Posted by: Talie Morrison | July 3, 2017

The Whole Story

Ok Folks –

Some of this will be old news if you have been following me along – but for those who might have missed last month’s update, I thought I would start at the beginning:

May 25th, I went to Dr. Griggs, Orthopedic Doctor in Gunnison, Co.   My left knee had been bothering me since about February… Last year, it was my right knee, and I had been told it was arthritis (at least typical symptoms of that).   Not too surprising as I was still carrying about a 35 lb (16 kilo) pack in the backcountry at age 70!

So this year when I started having problems with the other knee – I thought it might be something like arthritis.   It felt a bit different – pain in different places, etc.   So I went to a couple of Chiropractors in New Zealand – all of whom said “It isn’t your knee.”   Well that was good news, but WHY does my knee hurt?   We adjusted back, hips, ankles – all the other knee support systems.   It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t still get in a couple of good backpack trips (no 10 day-ers), but I did get out into the backcountry.   Happy camper Talie!

Coming back to USA (after 3 weeks in China – that will be my next entry), I went to a Chiro in San Diego who I had seen before.   He said, “It’s not your knee – maybe the IT Band.”   So we worked on that (whew – more painful than Rolfing!).   Again – helped somewhat but didn’t solve the issue.

Ok – finally, feeling like I had used up all my other “options”, it was time for “Western Medicine”.   So on my way home to CB, I made an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgen in Gunnison (still hadn’t been to CB yet).

[Now a little side note – I also stopped in Grand Junction to see my “implant dentist”.   We did an implant last fall – and it should have been all healed up and ready to go.   So they worked me in at 8 am to check it.

Bummer (as I had suspected) it had not “taken” – which was a long story about a new type of implant which was pretty much a failure (not only for me).   So 8 am, I’m not really happy to have an extraction – ouch, and no hard food for 24 hours (I love the milkshakes and icecream though).   Now I had till the next day for my Gunnison appointment, and “shopping” in Junction lost all it’s charm when you have a “tooth pulled”.   So…. I went and got a manicure and pedicure!   Not your usual Talie/Mom activity – but why not? And my toes looked great!

Ok – so back on track, off toward Gunnison… I found a great free camping spot across from Blue Mesa – beautiful spot to hang my hammock and hang out in the early spring – Aspen leaves just budding and a few flowers poking up!   Always nice to find a free off the road “home” for the night.

In to Gunnison for my 10 am appointment:   Dr. looked at my knee and my stance, and said (can you guess?), “It’s not your knee.” Now where have I heard that before?   Anyway, he had all the equipment to do an xray of my knee and leg.   We looked at the Femur, which was just beautiful till just before the knee, where it seemed to look like mashed potatoes!   I said, “I don’t think it’s supposed to look like that?” And he definitely agreed with me.

This was the X-ray on Thursday May 25 before the break – you can see there is something going on on the bone…..

Since this was Thursday of Memorial Day weekend, we set up a follow up appointment for the following Tuesday to get an MRI, a Biopsy, and a CAT scan. And then off I went to Crested Butte to spend the weekend.

I was so glad to be “home”.   Lots of snow still, and I couldn’t get up into the backcounty to camp, but I found a couple of lovely spots to sleep in GrayJay.   When I get back to CB, I have a large bag of 6 months of mail – lots of it junk, but I need to go through it all.   So I had a great time at the coffee house, opening Christmas Cards, packages, tax info (ick), and letters from around the world (Thank you all my friends!).

I was able to semi organize, and at least pull out the tax info.   Top of the “to do list”!   Since my auto extension was till June 15th (oops – still haven’t done the taxes…..).

So that Saturday night, Jane and Robin and I grilled shiskababs and then watched the Arizona State Girls Softball championship game (unfortunately they lost).   After the game, I said, “I got the cups (from our after dinner tea).”   So with 3 cups hanging on my right hand, and my cell phone in my left hand, I headed down to the kitchen.   Didn’t quite make it – as on the 2nd to last step, I think I either slipped or twisted, but went down in a heap – just a plop onto my bum.   But when I looked at my left knee – I said, “Call 911”.   I had totally a broken femur (it was so obvious) – looked like 2 knees!  (The photos of all this are on the blog post before this one.).   Then I handed my phone to Robin and said, “Take photos!”

This was the view – with just a oops slip at the bottom of the stairs (slippery socks on carpet) – not a big fall – but a big ouch!

Call 911 !!!

As a x-member of Crested Butte Search and Rescue and an EMT, it was pretty interesting to be on the other side of the equation. Out came the vacuum mat – and in I went for a full body splint.   I was able to give the EMT’s some info from my side of the issue – as in no worries about back problems, head injuries, etc. I could tell them when I was getting some “shocky” symptoms … but the main problem was just the Femur!

I have to admit that there was a bit of pain getting onto the vacuum mat, and then getting me outside and onto a stretcher to get in the ambulance.   But once in the ambulance we could start an IV and get some pain meds in me. We had a great conversation about how wonderful New Zealand is on the 30 minute ambulance ride down to Gunnison Valley Hospital.

Jane and Robin followed the Ambulance to Gunnison – such GREAT friends! Once down there – we got an xray of the broken femur and a CAT scan.   The doc on call was great and sent Dr. Griggs got copies of the xrays at home.   He said there certainly wasn’t anything we could do at that time.

X-ray when we got to Gunnison that night – you can see it broke where the bone was compromised!

To tell you the truth – from the time I told Jane and Robin they could go on home – till the next morning, I have absoutely no recollection of what happened.   I don’t know if I spent the night in the ER, or in a room, or whatever…. I guess I was pretty doped up!

So Sunday morning – Dr. Griggs came in – said that the break in the femur was out of his range of expertise and he was going to send me to Denver to a specialist.   Since the Gunnison airport runway was in the process of being resurfaced, I was going to be helicoptered.   It was a beautiful ride up over Taylor Reservoir, with the Collegiate Peaks filled with snow, then up and over Leadville, and finally coming into Denver over the Flatirons in Boulder.   I loved seeing so many of the places I have hiked from the air like that! (Today I got the bill for that beautiful ride: $50,000!)   Thank God for insurance!

So Sunday of a holiday weekend (Memorial Day), not much was happening in Presbyterian/St. Lukes Hospital.   But they got me settled into a room and check into the system.   My friends, Jane and Robin and Joni, came over from Crested Butte, and my adorable son, Steve, drove non-stop from San Diego.   I am blessed to have great family and friends!

Then things started happening – we did a biopsy on the problem with the femur – it is a fibrosarcoma – which is a soft tissue or bone tumor (started on an infarction on the bone).   It was malignant tissue – and once the bone broke the whole Femur was contaminated up and down the shaft.   We kept waiting for results from the biopsy, because the surgeon needed to know if it was “primary” or “secondary”.   Dr. Kelly went into surgery still waiting to find out the results of the biopsy – which didn’t come in.   So she did a external fixator – which temporarily held the bone in place.

This was what the outside of the fixitatur looked like

We had several days to wait for lab results to find out what the bone thing was – big decisions rested on those results (do I keep my own knee or not). So we did an external fixiter to keep things in place!

It was a big decision which was hanging on the biopsy – things like: Could I keep my knee?   Could I keep my leg? – I told her, “Please take your time – let’s not rush things and make a snap decision!” The biopsy came back saying “secondary” (bummer!) but it was enough information for Dr. Kelly to go in, scrape out the bad stuff, fill the bone with cement and using plates and screws put it back together (which was not a simple fix either – since there had been some rotation with the split of the bone.).   Anyway – surgery #3 in 3 days – and I was pretty much of a wreak.

And here is my new Femur!

TSA in the airports will hear me coming!!!!

I can’t tell you how many angels live in my son Steve.   He had a “host” who were with him.   Since I was so doped up, he could hear and remember what the Drs said, help with decisions, be sure the nurses kept on top of my pain meds (we got behind once – and he never let THAT happen again!).   Steve even sponged down my sweaty body when I so uncomfortable.   He stayed on the nurses, being sure I was getting what I needed and he helped them whenever they needed something – Steve prowled around the hospital – he knew where the ice maching was, the water, the refrigerator, – he had it dialed in!   I can’t thank him enough!!!

So after the 3rd surgery, when things were bolted back together, they came in one more time and said: “No water or food by mouth for another 4 hours,”   After 4 days of this, I was getting a bit grumpy for not eating!   But this last time they filled me full of radioactive sugar, and after a 45 minute wait (in which both Steve and I had a great nap), they ran me through the full on PET Scan.   So they checked my whole body, and no other cancer cells!   Well that’s great news!   But what’s up with the “secondary” call.   I guess in the long run, they changed their minds.

I had great nurses and great care at P/SL – but the biggest difference was having my own advocate.   I can’t tell you what a blessing that was! (Of course Steve was getting coaching from Chanda, his wife, who is a labor and delivery nurse in San Diego!) I also had great friends who came over to Denver (5 hour drive one way!) to hang out with me – thank you Jane, Robin, Joni, Corinne, Judy and Mary, Marnie and Woody (and Cedar the dog), and Mike and Nell.   So there was almost always some sort of party going on in Talie/Mom’s room!   Way fun!

On another side note:   I have been Facebook Friends with an old friend of ours from Spruce Pine North Carolina: Jonathan Fogleman.   When Jonathan saw that I was in the hospital in Denver, he called me and said he wanted to come and see me.   Steve and Jonathan had been best friends in Spruce Pine and hadn’t seen each other for 35 years.   It was awesome to reconnect these two awesome young men!  They went out for lunch one day and dinner the next – so it was quite the reminiscing for both of them!

35 years later – best friends!

So from the Sunday of Memorial Day, till the Monday of the following week – I was in P/SL Hospital (I haven’t seen the bill for that one yet – it’s going to be scary!) Once, I got over the anethesia effects (well partially over them….), I was still a bit anemic, so I got a pint of blood – and that kept me in the hospital one more day.

Finally they checked me out of the hospital and sent me across town to Spalding Rehabilitation Center.   Another ambulance ride…..

When we got to Spalding – Steve and I talked to the Dr and nurses and said: “If we can possibly, without compromising care, have Talie/Mom in Steve’s car heading to San Diego on Friday – it would make our life so much easier.   They looked at us like we were really smoking dope!   It was Monday – and we were planning on leaving Friday – no way.   But being a bit persuasive, and knowing how strong the rest of my body was, and knowing that Chanda had set up a perfect bedroom – with walk in shower, one level, toilet with handles, and a shower chair – They started coming over to our side.   Maybe this could work.

So Chanda sent us photos of the one step it would be to get into the house from the garage, the one step to get up to the living room, and the walk in shower, etc.   I worked with PT and we learned how to go up one step with the help of a chair, we practiced getting into the shower, we practiced getting in and out of Steve’s car.   Yep, they worked me – but I was raring to go!   The Dr even gave me diuretics on Wednesday and Thursday so we wouldn’t have to stop so many times for bathroom stops along the way on Friday.

So 9 am on Friday morning – we were on our way out of Denver!   Yahoo!   We did it!   I wanted to stay awake through the beautiful mountains – such a lovely drive out I70 from Denver – and then the Glenwood Canyon – awesome.   So I propped my eyelids open and enjoyed the view, we stopped in West Glenwood – and once back in the car I was out like a light.   Next thing I knew we were in Green River, Utah!   Wow!   So we drove the rest of the way through Utah on I70 – then turned onto I15.   We drove till we got to St. George Utah – a goodly chunk of the drive!   Steve brought us food to the room and we ate and then even though we were sharing a king size bed we were both out like lights till the next am!

The motel did a breakfast, but it looked like powdered eggs, etc. so we decided to go to Starbucks, get coffee and an egg muffin, and drive on down the road.   Good choice!   The first part of the drive out of St. George is a little slice of Arizona (another one of my favorite parts of the drive) called the Virgin River Gorge.   I was loving it because I wasn’t driving and I could really turn my head and look at the beautiful rock formations!   It was a perfect way to start the day!   So out into Nevada we came – and once again I was out like a light (the drugs they give me for pain are great – but I am mentally and physically waisted!)   When I woke up, I asked Steve if we could get some snacks – and he said, “Mom, we are about 1 hour from home!”   WOW! Yahoo.   That was pretty painless (for me at least – he did all the driving!).   I got to admit that airconditioned cars in the desert in the summer are pretty nice (I still love you, GrayJay!).

By the time we got to San Diego – both my legs were pretty swollen and I was a bit stiff, but it was awesome to have that journey over with!   The bottom of my left leg was gross – after dragging it through the dirt and spills from the gas stations!   Steve was glad to be home, Chanda was glad to have him home, and I was excited about settling into new surroundings.   I have never felt so loved and cared for as how Steve and Chanda have taken me in – I am one lucky momma!

Sunday, it was back to work for Steve and Chanda, and I was happy to just lay in bed – in and out of sleep – read a little – doze a little- take more little pink pills – life is good!

So since then, I have arranged for a general doctor – they have checked my blood levels – and I am still anemic, platelettes are high, my vitimin D is low — so definitely my body is not back to normal yet!   So I am eating lots of vitimin D foods, protein, shakes, and smoothies and veggie juices.   But I am finding how long this process is going to take – I guess I don’t heal up as fast as I did when I was 20!   (Bummer!)

I have also seen Dr. Bowman who is an orthopedic doctor with oncology (attached to UCSD), so he has xrayed the femur – removed the staples – and said things are looking good on that front.   I am still supposed to be non-weight bearing (I try but I’m not very good at it…), but I know this will all be a blip on the radar screen down the road – so behave, Talie!

So the diagnosis is: what I have is a fibrosarcoma – which is a malignacy which started in the soft tissue or bone.   They talk about a “bone infarction”.   Well – how many of you out there are telemark skiiers?   Have I fallen about 50 times and had my right ski go under my left leg and the leg come down on the edge of the ski?   Pretty typical tele fall!   Definitely could have “infarked” the bone on one of those slides down Jokerville!   But bottom line is that it is malignant – bummer.   It was totally contained when it was in the bone – but then I blew that open and the whole femur has been contaminated (along with the quad!).   So – the future (at this time) is to heal the bone – ?6 weeks (I’m at 5 weeks now) – then do local radiation to kill those little floaters.   (I have put up “no vacancy” signs all over my body letting them know that there is no place to go!) Unfortunately it will be hard to do MRIs to see what is happening since there is so much metal in the leg.   But we will keep a close eye on what is happpening down there.

I have also contacted Dr. Geronomo who is a chiropractor who is more in touch with alternative healing.   (I’m trying to hit this from all sides!). We are working on my “gut” to get me on the up and up with my blood cells, my iron count, my vitamin D, etc….   He has said juicing is good but alternate that with veggie shakes – whew the second one of those sent me to the bathroom for about 30 minutes!!! I tried a 16-8 fast – (theory is to starve the cancer cells for 16 hours a day – no sugar – they love sugar).   I guess I am not quite up to snuff on that bit yet – I was wasted. During the fast, I didn’t want to take a pink pill (narcotic) on a totally empty stomach, so I thought I would try some of the marijauna drops for pain instead – oofta – I was a zoombie for 12 hours – (I did NOT like that at all!).   So I can see the benefit of using it when I am transitioning off of the narcotics – but I am going to have to be in the woods sleeping for about 6 days!!!!   So I’ll save that stuff for another day.

Mean time, I am taking the little pink pills – eating chicken, and smoothies with spinach, kale, arugula, lettuce, etc!   For some reason Mushroom soup just hits the spot for me – so thank you Cambells Soup.

Steve and family have gone to Florida for their summer vacation – they totally deserve it!   And to get a break from Talie/Mom!   They are having a great time – walking on the beach, warm ocean water, reconnecting with North Carolina family, and just relaxing!   I’ve got a lovely couple of girls, Emily and Ally, who come to walk the dogs – and we have a great time talking (I have got to stop spouting off on my theories of life – poor girls!) Anyway, their Mom has taken me out for change of venue and it has been fun just to ride around San Diego – see the ocean, etc.

I have been really surprised at how much energy healing takes out of me.   A simple trip to get a blood draw, lunch, and a short electric wheelchair around Target and I am wiped out!

Look out Target Shoppers – Talie/Mom on the loose!

Back home for a 2.5 hour nap!   Amazing!   So – we are getting there – swelling is down, the scar will be amazing – and I just need to get some bend in the leg. I am working with PT and once I am allowed to put weight on the leg – I think we can really get things working again. I am still planning on hiking the Great Walks in New Zealand starting next January – so I have a goal in site.   Iceland (starting July 29th) had to be cancelled obviously – but there is always next year!   Luckily, I think I will be getting most of my money back from those reservations.

So here, I am in San Diego – I do have my phone with me – and I love facetime!   So if you are bored one day – give me a call.

 

MORAL OF THE STORY:   If you plan on breaking your femur:   1st get your toe nails done 3 days before (everyone will comment on them!); 2nd get an xray of the bone 2 days before you plan to break it (that helps); 3rd be at your best friends’ house when you break it so they can not only help but give GrayJay a home for the summer; and 4th have a son who really is an angel in the flesh!!

 

Once again:   Thanks for listening…..

 

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