CoffeeBeer >> Warts & All >> Moon In Cancer

July-November 1992
Page 6

Final Recovery—The First Month

Sunday Week 13:

When I awoke there was a tray of food in front of me that didn't glow in the dark. On the tray was a bowl of cream of wheat, some sort of yogurt concoction, and natural neutral-toned food. I ate and then Doctor L came in and told me I could go home.

I left the hospital at 11:00am. M and my mother came to pick me up and Nurse T wheeled me to the car in a wheelchair. It was beautiful outside. The sky was blue with big billowy clouds. It looked like it had been raining and autumn was at its peak. The oranges were brilliant.

Riding home from the hospital I wore very loose leggings but they were still painful. I took them off as soon as I got home and was for the first half of the day wearing nothing but a big t-shirt. This would be okay if I were sleeping all of the time. But if I have visitors or want to walk around the house, I would need to be a little more decent. Since M and I can't have sex for a month, I got this great idea that would be a bit sensual but would also solve my problem of being clothed. I could wear M's boxer shorts! I thought they would be nice and loose and there's nothing in the front so they wouldn't rub against my incision. And it would be fun, too.

As it turned out I had lost too much weight and am too skinny to wear even skinny M's boxer shorts. So my mother went out and bought me a pair of my own. They are boy's boxer shorts with the little convenience hole in the front, but they're black and white striped with blue roses. They're very comfortable. The great thing about them is that I can open the little convenience hole in the front that a man would normally urinate through and look at my incision. It's covered with pieces of tape. When they took out the staples they put tape over the staple marks. I've got eight pieces of tape. I must have had eight staples.

My mother is folding up my laundry right now. She's taking care of me and nursing me just as if I were a small child.

Tuesday Week 13:

It's my mother's birthday. She's celebrating it by washing the dishes right now. I'm lying in bed. I've just finished some cereal so I can take my pain pill, and I'm drinking a cup of decaf coffee that my mother made for me. My cat is having his morning bath on my feet, and it's a lovely day.

I've got quite a bruised stomach, but everything is healing the way it is supposed to. Doctor H got the pathology report back before I came home from the hospital. It showed that they got all of the cancer out. I can't honestly say I'm cured, because they don't consider you cured until your cancer hasn't recurred for five years. I'll have to go in for a lot of check-ups. But for all intents and purposes at this time, I'm CURED!

I'm lying in my bed. The sun is coming through the window, but it's nice and cold outside. I was hoping it would be cold during my first week of recovery because I figured I'd just be lying in bed sleeping a lot.

I'm glad I have a view from my bed so I can see the autumn colours. It looks like it's going to be a clear day, but at least it's cold. It's been in the 30s [Fahrenheit] at night.

I have a pile of drugs next to me on my nightstand. I'm taking Tylox, a heavy-duty morphine drug "for moderate or severe pain, 1-2 capsules every 4 hours." I started alternating that with my Tylenol with Codeine which is for "moderate pain, 1-2 tablets every 4 hours." I also have Simethicone which I "chew one tablet 4 times daily after meals and at bedtime for gas", because when one has abdominal surgery one has a lot of trouble with gas. On the same subject I also have Docusate Sodium, 250mg., 10 capsules, "1 capsule daily as needed for relief from constipation". But that's the way it goes. I also have a hospital sample tube of Blistex because I've had a big cold sore on my lip. I have some crackers here to take my pills with in the middle of the night because I'm supposed to take the pain pills with food. And then I have the descriptions of the side effects that could occur from all of these drugs: fainting, nausea, constipation, nervousness, visual changes, stomach cramping, and rash. All of these things I can look forward to.

So far my daily activities have involved taking lots of naps, occasionally taking walks throughout the house with little tiny steps. And then I go to the toilet a lot. And I eat tiny meals and take pills.

Many people have been calling on the phone. My mother's gone off on an adventure, trying to walk down the hill to the local grocery store.

I still have claw-mark scabs all over my back.

Wednesday Week 13:

Yesterday W phoned from my temping agency and asked my mother how I was doing. All they knew at W & Associates was that I was recovering from the second of two surgeries. My mother told him I was doing well and that they'd got all of the cancer. Today I received a huge bouquet of flowers from W & Associates.

(Over the course of my recovery I also received three different bouquets from M and T and my mom, flowers from my in-laws, and a house plant from my dad. I received get-well cards from friends, relatives, ex-workmates, and family friends in Boston, Santa Barbara, Long Beach, Seattle, Banning, Texas, England, El Cerrito, Redwood City, Torrance, Issaquah, and New York. And 3 friends sent me books from California and Oregon and another friend sent me magazines from New Mexico. And I received lots of phone calls from everybody.)

Saturday Week 13:

I'm lying on the sofa because it's 11:30am. My first four days home from the hospital I spent in bed, sleeping and eating tiny meals. I finally felt well and restless enough to venture into the living room every morning to spend the day on the sofa. The weather is cooling off, so I wear a long comfortable sweater and boxer shorts under my cat's furry warm blanket. If my boxer shorts went down to my knees, I could wrap the scarf my mother-in-law sent me from China around my head and look just like a typical young 20-something Seattle dude.

My mother is leaving for her home in Banning, California tomorrow. Today she's busy in the kitchen cooking kippered salmon manicotti and a ricotta espresso dessert (which subsequently exploded as she was removing it from the oven and ended up in little bits all over the kitchen) and oatmeal cookies. She's been spoiling me for almost two solid weeks now, bringing me fresh-squeezed orange juice and Starbucks coffee for breakfast and cooking M and me gourmet meals for dinner. She also washes the dishes, does the laundry, changes the sheets, and pampers the cat. Since she's been here she's bought us a lounging pillow, some bedsheets, a springform pan, a can opener, a dicer, a dishcloth, dish towels, biodegradable laundry detergent, clothes for M, clothes and an umbrella for me, and all of the food we've been eating, and she's even pitched in on our bulk mailing costs for our business and our medical bills. I guess she's just a real mom.

I was taking Tylox alternating with Tylenol III With Codeine every four hours. Having become quite constipated, I finally quit taking the Tylenol III With Codeine and now take a Tylox at night and Ibuprofen (600 mg) all day long. I wake myself in the night to eat a cracker and take a pain pill before the pain wakes me by itself. The Ibuprofen doesn't work as well on the pain as the codeine did, but it's time I weaned myself and my poor abused lower intestines off of the narcotics. So I feel a little worse now that I have been simply because I'm feeling some pain in my incision and abdomen. My abdomen is very sensitive because the nerves are coming back to life.

I took my first standing shower yesterday. I felt so ambitious I decided to shave off my three-week forest of hair under my arms, but the blade clogged and went dull. My body looks skeletal except for my abdomen. The skin below my incision is flat, but just above it the flesh is swollen and projects like an upside-down shelf. It looks as if I swallowed a huge banana slug and it lodged horizontally just above my incision.

My shaved abdominal hair is about half grown out. It started itching immensely a few days ago, so I finally pulled the strips of tape on my staple marks off so I could rub Aloe Vera gel over the whole area. Fortunately they shaved me only down as far as my pubic mound. Friends who have had babies tell me they've been shaved completely down and under. I'd hate to imagine the ravages of this torturous itch extending down around my poor forgotten clitoris.

A bluebird of some sort just flew past the window. Last Sunday M took me for a short autumn-leaf drive. We drove down a street near his work that's covered with old railroad tracks. Two railroad cars, one green and one bright red, sit on the side of the street flanked by brilliant red-leafed and orange-leafed trees. I actually walked a half block to the natural grocery shop, too. (And once I was there I wished I could have been carried back to the car.)

I've been spending the past few days eating small meals, sleeping, reading, and concentrating on my bowels. The days are beautifully cool and cloudy and the giant tree outside the living room is turning yellow and getting ready to drop leaves. I'm getting antsy. I can't wait until I can sit at the computer. There is so much work to be done. I still can't sit in a chair or sit cross-legged for more than five or ten minutes at a time. Hopefully in the next three or four days I will be able to do these things. I've much of our home business work and personal work to do, and I'd feel better about lounging and sleeping the day away if I could spend just a couple of hours each day getting some work done. I guess it's just the restlessness of the laid-up entrepreneur.

Wednesday Week 14:

I'm finally starting to sit at the computer for an hour or so each day. Now that I'm taking Ibuprofen all day, I have a constant nagging sting in my incision. I take one Tylox at night. I try to wake up and take it for the four most critical hours of nighttime sleep, because it washes over me and relieves all traces of pain so I can sleep soundly. I've got only three Tylox left, so I'm going to try to stick to Ibuprofen tonight and see if I can sleep through the ache.

It's almost three weeks now and I'm depressed because I'm still on pain pills. My brother and his wife are flying into Seattle tonight. I was hoping I'd at least be able to go out to dinner with them and have a little glass of wine or beer. Maybe I'll still be able to go to a restaurant. I'll just have to longingly admire what the others drink.

It's beautiful outside. I can taste the weather on my tongue: cool, brisk, sun splashes, wind, rain, colour. It makes me jealous of myself in previous times when I could go out and take a walk at the drop of a hat. I'm getting impatient. The next three weeks are going to be a bit difficult.

Monday Week 15:

My brother and sister-in-law stopped by on Friday to visit just as M was going back to work from his lunch break. I suggested we go have lunch somewhere, realising that I was committing myself to getting dressed and walking a few blocks and sitting at a table and eating. What a strange concept...

We had a pizza at a restaurant in Capitol Hill. My sister-in-law ordered a sampler of microbrews that consisted of three small glasses of beer. I took a few sips of beer, my first alcohol in almost a month. Then I directed my brother through a driving tour of Capitol Hill and up to Gasworks Park. Before my surgery I had driven my mother to Gasworks Park and helped her with her crippled feet to climb over the little hill. This time I was the cripple, clutching at my abdomen as I gingerly stepped over the dirt clods.

Next we stopped at Kerry Park to see the view of the skyline and Mt Rainier. It was at this point that my brother and sister-in-law discovered they were tired and I discovered I was sore.

On Saturday M and I had lunch with my brother and sister-in-law at a Mexican cafe. Then we drove out to Snoqualmie Falls. We walked through the park outside the Salish Lodge and up and down ramps and flights of stairs. I felt like an old lady, taking little mincing steps to the side so as to not hinder any youthful hurrying person like my normal self.

Sunday we took the car ferry to Bainbridge Island. M drove and I sat in the front seat, but I didn't wear a seatbelt in order to ease the abuse I was putting my abdomen through. We stopped at Beans Point to take pictures of the view and then we drove up Toe Jam Hill Road. We stopped for espresso and scones and apple pie at a tea room in Winslow. The foliage everywhere was beautiful.

On the ferry back I couldn't help standing out in the invigorating cold wind as we neared Seattle. I'm probably going to kill myself, I kept thinking. But I'm having fun, goddamnit! I really need this break.

Back home I collapsed on the sofa in a sore exhausted heap. We met my brother and sister-in-law again for dinner that night. We went to an Italian restaurant in Pioneer Square where I had my first glass of wine in a month. Then I eased my aching body into bed, wishing for stronger pain pills.

Today I am very fatigued and my abdomen is a bit swollen and very sore. My post-op headache is constant and the Ibuprofen seems to be too weak. And I have a yeast infection on top of everything else. I do hope this is the way things are supposed to be progressing.

Friday Week 14:

Wednesday morning I took a shower and decided to shave my legs. It was a rather sad experience. I had become attached to the long natural silky hairs covering my legs. I enjoyed the androgynous feeling of lying in bed in a pair of boxer shorts and stroking my hairy legs. I found myself wishing that society would let women have hairy legs. I almost cried as I shaved my leggy tresses off and watched them clog the shower drain.

Then M and I went out to lunch at the Mexican restaurant on top of the hill. And we had margaritas on the rocks. Mine was delicious but it hit me like a ton of bricks. We stopped at the local grocery to pick up a couple of items. I swam through the isles, amazed at how much the shop had changed in a month.

Yesterday M drove me to Doctor H's office for my one-month checkup. Doctor H examined me and said that everything was healing as it's supposed to be healing. She didn't know why I'm having headaches, but she suggested that it could be because I'm slightly anemic from losing so much blood in surgery. She also told me that it will take a year for my incision to look normal, meaning not only for it to be flesh-coloured and soft but for the huge lumpy banana slug shelf to go away. This was really depressing news for me. I'm hoping that my usual regimen of yoga, sit-ups, lower back exercises, and strenuous walking will smooth the gross little mound out.

To "celebrate" the fact that I'm getting better (even though I don't feel like it yet), M and I went out to dinner at a nice seafood restaurant on Shilshole Bay. We both had lobster tails. It was quite good.

Last night I dreamed that my good friend E arrived from California on Saturday night for a visit. She went out for a walk and didn't come back until Wednesday morning. I felt rather hurt that she hadn't come to Seattle to visit me. Then E and M and I went to the beach before we drove E back to the airport. The sky was very dark and cloudy. E was dancing around laughing in the waves and M was wading gingerly through the waves, so I decided to join them. And then I spotted a small whale bouncing around in the water. But the whale turned into a shark.

Today M brought me a Halloween pumpkin bread that one of his workmates baked for me. It has a couple of spiders and one eyeball sticking out of it and blood dripping down the side. It's beautiful!

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