I apologize for not posting this sooner, there has been a lot going on in my life and to be honest my head still hasn’t stopped spinning. To say that my world has been hectic as of late would probably be the understatement of the century.
For anyone who doesn’t know (and I apologize for this being how you find out, but I’ve tried reaching out to as many people as I can think of to let them know), Katy passed away on Friday, January 14th at around 2:15AM. It was a really shocking and terrible timeline of events, and I’m going to do my best to tell the entire story as best I can. I really miss her, and I’m hoping that by putting my thoughts down it may help in the process of healing and provide me some sense of closure.
What follows is the story, uncensored and in as much detail as I think Katy would want it to be, so that people know what the hell happened to her, and what she was forced to endure. It may be TMI for some people, but I will do my best to not make it overly or unnecessarily graphic. It includes discussion of lady stuff, so if you’re squeamish or uncomfortable reading about such things, I would suggest you stop reading here.
Starting around the end of November, Katy had some issues with her lady parts. She had a really bad / painful / heavy menstrual cycle, far worse than any she had ever had. Even after it ended, there were still issues. She had what she described as “the worst menstrual cramps ever” for a couple of days, and after about a week or so of this I suggested she go in to a gynecologist. She found an OBGYN through her insurance website, and went in. Afterwards, she told me that they gave her birth control and told her that it would help with her regulate the duration and amount of her menstrual cycle. They also scheduled her for an ultrasound. After the ultrasound, they said that it looked like she had some buildup of material on her uterine wall, most likely due to a lack of ovulation. We were very dismayed by this turn of events, as we had just recently started talking about trying to have kids.
Because of the buildup in her uterus, they gave her some pills to take that would force a menstrual cycle to occur. It was a 10 day supply, and about a day or two after she started taking it we went to SC to visit her mom for Christmas. She was already in pain, but it got worse while we were in SC, to the point that we had to take her in to an urgent care on Christmas eve. The urgent care did not do much to help, just gave her stronger pain meds (percocet vs tramadol) and sent her home. We got back to Columbus the day after Christmas, and made our first trip to the ER the very next day (12/27).
We went to the hospital because she was in so much pain that she was sobbing just from laying in bed. I felt awful on the ride to the hospital, watching as Katy would gasp in pain every time I hit the smallest bump or seam in the asphalt. This would be something I would have to get used to, every time I took Katy anywhere she was in pain just from the movement of the car– I cannot imagine the ordeal it was for her to leave the house while being in so much pain. We went to the Dublin Methodist Hospital (an Ohio Health hospital) ER. They ran some tests on her (blood work and CT scan), and ended up admitting her for a total of 3 days. During her stay there, she was seen by several nurses, 2 internal medicine doctors (Drs Green and Patel), and her OBGYN (Dr Sacolik). They eventually discharged her with a diagnosis of a pelvic infection, and possibly a pinched nerve that they claimed was the source of her immense amounts of pain. They sent her home on Wednesday with at least 5 medications that I can remember– percocet, ibuprofen 800, flexeril, metronidazole, and another antibiotic whose name escapes me.
Once home, her pain continued to increase, and the combination/amount of meds they had her on started to make her nauseous. On Friday, she began throwing up meds about an hour or two after she’d take them. On Saturday, due to her increasing pain, which was almost completely in her back at this point, and the fact that she could not keep medication down, I called Dublin Methodist and asked to speak to one of the internal medicine doctors that she had seen while admitted. They gave me the number for Dr Green’s answering service, and I called and left a message around 3PM. I never got a return call, so I called back the next day and asked for Dr Patel’s answering service. They gave me the same number. I called and left a message, this time for Dr Patel while also telling them that I never received a call back the day before. Once again, I never heard from anyone.
Because no one would call me back, I took Katy back to the Dublin Methodist ER on Sunday, January 1. We waited for several hours, and the first words out of the ER doctor’s mouth? “Why are you here?”, said in the most condescendingly rude way imaginable, as if we were bothering her by being there. Dr Marichelle Uy, I will never forgive you for the way you treated us that night. I hope, for both your sake and mine, that we never find ourselves locked in a room together. You and your coworkers did nothing to help Katy that night, except give her a prescription for more pills that you claimed would help her keep her meds down. The pills were as ineffective as you.
Because Dr Uy had chastised us for not contacting Katy’s OBGYN (even though the pain was almost exclusively in her back), we made an appointment with the OBGYN the very next morning. We went in, and Katy’s OBGYN was on vacation, so they had us sit with another Dr in the practice. He did not even give her an exam, just took a look at her MRI results from where she had been admitted the week prior, and said, “Oh, you have spinal irregularities. You need to see a spine guy. Go to Riverside, not Dublin Methodist. Riverside has better spine guys.” I now realize that this particular doctors office is actually a PART of Ohio Health, so I’m sure it benefits them financially when people go to an Ohio Health hospital (both Dublin Meth and Riverside are Ohio Health hospitals).
Based on his recommendation, we went to the Riverside ER. Again, we spent the better part of a day there and, again, they were of absolutely no help. They gave Katy a shot of morphine, which helped her pain for about an hour or two at most. They finally ended up saying there was nothing they could do, and recommended we go to our family doctor. The earliest appointment they had was 2 days away.
Now, I’ve been going to the same doctor office since I was 12. Dublin Family Care on 161 right near Franz. Good folks. I got Katy in there about a year ago, and she was very pleased with them as well. I really feel like this is where Katy *finally* started to receive the quality of care she deserved, and things were taken seriously. Our doctor (Dr Boyle) ordered another CT scan, this time with contrast. It was done the same day. That evening, he called me and asked if we could come in the following morning to discuss the results. At this point, I knew that being asked to come in to talk about test results face-to-face was probably not a good sign, and I flat out asked him if they had found a tumor or something along those lines. He replied in the affirmative, but said that he wanted to talk more about it in person. I did not share this with Katy, as I was talking to him in the back yard while letting the dog out.
We went in the next morning, and Dr Boyle confirmed that there was a tumor on her uterus. He recommended seeing an oncologist, but we had an appointment scheduled that afternoon with a new OBGYN that my mom had recommended. He suggested keeping that appointment, have them confirm his reading of the CT scan, and then have them refer us to an oncologist. We went in to see the new OBGYN (Dr Artman), and she confirmed that Katy had a tumor on her uterus, and that it may have spread to her ovaries as well. She told Katy that she would most likely need a full hysterectomy. As I mentioned earlier, Katy and I were planning on having kids so you can imagine that this was unwelcome news. Even so, we were both relieved that we had finally started making progress. This appointment was on 1/6, and they got us an appointment at the oncologist on 1/14.
The next day, I received a call from the office manager at the oncologist’s office. Turns out she goes to Dr Artman as well, and had called to make a personal appointment. While on the phone, one of the nurses was telling her about Katy’s case, and how she had been jerked around by the medical system. She was touched by Katy’s story, and was able to get her appointment moved up from Friday to Monday of the same week.
The weekend was rough. Katy’s pain was escalating, and it was to the point where I would wake up in the middle of the night to take Giles out and could hear her crying in the bedroom. It was so heartbreaking to see someone that you love in so much pain and be so helpless to do anything to make it stop. On Monday, I took her in to the oncologist. Dr Salani is top notch. She is professional, and actually seems like she cares about the patients she is treating. Based on Katy’s CT scan, Dr Salani actually had scheduled OR time for Wednesday of that week. She informed Katy that they were going to do a D&C and a laparoscopy, both minimally invasive procedures, to attempt to determine the extent and type of cancer. If possible, they would also try and remove it.
The next week is pretty much a blur. Wednesday morning came, and we were at the hospital by 6AM. Her surgery started around 11AM, and when Dr Salani came out several hours later I could tell by the look on her face that it was not good. She showed me the pictures from the laparoscopy– the cancer was on her uterus, ovaries, bladder, colon, there were spots around her liver, and they thought it may be wrapped around her inferior vena cava. Dr Salani said that removal would be impossible without endangering Katy’s life, and that she wanted to start Katy on chemo immediately, as soon as she recovered from the D&C and laparoscopy.
Katy never really recovered from the surgery. Her heart rate did not drop below 140BPM, and was as high as 160BPM at times. She developed blood clots in her legs and lungs. She had a breathing tube in until Thursday afternoon. She was extubated and had trouble breathing on her own, necessitating re-intubation around 9:30PM. They told me I didn’t have to stay, that intubation was a fairly standard procedure. I asked them how long it would take, and they said around 45 minutes, so I decided to stay. I am so glad that I stayed. Almost everyone had left except for Tammy, Josh, and Trevin, and as we were all getting ready to leave I called back to see how it had gone.
This was around 11PM, and at that point they took me back to the Surgical ICU and told me to call the family. Katy’s mom, brother, sister, Trevin, my mom, and several close friends were all there. As the waiting room was closed, the hospital let us use a conference room in the SICU, which quickly became our base of operation. They told us that Katy’s heart had stopped a couple times, but that they had been able to get it restarted. Sometime shortly before 2AM, we were told that her heart had stopped a total of 7 times and that, while they were able to get it beating the amount of time between failures was decreasing, we would soon be at a point where it would not restart.
Because of the size of the ICU room, and the amount of people it would take to keep her alive as long as possible, we would not be able to be in the room. Our other option was to make her as comfortable and pain-free as possible, and we could be in the room with her. After discussing it with her family, we decided to be with her as she left this world.
Katy was the best thing to ever happen to me, and I and the rest of the planet lost a bright spot in what can be an otherwise bleak existence at around 2:15AM on Friday, January 14. She was pain-free, comfortable, and surrounded by those she loved as she passed away. I got to tell her I loved her and hold her hand as she took her last breath. I cannot tell you what I am going through– the weeks following have been a bit of a blur. There was a wonderful memorial service on Saturday, where we had a chance to celebrate how solo awesome she was and share stories that started with “So, I grew up on a farm”.
I’m back to work now, and while it’s not easy it’s nice to have something to take my focus. Everything just feels surreal without her– I go home to an empty driveway, I come inside to a house with just cats and a dog, I keep expecting her to be there to give me a hug. Hollow. None of this feels real. I know it is, and I know that some day I will be alright and that it will just take time. These are small consolations, because the future is elusive and never the present. I do know that I’ll be OK someday, I just know that that day is not today or any day in the near future. I do appreciate having good friends, it would have been more difficult to get through this without their help, love, and support.
I got a call from the oncologist yesterday evening. She said that the biopsy showed that it was an aggressive uterine sarcoma. Given how extensive it was, Katy really put up a good fight. Dr Salani told me that she believes the changes that Katy had made– becoming vegan, quitting smoking, losing weight– allowed her to hang on longer than she would have been able to otherwise. Katy really was stubborn, and did not give up easily. It is painfully ironic that we made these changes so that we could live a long and happy life together, but I am glad for whatever extra time it gave me with her.
I believe that the best way to live your life is as if it were a lesson. I am trying to parse this and figure out what it means, how I can learn from it, and how it integrates with the bigger picture of the universe. Love is special and not to be taken for granted. If there is someone you love or care for, make sure you tell them or show them how much they mean to you. Laugh and love and hug freely. While we are insignificant on the scale of the universe, we are significant on the scale of an atom. I believe that Katy had more of an impact on the lives of others in 31 years than most people have in 100. Our mortal life is tenuous and fleeting, but I do believe that we live on in the impact we have on those who knew us, or by what change we make in our world and the world of those around us. It may sound trite, but I I really do think that she is in a better place, because I know that she is not in pain and that those of us who love her will remember her fondly. It was all just so sudden, a painful and personal reminder that you have no idea when your time will come.
I hope this has not been too long or rambling. I know some of you wanted to know what happened, and I hope this does a decent job of answering that. If any of you want to talk in private, or have further questions or stories you’d like to share about Katy, you can send an email to pzer0 [at] pzer0 [dot] com.
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Thirty-something writer, geek, musician and photographer based in Portland, OR.
Current projects: Working on recording an audiobook version of my debut novel The Lightcap. I'm also writing a zombie novel that I hope to have available by the end of 2014.
Status of Works in Progress
79000 / 100000 words. 79% done.
Paradeix: The Last Pope
10000 / 9000 words. 111% done.
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