Friday, July 30, 2010

Whoa!! I was NOT expecting that!

Cancer has been a land of "firsts" for me: first MRI, first CT, first endoscopy, first bowel prep, first anoscopy, first sigmaoidoscopy, first colonoscopy, first surgery (ever), first foley catheter (you get the picture).

Today was another first - the first time we had to change my wound dressing. We started by reviewing our notes from yesterday's appointment (we have a small red moleskin notebook that we take to every appointment):

Step One: remove the old bandages and packing
- peel away the very outer bandage of sticky gauze
- remove the two squares of dry gauze
- using the tweezers, remove the approx 2 foot strip of "packing" that is stuffed into wound

In the mornings, I am supposed to take a shower between steps one and two; and let the wound get soapy water into it.

Step Two: repack the wound
- cut a 2 foot strip of packing
- soak the packing in saline, and ring out excess water
- using the long cue-tips, pack the wound - leave a little bit sticking out
- place two squares of dry gauze over the packing
- cover with a bandage of sticky gauze

Next, we laid out all of our necessary "equipment" on the bathroom counter: tweezers, scissors, "packing", gloves, extra long q-tips, bandages and saline (mise en place baby).

We decided the process would work best with me lying down, so after I was comfortably resting on a towel in bed, Gary removed all of the dressing perfectly; and when he was done, I looked down and saw the wound, for the first time.

You see, I was so nervous yesterday that I didn't look at what Dr. Nash was doing when he was re-opening my wound (I basically just squeezed the stuffing out of Gary's hand and closed my eyes). In my mind, I guess I pictured a couple stitches being cut away, revealing a dime-sized hole which was then packed with a little gauze.

So when I looked down, I was shocked to find that Dr. Nash had taken ALL of the stitches out, and there was a 1.5" gaping slash in my gut. I have never seen anything like it. Since the wound had been stretched open by the packing, it looked as if I was actually missing a chunk of my body (like a shark bite).

Immediately, I felt this overwhelming sense of panic wash over me, and I began uncontrollably sobbing, only momentarily stopping to choke out the same sentence, over and over again: "I don't think I can do this". It was the first time I was really scared since my diagnosis.

Gary calmed me down and suggested that we just put a very loose bandage over the wound so I wouldn't have to see it as I took my shower. It was a brilliant idea. Although still crying, I was able to take my shower and Gary expertly repacked the wound.

Now that the shock has worn off, I have "regrouped" as my mother would say. I still feel a little self-doubting, but I know in my heart that I CAN do this; I just need to work on some breathing and visualization techniques for the next "first" can catch me unawares.

"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle; I just wish that He didn't trust me so much." ~ Mother Teresa


  1. I'm proud of you sis. And maybe you need to tap into your inner goth to handle the grotesque. Maybe it can be a little exciting? (says the wierd girl)

  2. Or maybe I should pretend that I just got knifed in an old western bar, and the cowboys in black hats are hot on my trail -- and I'm running in slow motion to my trusty horse while Bon Jovi's "Dead or Alive" plays in the background... Nah - I'll just close my eyes.

  3. Oh Marlena! I know this was 3 years ago but I am just catching up on your blog and wish I had found it much earlier! I just went through the same thing with my liver resection incision coming open (A 2" section, not the entire thing)! I had to pack it myself, twice a day for about 6-7 weeks. I can't remember now how long it took to close up. Ewww, it was gross at first but I got used to it. I don't know if you'll see this comment...