Chapter 14 – Underwear Worries

Chapter 14 – Underwear Worries

April 13

You know that thing your mom told you … about wearing nice underwear in case of an accident?

Well, maybe not everybody had a mom like mine … and I’m not sure my mom actually ever really told me about the underwear worry in so many words, but I am sure my friends all told me that their Moms told them, and they all swore it was so they wouldn’t be embarrassed by the rusty safety pins holding up decaying elastic or straps knotted 3 times to ensure against slippage.  Gym class notwithstanding, underwear was, for some reason, always in a state of decrepitude that meant one was always teetering on the edge of some imagined abyss of embarrassment brought on by the threat of hospitalization after some crisis, where all bad underwear would be exposed to perfect strangers, who would then tell the world about one’s lax standards, while taking a coffee break, after performing brain surgery on you because you fell down the stairs and had not had any clean underwear to wear that morning, and hence would bring down shame on your mother’s parenting skills!

If you don’t share this memory, trust me there are thousands who do.

Caution became a way of life, and gym class the universal reviewing platform for personal lingerie standards. Responsibility for unforeseen consequences loomed large!

But, aside from all that, I realize now my mom was really talking about planning ahead for unanticipated circumstances, and being prepared for whatever life might throw at you. And if your underwear was in good shape, you were pretty much good to go!!

Which brings me to the subject of my upcoming surgery.

I have a date with a surgeon … April 29th … and a signed consent document listing all the ways it will be possible for me to be miserable or die as a result of this big ass operation. It is a really impressive list, and there are a ton of ways things can go sideways.

First, they remove, robotically, large parts of me … bladder, uterus, ovaries, urethra, and abdominal lymph nodes.

Then they cut out part of my colon and reshape it into a new bladder and attach it where my bladder used to be, and tie it to my kidneys via my ureters.

They then punch a hole in my abdomen to accommodate a catheter … a second belly button, if you will … through which I will drain urine using a catheter instead of peeing like a normal person.

Then they sew me up, attach drains and tubes and bags and other hospital-ish stuff, and call it a day. Whew that is 8-10 hours of which I will have no knowledge. There is a lot to be said for LaLaLand

Then comes the recovery … endless tubes and drains and lots of liquids and fluids. What the surgeon calls a messy few weeks. So not a really pleasant time to look forward to. But in the end …Voila … new plumbing!

Anyway, to be honest, I was none too happy to have all the nasty developments itemized as possible outcomes. And the probability factors for each and every one of them occurring … well those odds leave a lot to be desired. Not so bad as the odds of winning the lottery, but right up there with … wish I had made other plans.

So, I am finding it surprising how little all of it worries me. I guess I recognize there is not much I can do about the whole unlovely process. It really isn’t my responsibility after all. That’s why they get the big bucks. And to a large extent I won’t be there anyway. I will be detached from it all. No responsibility!!!

Let’s hear it for good drugs!

However, I am aware there is an underlying level of angst that intrudes when I take a break, or get overtired and zone out. But I have come to realize my worry is more about all those old dirty underwear fears. The ones your mother insisted on making your responsibility.

Seriously … the surgery thing is just too big. The possibilities for disaster are endless, and I just can’t wrap my head around the whole thing. Instead I have decided to enjoy my improved health and well-being, and worry instead about those personal responsibilities like … well, like… I don’t know…

… what about the whole hospital thing? I’ve never been a patient before!

… will I manage to become upright after surgery or will I, in the end, just sort of drain away?

… what about the really formless johnnie gowns? Are there alternatives?

… will I remember to bring my phone charger?

… will my house still be standing when I get out?

… what will it be like to pee through my stomach?  Weird in the extreme, huh?

… will I succeed in finding a fashionable bag to hold all the paraphernalia that will be necessary for the care and feeding of my new plumbing?

… who cares?

Worry, worry, worry.

None of it is worth the energy, but it beats worrying about all the ick and drool! And, since I am at heart a worrier, I would much rather worry about finding the right bag, and enjoy the rest of my time before the 29th.

So, I figure now is the time to gain a few pounds having lunch with friends! Drinking while I can, and living life as the gift it is. After all, those organs that will be deep six-ed have to weigh something, Right?

What do you think … 5 pounds? 6 tops?


Wikipedia provides this concise description of what is actually involved in creating the Indiana Pouch or surgical urinary diversion …

“With this type of surgery, a reservoir, or pouch, is created out of approximately two feet of the ascending colon and a portion of the ileum (a part of the small intestine). The ureters are surgically removed from the bladder and repositioned to drain into this new pouch. The end of the segment of small intestine is brought out through a small opening in the abdominal wall called a stoma. Since a segment including the large and small intestines is utilized, also included in this new system is the ileocecal valve. This is a one-way valve located between the small and large intestines. This valve normally prevents the passage of bacteria and digested matter from re-entering the small intestine. … this valve, in its new capacity, will now effectively prevent the escape of urine from the stoma.”

Regarding the surgery and what was actually going to happen … when writing this update, I felt that too much information would not be appropriate for general consumption, so I tried to keep the really ICK-making parts to a minimum. But, for the record, all the organs and bits and pieces that were involved were to be manipulated robotically, via a series of small incisions made into the abdominal wall. It was perhaps a bit gruesome to contemplate, but not the worst news. It meant my scarring would be minimal, and my recovery would be that much easier as a result.

Also, more good news … my surgeon was a whiz at this sort of thing.

However, the worst … the truly icky part … was that all the detritus from the surgery … all those same bits and pieces that were to come out and go to the big dumping ground in the sky, the lymph nodes, the urethra, the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the uterus, and the bladder … all of it was to come out through the vagina. Oh dear … OUCH! OUCH! & OUCH! This really freaked me out in a strange way. It was really difficult to imagine, and was one of the main reasons I did not want to think about the surgery any more than necessary.

Just the memory of the thought makes me gag. But then again, perhaps inspiration for a sci-fi film?  Return of the Body Part Snatchers. Sorry, my bad. But it really was beyond my ability to contemplate, so instead I worried about all the other stuff surrounding the main event.

I also received advice from others who had gone through surgical procedures, through cancer and joint replacement and hospital stays of all kinds. Without exception, they advised me …

Leave it all behind you.

Leave your keys at home.

Leave your phone and your tablet and your computer at home.

Send your clothes home with whoever takes you to the hospital.

Have a go-bag prepared for a friend to bring to you when you are ready for it.

Go with the flow.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. God advice! Indeed, I learned to take care of only the parts I could control. If I couldn’t do something about it, I moved on.

I took care of my design business, my taxes, my bills, my house plants and my garden. I asked a friend to take care of my orchids for the duration of my hospital stay. I packed their little bags and sent them off for slumber party at her house. I also went to the dentist, had my car serviced, and made sure all my library books were returned. All of that, and more, I could deal with. The rest I ignored. And as they say, I am good at ignorance.

And in regard to the worry thing … on waking up every day to the realization I was one day closer to this incomprehensible event … when I found myself fretting and gnawing at the huge massive black hole of what was to come … I would get up out of bed and worry about that one day and not the future.

Small worries only, thank you very much … the rest I left behind. I successfully ignored the looming appointment with the unknown, and instead worried about clean underwear and cell phone coverage.

My Mother would have been so proud.

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