The Birth of the Alien Monster Baby by Vertical C-Section

6/7/13 Friday:  RELEASING THE MONSTER

On the morning of surgery I woke up at 3:30am, more than likely because someone came to take blood, my temperature, or my blood pressure. The nurse said they wanted to do an ultrasound on my legs before surgery to see if there were any more clots. They had scheduled me for 5:00am, but had asked if they could go ahead and get me early since they were very backed up. Since I was already awake, I didn’t mind at all, so I pulled out my iPad and checked emails until they came to get me. In reality it would be 5:00am before they actually got to my room.

Despite the fact that I was going to have major surgery later in the day, I felt great.  The song Safe and Sound (Capital Cities) was playing incessantly in my head. I had started hearing the song on the radio a few months earlier and loved it, and we heard it in the car on the way to our first meeting with Dr K. It was always in my head in the hospital, and the morning of surgery I played the YouTube video and posted it on my facebook wall page, asking everyone to play it and sing it while I was in surgery. It had become my own personal anthem.

Being in the hospital had made me start to think of the tumor as being something from the movie Alien. I have no idea why this was. I really didn’t have any bad feelings towards the thing, but I did keep envisioning that scene from the movie where the alien pops out of the guy’s stomach, slimy teeth and all. I started thinking of it as the Alien Monster Baby.

Dr L came by later in the morning. Dr L is very serious and very matter of fact. I made it my personal mission to catch Dr L off guard, ask him random questions, and make him laugh whenever I could.  Since I had just posted the Safe and Sound video as my personal anthem, I asked him if he listened to music in the operating room. He said sometimes, depending on the type of surgery and the procedure. I asked him what kind of music they played. He kind of smirked and said the technician played Top 40. I really wanted to ask him what kind of music HE listened to, but thought it might be too much.

He tried to escape, but I wasn’t done. When getting my ultrasound at 5:00am, and calculating how little sleep I had gotten (again), I had thought of another random question that would be perfect for Dr L: If I got three hours of sleep last night, and the surgery lasted five hours, would that count as my eight hours of sleep for the day? He shuffled and looked away nervously, laughed and said, “No, those are two completely different kinds of sleep,” and left as quickly as he could get out of the room.

Dr L is my very own personal Christina Yang from Grey’s Anatomy.

I felt anxious but also relieved that the tumor would soon be removed. I was tired of being in pain and tired of having no appetite. More than anything though, I was ready for a shower. The nurse disconnected my IVs and covered both forearms in plastic, taping them shut so no water could get into the IVs. That shower was the highlight of my hospital stay.

Hospital gown

All taped up for my first shower.

After the shower the rest of the morning was spent relaxing with family before surgery, which was scheduled for 1:00pm. A doctor had come by earlier to initial the side of my abdomen where the affected ovary was located, and I was in good spirits.

I played Safe and Sound one last time before surgery. Another song played and we kept talking. The third song was Coldplay, Warning Sign. My son suddenly stood up and said, “Okay, I think I’ve had enough of the music.” I thought he just didn’t like Coldplay, but quickly realized he was crying. I looked over at Michael and his eyes were becoming red and he had a panicked look on his face. I diffused the situation as quickly as possible.

I texted my sister, who was in charge of offering comic relief while I was in surgery. My text said: Please hurry up and get here! The men are falling apart!!!

Hostpital bed

On the way to the pre-op room.

Eventually, my husband, my kids, my sister, and my friend Liz were all hustled upstairs to the pre-op room. Two anesthesiologists came in, then a third, to discuss the risks of anesthesiology and the decision not to have an epidural port put in because of the blood thinner, Lovenox, I was taking for the blood clots. I hadn’t been thrilled about the idea of having an epidural anyway, so I was relieved the option was off the table. Someone talked to me about donating part of my tumor for research, which I agreed to do if it could help someone else in the future, and I signed papers for that.

I told every doctor who came into the room not to give me any more IV’s unless I was asleep. I was pretty adamant about it. After having to have another IV put in for the CT scan, I was down on IV’s. I was tired of being hurt. I wanted to be sedated.

Laughing through surgery.

Lots of laughter before surgery.

It was like a party in the room. I had somehow morphed into a stand-up comedienne during my entire hospital stay, and I had no idea why. Maybe it was the pain meds, maybe it was nerves, or maybe just my way of coping, but my entire family and I were constantly cutting up and laughing. We were still going strong in the pre-op room, and I had to make everyone promise not to get us kicked out of the hospital while I was in surgery. I needed a room to come back to!

Dr K stopped by to initial my abdomen again (the previous doctor’s initials had come off in the shower) and to check in with me. When she left, I saw she had forgotten her marker on the table beside me. Oooohhh, very dangerous move on her part. The wheels started spinning and I asked the family what they thought about writing a little message or picture on my stomach for serious Dr L. Of course they jumped all over the idea and I quickly had to rein them back in from wanting to turn my abdomen into a graffiti filled billboard. I had my daughter draw a small smiley face and write “Hi Dr L!” underneath it.

Message for surgery

Our little surprise for Dr L.

I had visions of him being so shocked he passed out in the operating room, so when he checked on me just before surgery I fessed up and told him what we’d done. He was genuinely delighted and amazed that we thought he needed to “lighten up.” I finally asked him what kind of music he likes to listen to and he said we “might be surprised.” Thinking he was going to say he liked country music (no way), he admitted he likes to listen to 70’s classic pop, like Neil Diamond. Not quite the Yo Yo Ma that I suspected (though he said he had seen him play in concert before), but not so surprising. I would have loved it if he had said he liked to listen to country music.

I apologized to my family for anything I might say after the surgery, before the anesthesia wore off. From the moment I entered the hospital I seemed to have no filter. I knew it could get me in trouble if I was zonked out on anesthesia and pain meds.

Hair cap for surgery.

Things are getting real now.

My daughter’s flight from Portland was delayed 25 minutes, but as one o’clock came and went, and we learned that Dr K’s three small surgeries had taken longer than expected, we realized Dominique had a real shot at making it to the hospital before I went into surgery. Indeed, we got to spend almost an hour with her before they finally wheeled me out of the room around 4:30pm — three and a half hours after our planned time of 1:00pm.

Saying goodbye.

Liz and Dominique looking worried as I’m wheeled away to surgery.

Saying goodbye to my family and Liz was strange. Everyone looked so worried. I had to keep reassuring them that everything would be okay — and I really meant it. I wasn’t worried at all and knew that I would be fine. I remember someone telling me they were going to give me something to relax me, me saying “good, I need that,” and someone putting a cap on my head and trying to shove my hair underneath it.

The last thing I remember is asking the doctors if they could sedate my husband so he would stop taking so many photographs.

On the way to surgery.

On the way to surgery.

Waiting room worry.

Nicole and Nick worrying during surgery.

In the next instant, my eyes were closed and Dr L was telling me that everyone saw our little joke on my belly and thought it was hilarious. The clock above my head said it was 10:30pm. How could that be? I was conscious but I could not for the life of me open my eyes. It was too much effort. My entire upper and lower abdomen was one huge white bandage. I had new IV’s on both wrists and arms. I had a hard plastic thing inserted under the skin below my left breast.

I don’t remember how I got back to my room. I do remember Michael leaning into me right after surgery telling me that we will be staying in Dallas for a long time, that I will have to see Dr K every three months for the rest of my life. I reassured him not to worry about that now. I wondered why he thought that was so important. I didn’t care where I lived as long as I was alive.

I was in my room surrounded by my family. I told them just because my eyes were closed didn’t mean I couldn’t hear them. I was alive. I was so out of it.

We stayed up talking and had “Family Therapy.” Dominique said I looked like the Dalai Lama sitting up high on his throne, eyes closed, dispensing clairvoyant information. We talked and talked. I told everyone some changes we needed to make as a family. Some things seemed crystal clear, others completely unimportant.

I knew the anesthesia was going to make me act weird. If there were any vestiges of my verbal filter left before the surgery it had been nuked out of existence once and for all by the time I got back to my room. Nothing seemed more important to me at that moment that getting my life in order and setting some things straight.

It was hard to talk. My mouth felt like it was one big cotton ball. Michael and the kids had to keep swabbing my mouth and gums with these little sponges on sticks that the nurse gave us. This cottony dryness lasted for days after the surgery and was very unpleasant.

We talked. We laughed. We cried. My family is so patient with me. I am bossy and selfish and they waited it out with me.

Finally, at 3:30am, I couldn’t stay awake any longer. My sister and the kids drove home and Michael slept on a cot in the room. Apparently I moaned a lot in my sleep. I remember having nightmares in my sleep, dreams of lions eviscerating another animal as I watched.

And for the record, the alien monster baby was officially 13.8 cm long and weighed half a pound.  We might have photos of the little beauty, twisted and ruptured in all his glory–but I’m pretty sure you won’t want to see them.

To be continued . . .

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59 comments

  1. monica

    was your hubby thinking you would blog all of this? is that the reason he took the photos? or just for memories? I must say – you look fabulous for a woman who is about to have a small alien baby sized tumor removed!!! jeez. and you daughter favors you! i’m so happy the surgery went ok (of course, we kind of knew it would!). I love the markered message for the surgeon. classic!

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      My husband takes his camera everywhere he goes, even to work every morning. Like I said in another comment, he’s my own personal papparazzi. I’ve learned to ignore him for the most part, but make sure I smile every once in awhile so there are a few good photos!

  2. Richard

    I enjoyed how you could recall what was going on in your room after surgery, how you could hear your family, and the fact that you told self that you were alive. Also the photos, documentation is a good thing.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      It was all very hazy but crystal clear at the same time, if that’s possible. My husband also recorded a lot of our conversations and cutting up, which I didn’t know about until he played some of them back yesterday. Funny stuff!

  3. spottedimages

    I have been waiting to see how you did during surgery…. thank you for writing! Stay strong 🙂

  4. Sally Staubach

    My name is Sally Staubach and I have been reading your blog since the first post. Your story is TRULY AMAZING!!! I had a cyst on my left ovary and eventually (after 4 years) had to have it removed. I tried everything but nothing worked and by the time it came out it was the size of a large grapefruit and it completely took over my ovary. I am thankful that it was not cancerous but it scared me just the same. Then to top it off about 1 year after my surgery of having that huge cyst removed I found out I had another one on the other ovary. Eventually leading to a full hysterectomy at 29 years old. I don’t regret it at all because I am pain free. But I wanted to leave you a message of my story and to let you know that you are TRULY inspiring A LOT of women. So I say THANK YOU FOR DOING THIS BLOG.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Thank you, Sally, for sharing your story and for your kind words. Helping other women is the only reason I wanted to share my story. We need to tell our stories so we don’t become silent victims to ovarian cancer. I knew almost nothing about ovarian cancer before this happened to me and was amazed at how hard it was to find information on the internet. It’s still unbelievable to me that there is no screening for ovarian cancer. It’s up to us, the ones who survive, to spread the word to other women and their families about symptoms, treatment, surgery, and staying strong. I can’t imagine dealing with this in your 20’s, Sally. You are one strong woman! Thanks again for commenting and sharing your story, and for your support!

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      It’s very hard to know, but she said probably five to eight months. Cancer cells multiply very rapidly. I had a CT scan just over a year ago and there was nothing on my ovary, so it’s defintely been a matter of months. I didn’t notice strange symptoms (acne, hair loss, oily skin) until early January of this year.

  5. Irish Katie

    *smiles* … I like the note you left your doctor …. can I steal that?

    Thanks for these postings …. it helps to know what happens. (Scary too! But knowing is better than not knowing.)

    *thinking good karma thoughts for you*

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Katie, I heartily encourage everyone to leave a personal message to their surgeons on their body parts before surgery. It’s all about that personal connection! Knowledge is power, and though it may make it a little more scary to know what one can go through when battling this type of cancer (though everyone’s experience is different), hopefully it also helps to know that you can get through it with a smile and some laughter.

  6. Thomas

    Great stuff, Angela! You’re a tough gal.

    Now, you need to write this entire story from the alien monster baby’s perspective! lol

  7. Jenny Turnage

    Angela, you are one amazing writer. Step up publishers and bid for publishing rights.

  8. jodysjourneys

    Oh my gosh, I can’t believe how much I am relating to this experience. Having been in a car accident at age 21 where I had cerebral spinal fluid flowing out my nose, I had to be in the hospital for 4 weeks and a lot of surgeries, and I too found out that I used humor to deal with it — at least I found myself really funny. ROFL I am not so sure of the staff. The drugs definitely made my humor come out all the more and I had such a clear vision of how I wanted to go on with my life. At the same time as the car accident, I also had surgery to remove a cyst the size of a basketball and they even took one of my ovaries, so I know the fun of that scar! My worst memory is having to cough every few hours and one arm was broken, the other arm I couldn’t bend because they did the IV wrong with the fluid coming out into the skin so that had swelled all up, so I couldn’t hold the pillow very well. I had to yell at my mom whenever I felt a cough coming on and she would grab the pillow and hold it for me. You are SO right that it is so much harder on the loved ones than the actual patient. I know I recovered so quickly because of all the loved ones in my life(along with being young rofl), and when a minister poked his head into my room and saw all the flowers, he said you don’t need me judging from the love in this room.

    I also wanted to comment that I really think it is smart to just focus on the next step and not necessarily have the entire reality crash in. It was a real confidence builder for me at 21 to realize that all I should do is focus on getting through the next step and also know that I could/would handle whatever that next step was. I never felt I was brave because I viewed it as having no choice but to deal with it. However, later in life I have realized while maybe not brave, I was proud of myself for not having too many pity parties for myself (or they didn’t last long) and the strength it gave me to know I could even lose my looks and it wouldn’t change the essence of me. I see that in you so just wanted you to know that you should feel proud and grateful for being the wonderful person you are and that you are keeping that strong despite whatever happens to you!

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Wow, thanks for sharing that powerful story, Jody, of your car accident at 21. Wow. I only had one incident where I was eating something the day after surgery and started coughing. I did everything I could to make the coughing stop. And, thankfully, I haven’t sneezed once since surgery. I remember sneezing after my appendectomy years ago and thinking I wanted to DIE from the pain!

      It is certainly true what you say about being brave as opposed to having no choice. The human spirit is strong. I don’t feel brave at all, I’m just doing what I have to do to get through this. I was not feeling brave when they told me about putting the IVC filter in my neck, and I’m not feeling particularly brave about them taking it out again! Sometimes I think about all the children with cancer and know that they are much braver than I could ever be. And I think of the very old people I passed on my walks around the hospital wing, alone in their beds, day after day, with no family members there to hold their hand or help them be less scared. Those are the brave ones. I’m “brave” because I have a lot of people holding me up, supporting me, and being good role models.

      I focus on dealing with things one step at a time because it works for me. I’ve had to teach myself to think that way through the years and it wasn’t easy, but I’m glad to see that when I really needed to think that way, it came instinctually.

      Thanks for sharing your story with us, Jody!

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      The hard plastic thing is a port that will be used during chemo. Instead of getting a new IV every time I have chemo (remember, I HATE IVs), they will just stick a needle in the port and it will shoot the drugs down to my abdominal cavity. I can even feel the tube going from the port down towards my stomach, just under the skin. I’m pretty thin, and the doctor said you can’t even see a port on most people, but mine sticks out like a well-defined lump! It doesn’t hurt, but it’s not comfortable to lay on that side in bed, which is somewhat annoying. Supposedly I will have to get another port on my upper chest above my breast or deal with getting an IV each time I do chemo. And, yes, my appetite is back with a vengeance! I have permission to eat whatever I want, and right now I want burgers, pizza, and lots of pasta!

  9. westerner54

    I’ve been gone since last Thursday, and just read your last three posts together – holy buckets! I’m so impressed by your ability to focus on the moment at hand and keep panic at bay; that is just so,so, helpful. Focusing on the moment is just a brilliant philosophy for life, but being able to do it during times of crisis has got to be particularly useful. Keep on hanging tough; we’re all sending tons of good energy your way!

  10. Our Life In 3D

    I can’t beleive how much you have incommon with Sigourney Weaver!
    Didn’t she spawn alien babies too? Ihope you are getting to feel better Ms. Mind Margins! You are super strong!

  11. seetinarun

    I simply love that you have decided to make cancer turn you into a stand-up comic. That’s the spirit! Though this is a tough fight in any event, you are certainly making it easier on your spirit with your positive attitude. Keep up the good work!

  12. Andy Coleman

    Angela, like I’ve said before I just love all the details. Thanks for taking the time to share this. Sure makes you realize how important family and a good support system is. You are an inspiration – can’t wait to run with you again.

  13. pwhent

    I have run out of superlatives. But I haven’t run out of prayers and positive thoughts – they contInue to head your way.

  14. Grace @ Cultural Life

    I’m glad the surgery went well. Saying goodbye at the operating theater doors is the worst! I wrote a blog post which was Freshly Pressed back in February this year about saying goodbye to my mom before she had her liver transplant surgery. Were you on morphine post-surgery? That could explain the vivid dreams. My mother had very lucid dreams after the surgery as well and the nurses told me that it was most likely due to the pain meds.

    I’m sending you lots of positive thoughts. I’m sure these posts are inspirational to many other people who are going through the ordeal of cancer. It’s good that you bring positivity and laughter to such a difficult topic. “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light” (a wise quote from Dumbledore in Harry Potter!)

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Yes! I was on morphine! I had no idea it would give me dreams like that. They were extremely vivid and disturbing. That makes perfect sense. I will check out the post you write that was Freshly Pressed, and thank you so much for your kind words and the lovely quote.

  15. Michelle

    I didn’t get any sleep last night, and my tired state was making it really hard not to cry all over myself as I was reading this. I kept thinking, “For goodness sake, the surgery is done and over with at this point, what is your problem, Michelle?!” And still, as I see you wheeled into surgery, I’m feeling all those same nervous feelings you feel when someone is being wheeled into surgery. And then I’m thinking, “they’re just going to cut her open and yank that thing out…they cut people open and yank stuff out all the time!” But it’s just so nerve-wracking and scary when it’s your someone. I just don’t like this at all. And I didn’t realize you’d have to do chemo. I’m terribly sorry to hear that. But I’m glad you were able to keep your spirits up and have all that laughter before hand. Laughter and positive thoughts are strong medicines, that’s a fact!

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Awwww. Thank you for making me your someone. That means a lot to me! Yes, chemo is on the way, and it won’t be pleasant, but it is what it is. I’m willing to do anything to get rid of this once and for all (though I will probably never be 100% rid of it).

  16. runcolbyrun

    Damn you Alien Monster Baby! Gone, Baby Gone! Your ability to laugh during this time in your life is a testament to your strength. You are an inspiration. I can think of no stronger medicine than laughter. As always, sending you healing thoughts Angela. 🙂

  17. kruzmeister

    I love the little pic your daughter drew for Dr L, that’s hilarious… continuing to send positive vibes and prayers your way Angela! 🙂

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