Sunday, February 15, 2015

"It Ain't Over Till I've Won"

To say that these past few weeks have been crazy, would be an understatement. The good news is that I have managed to stay out of the hospital these past few weeks. 

Two weeks ago, I had a week filled with four important doctor's appointments.

At the beginning of the week, I saw Dr. Forcione (Biliary/Pancreas specialist/surgeon at Mass General) as a follow-up from being in the hospital. He said that some people just take longer to heal and recover from the bile duct surgery than others. I also had lingering pancreatitis, but it's cleared up for the most part now. I have my next stent surgery in a week. The surgery will be at Mass General and Dr. Forcione will be replacing the plastic bile duct stent to keep everything flowing and to keep my bile duct from narrowing again. This surgery isn't as invasive as the last one, but there will be a lot of manipulation throughout my digestive system, so I will be out of commission for a few days. At this point, the surgery doesn't scare me. I know that I'm in good hands and I know that this is what I need to get better. The goal of these bile duct surgeries was to improve my liver function tests, improve pain and improve the narrowing and spasms of my bile duct. So far, so good! Praise God.

I had an appointment with my pain doctor and received my first of many abdominal nerve blocks. It was pretty interesting, actually. My pain doctor used an ultrasound to focus on different muscle groups in my abdomen and was able to navigate the needle into the correct muscle. It was extremely painful and I'm not looking forward for more to come, but my pain has improved some since I received the injection. 

I also saw my orthopedic surgeon for a few reasons. I have had a LOT of weakness and instability in my knee lately and a lot of pain on the inside, outside and the top of my knee. I received a cortisone shot in the fall to reduce swelling and irritation, but it was only effective for a few weeks. Dr. Rockett did an examination and suspected a torn LCL, because my knee was so loose and unstable. He ordered an MRI and told me that I would probably need surgery. That felt like a knife in my heart.

The day ended with an appointment with my primary gastroenterologist, Dr. Levitzky. At that point, he was frustrated because my case was becoming too complicated. Between all of my diagnoses, procedures, medications and surgeries.. I have still been sick and he was almost at a loss. 

He is still doing everything he can to treat me. Between him and the biliary/pancreas specialist, I am making some progress. Because my GI nerve/muscle pain, gastroparesis and IBS have been the worst of my gastro problems lately.. both Dr. Levitzky and Dr. Forcione decided that it is time for me to see a motility specialist to better help with mainly my gastroparesis symptoms. This doctor is at Mass General and is supposed to be one of the best gastroenterologists in the country. Not only does he specialize in patients with gastroparesis, he also specializes in patients with IBS and chronic, severe abdominal pain. It's very difficult to get an appointment with him, and he has to review your case before he decides if he's going to see you or not. Thankfully, he accepted me as a new patient and agreed to take on my case. He's extremely booked, so I won't be able to get in to see him until the beginning of June, but I feel like this doctor could be a HUGE answer to prayer! I was so nervous and worried that he wouldn't approve my case, but it just does to show that God works everything out in the end. I feel like there's hope. I have another amazing specialist added to my team of doctors.. and together I believe that they can truly continue to help me. I have faith.

Well, I guess I will talk about this past week, I had my MRI on Tuesday night.. I still get very nervous about MRI's... even though I've had many. I don't know what makes me more nervous.. the results or being in the actual machine. I think that I was so nervous this time, because I knew that something was very wrong with my knee. I've only been getting weaker over time and as time goes on, my pain increases.

I saw Dr. Rockett this past Friday to get the results of the MRI and to come up with a plan. The MRI showed a ruptured LCL, a dislodged screw from my last ACL surgery and excessive scarring across my whole ACL graft. The graft also isn't intact.  Dr. Rockett said that my only option is surgery. A new ACL reconstruction which he can do arthroscopic and a full LCL reconstruction, which he has to open the side of my knee for. I was speechless. 

For those of you who don't know, I got really hurt playing hockey last March. I ended up tearing my meniscus and ACL. Had a meniscus surgery in May and an ACL reconstruction in June. Out of everything I have gone through medically, the ACL surgery was hands down the worst pain I have ever endured. I am very nervous about going through this same exact surgery again, plus another ligament reconstruction at the same time. This surgery will be more invasive, and Dr. Rockett said that this surgery will have a longer recovery, and everything will be pushed back compared to last time. Out of work for at least a month, no hockey for at least a year, a locked brace for 8 weeks and crutches for 4 weeks. We aren't exactly sure how I tore my LCL, but there's a good chance that it was when I was playing hockey last year. 

There are two ways that I am looking at this situation. Part of me wants to be as optimistic as possible, but there's just a part of me that feels like I can't catch a break. I hate complaining and I hate being negative, but I do feel like I worked so hard these past 9 months to recover from my last surgery, only to have the same surgery again plus more work done to my knee. I want to believe that this will all make sense one day. I have to believe that.

While I am already scared about the pain and long recovery that I will be enduring, I want to look at this as an opportunity. An opportunity to set goals for myself. An opportunity to win a very big battle. An opportunity to overcome a huge obstacle. 

The main goal right now is to get my knee as strong as possible. This is my chance to work hard with rehab and make the most of this recovery. My surgery will be sometime in March or April, and I will take the rest of the spring to recover. As much as I do NOT want to hang up the skates for good, it may be in my best interest. I have many things that I want to do with my life. I want to become a doctor. I want to be a successful student. I want to do big things with my life and I can't do that if I'm being set back like this.

If I choose to not play hockey anymore, I don't see it as giving up... I see it as making the right decision to take care of my body. I have destroyed my knee playing hockey.. and I don't know how much more I want to put myself through. It WILL be one of the most difficult decisions of my life, but I have plenty of time to think. I honestly can't imagine my life without hockey.., but we will see what happens.

I remember why I started this blog in the first place. I started this blog last year when I had my knee surgeries.. wanting to share my journey and hopefully inspire others. I see this next surgery as an opportunity to do just that. I want to use my story to help others. I want to show others that giving up isn't an option, and that with God... ALL things are possible.

While I am very upset that I am still hurt and that I will endure more pain and struggle, I trust God. I know that He has a plan and I know that one day all of this will make sense. Sometimes when we pray, we beg for answers. We beg to know WHY we are being put in negative situations. The thing is, is that God reveals things to us when we least expect it. We can't expect answers right away. Sometimes we don't find out until much later down the road... and I am content with that. I don't need to know everything right now.. I just know that this will all make sense one day.

If there's one thing that I;m thankful for.. it's the doctors in my life. From my team of gastroenterologists to my orthopedic surgeon to my neurologist to my pain management doctor to my PCP.. I feel genuinely blessed. None of my doctors have given up on me.. they have worked so hard to get me to where I am today, and they are all answers to prayer. I am inspired every single day of my life to become an MD myself, and help people like myself. If I could go back and take away all of my pain, sickness and injury... I probably wouldn't. Why? Because it has made me who I am today. I still have a LOT of growing to do and I am nowhere close to the person that I believe God wants me to be, but these trials are shaping me into the woman that I am meant to be. And for that, I am thankful.

Although it feels like my journey has been going on forever, I know that it's just beginning. With my knee surgery coming up, this is a whole new journey and I welcome you to join me and follow me as I try to get through this.

I can't thank everyone enough for your love, support, prayers, care packages, cards, checking in with me, supporting me and believing in me. I wouldn't be able to get through this without God and the overwhelming amount of support I have. Thank you all.

"I'm in the middle of the longest fight I've ever had in all my life, and it ain't over till I've won.."