escalated the drugs of inhalant variety and Hannah doesn't remember anything else from the operating room (which is exactly what I prayed!).
Maybe an hour later - or an hour and a half, Dr. Saturday found us in the waiting room to give his report. He spoke of infection and said he had removed the parts inside that no longer belonged there. He said that he found it necessary to plan to use the vac-em-up that Hannah described in a previous blog and that it would aid in clearing up the infection. He was talking like Hannah would not be long in the hospital (his original estimate had been about only 4 days), but that the monitoring of the healing process and the vacuum cleaner could take place from home.
Well, evidently they were able to add quite a few tubes and such after the ramped-up laughing gas took effect. Instead of a PICC line, Hannah has a cool Central Line below her collar bone. The keeps the nurses from constantly needing to find a new vein when they have to draw blood, give IV fluids or administer meds. It also allows her to have this great Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) pump that lets her control her pain medication for now. When she finally made it to her room she told her Daddy and me that her pain was at a "4" (on a 10 point scale) which is on the low end of her typical day-to-day pain.
Here it is, 3 hours later, and she is still pretty comfortable. I attribute this to our loving Lord who has heard the prayers of His saints - Hannah's friends. I praise God for His mighty hand - His hand that is powerful enough to give Hannah's doctor wisdom and skill, His hand that eases her pain, and His hand that intervenes in the lives of His people. You can praise God too. He commands us to pray. He allows us to pray. He hears our prayers. He always does what is right. And, as we pray according to His will, we have the opportunity to praise Him for answering our prayers.
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
He is worthy to be praised.
Hannah asks you to pray for her friend, Kendra. Tomorrow the doctors will put in a port near her collar bone so she can receive chemotherapy. Pray for her to have peace in the midst of her situation - and to know the God of Peace in a way that brings everlasting peace.
Cathy (Mom)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Surgery Tomorrrow

So...yeah, I have surgery tomorrow. It's scheduled for rather late in the day. I will try to get my mom to update as soon as she can after I get to a room. However, keep in mind that my body just does REALLY WEIRD things after surgery. It typically takes several hours for them to get me stable enough to get out of the PACU and to my room after surgery. Therefore, she may not be able to post until Wednesday.

Today I had a GOOD doctor's appointment! I had my appointment with Endo Doc, and it went very well! She was so surprised and happy that I've been able to taper down on steroids. I still have a ways to go. Once I taper down a few more times, we will be able to run the tests to see if my adrenal glands are "waking up" and re-learning how to function. Very encouraging after so many months of frustration. She also wants Dr. Saturday to do something a little different from his original plan with my steroids for surgery. She said she'd call him today to let him know her preferences.

I have been having a really tough time with muscle pain, so I've been taking quite a bit of pain medicine again. That means that it will be more difficult to control my pain after surgery, which has me worried.

Please pray that Endo Dr. and Dr. Saturday were able to agree on a plan for my steroids.
Pray that Dr. Saturday has a good night of sleep and can do well, even though I'm the last surgery of the day!
Please pray for surgery to do its job!
Please pray for my body to do well with the surgery - for no "surprises," a smooth recovery, complete healing, and good pain control.
Pray for comfort and peace for my whole family.
And mainly...please pray that God will be honored through this, and that I will lean completely on Him...not trust in the means of medicine and surgery and doctors and nurses, but in Him.

I am thankful for the support of friends and family as I continue to walk this path the Lord has set me on... I may not be up for phone conversations or visitors for a while, but I really, truly appreciate getting messages, comments, emails, texts, etc, even if I'm not able to respond!

Hannah ;)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Kendra

So after my appointment with the surgeon, I called my dear friend, Kendra. We dove together for a year in college, and have remained exceptionally close over the years. She has been a faithful, feisty friend. She has more character packed in her barely 5 foot tall frame than anyone I know. Throughout all of my interesting health stuff, she's always known when I need gentle encouragement, and when I need to be told to "buck up." And in this case, I definitely needed to be told to buck up. ;)

Back when we were freshmen, one of our swimming teammates, Stephen, always seemed to hang around the diving well after he was done with practice. He finally asked Kendra out, and in 2010, they were married. They began their life together, excited for what the future would hold. Stephen is in school to become a physical therapist. Kendra just found out that she was accepted into a master's program, to begin in January 2012. Stephen came out here to Texas in May to complete an 8 week internship, while Kendra remained 1,000 miles away.

The three of us at a Tech football game, fall 2007:


Several months ago, Kendra began having some concerning GI issues. Just when she began to think she should get checked out by a doctor, her symptoms would improve, so naturally, for one reason or another, making an appointment would be postponed. She eventually saw a doctor and began having tests run in May. After numerous tests, confusion, and misdiagnosis, Kendra was officially diagnosed with cancer, Follicular Lymphoma. It is incurable, but treatable. Her life for the past several weeks has been a whirlwind of tests and scans and doctor's appointments, all while her husband was across the country.

Hence, one of the reasons for my sporadic posting lately. My health issues simply seem a bit unimportant in comparison. ;)

Anyways, I called Kendra, and told her about the horrible things they were going to do to me, and how I was not excited to have yet another surgery. Kendra politely listened, then said, "Hannah. Man up. You know you have to get this done. This has to happen, so you are going to go have this surgery and get through this."

Kendra has cancer. She is willing to do whatever it takes to get this in remission. It's not an option. She can choose to not like the chemo, but she is still going to go in and get infused every time, no matter what. I need a surgery - one surgery - to FIX a problem, hopefully for... forever. It's not a choice. So I'm going to do it, too, like my brave friend...

Please pray for Kendra, Stephen, and her doctors as they make choices about her treatment. I am confident that God will use this to bring them closer to Himself. Even in this, God is still good.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Me, Kendra and Stephen on the beach, New Year's Day, 2011:


Hannah ;)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Plan (and a Delicious Beverage)

I wasn't able to move up my appointment with Dr. Saturday. I called his MA, and, as usual... she was less than helpful. "I'm sure you'll be fine until your appointment if you keep taking the medicine Dr. Saturday gave you," she said in a most condescending tone. Maybe, except... the medicine he gave me was... an antacid. Pretty sure that will not cure my abscesses. ;) But thankfully, my tummy has been manageable, so I made it til my appointment today. Probably because of those antacids. ;)

Anyways, I am scheduled for surgery on Tuesday afternoon. Surgery and the aftermath sound a bit Draconian to me. Please be warned, this is a rather graphic/gross/inappropriate surgery, so my description will be a bit graphic, too. But in the interest of honesty (which is what Semi Colon has always been), here goes: He will cut around my anus, and remove my anus, what's left of my rectum, and the J pouch. In his words, "I'm going to do what should have been done when you had surgery in August."


Then he will clean out my pelvic cavity to get rid of the abscesses. After that, instead of sewing me up, he will pack from deep inside my pelvis all the way to where my anus used to me with foam. He will attach a WoundVAC to this foam (Stands for Vacuum Assisted Closure - the picture above is what the whole set-up looks like -you can see the black foam, tube, and machine. The picture below is a WoundVAC in action. The black foam is inside the wound, and the tube is attached to a the machine that pulls the edges of the wound together like a vacuum.). This will provide constant suction to the abscess area. Every week, they will remove
the foam and put in new foam. This is supposed to me so intensely painful that some people have to be sedated during these changes. The hope is that with each foam exchange, the edges of the abscess area will grow a little closer together. Eventually, I will heal all the way up, from the inside of my abdominal cavity to the ____ (area formerly know as my anus). The inside of my pelvis basically has still not healed from my surgery from last August, so he thinks that this is my best shot at ever healing up inside and getting rid of the abscesses once and for all.

After he explained this to me, Dr. Saturday said, "Looks like you don't like my plan. You never like my plans." Seems like his plans always involve drains exiting my body in bizarre, uncomfortable places! ;) This sounds like a not-fun process, and I am less than thrilled to carry around a suction machine attached to my pelvic cavity through where my anus used to be. Not sure how I will explain that one to people!

The hope is that this surgery will be the last chapter in the book of surgeries for my ulcerative colitis. I told Dr. Saturday, "After this, I really will have NO colon and NO rectum... so there's nothing you Colorectal surgeons can do to me anymore, right?" He chuckled and agreed. Wouldn't it be wonderful to put these surgeries behind me and move on with my life? As we were talking to the scheduler, she asked, "What kind of prep does Hannah need?" Dr. Saturday and I both burst out in giggles. "Well, um, there's nothin' attached down there," he finally said. "No prep needed."

I promised myself a tasty Starbucks drink (decaf java chip frappuchino, extra whipped cream. I know this is not coffee. It's a chocolate milkshake with a bit of coffee in it. I don't think of this as coffee, but I think it is delicious. Due to my health issues, I can't drink real coffee for numerous reasons). I frequent Starbucks infrequently, because, while delicious, everything is ridiculously overpriced, but I bribed myself with Starbucks to be good at the doctor's office. I sat quietly in one chair in the waiting room for 45 minutes and looked at the fish. I didn't open the drawers or cabinets in the exam room. I didn't mess with the EMR on the computer, although MA left the room computer up, showing his entire patient schedule with links to each of their health records (a MAJOR, MAJOR HIPPA violation). I was polite to everyone. So I got Starbucks. ;)

I tried to pay for my drink, and the barista said, "Not today. This is on the house." I must have stared at him dumbly, so he said, "It's free! Please enjoy!" God (and the barista) is so kind to send wonderful blessings like that! It completely made my day. Today God also provided a wonderful friend who, in a timely manner, gave me an attitude check... more on that later.

Hannah ;)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

ER Run

Look at yesterday's post about upcoming events in my life...

Unfortunately, last night I started having really bad tummy pain. Then all my muscles started hurting really bad. Nothing was helping... and I wound up in the ER. It took three hits of meds before the pain decreased. The doctor asked me if I wanted to be admitted for pain control, but I REALLY didn't want to.

I've been taking it easy today, because I just feel lousy. Thankfully, God has allowed me to stay on top of the pain today. Please pray that I can get in to see Dr. Saturday before my Wednesday appointment... seems like things are becoming more urgent.

Hannah ;)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Surgery #4

I have another abscess, and I need more surgery.

That's the short story.

Here's the long story. Maybe I'm jaded, but miscommunication and failures really seem to be the rule (rather than the exception) of my experiences with medical personnel.

Well, after my less-than-satisfying visit with Dr. Saturday, where he denied that I had abscesses and wanted me to get tested for Crohn's again, I continued to have a fair amount of lower abdominal pain. Since I've gone through a few years of illness, I have quite a lot of intuition into when something is really wrong. I can feel that my body is having to work harder than it should; that something is not right, and the pain is getting worse. So after some encouragement from my mom, I went to see the family doc. She was quite concerned that the abscesses had recurred. So she ordered (surprise!) an MRI.

I got the MRI, and unfortunately, it showed an abscess. A new one.

I was frustrated beyond imagination. I don't understand why Dr. Saturday apparently changed his mind about getting the MRI. I am baffled that he didn't think I could have a recurrent abscess, despite the fact that I am having the exact same symptoms I had before my April surgery. Since he wouldn't listen, I had to sort of go behind his back to get the MRI that I knew I needed.

Family doc called Dr. Saturday. I got a call from family doc's nurse saying that they talked, and the surgeon said I need surgery, and he'd call me.

I didn't hear from him that day, so yesterday, I called his office. His MA (stands for Misinformation Assistant, I mean, Medical Assistant) eventually called me back. She said that Dr. Saturday wanted to try to drain the abscess in the office, and she would schedule me for that. This sounded like a horrible idea to me. I tried to get more details about how exactly he would do this (as the last two times I've had it drained, it required CT guidance to get the needle in deep enough, or general anesthesia, so I have NO idea how it would be possible to drain it in the office), but she didn't know anything at all. So she said that I should call on Friday to try to talk to Dr. Saturday.

I had some pretty obvious concerns, one being that Dr. Saturday didn't listen to me when I said something was wrong, despite my labs and symptoms pointing towards another abscess. It seems like every doctor I have listens to me initially... then after a while, they seem to stop listening. And it's not like I'm making this stuff up. My other concern was this: we can't just keep draining the abscesses every so often. We need to fix the source.

So, thankfully, Dr. Saturday called me today (I didn't even have to call!). He said he needs to see me (on Wednesday) so that we can discuss options. He said I have three choices:
1. Go to interventional Radiology (IR) and get the abscess drained with CT guidance (this was the procedure I had in September).
2. Have a repeat of the April surgery - go in, clean out the abscess, and place a drain, or,
3. Remove the part of my J pouch and (sorry, worst phrase ever) anal canal that did not get removed in August, as well as clean out the abscess. This is the more permanent solution, and his recommendation.

So... MA was greatly mistaken about an in-office procedure! ;) Much as I do NOT want another surgery of any kind, I have to agree with Dr. Saturday that option #3 is the best. If we did option 1 or 2, in a few months, the abscesses would likely re-accumulate, and we'd be right back where we started. All three of the surgeons I talked to in March suggested doing the more conservative surgery (like I had in April) first. If that did not resolve the infections collecting in my pelvis, they would recommend option #3. Please be praying for the timing of the surgery... my health insurance runs out on July 15, so I need to be out of the hospital by then, hopefully! And we all know how long I typically end up being in the hospital!

Dr. Saturday didn't have any explanation or apology or anything when I asked him why I had to go to another doctor to get the MRI done. He just laughed when I asked him about it. So frustrating! I just wish that he would actually listen to me...

Hannah ;)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Solid Rock

"What is certain?"

In life, we hold quite firmly to many assumptions about what is certain. For example, when you get up, you believe, as you swing your legs over the bed, that your legs will hold you up, and that the floor beneath you will not shift. You automatically assume that your car will start up, that the sun will rise, that your shower will have hot water, and that your radio station will play the same genre of music as always. As you eat breakfast, you take it for granted that that your body, without any awareness on your part, will process and assimilate the food you take in. When you get to work, you are fairly sure it will be business as usual; you're not expecting a pink slip on your desk.

You make plans for the future, for years in advance. You think about next year, 5 years ahead, ten years from now.

As humans, we love and crave patterns and routines. It's part of the image of God that He stamped on our souls. When Adam sinned, God's image became twisted and marred. We end up trusting in what we think is certain, worshipping that order and routine, our plans and assumptions. We want things to go the way we've planned them - and our plans don't include illness, financial difficulty, natural disasters, relationship problems, or death.

However, God has a way of turning those plans upside down. God can (and often does) change what we take for granted at any moment. We are surprised, blindsided, shocked, or irritated when this happens. What you'd always thought was certain is really not so secure anymore. It's as if the ground is giving way underneath you. It's like the roof is being taken off your home. It's all unsure, and seems so fragile - in a moment, everything you always counted on could vanish, be gone, destroyed.

When things are uncertain, where does your faith rest? If your faith, consciously or unconsciously, is in the ground you walk on, in the possessions you own, in the job you have, in the body your soul inhabits, in the people who surround you, then you will find yourself continually disappointed, discouraged, and distraught when things change.

But if your faith is in Jesus Christ, God who became man (John 1:14), who, by His life explained to us what God is like (John 1:18), who became sin for us so that we could be made right with God (II Cor 5:21), who died for us and now lives and intercedes for us (Romans 8:34), then, when things change, you will not be moved.

You may be afflicted, but you will not be crushed. You may be perplexed, but you need not despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but never destroyed (II Cor 4:8-9). Indeed, we will overwhelmingly conquer through Jesus, for there is nothing that can separate us from His love (Romans 8:37-39).

A man named Edward Mote who lived 150 years ago said it much more poetically than I can when he penned these words:

"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name.

"When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace,
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.

"His oath, His covenant, His blood, support me in the whelming flood,
When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.

"On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand, all other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand."

In times of uncertainty, when the ground under us gives way, when we see the fragility of life, the temporal nature of this world, we ask, "What is certain?" The answer: God alone. We must cling tightly to Him, and our faith must always rest in Him alone. Everything else in our life is temporary, a vapor, shifting shadows, but God will never change. Cling to the Solid Rock, and not in sinking sand.

Hannah ;)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dr. Saturday

Well, as you know, I've been having tummy issues - I am basically feeling the same way I was before my April surgery - nauseated, small appetite, lower abdominal pain, just feeling "off." I've also been having quite a bit of pain when I pee (and no, it's not a UTI...). To review: Because of these symptoms, Dr. Saturday ordered a sonogram three weeks ago, and some more labs. The sonogram was inconclusive -essentially, it's just not a good test for looking for abscesses. He decided that if my labs were still off, he'd have me get an MRI to further check things out. I got labs with Rheumy, and was supposed to call Dr. Saturday with the results. They came back with my white count even higher. I called the office, but Dr. Saturday was out of town for a few weeks. The nurse told me that he just wanted me to come in for an office visit, and she'd call me to schedule it. I never received a call. To their credit, however, when I called on Tuesday afternoon saying I wasn't feeling well, they gave me an appointment for 9:00 on Wednesday morning.

So Wednesday I go in and report how I'm feeling, anticipating that he'd send me to get the MRI. I'm feeling exactly the way I was before surgery, so it makes since to me to think that I might be having the same problem again. He disagrees, since I'm not having a fever and the ultrasound didn't show obvious abscesses. Unfortunately, that was what everyone thought all winter and spring when my ultrasounds were normal and I was fever-free. Finally, an MRI in February did show the abscesses, despite the normal ultrasounds. I'm worried that that's what's going on again, but Dr. Saturday doesn't think so.

Dr. Saturday thinks that I have Crohn's disease, and my symptoms are from that. He wants me to get an upper GI series done to investigate that. Well... but... I had this test done last summer, and it was fine, I don't think that my pain is INSIDE my intestines, I don't want that much radiation (this test involves quite a bit) and mainly, for several very good reasons, I just don't think that I actually have Crohn's disease.

We also discussed doing this super cool (radiation-free) test called capsule endoscopy (you swallow a camera, and it takes thousands of pictures of your guts and transmits them back to the doctor!). It would be very useful in determining if I am disease-free or if I have Crohn's or some residual inflammation/ulcers on the inside of my intestines. Unfortunately, with my frequent small bowel obstruction issues, this could be very dangerous. The camera has a high chance of getting stuck, and would require emergency surgery to remove! So we ix-nayed that test!

So we are sort of at a stalemate. I won't agree to the test, but he can't really decide what to do without it. I really just think that the abscesses are back, and we need to do a better test to make sure. Please pray for wisdom as I don't know what to do, but I know I just don't feel quite right.

He did provide insight into the bladder stuff. Apparently when there is inflammation, your tissues get "sticky." My absceses were down in my pelvis surrounding all my pelvic organs, including my bladder. Since I have no colon, my remaining intestines kind of fall down into my pelvis. With all that inflammation, the organs start sticking together, called adhesions. He thinks that I have intestines adhering to my bladder, so when it stretches or shrinks, it pulls on stuff, causing pain. I am also (gross alert) still having to go to the bathroom to "poop" stuff out of my rear end. He said that this will continue forever, since they opened me up down there to drain the infection. Fun times.

Finally, my brother, Andrew, wins above and beyond kindness awards... he sprained his ankle on Monday. I was just hanging out, and he was elevating his ankle. Suddenly, I started having this intense salt craving... this happens to me a lot, especially when I mess with my steroids or when my body is stressed. I was also feeling a little lightheaded, and so I knew that something salty would make me feel better. I was going in to check on him and see if he needed anything at the store. Unfortunately, I had stood up too fast and about blacked out on his floor. I was super dizzy and kinda sweaty. He very kindly hobbled to the store (and Sonic!) and brought me salty snacks and a Sonic slushy... what a good brother! Please pray for his poor ankle to heal up!

Hannah ;)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Trending Better

I apologize for the lack of posts of late. A lot of stuff is going on in life right now, and I will let you in on it at some point, but not today. ;)

Health-wise... overall things have been "trending better," as my mom puts it! There is some very exciting news: I cut down on steroids on May 25, and I've been (drumroll, please) FINE! This is truly amazing and wonderful and unbelievable and completely an act of God. We thought that my adrenals were completely shut down and not recovering at all. The fact that I've been able to taper and tolerate the change indicates that I have at least SOME adrenal function coming back at last! There are not words adequate to express my happiness about this taper! Praise God.

I also have been able to cut back on numerous other medications! After a very frustrating Rheumy appointment, we decided to drop off Plaquenil, a medicine that is supposed to help the arthritis and general autoimmune stuff. It has not seemed to make any difference in the number of flares I've had or in my overall well-being, so I stopped it. I have also been dropping the dosages on my sleep aid med, a muscle spasm med, and my pain meds! My pain overall has been better, although since Friday it's been a bit worse. But really, I can't complain! I really feel like I'm making progress, and the less meds, the better! ;) I had a couple days this week where my pain was... not really that big of a deal! I took just a little bit of pain meds, and that kept it under control and I felt good! Wow! I can't even remember how long it's been since I wasn't hurting super bad! Those were AWESOME days, and I'm sure hoping that more of them are around the corner for me.

I saw Dr. Pain (aka Jack Black) on one of those awesome days. He sent in the nurse who reported that he asked, "Was that Hannah? Did you see her walk? She was walking normally! She looks so good! She looks like she feels good. Does she feel good? Go find out!" ;) Yup, I felt good! I guess it showed. I have been hurting SO BAD the last several times I've been in, so I probably usually look terrible. He sounded JUST like Jack Black as he said, "Whatever you're doing, keep doing it! Do it twice as much!" He thinks I'm going to get all better and be fine. I hope he's right! ;) He about shattered my rib cage because he hugged me so hard, and told me I made his day.

My stomach is not doing so hot. It is acting up - hurting where the abscesses were, and I've been nauseated and losing weight again. Bummer. I am also having this weird thing where my heart feels like it is going really fast all the time - could be from steroids, but I think it's more likely from infection. Dr. Saturday has been out of town for the past few weeks, so nothing has really happened on that front. I also had a pretty bad obstruction on Friday night - Squirt quit squirting for several hours, which is quite uncomfortable for me. My body was trying to move stuff along, but it couldn't. This is theoretically from scar tissue or adhesions. It happens pretty often, but usually doesn't get as bad as it did on Friday.

So there you have it - overall, I'm doing so much better, although I still have some issues going on. I like this upward trend, and I pray it continues...

Also, just a little note to say thank you to all of you who follow what's going on in my life. Your prayers and encouragement really mean so much to me. I was just thinking today about my last hospital stay and surgery. I usually HATE being in the hospital, and I feel bored and lonely, and I'm usually in a lot of pain and feel awful. This last hospital stay was simply amazing. I didn't feel super terrible most of the time, even though the doctors thought I was supposed to (I surprised them), and God provided the most amazing stream of visitors, room decorations, notes, calls, and encouragement. God is so good, all the time. I am so blessed and spoiled by His kindness and by your kindness to me and my family! I was an undeserving sinner, and He died for me, saved me, gave me new life and hope, AND sends me wonderful blessings continually.

Hannah ;)