Monday, August 29, 2016

The lost is found!

Happy me!
First thing this morning, I received a video from my Aunt. It was an inspirational video on the topic of God still answers prayer. As I watched it, my heart skipped a few beats because I know firsthand God still answers prayer in my life and does so on a daily basis.
Weeks ago, I realized I'd lost my necklace. I turned my house upside down for the past couple of weeks looking frantically for this very sentimental piece of jewelry. I'd had the necklace made over twenty years ago when my first wedding ring (from my husband Phil) had been accidentally crushed leaving only the front of the ring and diamonds in tact. Before having the necklace made from my ring, I also wanted to incorporate a diamond my daughter Laura had won at the opening of a jewelry store about the same time my ring had been damaged. My intention was to leave this necklace as an heirloom to her one day. The diamonds in the necklace probably don't total more than a carat or so but the necklace was extremely valuable to me.
Right after watching the video from my aunt this morning, I kept feeling the need to walk into my closet. Standing in the middle of my big walk in closet amidst all the racks of clothing, I felt God speak to my heart and tell me to look up. As I looked up, my eyes instantly fell on a blouse hanging on a hanger. As I looked closer, I noticed something hanging around the top of the hanger. I took the blouse down from the rack and lo and necklace was there in all its glory!
I was so thankful to have my precious necklace back but more importantly, I was thankful God used that video to prompt me to remember my prayer request from over 2 weeks back. When I'd lost the necklace and couldn't find it, I told God I knew He knew where it was even though I didn't. I knew He knew how special it was to me and I asked Him to please allow me to find it. I'd left that prayer request at His feet and this morning, He answered it.
Some folks might think it's silly to pray for something as trivial as a lost necklace but I don't think so. I know God wants to bless us and He cares not only about our needs but also about our heart's desires. Jesus, in Luke chapter 15:3-6 of the Bible, says this: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’
Now I know my necklace doesn't compare to a lost sheep, especially back in Biblical times when that was their livelihood, but that necklace was precious to me and God knew it. I'm sharing all this to say, Rejoice with me over God's faithfulness! He does still answer prayer and He does still hear those little bitty heartfelt cries we send up to Heaven. 19 days after I prayed and asked for Him to show me where the necklace was hidden, He did!
And by the way, Jesus, while sharing the parable about the lost sheep wasn't just wanting his disciples to focus on the found animal. He was using that analogy to help them understand He cares about lost souls. In verse 7 of that chapter, He says this: "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
Hopefully, I've given you something to smile about as you rejoice with me over my found necklace but more importantly, I hope I've given you some food for thought, too. God still hears and He still answers. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to voice your prayer needs to your Heavenly matter how small or insignificant they may seem to be. He cares about what we care about because He loves us unconditionally. And that's the best kind of love you can ever receive.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Friday, August 26, 2016

Dreading October already

We're coming up on the end of August. This year has been flying by. As I look at the calendar, I realize October is just behind September and that means, I only have a little over a month before PINKTOBER begins. For those of you who don't know what PINKTOBER is, it's the month dedicated to breast cancer awareness and just about every and anything you can think of becomes pink.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I was intrigued by the pinkness of breast cancer. I almost felt like I belonged to a secret sorority. Well meaning friends and family began to inundate me with all sorts of pink things and the infamous pink ribbon became symbolic to me. I was proud to sport anything with the big pink breast cancer ribbon on it. I felt it was my duty, afterall, I had cancer. As time wore on, I began to tire of all the pink and now that it's been a little over two years since I was diagnosed, I honestly hate pink.

I'm already dreading October and it used to be one of my favorite months. It signaled the arrival of the Fall season and all that comes with it. Hayrides, pumpkins, hot apple cider, cooler weather...all those things that make you feel so alive but then PINKTOBER had to come along and ruin it.

Those newly diagnosed with breast cancer may become enamored with pink as they begin their journey with cancer. It's easy to fall into that media trap. Signing up for those Susan G. Komen 5Ks and buying all that breast cancer paraphernalia just kind of seems like the right thing to do but is it really? I did a lot of research at the end of last year and found out not much money raised by those cancer organizations actually go toward cancer research. Most of the money raised goes toward salaries and administrative fees. As my naive little eyes were opened, I got upset. Why was something so traumatic being so commercialized? For those of us who've gone through the struggles breast cancer brings, we know there is nothing fun or light-hearted about cancer. The only thing good that comes from the color pink as it relates to cancer is the recognition it's received. Just about everyone knows pink symbolizes breast cancer.

According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, " a pink ribbon symbolizes breast cancer awareness.
The merging of ribbon and symbolism in the United States came about in two huge leaps. The first occurred in 1979 when a wife of a hostage who had been taken in Iran was inspired to tie yellow ribbons around the trees in her front yard, signaling her desire to see her husband come home again. Step two occurred 11 years later, when AIDS activists looked at the yellow ribbons that had been resurrected for soldiers fighting the Gulf War and turned the ribbon bright red, looped it, spruced it up and sent it onto the national stage during the Tony awards to represent those affected by AIDS. The stage was set for the evolution of the breast cancer awareness ribbon. Susan G. Komen for the Cure® has used the color pink since its inception in 1982."

I understand the good things Susan G. Komen and other organizations are trying to do by bringing awareness to cancer's horrible and far reaching grasp on women all around the world, but I can't stomach any more pink. It's gone from good to bad to ugly now. There are pink shirts, hats, socks, underwear and even toilet seats.

Not all cancer survivors may feel as opposed to pink as I do to all of these random pink items and the illustrious PINKTOBER. Maybe I've become jaded as I've been plunged into this sea of pink but please (and I'm borrowing this slogan from the website by the same name) think before you pink, people. Not all of us like pink. In fact, some of us hate pink and for good reason.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Random thoughts

My hubby, Phil
Tomorrow is my husband's 62nd birthday. That means he'll be filling out the forms for Social Security, too. I'm looking forward to celebrating his special day but more importantly focusing more intently on our future together. We're planning to do a good bit of traveling and we've both been looking forward to it. As every day passes, I realize we're getting older. The aches and pains in our bodies scream it so loudly now we can't ignore it. But 60ish isn't really that old...if we were in our 90s, I could say we were really getting there and that's my hope...that one day we'll be able to reach our 90s and we'll still be happily married and alive! Being alive is much better than being dead or so they say...but is it really? Sometimes, I think I'd rather be dead. At least then, I'd be in the presence of the Lord. I wouldn't have any more aches or pains. I would never have to worry about the cancer coming back again. I would have no problems whatsoever! I'm not one to wish my life away though so I'll continue to live in the present day and focus on the moment at hand. I'm just so grateful to still be here because two years ago, I wasn't so sure that would be the case.

The year seems to be flying! The older you get, the faster they go. My grandmother always said that. When I was a kid, I never paid much attention to her but she was telling the truth. I feel like I blink and it's a new month. The holidays will soon be here and gone. Time never stands still. That's one reason I love photography so much...I can actually freeze time. I can save little moments of life forever. It's extremely rewarding and enjoyable. I haven't been shooting for several months though. It's been too hot outside to do anything, so I stay indoors. The heat isn't good for the swelling in my arms.

Speaking of arms, I've packed up the compression pump the insurance company sent for my Lymphedema. It wasn't doing a darn thing except stealing an hour of my time and making me look like the robot on Lost in Space...DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER, DANGER, DANGER!!! Nothing is helping much. The compression sleeves are too hot and don't address the swelling in my chest area so I've got to talk with the breast surgeon once again when I go for my checkup next month. She's probably going to recommend some type of chest compression garment. We'll see. The most frustrating thing about my surgery has been the Lymphedema. I don't mind the long, horizontal scar at all. It doesn't hurt and if that was all I had to deal with it would be a piece of cake but this darn swelling is the pits! I can't tell you how frustrating it is and how much I wish I didn't have to deal with it. But how can I complain? I know God allowed it. I think of Paul and the thorn in his flesh given him to buffet him...some scholars say it was speech impediment, some say it was his short stature and physically weak matter, it was something that frustrated him on a daily basis, moment by moment, reminding him of his dependence on God and I am TRYING to look at Lymphedema in the same light but it's difficult. And I still have the clothing challenges. There is nothing I can find to camouflage the HUGE size of my arms except shirts in size JUMBO or with butterfly sleeves, dolman sleeves, or those very out of style caftans we used to wear in the 70s.

I have a family reunion to attend this weekend and I'm not even looking forward to it. I don't want to sound shallow but I really don't relish people gawking at me. I'm trying to decide whether to wear my boobs or not...if I wear them I'll be extremely hot. If I don't, all the young ones will be looking at me and questioning their parents as to why that lady doesn't have any boobs. Decisions. And why do I care anyway? Why do I care what they think? Why do I care about making them uncomfortable about my breastlessness? Do I put my comfort on the back burner so I can look acceptable in public? Yes...pretty much and it sucks.

If you've read this far, you probably realize I'm in a weird mood today and you're right. I'm not depressed, hurt, angry, or moody I'm just being real. These are the thoughts that pop into my head and I just felt like sharing them today. I'm really doing okay. I'm staying focused and I'm living my life. I'm taking one moment at a time and I'm working hard to be honest with myself. I think I'm in a good place.

I had a good day today. I decided to turn off my cell phone for the majority of the day. (I've been suffering from a little sensory overload lately.) I've also spent a lot less time on the computer unless I've been writing for the cancer magazine. I made a carrot cake from scratch for my love's birthday tomorrow, I did the laundry and dishes. I fertilized my plants. I blew off the drive and walkway. I watched a show I DVR'd. I made myself a salad. I read some poetry and wrote this blog post. Those little mundane things meant a lot to me because they tell me life is good and I'm still around to write these random thoughts and that's just as it should be...just because.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Power to Choose

Size c prosthesis and bra
Having both breasts removed was extremely difficult for me, but amid all the negatives accompanying breast cancer and surgery, there have also been some positives. I’d like to share one of those positives with you today. I’m hoping I won’t offend anyone. I’m sharing this with my tongue in my cheek because after all, we do need to look for some humor along our journey, don’t we? I don’t know about you, but I get tired of all the seriousness of breast cancer in my life. I’ve started looking for some more light hearted moments and today, I found one!

It was time for my check up with the oncologist. I’d made my appointment for the earliest part of the day because that’s when I’m most energetic. I wandered into my walk in closet and selected the clothing I’d wear to the appointment. I tried to find something lightweight and cool. After making my selections, I lay my clothing across the bed while I went into the bathroom to shower. I dried off and prepared to dress. Since having my surgery, I always start with the lower half of my body because the top half usually takes a little more time to get ready. Wiggling into my pants, I began to think about the day. I wondered what the Doc would have to say and what tests he might run. Finally, the bottom half of me was ready and I shifted my focus to the top half. I’d already picked out a blouse but hadn’t chosen a bra or prostheses yet. Smiling to myself, I suddenly realized I had the power to choose and not just the power to choose a bra, but the power to choose the size of my boobs!

The insurance company allows me to have a new set of prostheses every two years. When I chose my first pair of prostheses, I chose the smallest pair available. I’d always been small chested so why would I even think about choosing a bigger size, it would be unnatural…well, sort of. The fitter at the boutique advised me to remember my scars were fresh and my wounds were tender. She thought my choice of a smaller, lighter weight boobs was best. I was proud of my little size A fake boobs and took them home with care instructions. The majority of the time, I didn’t even wear them unless I was going out in public. It was more comfortable to remain flat chested at home. Two years passed quickly and I got excited when I found it was time for an upgrade. I returned to the boutique and asked the fitter to help me find a more substantial set of boobs. She asked my preference, B, C, D. I thought for a few minutes and picked a happy medium. I’d always wanted to be a C and now was my chance. After trying them on for size, I was overjoyed and left with my new bosoms.

In my chest of drawers were two sets of pink zippered cases. Inside each of these little round cases were my prostheses. In the top drawer were my little size A boobs. In the drawer just below it were my size Cs. Decisions, decisions. Did I want to wear the smaller, more comfortable boobs or did I want to really stand out and wear the heavier size Cs? I had the power to choose! I opened the cases for both sets of prostheses and lay them on my bed. I pulled out a size A bra and a size C bra. I stood staring at the boobs for a few minutes and decided today was a size C day! As I slid my C boobs into the bra a big ol’ Cheshire grin crossed my face. Cancer had taken so much away from me but now I got to choose. It was a really little choice, but it was mine nonetheless.

It’s so hard to deal with a post cancer body image. The scars and after effects of chemo and radiation leave such permanent marks on our bodies. Just knowing we have a tiny bit of power to choose how we look is amazing! I’m so thankful I was able to choose between two different sizes of prostheses and believe me, there’s a huge difference between size A and size C prostheses! HUGE!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

PTSD the invisible foe

It happened again. I was folding a load of laundry and all of a sudden I was overcome with emotion. I felt the tears welling up inside me and then, with no warning, the dam burst. Sobbing uncontrollably, I tried to complete my task but couldn’t. My husband entered the room and found me curled in a ball on the end of the bed. He put his arm around me and tried to console me as he asked what was wrong. “I don’t know,” I explained through the tears. “I just feel so…so ugly,” I said. I explained I felt I’d lost my femininity. I was feeling fragile and unlovely. Without breasts, I felt less than other women. As I tried to help him understand why I was feeling so distraught, I wondered if I might be experiencing a little touch of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.)

Since surgery, I’d noticed I was extremely sensitive to loud noises. I found myself jumping if a door slammed or some other type of sharp, loud noise occurred. I’d also noticed, in large groups of people, I felt like I was being overly stimulated. I couldn’t focus on multiple conversations occurring at the same time. When out in public, I’d have meltdowns in the most random places and at the most unexpected times. I’d burst into tears for no reason whatsoever. This wasn’t normal. This wasn’t me. But why, two years out from my initial surgery, was I still going through this? I wondered if other breast cancer patients/survivors suffered from these types of symptoms, too.

I’d heard about PTSD in relation to military personnel and how those on the front lines in active duty often came home with some of the same symptoms I’d been experiencing. Their cases were more severe and rightly so. Facing imminent death on a daily basis is certainly traumatic but why would PTSD be so prevalent in the lives of women with breast cancer? As I searched for answers to this question, I came across many articles on the internet. In one article published on Psych Central, I found some interesting information. The article was based on a study done in Germany and stated: “The findings reveal that receiving a breast cancer diagnosis often has a stronger psychological impact than experiencing other types of severe trauma, such as a serious accident or a violent assault. Over half of the breast cancer patients in the study still suffered from at least one symptom of PTSD one year after diagnosis. That the high level of stress should persist for such a long time is particularly striking,” said lead researcher Dr. Kerstin Hermelink of the Breast Cancer Center in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the LMU Medical Center. Indeed, the severity of the psychological and emotional impact of the cancer diagnosis is underlined by another result reported in the study. When patients who had already had a traumatic experience, such as a serious accident or a violent assault, prior to the development of malignancy, some 40 percent of them rated having breast cancer as the more severe traumatic event.”

Just knowing doctors consider PTSD to be a very real malady among breast cancer patients/survivors made me feel so much better. At least I knew I wasn’t alone. But PTSD comes with a certain type of shame and stigma, at least for women who’ve battled breast cancer. Do we really have a right to say we have PTSD? Is it okay to chalk those feelings of fear, insecurity, jumpiness, inadequacy, helplessness, and isolation up to the aftermath of a cancer experience? I think it is although some may not agree with me. PTSD isn’t a condition validated only by those who’ve faced mortar rounds and gunfire. Breast cancer immediately places women into a battle they never intended on fighting. We are ill equipped to march forward onto the front lines of our own personal war and when we think we’ve completed the battle…we find it isn’t over. PTSD plans a sneak attack. It springs up and catches us off guard.

I haven’t found a way to completely combat PTSD in my life but I’m working on it. When I start to feel overcome with emotion or feel overly stressed in any situation, I politely recuse myself to a more serene location. By learning to set some boundaries in my life, I can help keep the PTSD under control.

There’s no way to know when or if PTSD might affect a woman with breast cancer. Each case is different. Some women may never experience any dealings with PTSD while others find it debilitates their lives. I’m hoping the PTSD in my life will ease with time or in a best case scenario, completely disappear. It’s challenging to constantly be on guard against an invisible foe. Sometimes I feel like cancer is the gift that keeps on giving but the gifts aren’t always ones I welcome.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Friday, August 5, 2016

We're here to pump you up

Several years ago there was a funny Saturday night spoof featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dana Carvey. It was a hilarious skit about two body builders and how they were going to help "pump up" people's muscles with their wonderful body building techniques. I thought about that silly skit this morning as I got out my compression pump and slipped on the compression sleeves. After the fiasco, the other day, where I got stuck in the sleeves and couldn't get out, I decided it would be best to only do one arm at a time when I'm alone in the house, so I slipped one arm out of the sleeve and lay it on the sofa.

As I got situated, the reality of my circumstances hit me square between the eyes. This wasn't going to be a once in a blue moon thing. This was going to be a daily, forever commitment. I don't know why I hadn't thought of that before, but I hadn't. Lymphedema doesn't ever go away. I'm stuck with it for the rest of my life and if I want to be able to function as normally as possible, I have to go through this therapy for an hour every single day. One hour. That doesn't sound like much. 60 minutes. No big deal, right? Wrong. When I'm hooked up to this pump, I'm immobile. I can't do anything I want to do. All I can do is sit and let the machine do it's thing. The sleeves compress tightly around my arms and begin working from fingertip to shoulder. As the sleeves compress, they move lymphatic fluid throughout my body.

I'm thankful someone invented this type of machinery for those of us who need it but I'm frustrated at having had my lymph glands removed in the first place. I understand why the sentinel node in my right arm had to be removed, because it had cancer in it, but the others...they didn't. And yes, my breast surgeon was taking precautions to insure no cancer cells were missed but if I'd known what the removal of my lymph nodes would have involved, I would have refused surgery. But there's nothing I can do now so I try my best to grin and bear it. I know the compression therapy is meant to help me even though it restricts my movements for an hour every single day.

The best way to counter all the negativity associated with lymphedema is to look for the positives. I'm thankful I still have my arms. I'm thankful the cancer had not spread to even more lymph nodes in my body. I'm thankful there are ways to help move the lymphatic fluid through my body and most of all, I'm thankful I'm still here.

Bottom line: lymphedema sucks. It really does. It's painful and irritating. My arms swell so much I can't wear 95% of my clothing but there are people suffering with worse cases than mine. So permit me to whine a little today. It makes me feel better even though it doesn't change my circumstances one tiny bit. And why is it that complaining makes us feel better? Isn't that weird? It should really make us feel worse. I really should be ashamed of myself for complaining at all.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Monday, August 1, 2016

Another terrible,horrible, no good, very bad day

Nobody likes Mondays. Mondays signal the end of weekend freedom. Mondays mean a return to the grind for those who remain enslaved in the workforce, but even for those who no longer do the typical 9 to 5 routine, Mondays aren't anything to look forward to...most people I know dread Mondays. I'm one of those Monday haters and let me tell you why.

This morning, when I woke up, I knew I had an appointment for physical therapy on my spine. For the past 2 weeks, I've been enduring challenging treatments to help remedy severe spinal pain. The first few treatments were difficult but as treatment continued, I decided enough was enough. I was tired of going in with my back hurting and coming home with it hurting even more than it did before I saw the therapist. I wasn't looking forward to my appointment and wanted desperately to call in and cancel it.

I got dressed and made myself go to the appointment. I knew Dr. K, my orthopedic spine specialist, had scheduled these therapy sessions to help me and I was determined to follow through with his plan of action. As much as I didn't want to, I got in the car and drove to the rehab center. When I arrived, I was taken back to the treatment area, asked to disrobe and lie on a therapy table. One of the assistants came over with a very large heating pad and placed it on my back. I lay there for 20 minutes before Russ came over to work on me. When he began the deep tissue massage, I realized how tight some of my muscles were. As he dug in deeper, I winced in pain but he continued. Next he used some kind of spinal manipulation tool to separate the vertebrae into the proper positions. It felt like a large metal file of some sort that he was pressing and sliding across my spine. It did NOT feel good and I told him so. I'd thought I was going to get the electronic stimulation next but he decided I needed to do a different type of therapy today. I was placed on top of a large foam roller and had to do various stretching exercises while the hard foam semi circle dug into my back. I did everything Russ (my therapist) asked me to do. I was thankful therapy was only 45 minutes today instead of an hour. As I got into my car, I bawled. What a great way to start the day...but wait, it gets even better.

My new lymphedema pump
When I got home, I noticed a large brown box on my front porch. When I went to open the box, I found the new compression pump and compression sleeves for my lymphedema treatment. For the past 2 months, I've been waiting for this unit to arrive. I've been fighting with my insurance company to get them to approve the equipment ordered by my oncologist but instead of giving me the specific unit he wanted me to have, they substituted another less powerful machine. They said the one my doc wants me to have isn't medically necessary but the representative from Tactile Medical (the company that makes these lymphedema treatment machines) told me they usually balk at first but give in after the patient tries the less powerful machine without good results. In a nutshell, I have to use this machine and document how it doesn't help me in order to get the original machine my oncologist ordered...doesn't make sense to me, but you have to play their games, I guess.

My cell phone rang as I was unboxing the equipment. It was my oldest daughter. She was calling to tell me about her weekend. As we talked, I got the compressor hooked up and finagled the compression sleeves onto my arms. I figured while we talked, I could have my one hour treatment and kill two birds with one stone. This was the first time using the equipment alone. The last two times I'd tried it, the rep had been with me and had shown me exactly what to do. She stayed with me during the entire treatment.

The hookup looked fairly simple according to the diagram. I unzipped the right compression sleeve and lay it on the sofa then unzipped the left one and lay it alongside the first sleeve. Then I connected the hoses to the compression pump. I continued talking with my daughter while I plugged it in and slipped the first sleeve onto my arm and zipped it up. Next I tried to put the second sleeve on and found it quite difficult since I already had one sleeve on my arm and had no free hand or fingers to zip up the zipper. I had to think for a minute and finally bent over and used my teeth to pull up the second zipper. So far, so good. As I listened to my daughter tell me about my youngest grandson cutting his two year molars, I switched on the pump and sat down on the sofa to enjoy a quiet, pumping massage to both of my arms.

Me in the compression sleeves
As the machine began to inflate the sleeves, they became quite tight and restrictive. Having both arms outstretched was uncomfortable. By scooting my outstretched arm over the sofa pillow and alongside it, I managed to move a cushion under one arm and then do the same for the next arm. Now I was all set and ready to let the pump do its thing. I was supposed to have an hour of treatment according to my doctor. I sat back with my elevated puffy arms and let the machine work. The compression pump was extremely quiet. I was thankful as Erin and I continued talking. Somehow, during our conversation, the call dropped and when she called back in, I wasn't able to answer because I couldn't move my arms. I couldn't get them out of the sleeves! What to do??? I managed to straddle the long hoses connecting the sleeves to the pump while staying attached to the machine and bend over just enough to use the tip of my nose to press on the green answer button on my Iphone. I wasn't able to hold the phone and I couldn't hear her talking so I spoke loudly asking her to wait a second while I used my nose once again to switch on the speaker button. When I had her where I could finally hear her, I told her what I'd just had to do. Although it sounded hilarious to her, it was a difficult challenge. I sat back down on the sofa to continue my compression therapy and pick up on the conversation where we'd left off.

After about thirty minutes, my arms were feeling very uncomfortable and I wanted to get out of the sleeves and turn off the machine. As I looked down at my arms I had no idea how I was going to manage. There were large fabric loops attached the zippers on both sleeves but I had no free fingers or hands to grasp the loops because both hands were encased in the compression sleeves. I tried bending my head at an angle to grasp the loop with my teeth, which I managed to do, but was unable to pull the zipper down toward my hand. Just knowing I couldn't remove the sleeves seemed to intensify the level of compression and I began to go into panic mode. My daughter could tell by my voice I was starting to freak out a bit. She told me to calm down and try to think what I could do to get out of the sleeves. Since she was 1700 miles away, she could do nothing to help other than try to calm me down and offer suggestions. When the anxiety began to escalate, I heard her call her little ones together to come pray with her. I listened as they softly asked God "to help Gigi figure out a way to get out of the compression sleeves."

I wiggled and twisted my body trying to find some way to be set free but nothing worked. After about 15 minutes, I told my daughter (who'd been so kind to stay on the phone with me the entire time) she needed to call my other daughter, Laura, and ask her to drive over and help me. (Laura lives about 45 minutes away so even if she'd been the one coming to my rescue, I'd have had to wait a good while before I was able to be out of the sleeves.) Erin told me she was going to call Laura and call me back. I asked her not to hang up because I didn't know if I could answer the phone again with my nose. She said okay and put me on hold as she called her sister and told her of my plight. A few minutes later, Erin came back on the phone and said Laura was in a neighboring town shopping. She wasn't going to be able to help me. I was feeling very helpless and then, to make matters worse, my nose started to itch! Have you ever had an itch you can't scratch? Well, it isn't a good feeling! I tried thinking about something else but it didn't work. My nose kept on itching and wasn't getting better. I leaned over from the waist and rubbed my nose on the compressor box. Ahhh...finally some relief! Now my nose was feeling better but the rest of me was still in a tight (pun intended) situation.

Entering total freak out mode and feeling like I was in a straight jacket, I put one arm between my legs and tried to pull. The compression on the sleeve was so tight it wasn't going to budge unless I could manage to squeeze some of the air out of that sleeve and manage to slide it off. I used my thighs to squeeze as tight as I could. As I squeezed on my right arm, my left arm inflated even more. (The air was transferring between the two sleeves.) And to make matters worse, the pump kept filling and refilling every few minutes as it was supposed to do with the compression therapy. Then it dawned on me...if I could manage to unplug the machine, it might stop inflating. Still, I had no hands free so I had to kick the pump off the coffee table and using my toes, unplug the adapter cord from the back of the compressor unit. After several attempts, I managed to unplug it. No longer was the pump forcing more air into the sleeves, thank God!

I stood up and put my right arm between my legs again and squeezed with all my might. As I continued squeezing, I tried to force the sleeve down my arm. It took 4 attempts before I was able to feel a tiny give in the compression sleeve and as soon as I felt that little bit of wiggle room, I was intent on getting that sleeve off! Erin kept talking to me the entire time and helped keep me calm. After all that struggle, I finally got one arm free and then was able to get the other free too.

I've never felt so happy in all my life! Getting out of those tight compression sleeves was a miracle! If there'd been a hidden camera recording the entire situation, I'm sure it would have made the top 10 of America's funniest home videos. While it is funny to think about now, it was the furthest thing from  being funny at the time.

Tonight I'm going to write the company and suggest they place warning label on the compression unit encouraging patients to make sure they are not alone when attempting to use both sleeves at the same time. I'd hate for someone else to go through what I went through today. So now you can understand why I don't like Mondays very much. Especially ones that end up like this one did - a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

A robot is going to do my surgery?

My innards have decided they don't want to work anymore. For the past 3 years, I've been having issues. First, it started with diffi...