Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bless me, Bloggers...

...for I have sinned. Tonight, I committed the sin of envy. Hot, bitter, stinging envy. Let me set the stage a little. You might have noticed, but I'm a little, um, proud. I know, big shock, right? I hate to admit that I can't do something, or to ask for help or special treatment. But, I'm learning to be smarter than that and to ask for help. So tonight when Jim and I went to the movies, I asked him to drop me off at the door. The parking lot is vast, and since I'm having trouble just making it up or down my stairs these days, I knew I'd never make the trip through the parking lot. Jim, being sweet and wonderful, was entirely okay with it. It helps that I bought his ticket. And after the movie, we waited for the huge crowd of people to leave before Jim helped me totter down the theater stairs (i hate those stairs, with the staggered long and short steps. regular steps are hard enough, but those are horrid) and went to get the car to pick me up at the doors while I used the bathroom.

And this is where the envy comes in. I tottered into the bathroom, leaning over and nursing my side, walking all slowly and carefully. And as soon as I walk in, I see her. There's the pretty, tall, leggy blonde at the sinks, fixing her hair in the mirror. She's standing up straight and tall and she's moving like she's pretty and she knows it. She was wearing wedges and short shorts and some cute little summery top (it's finally warm enough to wear that, outside the theater. i gotta say, inside the theater, it was freezing. like, the ice in your drink doesn't even melt cold) and she was working it. And I won't belittle her for how she was dressed, or for how she carried herself. Girlfriend was working it. And so she should have been. But oh, I was jealous. Hunched over, moving like an old woman, I was jealous.

See, I used to be the girl at the mirror. I used to stop and check my hair out and secretly think that those heels I had on made my legs look long and skinny and toned. Tonight, I just washed my hands and shuffled down the long corridor to wait for Jim. I miss being the girl at the mirror. I miss standing up straight and thinking that I'm feeling mighty fine. Lately, I just feel old and sad and kinda sorry for myself. I hate that. I hate whining to Jim. He's sweet and pretends like he's not tired of hearing me tell him how sore I am or how tired I am after a long, tiring day of not doing anything.

I feel like I've been backsliding a little the last few days. I understand, mentally, that my body was healing up at an amazing rate. And that my poor, battered body can only sustain that rate of healing for so long. I get that, I do. And I know that I need to be gentle with myself, and to be patient. That this is a process that is going to take time, and isn't going to be fun or easy. But emotionally, I know that just climbing the stairs to the bedroom or walking a couple hundred feet down the block is exhausting. And it wasn't this bad a couple of days ago. I wasn't this tired, this frail. Logically, I know that I can already breathe better, now that my lung has re-expanded. Emotionally, not being able to breathe deep, deep down any more scares me. I get out of breath, and I can't grab big deep lungfuls of air. My chest just won't move far enough yet. So I use all my self-control and I try to breathe in nice, regulated rhythms so I don't hyperventilate and pass out. And it still scares me. Not having enough air, feeling like you're suffocating with nothing near your face, is a horrible sensation. Fighting it, being rational and knowing that it will pass, is scary as hell.

I'm strong, I'm tough as hell, and I'm going to get through this and be well again. But sometimes, like tonight, I just wish, for a few minutes, I could go back to how I was before any of this insanity started. Ignorance was bliss. Or I wish I could fast-forward to August or September, when I can have those big, heaving lungfuls of air, when I can suck air down as greedily as anyone who's been holding their breath for six long, long months. I wish I could get past the scary, hard parts that are taking so much life out of me and making me feel so old so very, very fast, and just move right through them. I wish I could cut to a time where people don't need to reassure me, or ask how I'm doing, because they can all tell that I'm all right. A time when I can run, and move, and laugh, and simply hug someone without them handling me like I'm made of china. Knowing that those days are coming, that it's only a matter of months, of weeks, really... That's what keeps me from losing all hope. That's what keeps me moving forward, what makes me keep shuffling on Jim's arm to the end of the block every night before bed. Because one day, not too far down the road, I'm going to look back at this, and I'm going to be proud of me.

And that's way, way more than I'd planned to share with y'all. But you've been with me from the start on this, and I suppose there's no sense holding back now. I don't mean to make you worry, I'm monitoring my physical condition, and if things get too bad, I will contact my doctor. I have a follow-up scheduled for next week, where I'll discuss my progress with them. In the mean time, it's definitely time for a nap before my next pain pills. I hope the weekend goes smoothly for you all, and that you get some of the sun we're finally getting to see.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Little Belated...

This post was meant to go up yesterday, but due to a spotty Internet connection, didn't make it up until today. Yesterday was Father's Day here in the states, and I wanted to take some time to honor my dad.

My dad taught me about perseverance, no matter what the odds, the frustration levels, or what others thought. He also taught me that it's sometimes only a hairsbreadth from stubborn, but that sometimes, stubborn is a good thing.

Everything I know about hard work, I learned from my dad. He's done everything in his power to support his family, working all hours at any job that would help pay the bills. There is no job that is "beneath" anyone. Honest work, no matter what it is, is honest work. And that's something to be proud of.

Dad taught me how cool tools are, and how empowering it is to be able to take something apart and put it back together again. Especially if you can do it with the same number of parts you started out with.

Dad taught me about integrity and respect. Integrity, doing the right thing rather than the easy thing, is never a choice with him. If it's right, it's what you do. You don't take shortcuts or the low road or the easy way out. And you earn respect, and work for it. And once it's earned, you keep working to make sure that you keep it.

Everything I know about using humor as a coping mechanism, I learned from my dad. He calls himself god's cat toy, and it might well be true (though i feel like i give him some competition for the title). But he laughs about it and carries on. He won't let circumstances drag him down, and he won't pass up any opportunity for a joke. Or a really terrible pun.

Goodness knows we had a pretty rocky relationship at some points. But I always, always knew that Dadumms was there for me. I know he wishes for a son every now and again, but I have never felt as though he loved me less for being a girl. I grew up in a house surrounded by love on all sides, and Dadumms is a big part of that. So, although it should have been said yesterday, happy Father's Day. I love you, Dadumms. I'm proud of you, and so glad that we're not just a father and daughter, but friends, as well.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Home at last...

...as of yesterday, but I was too wiped out to blog. Momolla and Dadums came to pick me up from the hospital at noon, and after an uncomfortable ride home (bumps hurt. a lot. our highways are not paved well around here), Momolla got me some pain meds and Coll fed me some soup. And then, wonder of wonders, I took a nap. For three whole, entire, delicious hours, I slept in my own bed. Nobody came in to ask me if I'd had anything to drink, or to check my vital signs or to poke me or prod me or ask embarassing questions about my many bodily functions. I just slept. Three hours was more consecutive sleep than I'd gotten all week, and friends, it was lovely.

After I woke up, I spent a little time with the parents before they headed home. Momolla made a great chicken soup for dinner for us. Having been on a liquid diet for so long, I'm trying to get myself back onto a regular diet again slowly, rather than gorging and paying for it later. And since my appetite's not that great, it's working out pretty well.

I caught sight of myself in the mirror last night as Jim was helping me take a sort-of shower (couldn't get the dressings from the chest tube wet, but I needed to clean myself up some. a week of sponge baths is too much for any person to take) and friends, I look like I lost a fight. I'm pale and have dark shadows under my eyes and I'm covered in bruises and punctures. The incision itself is looking relatively good, the skin is mostly closed. But it's longer around the side than I'd expected. There's a lot of soreness there, which is to be expected. I got spoiled on the epidural, it made everything nice and numb so that I felt a lot better then than I do now.

Still, the soreness will fade, and I'll step down further off the pain meds. The stuff I'm on now is a narcotic, and I don't like it much. It makes thing seem pretty surreal. And I have very vivid, very strange dreams on these pills. Plus, they make me very sleepy. Much as I'd like to spend the rest of the week sleeping, I need to get up and move some, too, otherwise my poor, abused muscles get really sore. I'll try to find a balance between the best of both worlds.

I also need to try to find something to do. I have trouble concentrating (this blog is taking way longer than it should, and it's more disjointed than i like), and I fall asleep easily. So knitting is out, spinning is out, reading is out (unless it's smut, but i can only read so many bodice-rippers), and watching anything with a plot on tv is out. I think I'll probably end up watching free cable movies, since they're all pretty bad, and they don't require much in the way of my attention. Either that, or I'll find some mindless internet game.

Jim's mom is here with me til the end of the week, or til Monday, we haven't really decided yet. It's nice to know I have someone to babysit and take care of me, but at the same time, I wish I had the place to myself. I have been surrounded by people hell-bent on doing things for me and taking care of me for way longer than I am comfortable with, and I can't help but think how nice it will be when I can send everyone home and just take care of myself. At least I have privacy here, and this afternoon I can take a real shower again. I'm getting my life back, a few pieces at a time.

Jim looked at me last night and said, "Hey, you know what? It's over." and I just about cried. It is almost over, finally. After all the months of worry and stress and testing and pain, we're nearly through it. What a relief. Jim said he was proud of me, for the way I've handled this whole situation. I'm not sure he's got any reason to be, I handled it in the only way I knew how, with humor. And I'll say it one more time, because it bears repeating. Without my support network of friends and family and even strangers cheering me on, I couldn't have done this. If I've handled any of this mess with a degree of grace or humor, it's because I could lean on you all. And especially Jim. Through all of this, he has been a source of strength and comfort and love that I truly don't know what I'd do without him. I picked me a good one in him, that much is certain.

It feels like this is the turning point of the year. Jim has a job, I'm healing, and things are starting to look up. I know in my heart that life is a cycle, there are down times and up times. I'm just so glad to feel like we're moving up out of the mud towards the sun at long last. And you know, when I start babbling about philosophy, it's time to sign off. Hope the rest of your week goes well, friends.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ta-DAAAAA!!!

I'm back, ladies and gentlemen. I'm feeling pretty battered and sore, but mostly pretty normal, which is good. I'd hoped to blog before now, but the internet connection here at the hospital ended up being a bit spotty. The web access is free, but you pay for use of a phone or tv, how strange is that setup? I'm on some lovely, heavy-duty pain meds, so this will be kind of brief, since I tend to drop off at odd moments. I just wanted to let everyone know that I am doing okay, and that the surgery went as well as it could possibly have.

I know Momolla has posted the photo-shopped version of Laslow-Mitford, but the tech department at the hospital gave me some lovely, graphic photos of the tumor in-site and after removal, so if anybody is interesting in some gooey, disgusting pictures of a reallyreally big tumor, just send word. We can hook you up.

There was a minor complication with the surgery, which was not at all surprising with the extent to which they opened my rib cage. Apparently, a lymph line or somesuch (it carries fluid called chyle, but every time they explain it, i'm on meds, so i may or may not have this right) was nicked during the operation. Because of that, the fluid coming from my chest tube is plentiful and extra gross. I've been switched off of food and put on a fat-free clear liquid diet (mmmm, everything tastes like cardboard), which is frustrating since I'm hungry, but an improvement over the last two days when I was only allowed to have water. It looks like I'm improving already, and if things keep going this well, I'll be able to eat and have most of my various tubes removed on Monday or Tuesday, and go home pretty soon.

I'm feeling pretty well, all things considered. There's a lot of swelling and itching going on (being allergic to medical tape is so awful. i'm covered in the stuff), and there's a lot of healing going on so fast, it's almost visible. I get out of bed on my own to do laps around the floor every day, and I'm able to go further and further every time I go out. I've had plenty of people come by who are exactly the right kind of visitors, they stay and chat until my eyelids start drooping, and then they leave so I can sleep. Jim hardly gets to see me, since he works so much, but he's here as often as he can be. The drugs tend to creep up on me and knock me out as I'm doing something every few hours, so I slept through most of today's visit, which I felt terrible about.

I hope this weekend finds you all in a place of peace and comfort and joy. And if nothing else, that you're allowed to eat through it!

eta: because i forgot to mention this earlier (morphine makes me confused), the staff here is amazing. everyone is friendly and caring and sweet, and they like me as much as i like them (it's good to be low-maintenance sometimes). i know there have been offers to break knees or provide alibis and all manner of other wonderful methods of handling the folks here if need be, but believe me, they're great. seriously, i think you have to graduate nice school to be allowed to work here. that was all i meant to add. please, carry on with the weekend.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Crunch Time

Only two more full days stand between me and what I have come to think of as The Surgery. I explain to people what's going to happen and why and their eyes get all big. And then I tell them it's a good thing, and that this is the end of a long, scary journey. And their eyes get even bigger. And they tell me they could never be this calm. Or smile when they're talking about their chest getting ripped open.

And well, here's my confession. I'm not exactly scared of The Surgery. But I'm intimidated. It's one thing to know intellectually that I have two of the very best surgeons my part of the country can offer. And to know that they're competent and amazing and considered some of the very best at what they do. And to know that this is going to hurt and suck a lot, but will be over soon. It's an entirely different thing to feel that anxiety in the pit of my stomach. I'm aware that the odds of anything catastrophic happening are minute, and that my chances of recovering even faster than they think I will are pretty good. But I'm still intimidated. I don't have a good way to describe it, really. Fear feels different. Fear is when there's a big angry dude who's yelling at you in the parking lot after the store closed and you're the only one around and it's dark in a bad part of town (this has happened once. i take great care not to leave the store alone at night if i can possibly help it). This is more like when there's a big, angry dude who thinks that I, personally, broke his car and is yelling about it during the day with lots of people around. I know full well how things will go, and that there won't be any damage (to me or to his ego), but it's still tough to face the big angry dude down and hold your ground. See what your brain can spit out when you worry at a thing too long?

And in the interest of distracting me, Momolla, Dadumms, Jim (probably) and I are going to an alpaca (paccy, in australian) fest in Jersey on Sunday. I can't wait to see the fuzzies! If I ever win the lottery, I've decided I want an alpaca farm. I have it all planned out, and Jim is already onboard. I'd figured on spending the day cleaning to keep myself busy and because it'll make me happy to know that I will come home to a clean house after the hospital. Instead, I'm going to get all that mess out of the way today and tomorrow around work so that I can spend Sunday spinning and relaxing and visiting the fuzzies! It sounds like the weather will be dry and decent for the first time in a week, so I'm looking forward to getting out of the house for something other than work.

This might be my last post for a couple of weeks, since I may or may not get teh interwebs while I'm in the hospital. Blogs will be updated, as will facebook statuses and phone calls will be made. Thank you all one more time for sharing this adventure with me, and for all the love and friendship and support. It's great to know I'm never alone in this.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I'm Amazed...

We had a great turnout for the beef and beer on Saturday. It felt like a lot of work from my end, and all I did was wander around and mingle and hug people and say thank you. I can only imagine how Amy and Laura, who organized it, must have felt. Not to say the day wasn't fun, it was a blast. I just left feeling very, very drained. The interesting thing is the assortment of people that came out to visit and donate and say hello; it was quite the cross-section of my life. Some of my sorority sisters were there, my Jersey Girls and their parents (some of whom I hadn't seen in years), some of Dadumm's sisters (who I also hadn't seen in a very, very long time), and a group of people that I went to school with. Much as I complained about growing up in a small town when I was younger, there is a great sense of community there. And through everyone's generosity, we raised enough money that I was able to pay three months worth of rent and car insurance, and I still have enough money to buy groceries and gas and pay my utility bills. I know money can't buy happiness, but it can get you peace of mind, which is not too far off sometimes. Knowing that my bills will get paid is a huge weight off my mind, and the stress levels around here have dropped a lot.

This whole experience has been scary and stressful and has, frankly, sucked. But it's been a lot easier to get through than it could have been, because I have had an absolutely amazing group of people cheering me on from the start. All the support, the prayers, and the warmth I've received have been a huge comfort to me. It's only because of you all that I've been able to handle this with any degree of grace or sanity. There are people in places I have never even seen that are thinking good thoughts and sending me prayers, and hope and virtual hugs, and that amazes and humbles me. Someone recently commented on Ravelry that knitters are not actually nicer than any other group, but can be even crueler. That may be the case for her, but I have been surrounded by so much kindness and warmth and love from so many knitters that I can't help but think she's wrong. You have all been a wonderful comfort and a source of strength and humor. I will never look back on the last several months fondly, but I will be able to look back with wonder and awe.

And there is one person that I need to thank specifically, and from the very bottom of my little heart. Roxie, I can't thank you enough for the cards and presents. I love presents and surprises, especially when I don't know they're coming. You've been so generous and so sweet, and you've made me laugh to the point where I almost feel like I'm celebrating something. A thousand thank you's to you, for all your incredible kindness and warmth (figurative and literal, the comforter really lives up to the name. and it lives on my bed. i wake up and see the little alien friends and smile every morning). Working where I do, I tend to not see humanity at anything approaching its best, and it's so refreshing to be reminded in such a personal way that actually, everybody does not suck. In fact, some people rock out.

And while the love is being spread, there are a few other folks I want to say thanks to. Bells, RoseRed, Galad/Nancy, Monique, you guys are amazing. You've all got busy lives and we live across the world (or country, as the case may be) from each other, but you all take the time to let me know that you're thinking of me and pulling for me. The love and humor you all send keeps me hopeful and gives me strength. And I'm entirely convinced that the only reason this thing is benign is because there are so many people sending good thoughts to me. You've all got my deepest thanks for being there for me, and for being part of my blog family. As Jim would say, you guys are win.