Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Vacation Gone Awry - June 26, 2011

Hello dear family and friends,

It's Saturday on one of two days that Jim and I were to be watching Wimbledon live in England. Instead I'm sitting in a hotel room in Burlingame near SFO watching tennis on TV. It's not because it's really better on's because I broke my hip on June 16 while strolling home from grocery shopping in Golfe Juan, France (on the Cote d' Azur/French Riveria). On our first day, I fell after tripping on a 3" curb...and the end result is this current mess! Totally not fair!!!

You all know that getting back on my feet after 3 surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation throughout most of last year has been hard. Very slowly, my strength has returned and I've been able to work about half time, walk, take care of my self and do a few things around the house. This trip was to have been 27 days, mostly in England, with brief stops in the south of France and a couple of days In Bruges, Belgium. We made our plane reservations in January, for pity sake!

Typical of the know-it-all nurse that I am, I was convinced that my injuries were simple bruises. A small cut on my head quickly resolved into a big egg, tender only to the touch.
My right arm hurt quite a bit for the first couple of days and bruised rather dramatically, but had good range of motion and improved pretty quickly.

My right hip/butt/groin area, however, was painful with some bruising and difficulty with weight bearing. I had good movement - could lift and flex/extend at the knee, my foot was OK, no real quad pain...just that nagging achy, burning pain at the top of my hip in the front.

My decision was to see how it went over a couple of days...after all, a bruise would begin to resolve and improve, right? Our friends,Paddy and Annemarie, were able to find a car to haul us around and we saw beautiful Antibes and its great outdoor market, ate lunch in the village square and watched people. I walked to and from the car drop-off points and by the end of the day was pretty wiped out with pain and a tired body.

The next two days continued much the same - cafe (tea for me - still can't stand the idea of coffee!) and croissants near the beach, village travels, Cannes from the car, and more. If you haven't been to the south of France, you won't believe how gorgeous it is...truly a feast for the eyes, ears, nose and taste buds. And, the wealth concentrated there is just mind boggling! Super yachts built for more than $1 million per foot! Reality is very different for those folks, truly.

After three days in which my leg did not improve, I decided (with Jim's "you will go" support) to go to see a doc. Knowing nothing about the French medical system, we relied on advice from our friends and their friends. We went to the local hospital emergency department in Antibes - guess what? Some things don't change world-wide: it took about three hours from registration to decisions. The doctor, who I had been assured spoke English, told me my "pelvis" was broken and that I would need surgery "not today, but maybe one or two days.". My response, and Jim's, was "send us home."

The doctor tried to impress us with the danger of going home to the US...deep vein thrombosis, continued pain, other issues. We said "we're going home." The doctor wrote prescriptions for pain and anti-inflammatory meds, crutches, and started me on anti-coagulants injections. "You will need a nurse to give the injections," he said. "I am a nurse," I said.

After signing out against medical advice, we headed back to our flat to make flight arrangements and to figure out who, really, would give me the shots. We called my oncologist, made sure the meds were OK, got travel arranged and felt pretty ready to head home.

Those of you who know me know that since 11 years of age, I have been terrified of needles coming my way. I can give shots, draw blood, start IVs, etc. on other people...just don't come at me with the same. How ever, there's nothing like months of medical care to get you over all that squeamishness! While not quite ready to give myself shots, I would have figured a way to do it...if my so excellent and wonderful Jim wasn't by my side. He's turned into a great shot giver - abdominal site and all. I truly don't know what I'd do without him!

So...we're home - rather, we're in the Bay area. We saw an orthopedic surgeon yesterday, who told us that my pelvis wasn't broken! Hooray!! Jim and I put our hands in the air and high-fived. "Unfortunately," he said, "it's worse. You've fractured your hip." And, he showed us on the films we brought back from France. DISAPPOINTED!!!

The rest of yesterday was spent getting tests - CT scans of chest and abdomen (for cancer surveillance, due now anyhow), and pelvis, along with repeat x-rays of the pelvis and a full bone scan (again both fracture and cancer surveillance). After we'd left the hospital here, we got called back for an x-ray of my right elbow which lit up like a Christmas tree on the bone scan. We'll learn what that's about come Monday, I suspect.

Surgery happens on Tuesday afternoon. Til then, I am not allowed to bear weight on my right leg. The doc was incredibly surprised that I could tolerate waling those first few days - and in retrospect, so am I. Who knew? It didn't cross my mind that I'd broken my hip.
The surgery itself will be a pining, rather than a hip replacement. We're hoping that the blood supply to the "ball" portion of my femur is not disrupted...and that it will heal without necrosis (dying of the bone). If it does, I end up with my own bone healed and good to go in something like six to eight weeks (the best outcome). If not, I will need more surgery and a full or partial hip replacement. What do you think? Given what happened last year, should we take bets about how my luck will hold for this challenge? We have our fingers crossed for the best outcome, of course.

After surgery, there will be a follow-up doc appointment at one week post-op. Our plans are to stay here in the Bay area through July 6, hoping that we can go home after that.

That's the sad tale of our long awaited vacation to Europe. We didn't enjoy it as much as we thought we would, needless to say. Are there lessons? Watch your feet when walking on cobbled, uneven roads, especially if you have a "falling" history like me. Have a couple of glasses of wine before you might bounce better. Enjoy every single day to the max - the next one might not be as fabulous!

A note: writing my blog on my iPad doesn't lend itself so much to editing. The screen doesn't scroll properly. I've tried to fix the boo-boos. Please forgive those I've missed.

Much love to all of you! More soon...honest! :)