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One Week Post Op

One week ago today I was driven to the hospital by the tall, strong John accompanied by the Kind, Hopeful Paula.  They park and walk in with me, sit with me while we wait the few minutes to be taken back to the prep area. I change into this plastic-coated paper gown and am greeted by a number of professionals that ask me the same questions – name, birthdate, surgery type, etc.  I am given bracelets and soon they hook up a heater to my paper/plastic gown.  It blows warm air into the gown and it’s a nice thing. Soon I am sweaty.

The surgical nurse tells me that Dr. P rarely has a full incision-type surgery; nearly all of his surgeries are robotic.  I breathe a sigh of relief, thinking that maybe my recuperation won’t be so rough after all.  Surely I’m not THAT unique in this cancer thing.  I’m mundane, I hope.

Soon I’m given a mask of something that takes mere moments for me to lose grip on this world.  J & P have been with me, helping me laugh and make some fun out of it.  I remember just a few moments in recovery before I’m wheeled into my room, where they rejoin me, bringing gifts.  A small stuffed bee, the legendary reminder of the tale that won’t die. 🙂 A journal to write about the new life ahead, and news of how the doctor thinks he got all the cancer.

HE GOT ALL THE CANCER.

At least he thinks so. Now, a week post surgery, I’m still nearly a week from knowing if this is true. But Dr. P. isn’t one to play optimistically.  He’s quite the realist, and I find in a phone call the day after surgery that he does indeed feel that there is nothing of the murderous stuff left in me.

While I selfishly breathe deeply with this thought, I have the continued storm of emotions.  Why would God give me this gift? How am I worthy of this miracle when others are not? Why must K continue to live in his discomfort after so many of us beseeched Him for a miracle? What is the value in extending my life? It’s not like I’m some strong, beautiful woman with a message for other strong women out there. I’m just me, in all my doubts and massive fears, trying to breathe after this heart-wrenching adventure.

I really don’t know how to breathe yet. Having K here for the first few days was so helpful. He asked good questions and supported me in answering them. He is strong enough to be independent of me and still hold my hand when I need it. Now, K is here and she is as delightful as spring in the flesh.  She asks good questions too and I’m not sure I will want to ever live the rest of the life I have without having her close.  For the first time, I can see myself living near the He K also. Although, the one thing I hate about this adventure is seeing how I will end up being in their care before my life is over.  I hate feeling like a burden, which is what I will be.

Finding the value in what remains of my life will be my goal for the next adventure, to be sure.

I caught a glimpse of what life might be like in the near future.  Me, working at my windowed desk, with the sun shining on me, and me feeling joy. Feeling joy again. Small, soft, sweet joy that will fill my heart again with some energy and wholeness.  It’s hard to see that kind of normal in this ‘normal’ insane heart and mind of late. The ride has been too harsh, too swift, too gruesome.  Now, might it even be too hopeful, too good, too fancy an ending? My little life in my little apartment doesn’t seem precious enough to have been saved by a blessed Savior who may have spared my life from a painful, oozing death?

As I walked the halls at the hospital, I saw the women who are in the midst of their cancer battle.  Balding women with too-pale skin. The reconstructive surgery candidate.  The kind nurses and incredible CNA’s that run the joint. Their callings are much higher and more valuable than mine. I feel that I am a mere ant in their shadows.  All those memes on Facebook about nurses are true. They don’t get to eat and they don’t get to pee. They are pinged and hollered for and needed at every breath.  We can’t pay them enough.

I wonder if I will get to sleep normally again.  “When” I will get to sleep normally again. When I might not need a sleep aid to get an 8 hour rest. My mind is too fast-paced and radical to allow much rest after 5 AM, which is a hard thing when it’s after 11 PM before I close my eyes. All things electronic scratch at the door to keep me distracted from the hurricane behind my eyes.  I am not sure how to help myself enough through this. I will start taking the antidepressants again.  I will work toward not using the anti-anxiety meds that will try to make me their captive.  Being alone in this place scares the shit out of me.

I told K this morning that I feel I’m at a precipice.  I have one foot on the side of a life full of love and joy and thriving.  The other side, where my other foot is steadfastly planted, offers fear and self-loathing. I fear being alone and sick. I fear needing someone to hold me and no one being there. I fear the hurricane in my head that will return when I return to the land of the diagnoses and medical procedures.

There are so many words screaming to come to this page, but at some point this kid has to take a shower.  Besides, Red won’t be here forever. I must enjoy every minute I get with her.

🙂

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Surgery Tomorrow!

I feel a little silly rejoicing over the fact that I get to have organs removed tomorrow!  The scan was not so terrible that surgery had to be cancelled.  There have not been many good signs in the adventure, and while I’m very thankful, the trepidation does not ease.

While I cannot interpret a radiologist’s report with any sense of competency, it took a long time for me to breathe.  “Lung Nodules” scared the shit out of me.  But after some cursory internet searches, I realized that more testing will be required to know what is cancer and what isn’t.  Other than that, the report seemed reasonable.  So many of my organs are normal or even unremarkable!  Even my liver has survived my glasses of wine though I do have multiple gallstones. Joy.

K posted a bit about this adventure on Facebook today.  My phone started going crazy and of course, FB went crazy, mostly with Kevin’s friends saying they are praying for me.  I know that He is my best and only hope anyway, and He doesn’t mind my trepidation too much.

The post brought about the contact from J, whom I’m not ready to communicate with.  I made the decision years ago to keep my organs. I did.  It’s not his fault I was utterly codependent and intent on keeping things calm.  That wasn’t his fault.  It was mine, and now I will pay dearly for it.  I’m so very sad that after all the healing I’ve come through and hope I’ve enjoyed, I’m now at this place where I run a good chance of fighting this shit for the rest of my life.  My SHORTENED life.  I can’t and won’t talk to him.  I would scream and be ugly and it’s not his fault I was broken. To be fair, he helped to break me.  So, I guess I feel he shares in this result.  It just was what it was.  And now it is what it is.

I’m not sure I’ve ‘cleared my bowels’ enough to sleep comfortably.  Maybe after I relax here a little it will make it all better.

The emotions that fill me up run all across the gamut.  Fear of being alone and being fully dependent on other people who have no responsibility toward me.  Fear of pain.  Fear of dying when I haven’t loved my grandbabies enough yet.  Forcing my children to take me to their home to die in hospice.  I don’t want to think about these things yet.  Especially not now.

I want to walk more half marathons. I want to go to Europe at least once, though this adventure may very well bankrupt me for the rest of my livable days.  I want to put my feet in Hawaiian sand.  I have way more laughter left in me, and love, and neck rubbing.  I’m not ready to give up my nearly new living space. Damn it, I’m just not ready.

I have been working up to the understanding that in this life, I don’t really get to be loved by someone who considers me his princess.  I really wanted to be a princess.

If you are reading this and you are a believer in Jesus, don’t even tell me how precious I am to Him. Absolutely, I am precious to him. He is my best and only hope in my life for security, but that will be after this life.  He offers me no promises here, and I’m not mad about that.  Well, I’ve been kinda mad, but I’m allowed.  That’s not what I’m talking about.

In my early years, men and boys touched my physical body to their own fucked up pleasure.  However they wanted and whenever they wanted.  This set the tone for my marriages, and it continued it’s fucked up-ness.  One husband had to live without a healthy love life and the other was so weird that it just never worked.  I’ve been single 7 years with the intention of having someone on this earth that I could love and be loved by and still be SAFE.  The fun and horror of building trust when you don’t know how to trust anyone is what I have dreamed of.  Of being respectful of each other, even when we feel lost.  Of being sexual and intimate and SAFE.

I’ve worked hard to let my guard down and to be transparent with men, even while I maintain my wishes and my choices.  There have been a couple that I would have liked to spend a little more time with but that hasn’t been their choice and I respect that.  I figured that one day I’d find one I wanted to spend more time with, and he would want to spend more time with me.

He would see my frailties and my beauty.  He would see how kind I am and how lost I can get sometimes.  He would also be kind to me and we could make dinner together and watch movies on the sofa.  We could go to the ocean and the forest and road trips would be casual and relaxed. If we needed to do the laundry, I could do that if he could wash the cars.  We wouldn’t mind if we smelled a little funny, as long as we could shower soon enough.  Sweet and sexy and strong and soft and …

There is something to be said about feeling cherished.  The look in the eye, the wink, the smile that shows a genuine joy to be in the company of someone you choose.  He’s willing to make the coffee in the morning and she’s willing to do the dishes every day.  It’s a partnership of friends and lovers and while it’s never such a fairy tale as the one I’m telling, these things really happen.  Not all at once or even in the same month.  But there are moments where you feel that this person has your back.  You are not in this alone.

My alone-ness during this adventure has me stumped. It’s as if it’s not real.  The fears that have gripped me in the night maintain their grip until the morning because I don’t know how to combat them alone.  So many fears. I have wondered what it would be like to have someone to be in this with me, together.  What I have not the ability to consider is the fear I would have watching my loved one endure such trauma.  For this lacking, I’m incredibly thankful.

I have a neighbor – a kind young fella with an incredibly beautiful wife and two sweet boys.  When he and I meet on the sidewalk outside, his “Hello!” tickles my heart.  It’s not at all sexual, but it intimates that he has a softness in his heart toward me (and all the other beautiful humans he greets) that I ache to hear in the voice of the one I love.

So don’t tell me about the sovereignty of God and how sweet heaven will be.  I still don’t get to be a human man’s priceless princess.   And every girl deserves to be a princess at least for a little while.

So now I will take my delightful Ambien and drift off to sleep.  The alarm is set for 4 AM.  Tomorrow we begin to see the length of this fight, though it’s a baby step really.  At least much of the murderous stuff will be of my beautiful body.

This is the first step out of the Land of the Fucked.

CT Scan Today

Again, I feel as if my life hangs on a thread. The CT scan will determine if surgery goes forward tomorrow.  My heart tells me that it won’t stop the surgery from going forward, but my heart has been wrong a few times lately and I’m not trusting it so much.

There are so many unknowns with cancer.  Will it kill me? If so, how quickly will it end my life?  How much time do I have? Will I be sick or in pain?  This stuff messes my head up terribly and is of no value.  But they pester to be answered.

Somewhere I get to be my own best advocate and tell them to shut the hell up.  Surgery will go forward tomorrow and for this I must pack today. Plan today. Drink more contrast today. 😉  I don’t really know how to pack for surgery recovery. At least I will have my personal assistants to care for my every whim. 🙂

The contrast stuff for the CT scan didn’t taste so terrible, though it is helping with the clearing of my bowels a little earlier than anticipated.  I’m thankful that I feel pretty good, considering.

I think I’ll go and sit in the sun for a few minutes.  THEN I’ll plan for the potential end of my life.

Kidding. 🙂

 

Today I Struggle

Today I start taking the contrast stuff for the CT scan scheduled for tomorrow.  Today I went to dinner with some friends and started crying as soon as dinner was over.  Today I feel sadness thinking that the things I’ve loved doing and being and loving may be elusive.

I can kind of joke about the cancer.  Sometimes.  When I’m strong.  Though tonight I’m not wallowing in fear and anxiety, I am sad.  As a believer in Jesus, I have often talked about being convinced of my eternal home, and I don’t disbelieve this now, I don’t think.  The concept takes on deeper meaning and questions when looking at what could be devastating news tomorrow or the next day. There have been lots of days where I kinda wished heaven was my home because this life had become so painful.  Obviously, it’s easy to say things when the gun barrel isn’t staring down your nose.  I believe that those fears will work themselves out when the time comes.

My beautiful daughter-in-law suffered a terrible stroke about 5 1/2 years ago.  She has a heaven story that I believe to be true.  In some ways, I envy her experience because it would remove my fear, as it has hers.  She, in spite of her aphasia, speaks of something too vibrant and beautiful for words, even if she had control of hers.  I put a lot of trust in M’s experience when my faith falters.  M remembers having a choice to come back to be with her three boys, one of whom was a small infant.  My heaven experience won’t be like that.  Mine will be permanent.

I remember watching my dad suffer through his bone cancer.  After a point, he was done with this life.  He wanted his beautiful wife to be safe and secure, but he also realized that her comfort was out of his control.  Only cancer could have made him ready to leave her.  And it did.  This is the kind of life, existence, that causes me sadness.  I suspect this will be my passing plan.  I really don’t want my kids to have to experience that.  I don’t want them to hurt because I’m gone.  The life I have lived these last years have been so sweet; I cannot imagine something better.

I am unable to look at photos of my kids and grandkids.  My heart nearly breaks with love and affection and joy.  I may well be their first experience with death, as my dad’s was for my kids.  It’s how life works; the old ones move on and the new ones take over.

I don’t want to be that old, that sick, that sad that my body is failing me.  I don’t want to be watched as I die.  I almost wish I could be like an old cat so that when it is my time, I could wander away to someone else’s yard and let go.

There are not the answers in this life that we wish we could have.  The lack of fairness, and the intense lack of mercy we have for each other in such tumultuous times – these disappoint me and I feel abandoned by God, which is not to say that I believe I am abandoned so.  After so many years of depression, seeing what a lie it was helps me today to see that my feelings don’t usually match reality.  The real trick is learning to sit in the hurt and not let my emotions dictate my reality; to hold myself through my pain.  I question my ability to hold myself through this cancer reality.

Also, how am I going to receive results from a CT scan without having a chance to speak to the doctor before the surgery.  This time crunch has me furrowed.  Do I want to know the results before surgery?  Do I want to receive the call that the surgery is cancelled because there is too much for the surgeon to address?  Yesterday I could believe that it won’t be that bad.  Tonight I am not that strong.  Here’s to hoping that my reality will be better than my place of fear.

Still in the Midst

I was mistaken in my rambling the other day – it has only been two weeks since I first found I needed surgery.  Initial diagnosis -> cancer diagnosis -> surgery in 18 days.  No wonder I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck.

I wonder if I have pushed myself so quickly into this.  We could have slowed down a little. Taken a week or so between the diagnosis / oncology / surgery.  But I have this utter compulsion to get it out of me and to know the full damage.

Yesterday I went from thinking the doctor will cancel the surgery after the CT scan on Monday because there is too much cancer to thinking about traveling to Hawaii in September.  That’s some improvement, I’d say.

I’m utterly surprised that my children are coming.  It’s not ever that I would have thought they didn’t love me if they didn’t come.  I consider what they do in their daily lives to be most important.  And I don’t mean to say that I’m not important to them.  For so many years I’ve been the one to go to them to help.  Now they are coming to me and I can’t be happier.  I think that has helped me relax out of the consummate frenzy that I have been in for two weeks.

I got most of the shopping done today that I need to be ready for surgery. I have no idea what to pack or how to prepare myself for after the surgery.  Who knows these things? I love that Olivia D. has offered sweet suggestions, but her hospital stays are for two weeks at a time, not the 1 or 3 night stay where I will be removed by force as soon as possible.

I’m most grateful for this family that loves me so sweetly.  I have not had to serve someone in this nearly tragic capacity during my life, but I now know a little better how to reach out in the future.  (See, I’m speaking about the future without an early exit plan! Progress!)

I think, too that a turning point came when I spent some real energy getting very honest with my Great God.  He doesn’t owe me a life free from cancer.  He doesn’t owe my daughter-in-law a life free from stroke.  It’s taking me a little bit of work to understand the minuscule pieces of my life that reflect Him so well, yet he allows such pain and trauma.  Oh, and to say to someone who has a recent diagnosis of aggressive cancer that God sovereignty is  so amazing, that’s just wrong.  I don’t want to die and this firm believer is telling me that it’s all okay?  I love you, but you have no idea what you just said.  I hope that I have never presented Christ to anyone in a way that was insensitive or blatantly out of place.  God help me not to do so in the future.

I’m officially off work, but I am compelled to check my emails and have had to drag myself away from the work laptop.  I am utterly addicted.

I wish I felt comfortable driving to the ocean tomorrow.  My foggy head has been ‘iffy’ behind the wheel.  That road is so dangerous.  It would stress me a lot, and I need to avoid this tendency. Drat it anyway.

Where Do I Begin?

I’m a 57 year old, twice-divorced woman.  I have two beautiful children with beautiful children of their own.  I have Chris, my acquired kid, whom I have loved for 15 years.  I’m so thankful for so many humans and things and jobs and blessings and …  And I have endometrial cancer.

I don’t really know how to start talking about this – it feels so new.  Three weeks ago I was supposed to be walking a half-marathon.  But I had been bleeding heavily for about a week, lightly for a few weeks before that.  Instead of walking a half, I was given an ultrasound and was told three weeks ago today that I needed a hysterectomy.

You should have seen the epic meltdown.  How could I leave my job for 6 weeks? We are in such a transition! How will I pay my bills? Yes, I’m very thankful for short-term disability but what will that look like?  Who can help me?  But I don’t like needing help. In fact, I despise needing help.  I learned 50 years ago that needing help was a futile thing.  But that’s whole different story.

Three weeks ago today, my GYN took a standard biopsy that would take a week to come back. She wasn’t worried. I had no risk factors.  Standard procedure to clear before scheduling surgery.  Once the pathology came back, surgery could be booked in a couple of days.

And a week it took.  One very long, utterly stressful week.  I was trying to get work prepped to be without me, as if I am some requirement for the walls to remain standing. Really, though I didn’t want to leave them stranded, making their days harder because of my lack of foresight.

By about Thursday of the week waiting for the pathology report to come back, I had a “feeling”.  A couple of things shifted in me.  I had become more accustomed to the idea of accepting help and being thankful to have it.  Also, I realized somewhere deep that this wasn’t going to be easy.  So when the call from the GYN came on Friday afternoon, I wasn’t 100% surprised when she told me she didn’t usually deliver this type of lab report over the phone.

Endometrial cancer is just a fancy term for uterine cancer.  There are a few types of cancer of the uterus, I learned.  And I was frustrated with my doctor that she hadn’t told me what ‘brand’ of cancer I have. (Insert more meltdown.)  There are plenty of stories of this kind of thing being 100% healed with a hysterectomy, which I had finally come to grips with. But she didn’t reveal anything about my type of cancer. I wanted to know details!   Finally, on Sunday, I called the on-call fella who said something about “serous” cells, but those were taking him back to his college days and he was rather vague about this too.  I’m beginning to sense a pattern.

I was able to acquire my very own personal oncologist on Wednesday, 2.5 weeks after the planned half marathon.  It was there that I learned that I have an aggressive form of this cancer thing, and that the 2″ tumor that I thought was a fibroid is not, likely, a benign thing at all.  Aggressive. Tumors. Chemo and radiation a strong possibility. WTF???

Today is Friday. To say I’ve gone over the edge of reason is an understatement.  I have been surrounded, truly, by so much love and support.  I’m not alone, yet I’m not often comforted.  My range of emotion is exhausting, even to this life-long consumer of anti-depressants.  And let’s not forget that I am self-supporting by nature.  Needing others is not a personal trait I endeavor to practice.  I prefer to be the one giving the assistance.

Here I am, after two divorces, multiple years of therapy, and an assortment of mental health medication.  I have my own apartment with two bedrooms and two queen beds. A dining room table and sofa and a big TV.  I’ve learned to be content in my little desk/office at the front window, especially when the sun shines in.  After years of being sedentary, I trained enough to survive a half marathon, of which I’m very proud.  I’m slender, a little bit pretty, with really good hair. I assumed that through all of this, there would come along a man that could love me with all my beautiful warts and I could love him.  I am, after all, worthy of this, right?

There have only been two men that I have lived with that have loved me unconditionally for an extended period.  These two men have given me hope that not all men leave you, or lie to you, or end up hating you before you go your separate ways.  These two men have lived with me and still love me. This is a path to hope, I think to myself. I’m lovable. I’m kind. I’m beautiful. And I’ve been pretty picky about who I let inside my personal space.  I’m not very trusting and am not willing to wander into a relationship because they want me to.  I get to choose. Or so I thought. Dreamed. Hoped.

The most difficult challenge I have is with who I’ve thought God to be.  I have always sensed God deeply in who I am.  This has provided a sense of guidance, of purpose – to love others as He loves me.  But who is God, really, to bring me to this point of finally having some measure of mental and physical health, to leave me with this plague? It seems to me a cruel joke.  We  are still discussing it, He and I.  We have not reached any point of resolution as yet.

Today, in the insanity that is within me, I hope that my surgery is completed once the doctor sees the CT scan results.  I hope they don’t see so much cancer in me that they don’t want to take this vile, murderous stuff out of me just yet.  I’m so afraid that I have to be done with my life before I’m ready.  I try very hard to think that I’m not over yet, that there is hope for health and vibrancy ahead. For now, my only resource for hope is in the beautiful humans who love me. I’m not coming up with much on my own.

What a difference three weeks can make.

Time For Bling Bling To Get Some New Bling

For Sale:

One yellow gold Tiffany & Co. solitaire engagement ring, nearly 3/4 carat princess cut and very good quality diamond

One yellow gold anniversary-style wedding band, also Tiffany & Co., inset with 11 princess-cut diamonds

These rings and I have history. They were gifts from my most recent husband, J. The engagement ring was so beautiful, I was afraid to wear it. I am a little hard on the jewelry I own, or at least this was the case when I had multiple kids in the house. With all the laundry, cooking, and random yard work, I couldn’t bear the thought of losing or damaging something that cost a small fortune.

Considering the divorce was my idea, one might think I’d readily pass these on to some lucky sap who was ready to pop the question to his unsuspecting (or quite suspecting) bride-to-be. The thing is, I am having a very difficult time with my expected parting. Besides the fact that I’ve been unemployed for several weeks and could really use the dough, I wish I had a good reason to wear the darned things. I wish that I could still be in our home, loving on our dogs, and taking care of him. I wish that I could still have someone to pour me a glass of wine after a hard day. I wish that I could rub his headaches away. I wish that I could have another opportunity to wear this beautiful engagement ring.

It’s safe to say that the business of weddings is a booming industry, in spite of the slogging economy. According to “The Knot,” the average wedding budget in 2011 was a smidgen over than $27,000. The average wedding dress? Over $1,100. The average guest count was 141.  The average wedding photographer was $2,300 and videographer was nearly $1,500.  The average engagement ring in 2011 was $5,130, not nearly as much as much as the one my groom bought for me.

My rings should be a breeze to sell with all of this cash floating around.

The thing is, it’s hard for me to do. I love these rings. I love those rat dogs. I loved our wine shopping. I loved him. But in spite of all this gushy love crap, it hurt me to stay there. It hurt me to have such harsh words. It hurt more to stay than it did to go. Broken trust is a hard thing to fix. Lies are more than just false words.

I am thankful that I am not in any position to answer if someone were to pop the question to me again. While I do not choose to ordain the works of my great God, I am not much interested in putting my ring finger into anyone else’s care. For now, I have a pretty cute costume-style zircon that works quite well.

Having done all this lamenting, I must state clearly that I love my SoCal life. I love my life here. It is full with family, friends, and the occasional bottle of red wine, all that tickle me in the sweetest way. I also know that, eventually, kids won’t want me to live with them and I’m already losing some of the dear friends I’ve made in my short time here.  Some day, I’ll need something different than what I count on so fiercely today to be a sensitive and caring place to rest my head and hang my photos. When that time comes, it would be nice to have someone to take me to dinner near the water, with the sappy sunset poring its lovely rays on our cabernet sauvignon.

Pictures available upon request.