CoffeeBeer >> Warts & All >> Moon In Cancer

July-November 1992

Final Recovery—The Final Weeks

Monday Week 15:

I've been trying to do a little bit of something physical every day. Saturday was Halloween. I did two loads of laundry and wore real clothes all day. By Saturday night my abdomen was so sore that instead of going to the upstairs neighbours' Halloween party I decided to go to bed. Today I dusted our bedroom and took a couple of things down to the basement. Now I'm exhausted. But I can't seem to take naps anymore. I'm fatigued enough to nap, but I don't lose consciousness. I can lie on the couch with my eyes closed and breathe hard and steady for an hour or two just like I'm sleeping. But I'm not unconscious.

M and I have started having sex again. Not intercourse yet; I don't think I'm quite ready for that. (And I'm a little bit afraid to find out how my remodeled vagina functions.) But oral sex is quite wonderful.

Friday Week 15:

I'm getting around the house a little more each day, doing a few more physical things. I took my first actual walk on Wednesday, down to my hairdresser's. I was quite winded, but I was proud of myself for doing it. I noticed this morning that I'm starting to use my stomach muscles to sit up without suffering excruciating pain. (It still hurts like hell in my abdomen whenever I sneeze.) But the most exciting news is the fact that my face is flushed and hot and I have a rash on my forehead and I had a terrible time sleeping last night because I have Premenstrual Syndrome! I've never been so excited about being so miserable before. The full moon occurs next Tuesday. Is it going to be obscured by clouds or is it going to be as bright as ever?

Saturday Week 15:

I did housework today. I cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed the study and did a load of laundry in preparation for my good friend E's visit from California. Fortunately M was home from work to help me, because I collapsed on the sofa from exhaustion late in the afternoon. At 6:00pm we drove to the airport to pick up E. We walked through the terminal, took a wrong turn and had to retrace our steps, met E, and walked back to the car. This is the longest walk I've taken so far. We had a very leisurely pizza in Capitol Hill, and I drank a wonderful pint of beer. A pint of beer!

Sunday Week 16:

I awoke exhausted from yesterday's activities. For some reason I had trouble sleeping. M and E and I had breakfast at a bistro in Capitol Hill and then we drove out to Snoqualmie Falls. It was raining and hailing. The falls seemed to be gushing twice as much water as two weeks ago, and the violent mist blowing off of them nearly drenched us on the lookout deck. We ran into a couple of friends, and then we drove back to Seattle. After I had an adrenaline-saturated "rest" on the sofa we went out for Mexican food. When we got home I decided to celebrate by eating a Trader Joe's biscotti covered with fine dark chocolate. Unfortunately the fine dark chocolate kept me awake that night.

Tuesday Week 16:

Yesterday E and I dropped M off at work (E did the driving) and met B for breakfast at a cafe in Capitol Hill. I spent two hours mostly listening to B talk to E about her man problems. Still suffering from PMS or whatever hormonal imbalance I currently have, I didn't feel like participating in that particular conversation.

E and I drove around and did a few errands and then returned home where E cleaned the kitchen floor while I took a wonderful bubble bath permeated with the aroma of violets. Then I cooked my signature dish, coquille St Jacques Limousine, the first fancy cuisine I've prepared since before the hysterectomy. It was delicious, too.

Today E and I had a leisurely breakfast. Then we drove down to the waterfront and took the car ferry to Bainbridge Island. The day was very cold and majestically cloudy. We drove up to the northeastern part of the island and collected shells on the beach at Fay Bainbridge State Park. Normally I would have loved the air and I would have wanted to take a long walk; but as my legs were covered in only the thinnest of leggings, I felt quite cold and wimpy. So we drove back to Winslow and had some nice warm tomato dill soup at a diner.

When we got back to Seattle we stopped in Lower Queen Anne to do a couple of errands. And I drove us home from there. I know it's only a few blocks, but it felt good and I felt powerful and in control. (I also felt pretty sore when we got home. But the momentary power and sense of control was pleasant, anyway.)

E cooked Cuban black beans and rice while I tried unsuccessfully to rest away my fatigue on the sofa. B came over and we had dinner and watched videos. When I finally went to bed I could feel myself falling down a deep pit of complete exhaustion. Happy exhaustion, though.

Friday Week 16:

E left for home on Wednesday. That afternoon I felt my adrenaline-fueled energy dwindle away to painful fatigue. My incision has been hurting quite a bit for the past couple of days, and I'm nearly out of prescription Ibuprofen. Last night I remembered that I still have some Anaprox, so I took one in the middle of the night. It was wonderful: it eased my pain completely. I hadn't realised that I've been in continuous pain for a little while now, slight as it is. No wonder my fuse is so short.

Wednesday afternoon I decided it was time to try intercourse. It was time to conquer my fear about my remodeled anatomy. M entered me from behind so as not to rub against my tender abdomen. It hurt a little bit, so we adjusted to a less painful but less passionate position. I guess it will be a couple more weeks before it won't hurt.

M said afterward that he could feel something up inside me like an obstruction, perhaps a staple. This morning I took a shower and stuck my finger way up myself to see what I could feel. I discovered a new fold I'd never felt before. And then I felt what M had probably felt: something hard and sharp like an uneven pebble. Two pebbles, actually. One of them came out: it was a jagged pebble of white plastic. Logically I would assume this was a staple. But aren't the staples supposed to dissolve inside? Didn't Doctor H say they would come out as discharge? The other jagged pebble is still lodged up inside me. I wonder how many more there are up there. I wonder how long they'll be up there, how long it will be before the hard plastic dissolves into fluid discharge and my very own vagina feels normal and hospitable again...

I feel depressed again. Now that my friend-induced adrenaline rush is gone, I realise that I'm not much better than I was two weeks ago. Today is exactly six weeks since my last surgery. Doctor H said I'd probably be "all back to normal" in six weeks. Sure thing. I can't walk to the post office, I can't stop taking pain pills, I can't stand wearing normal clothing all day, and I'm pretty exhausted. This isn't remotely related to "normal".

Friday Week 17:

I became very angry the other night thinking about the term "back to normal". On Monday W from my temping agency phoned to see how I was doing. He seemed surprised that I wasn't close to "back to normal" yet, and he seemed quite shocked when I said that I might not be ready for temping for another month.

I realised that my physical condition is only one aspect of this "back to normal". Granted, Doctor H said that it might take me eight weeks instead of six weeks before I'm back up to "normal" physical activity and strength (and undoubtedly longer until I'm back up to my normal physical activity and strength). But I realised that I am never going to be "back to normal". Physically I'm going to be missing a large pear-shaped organ from now on. Physically I'm not going to be having menstrual periods anymore. Mentally I will be a cancer survivor from now on. Mentally I will always be aware of my "healthy" body's vulnerability that I was never aware of before. Mentally I will always be able to picture those huge grotesque abnormal cells invading my body, not that comfortable somebody else's body. And emotionally I will never be again who I was emotionally four months ago. I've just had my second major brush with death. The first one eight years ago planted the seed of change in me, the seed that grew into me wanting to get out of Southern California and do something different with my life. This brush feels as if it has pushed me further away from tolerating the mundane. At this point today I don't see how I could ever force myself to do menial word processing work for medical insurance companies or real estate developers or lawyers again. I just feel like I won't be able to tolerate temping anymore. And I won't be able to tolerate the high-stress long-commute socially geeky overtime life of a programmer in the Seattle area, either. I'm feeling pretty lost as to my future. I have to do something with our two part-time home businesses. there seems to be nothing else left for me.

I hope that going down to Los Angeles for Christmas is not a big mistake. I strongly felt like I wanted to see my family and my friends. But how will I react to seeing the people I visit going through their daily "normal" lives, doing all the things that feel "normal" to them, making their livings and contemplating their dreams? I feel like I've phase-shifted slightly into a different dimension. I hope I don't make a fool of myself. And I really hope I don't fall apart at the seams.

Monday Week 19:

On Saturday M and I walked to the post office and Lower Queen Anne together. we stopped for lunch at the local pizza place, which gave me a break and a chance to rest before walking home. Today I walked to the post office by myself and walked back and over to the video rental shop and then home. This trek, which would be just a little local walk to me normally, was a major achievement in my recovering sense of fitness: my still skinny thighs are now backed by muscles again and I don't seem to lose my breath quite so easily. It's wonderful! I'm starting to do a few yoga postures which don't stretch or strain my abdomen, and yesterday I treated myself to my first late-afternoon beer in two months: a Full Sail Wassail Ale. (Wha'say? Say 'Ssail Wassail Ale?')

On Friday, a lovely dark stormy cold wet day, I took a bus to the downtown library to do some work research. I treated myself to a decaf latte at the Starbucks next door and then spent an hour missing buses and finally catching one back home. I was quite exhausted when I got home, but I was happy to have been downtown and out. It was exciting sitting in Starbucks watching people walk by who weren't walking past my own window for a change. Exciting, even with a decaf!

Saturday morning when I awoke I noticed a little bump below my incision I'd never noticed before. It's right below the centre, about a quarter of an inch down. It feels like the top of a dollhouse-sized bowling pin. It's rooted to the spot and I can push my skin around on top of it. This discovery coincided with a mildly worrisome soreness near my bladder. After looking up all sorts of things like "hernias" and "bladder cancer" in my medical encyclopedia, I'm going to assume this is some sort of scar tissue that I didn't notice before because I've been obsessed with feeling the top sensitive part of my incision instead of the bottom part. If it gets bigger or stranger or I start to hurt there I'll phone the doctor.

An interesting phenomenon has resulted from my vagina remodel. M says that I taste different than I did before. How strange; is this because the vagina is now isolated and doesn't lead up to other organs which undoubtedly imparted their own particular spices to the route? Have I now changed the course of Western civilisation? Will Columbus have landed on the shores of India instead of the West Indies? Am I now 100% Choctaw instead of 0.00078%?

Only time will tell, I suppose. I know my own history has been altered considerably. I guess I'm ready to close this chapter of my life and start the next one. I'm not completely well yet, and I'm not antidepressed yet, and I haven't even begun to consider what not having a uterus really means to my little psyche. And I've made a solemn oath to myself to never ever attempt to become "normal", and if I do feel like I'm becoming "normal" to run out and get a frontal lobotomy quick.

But it's time to start writing the next chapter of this whole thing. I just hope I don't get writer's block.

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