Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Taking the bitter with the sweet

Well, just when you're on a high, the smack-down comes. Today, I got taken down. By fatigue, a rumbly tummy, the sniffles. I don't know if all my fun of the last couple of days caught up to me, or if I'm fighting off a cold, or if somehow seasonal allergies have snuck through the double-doses of Allegra the allergist still has me on to fight The Rash. But today, I've been in bed. Wrapped in a fuzzy fleece robe with rainbows and peace signs and little Weebly-looking creatures that a friend made for me. Watching bad daytime t.v., feeling shitty, and feeling a wee bit sorry for myself.

As my mother-in-law darted around, tidying and helping with laundry, she imparted some good, firm bits of wisdom - I am ONLY two weeks and three days out of major surgery. No matter how good I might look, I need time to recover. It's as simple as that. Her diagnosis is "over-do." I hesitate to think she's right, but she has the wisdom of experience on her side. I've got nothin', and a bad over-doing track record to boot. I might well be guilty.

I have perked up since this a.m., and I attribute it to: 1) rest; 2) protein consumption; 3) a vat of hot-buttered popcorn I managed to make myself; and 4) my FIRST REAL SHOWER.

That's the sweet - but there is still bitter there, too. My drain holes are closed enough, says Doctor Dave. I'm still going to take my antibiotics for a few more days, just to be sure, but this afternoon, I needed to be clean. So I jettisoned the Shower Shirt and ventured in. I will admit to you, I was a little scared. Excited, but scared . . . what would the water feel like on my incisions? My abused upper-body? Well, the water on my back was delicious. All the fine scrubbing by a well-intentioned husband cannot replicate the feeling of the shower water, beating on your back.

But the incisions - this is where my "new normal" came rushing in. Because, well, I'm numb. Although I have pressure and weirdness and some swelling and zings and zaps from nerve regeneration, I am numb in a big band around my upper body. I look like I have all my parts, but they are not MY parts, and these replacement parts have no sensation. So when you ask me what it felt like to take a shower, I can say, "It was great not to hassle with the shower shirt!" or "I finally was able to soap myself up because I'm done with The Rash, and boy, did that feel fabulous." But there was some sadness there . . . because I'm not who I was. I never will be the same. And today it hit home more acutely than ever. One, because it was a down-day for me to start. And two, because I feel nothing on my upper body.

Yes! Yes! I hear you now: I am cancer-free. This was the right choice, the only choice for me. I have the best doctors, a great family, things are trending upwards and it's ALL GOOD. But anyone who's been through this knows that sometimes, you gotta have a little pity party. You need to acknowledge that it is hard, it hurts. It just sucks.

So today sorta sucked. I'm clean and my hair is washed, but there are still miles to walk before I'm "me" again. And that's OK. It's a process, I know. I'll get there. Today just felt like a "two steps back" kind of day. Hopefully tomorrow I'll move forward again. Somehow, I think I will.




  1. I am sorry for this journey you are on. I know you didn't want to be on it. You have managed it with such determination and grace (and a great sense of humor, I might add). Those of us on the sidelines wish we could snap our fingers and make these bad days go away, but of course we can't. All I can say right now is I wish for a better day for you tomorrow, and a future where your body feels like "your own" again. Oh, and I also wish for February to come quickly. :)

  2. You know this takes time. It has been 2 years now since the surgery and most days I don't think about the huge scar across my abdomen. But it took awhile to get there. That will be you...but just not today. :-( And having a pity party is entirely OK

  3. I know we've been happily keeping score and you have (and still are) kickin' ass all around, but I think the point here is shared with your MIL! It's hard to remember that it's only been 2 1/2 weeks since surgery. You have come miles since that first walk down the hall in the hospital, but there are still miles left to discover (both physically and mentally). Take time and allow yourself to feel it ALL!! Make no excuses - having tough days doesn't erase the gratitude in being cancer-free. It just says that sometimes the price to pay for getting cancer-free can just "suck it"!! (just my personal opinion!) Pity parties are expected and real, as are realizations and celebrations. No matter what the mood or the experience - know that we are all out here with you - for you.

    I, like Wendy, find that I don't often think about my scars or long for "what used to be", but I will admit that it took a long while to get to that point. Like the Velveteen's part of becoming REAL (again)!

    Hugs - Heidi Ho

  4. Aw... Though I think that the "getting your a$$ handed to you" after overdoing it a bit post-surgery is a time-honored tradition for Type As. (I think I mentioned to you that I'd done the same with my surgeries and kidney stuff.)

    As for the sensations (or unfortunate lack thereof), I wonder if it'll all be less noticeable when the various crazed moving parts of your existence start crashing back in, you know?

    I can't imagine the road ahead is easy, but just look at how far you've come over two weeks?

    Hang in there, babe.

    Love, Dana

  5. I can't attest to what it feels like to have a double but with my single I remember the roller coaster you are describing. I remember one day I would feel manic with all that I could accomplish and the next day I would feel like it was such a drain to walk down the steps (yes, walk down!).

    I can't say that there are many days where I miss my breast (though there are days when I feel more lopsided than others). But it did take some time to get there.

    You'll get there! I have no doubts.