Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The View from my Deck

At the risk of boring you with tedious repetition, I just had to throw up this photo of the view from my deck yesterday afternoon. It is similar to the photo on Monday’s post, though that view was taken from the mouth of the river. This one does a bit more to convey the incredible vastness, though it still falls short of reality. The two volcanoes, Mt. Redoubt and Mt. Illiamna, seem much larger and closer in the actual view and dominate the scenery far more dramatically than these photos suggest. And that sense of wide-openness that falls away with the curve of the earth? Nothing captures that. The huge bald eagles soaring through it show up only as specks on the photos.

Lest anyone miss the obvious here, let me just say yes, I am totally enthralled with this view. It is mesmerizing. I can gaze at it for hours. Preferably without window glass between it and me, but at yesterday morning’s frosty five degrees below zero, I was glad to appreciate the view from inside. By afternoon the temperature had risen to twenty above, and with no wind blowing it was quite pleasant to sit in the sun on the south-facing side of the house and gaze into the endless distance.

I am now four weeks out from hip replacement surgery for idiopathic avascular necrosis. Overall, my recovery is proceeding quite well. I am off crutches and getting around much more easily, though always mindful of hip precautions: don’t flex the hip more than 90 degrees, don’t cross the body’s midline with that foot, don’t internally rotate that hip (point the toe in). I go to physical therapy twice a week and do exercises at home to regain strength in the leg and increase range of motion. It is slow going, but there is steady progress.

The pre-op I went through prior to the hip replacement included an MRI of the hip. Eighteen months ago I had plain x-rays of that hip which were normal; by this past July, x-rays showed essentially no joint left (which validated the excruciating pain I was in, but otherwise was not reassuring). My surgeon, Dr. L. (dubbed “the turtle” by Jody for his slow and measured approach), wanted the MRI to distinguish between incredibly rapid progression of arthritis and avascular necrosis. It indicated the latter.

It also revealed an incidental finding of an ill-defined mass in my abdomen. The MRI was followed by abdominal and pelvic CT scan, with and without contrast. The mass remained ill-defined, though appeared to be located in the retroperitoneal area (behind the abdominal cavity, not inside it) and appeared to be cystic (fluid-filled). Both are strongly encouraging that the mass is not malignant. But it does need to come out.

Dr. L called in a general surgeon he thinks highly of, Dr. M. Dr. M reviewed the studies and came and spoke with me while I was admitted for the hip. He said if he had any suspicion of malignancy, he would wait no more than two weeks from the hip surgery before taking me back to the OR. As it was, he was comfortable waiting six to eight weeks.

So as the hip heals, I’m preparing for the next hurdle. Tomorrow I drive up to Anchorage for ultrasound-guided needle biopsy of the mass. I’m not queasy, but I don’t look forward to that procedure. Hopefully the full surgical removal will follow shortly after that. Then another four weeks of recovery, and I hope to be back to work by early January.

And for those of you who are wondering in just what direction Tundra Medicine Dreams may be going now that I no longer live on the tundra, I have to tell you that I wonder the same thing. Today it sounds as though TMD is becoming a patient blog, though that is not my intention and I promise to keep this part short. I’ve become so erratic about posting that I felt some explanation was due.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank goodness you're back. I've missed reading your blog, and I've checked almost daily since you moved. Part of the appeal was your life in Bethel - admittedly very different from most of ours. But you are also a very good writer, and your posts are worth reading no matter where you live. I ALSO happen to be very partial to the Kenai peninsula, so I will continue to look for your posts on a daily basis. Best wishes returning your health to normal.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous kuskomama said...

Sending you positive thoughts for healing after your upcoming procedures. The drive from Kenai to Anchorage is not a short one so please take it easy on those roads. The Seward Hwy in winter can be treacherous!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 1:59:00 PM  
Blogger RunninL8 said...

Your blog should be whatever you need it to be, regardless of what readers are "looking" for. But you are so multifaceted anyway, there seems to be a little for everyone! Keep us posted on that book!
And healing thoughts comming your way...You'll jump this coming hurdle high and clear as with the last, I'm sure.
Take care, and YES! you are so fortunate to have scored Kenai land with that view!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 2:14:00 PM  
Blogger Bo... said...

Hope you're feeling well, hang in there.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 5:03:00 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Thinking of you...thanks for updating your readers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 6:27:00 PM  
Blogger Christina LMT said...

Just take good care of yourself, please!

I'll always enjoy reading your blog, no matter what the topic might be.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger Wil said...

Hang in there, TMA. Life as a patient gets better over time and is a very valuable experience for all supervisory medical personnel. Here's hoping your hip replacement does the trick. Having bilateral arthritis in both hips and knees slowly progressing to the point of inevitable replacement, I read in amazement of your rapid recovery.

I also look forward to you unveiling what your new position entails (to the limits of revelation allowable under HIPPA).

Best of luck to you both during this transition period. One question, though. Why not wait until "summer" and then bring your boat around and upriver to your new home? It'd be a heck of a voyage, that's for sure.

Thursday, November 20, 2008 8:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Dot said...

What a gorgeous view! You're so lucky! I have a view of a parking lot here in the Washington, DC area.

Wishing you smooth sailing in your recovery. I'm glad you're blogging again.

Friday, November 21, 2008 12:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Amanda B. said...

Hope you're doing well - avoid the highway in the early morning and later at night. The road crews don't start before 8am and finish by 5 or 6. I don't know if you'll be working at the hospital or not, but they do have an annual display of where they have had to cut fish hooks out of people. Good times, Kenai in the summer is an experience. My word verification is fishies.

Sunday, November 23, 2008 6:02:00 PM  
Blogger Vicki said...

So great to be reading your blog again! I am very curious, as you put it, to see what direction the "Tundra Medicine Dreams" will go, now that you are away from the Tundra...

I read about all the amazing sounding retreats you partake in and often wonder what your thoughts are on deeper life or spiritual matters. It looks like your deck view will nourish you greatly in that area.

Look forward to reading whatever you do choose to write. Heal soon, take care.

Sunday, November 30, 2008 10:23:00 PM  
Anonymous ozzidoc said...

I've finally had a chance to catch up on your life!! Hope that you are mobilizing well, and that the cyst removal works out A-OK :)

I love the pics of Kenai!

Saturday, December 13, 2008 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger The Tundra PA said...

Oz--so good to hear from you! I'm glad you are still checking in occasionally. I've missed you.

Sunday, December 14, 2008 9:52:00 AM  

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