A Surgery Surprise

Mary Oliver

Mary J. Oliver, July 29, 2011

As I reported in my post Life Postponed this January, I haven’t been feeling well for quite awhile.  I finally did get in to see a surgeon on February 21 for a consult. He promised to   call the following week to set up  gall bladder surgery sometime in the near future.

My body couldn’t wait that long.  I had a horrific flare-up on Friday, February 24.  The pain was almost unbearable in the afternoon, but  I “toughed it out” that night.   I have a high tolerance for pain, which has not worked in my favor this time in my life.

Saturday morning I woke up with a fever, so I phoned the on-call nurse.  She told me to report to urgent care, where I was seen very quickly. After an interview, an EKG, check-up and blood tests, the doctor spoke to Dave and me.  He said my white blood cell count and bilirubin was way up and I needed to report to the emergency room.  I thought, “Well, I’m finally going to get this ugly old organ outta me!  It may be a more expensive way, but it will be OVER!”  We were pleased that I was getting the attention I needed.  After an ultrasound of the gall bladder area, I was admitted to the hospital and hooked up to several IVS.

It took a day or so to get my blood count and bilirubin in better zones.  Once this was settled, I went to surgery at 8:40 a.m., Monday, February 27.  Surgery to remove the gall bladder is usually a one hour operation.  When I woke up in the recovery room, there were two nurses hovering around me.  Even without my glasses, I could see the clock hands pointing to noon.   Too woozy to fully take that in, Dave joined us on our journey to room 731 at St. Joseph’s Hospital–where my sister and I were born, where one of my sons-in-law was born, where my mother died 22 years ago, where my youngest grandchild was born almost six years ago.

Dave was a acting weird.  He was pacing the floor, stretching his limbs and finding it hard to sit still.  He told me that Dr. Panian, the surgeon, would be in very soon to talk to me about the surgery.  Meanwhile, I was chattering away about the Academy Awards ceremony I watched the night before.  I generally hate awards television, but it was the only show available on the hospital network that I was even remotely interested in.

Dr. Panian arrived around one o’clock.  He told me that the operation had been much more difficult than expected because the gall bladder had become hard, dried out and fused on one side to the stomach wall and the other side to the duodenum.  He had to enlarge the slits for the laparoscopic surgery.  With the laparoscope he detected a spread of cancer cells from the gall bladder to the side of the abdomen and across the duodenum.  Considering the sites where the cancer had spread, this was an inoperable cancer.  My prognosis, with palliative chemotherapy, is one to two years.

Anatomy of the biliary tree, liver and gall bl...

Anatomy of liver and gall bladder

Image via Wikipedia


Dr. Panian had talked to my husband after the surgery, so Dave knew all of this. He  had volunteered to tell me, so Dave had tried to mask the knowledge and keep me as “Mary, who did not know she had cancer,” as long as possible.

One side of my brain doesn’t think it is real, but the rest of me feels assaulted by bad karma.  I feel cheated out of the opportunity to grow old with Dave–which we had promised ourselves when we got married almost 16 years ago. I don’t want to leave my two daughters now that we are in fulfilling times in our lives.  I want to watch my three grandchildren grow up.  I still have plans and projects that I will not see through to the end. I will miss the change of seasons, my cats, the wildlife around me.  I’m not ready to leave yet.

Covered Bridge near Yellow Springs, Ohio

We will be talking to the oncologist this week to decide the course of therapy.  My nasty old gall bladder had placed me at the bottom of the surgery list.  My cancerous gall bladder puts me right at the top.  It is unusual to have gall bladder cancer at all, but a 64-year-old having it is very strange.  Dr. Panian told us the only cases he encountered were in women in their mid-seventies.

I am fortunate to have a loving husband and sister, as well my daughters, relatives, friends and friends of friends to offer up prayers and good wishes.  In the midst of tragedy, there are blessings.

Yellow Crocus between bricks


A Blogging Award!

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that jeandayfriday nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award!  It is my first award for blogging and I’m very pleased that my New Year’s promise to write and promote my blog more this year has produced a positive result.

I have a few friends who are contemplating starting a blog.  I’ve advised them to do what I have started doing this year:

  • Write regular posts.
  • Read and follow other blogs.
  • Like and comment on the blogs you read.  It’s like “bread cast upon the water.”  This active participation includes you in a special blogging community.
  • Use WordPress.org!  I have been very pleased with the ease of using the WordPress platform, as well as the quality of blogs I’ve found here.

Thank you,  jeandayfriday, for awarding my blog the Versatile Blogger Award.  It has been a pleasure following your blog and I appreciate you recognizing mine.

The rules for this reward can be found at the Versatile Blogger Award blog.   The first rule is to share seven facts about myself that may not be known to people who follow my blog.  Hmmmm…  That might be hard to do since family members, as well as online-only friends, read my blog, but let’s see what I can come up with…

  1.  I was a girly-girl when I was little.  I loved all my dolls, stuffed toys and wind-up toys that, in those days, required a detachable key.  My sister and I kept track of all the keys in a special can.  My first doll was named Lima Bean because I loved that particular legume.  I used to drag her around by her hair.
  2. I am a Denver, Colorado native.  That may not astound people who do not know this state, but it is comes up often in conversations.  Just yesterday the dental tech brushing my teeth asked me if I was a Denver native.  I answered, “ys ilnk ws bne hrjghj,” because her buzzing toothbrush was in my mouth.
  3. When I was a teenager, I decided I wanted to become a translator at the U.N. I began with Latin in junior high and took it for four more years. I started Russian in high school, followed by German the next year.  I continued with German and Russian for another year in college.  Once I was asked to speak the modern languages, not just read and write them, I figured out I wouldn’t become a translator.  I was way too shy and self-conscious!
  4. I taught Air Force Effective Writing at Bitburg AFB in Germany when I was 22 years old and wife of a sergeant.  The class was designed to help Air Force personnel write performance reports and other written communication with good grammar and appropriate language.  I was given a slide projector, a carousel full of slides and a cassette player with the dialog that accompanied the slides and expected to fill two hours a day for two weeks.  The class included staff sergeants to colonels, every one of them older than I was at the time.  Some of them had master’s degrees—while I had just graduated from college a year before with a degree in elementary education.  Let’s just say, I earned every penny I was paid, which was about $300.00.
  5. The townhouse my husband and I have lived in for over fifteen years is the longest either of us lived anywhere (house-wise that is) in our entire lives.
  6. I have owned 11 cats in my life.  Two of them are in my household right now.  There have been 6 male cats and 5 females over the years.  In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a cat fancier—but I’m not crazy and I don’t take the magazine [Cat Fancy].
  7. I LOVE British costume dramas!  I can’t get enough of them, including DOWNTOWN ABBEY.

The next rule asks that I nominate new awardees with the Versatile Blogger Award.    I hope that I have picked bloggers who have not already been recognized!

50 Things Before I Turn 50           Much more than a bucket list.

Before Morning Breaks               Chuckles, giggles and laughs!

The Nature of Things                    Great photography and writing

For the Love of Pete                      Flash Fiction, Vintage-Themed Stories, Photos

Going the Distance                        Family, Faith, Healing

Older Eyes                                     Creativity, Writing, Aging

Stories I Share With Friends           Writing, History, Reflections, Happiness

the single cell                                  Writing, Opinion, Humor

Thoughts, Ideas, Words                  Family, Aging, Genealogy

Pam’s Planet                                  Change, Family, Loss

These Are Days                              Life, Change, Photography

Granny1947’s  Blog                        Humor, Photography, Aging

Stories About My Life                      Memoir/Blog, Nostalgia

Seasweetie’s Pages                        Change, Photography, Gratitude

Thanks to jeandayfriday and a recommendation to read/follow any, or all, of these blogs!

My Love/Hate Relationship With Facebook

facebook engancha

Image via Wikipedia

My Facebook timeline informs me that I joined up on November 19, 2008.  Since then I have had a love/hate relationship with this social site.  I joined because my grownup daughters talked about it all the time and communicated a lot through their posts.  They also posted pictures that I would never have received until I became a user as well.

  • I love posting on their walls and downloading pictures.  It is easier for them and for me to be on FB because there is an easy, central location for sharing.  Of course, we have other communication resources as well nowadays, i.e. our smartphones!
  • I love finding old friends and keeping up with relatives on FB.  That has been fun for me, even if we don’t write lengthy private emails (something that we can also do on FB!).  We keep up with each other’s activities, and acknowledge life’s ups and downs.  I was especially pleased when my sister joined in May 2011!
  • I love the fan pages where we can like a movie, book, celebrity or television show as well as causes, hobbies or other interests.  Many of these likes mean updates and opportunities to share unique points of view or “funnies” on our FB page.
  • I love being able to link my blog to my FB page so that people who do not ordinarily read blogs can catch up with my latest posts.  I also like being able to share a post from a newspaper or NPR on my FB page.

There are probably more reasons I enjoy FB, but I can’t think of them right now.  This list covers the most important points, however.  To summarize the reasons I love Facebook:  it provides a template for sharing where I am in my life at this moment in time.  The new timeline layout does this especially well.

As far as my hate relationship, I don’t have that many to list.

  • I hate how it hooks into my childhood and teenage mentality.  I thought I’d grown beyond worrying about how many “friends” I have or how “popular” I am.  Unfortunately, no.  I’m not a highly social person and have never been, even as a child.  I always had one or two close friends and that was it.  I’m not shy, but I am an introvert.  The things I like to do are mainly solitary—reading, knitting, writing (blogging), needle felting.  People know who I am, but do not consider me a friend necessarily.  Nevertheless, in low moments I have looked for “friends” to fill out my numbers.  It amazes me how many friend requests I have made that have never been answered!  Then I wonder, “What is wrong with me?  I only have 35 friends, and so-and-so has 100!”
  • I hate the moments when I want to clean out my “friends” list.  What perversity!  I feel competition to plump up my numbers, and then complain about people who are not really “friends.”   I do have people on my list who never respond to posts on their walls or personal messages from me.  I visit their pages and they seldom, if ever, posted at all.  Maybe they are too busy, or they are only there because their kids are.  I think this urge to cull the list comes from the part of me that is so like my father—exactitude.  How can you call someone a friend if you never communicate with that person?  If that person never communicates with you?  One of my daughters suggested that people may like reading my page, but they don’t respond.  I think, “They could at least “like” a post or a status update!”  That’s what I do unless I don’t agree with or approve of a post.  In the end, I am who I am.  I review each person every few months and end up “unfriending” one or two.  I guess it is a good thing I don’t have 100 “friends” after all.

A few other reasons I have “unfriended” a person on Facebook, besides non-communication:

  • writing every post in capital letters–like they are shouting!
  • profanity
  • constant internet game updates

To summarize my hate relationship with Facebook—it is a social site and has its social ups and downs.  In the end, there are far more reasons to be there than not.

Now that you know about my FB relationship, you can friend me at:


Maybe you have some reasons of your own for “unfriending” a  FB friend.  Please share!

Some blog posts that inspired this blog post: