If you know me or have read my blog for awhile, you know that last February I had a DVT (deep vein thrombosis) in my right leg when I was 34 weeks pregnant with Bethany. If not, you can catch up here.
Well, I really hate facing reality sometimes. So ever since Bethany arrived healthy on April 2 and I was able to switch from twice daily injections of Lovenox to daily aspirin, I've been able to breathe and walk around like a normal person, so I've liked believing that everything is just fine. I mean, I haven't completely ignored the problem. I've worn compression hose. . . . sometimes. I've gone to regular checkups with the hematologist Dr. Waples. . . most of the time. I use grapeseed oil and garlic in my cooking to thin the blood naturally. And I take a such a boatload of supplements every day that I should be the healthiest person in the county:
So a few months ago when Dr. Waples sent me to a vascular surgeon for an ultrasound of my legs, and the ultrasonographer wasn't even sure she had seen such a case before (in her words, "you've got a mess of veins in those legs"), I still wasn't convinced I needed vascular surgery. But Dr. Waples got my attention at this last appointment.
Apparently all the blood thinning I'm doing is only helping a little bit, as the bigger issue is the fact that so many of my veins are broke. Evidently I've had other blood clots, but the one last year was significant enough for me to get some medical attention for it. The veins in my legs have been broke for awhile, so there are tons of new veins popping up in an effort to keep the blood flowing, even going around old veins to try to rewire things and make everything keep running. Then as my body seeks to repair the clot, the proteins sent out to repair the clot also break down the valves in the veins. Thus, when I stand, much of the blood that goes down to my legs and feet has great difficulty in returning up and circulating around. Ahhh, so that's why my legs ache in the middle of a day where I've done only normal activities. That's why I'm lightheaded. Why my legs feel like lead and look like a blue maze. Yes, there is a mess of veins in there. After seeing the ultrasound report, Dr. Waples implored me to go ahead with the surgery. It is called vein stripping. The surgeon will strip out the broke veins so that blood will flow through the good veins. Only, I've got lots of broke veins so they will choose the worst ones and go from there. He mentioned that we *might* be looking at a series of these procedures. Greeeeaaat. But I don't think I have much choice at this point. Dr. Waples pretty much said that as they are now, there is no question of IF I will have other clots. The question is when and where in my body.
So having the surgery has become inevitable if I actually want to live. The biggest issue in my head has become when. My first concern has been Bethany. At 9.5 months old, she's thriving on breastmilk and LOVES being breastfed. She still nurses every few hours, even through the night, and sleeps beside me. I don't want anything to jeopardize that until she is at least a year old. I'm convinced it's the best thing. I asked Dr. Waples if we could wait until Bethany was 1 year old and do the surgery sometime in April, and he said "Sure! You don't have to have it tomorrow. Just the longer you wait, the more likely you will clot again." Oh. So, if I clotted again and went into the hospital again, breastfeeding would be jeopardized for sure, but it wouldn't be on our terms at that point. Hmmmm. My parents and Brian both said that I should schedule it as soon as possible, Brian being sure that it would take 4-6 weeks anyway and by that point she could graduate to goat's milk. True. Then I was texting with my wonderful friend Jessica about the subject, and she asked why I would think that surgery would have to end breastfeeding at all. Good point. Maybe I could take an alternative pain medication that is not contraindicated during lactation, and just keep on keeping on except for the day that I am completely out of it. Woot! Why didn't I think of that? So next week I am talking with Dr. Cioppi about medications and scheduling the surgery, with the plan to just keep right on breastfeeding after it's over. I'm going to ask for the first of March for a number of reasons: 1) my parents will be available to help with the kids, 2) Bethany will be 11 months old, so hopefully even if we are away from each other for a night or two we can come right back together and not miss a beat, but if for some reason it messes us up, we will have made it to a point I can be satisfied with, 3) I should be recovered in time to help plant the garden. That's kind of a big deal to me too. :)
Since I can no longer act like everything is fine and I'm feeling great, I'm determined to at least look on the bright side. As usual, some things the kids have said in the last few days have been profound and given me perspective. I was thinking aloud about the breastfeeding issue, and I said, "So, if we make it to at least 11 months, I won't feel quite so guilty." Thirteen-year-old Allie said, "Mom, don't ever feel guilty for doing something that will save your life." Wow. Okay, you are right. Later that same day, Penelope looked up at me with those big blue inquisitive eyes and asked, "Mommy, will you still be alive when Bethany is a mommy?" Immediate tears welled up in my eyes. "I sure do plan to be, Penelope." Wow. Perspective. I looked at Bethany and thought, which will be most important: that she was nursed for an entire year, or that I am alive when she is a mommy too?
I'm going with staying alive.