May 23 2010

Cancer Chronicles: Not Dead After All

(continued from this entry)

Obviously, this chronicling is taking a while, in part because while recovering and healing, it’s not the most pleasant time in my life to remember.  On the other hand, in a major traumatic event like that there’s a bit of a delay in emotional processing, and now that I’m a couple of months out from the event it starts becoming the tiniest bit easier to remember almost dying.  Enough that I can start catching up on these posts a bit, but ooof.

My doctors totally saved my life by the speed with which they moved once we figured out the problem.  It was six days from official cancer diagnosis until I was on the surgery table. We talked last time about the prep leading up to the surgery day. It is very obvious during this whole process, but especially in the hospital, that my support network is much larger, more varied, and more solid than most of the people who come through the cancer ward.  This is a sad thought (one of many) that I won’t have time for until much later, so I stick it aside.  There’s no energy left at this point, for me, to do anything except keep breathing, move zombie-like where people tell me to go, and stay focused on my loved ones near by.  My mom, dad, step-dad, brother, husband, and boyfriend are all present, though arriving in different vehicles they all get there before I am wheeled in for the actual surgery part.

We arrive at horrible-thirty in the morning, since they have to do paperwork mounds and prep me with a radiological dye that will allow them to determine which lymph nodes they will need to take on the right side. (They inject the dye in several places on the right side of my chest that spreads to indicate which is the main sentinel node for that breast and which are its main support nodes.) They have to inject me six times with something that is supposed to hurt — enough that they tell the truth about it hurting before injecting me, which is always a bad sign.  It’s a worse sign of the state that I’m in that I don’t even feel the first two injections, and the next two don’t hurt.  Those last two suck pretty badly, though.

Now we have to wait for two hours or so for it to trickle through enough to do its job.  They do a couple of other medical prep checks on me but otherwise I’m left alone to doze and chat with family.  Not surprisingly, we don’t have much small talk left, and all the big things necessary have been said to everyone. (I made sure during vigil week to communicate my love directly to each person in words, in the larger social swirl.  If I missed you it wasn’t intentfully, let’s get together and make up for it if so!) It is still good to see everyone there again before going under the knife, just-in-case.

Nathan goes back with me into the pre-surgery prep room while the others go to the waiting room.  He and I have grown so much closer during all of this hideous crisis, and there’s still so much not said, not shared.  After all, we’ve only been together less than two short years at this point.  Not anywhere close to the lifetime or three we want to share with each other.  Not even a blip on that scale, really.  He asks me to come back to him, post-surgery. I tell him the last thought I’ll take with me as they put me to sleep is him, of my life with him, our lives together, and of me staying around long enough to get that life-extension technology with him that’s just around the corner so we can do it another hundred years.

Of course there are tears.  I can’t even write this entry two months later without crying.

I’m upset we didn’t get to this sooner, time runs out all over. In the prep room I use Nathan’s phone to record a message to The Kid, just-in-case.  I have to do two takes because my voice breaks down entirely on the first attempt, and the second one isn’t much better but there is just no time left at all, now.  I tell him how amazed and proud I am of him every day, how he’s the best kid I’ve ever known in a long line of really damn awesome kids I have known, how honored and proud I am to have been his mom even for just a little bit, how strong and resilient he is in the face of so much unfair Life Bullshit.  Nathan loses it a bit here but we’re both strong, so we calm quickly when it is time for me to go, enough to kiss farewell.  I don’t want to think about how hard it must have been for him to watch me wheel away.

(I’ll have to get back to the story in another entry of the recovering addict in the prep bed next to me and the surreal conversation happening while the rest of this was going on.)

They tell me they’re going to inject me with the anesthetic now, and the main weird note here is that no one counts backwards for me, like they do on TV.  It almost distracts me from holding onto my thoughts of Nathan and then

***

For the first time in my life (possibly ever, as my brain never shuts up even in sleep), my system is taken offline.  The world is, and then it is not.

And now the unpleasant thought to leave you with, balanced with the reminder that it IS me typing these up which means I do survive the story (so far): In 2010, our modern medical technology can do amazing things, including remove a 13-centimeter tumor from someone’s breast and send them home walking the next day.  But for everyone going through surgery, there is still a dark-ages barbarism lingering in the system, and that place is the Recovery Room, a harmless-sounding name for what must be one of the worst areas in the building.  I can not imagine the emotional drain it must be on someone to work in such a place, but I am very glad that there are people who do so.  Medically we’re still at a place where our doctors feel they can’t safely give pain medication to someone until they have successfully awakened from surgery. (I am not blaming the doctors here, but the Puritan-infested system that continues to decide that pain is somehow still character-building, ok, or suspect when absent and therefore doesn’t put research dollars into such things.)

It is an affront, nay a violation, of my world that this level of pain still exists for anyone in the 21st century, with all our ameliorative capabilities already known.  Why the hell we have not freed ourselves of this tyranny is one of the many neuroses our species will have to answer for, if there is a cosmic scale of judgment anywhere.

I awake into pain beyond all meaning, pain that breaks consciousness in a body that has already recently experienced some of the worst pain measurable with the tumor’s growth.  This is the Recovery Room.  And in true asshole-writer style, I’ll leave you with that emotional cliffhanger (and a reassurance that the pain mentioned will not last long in actual minutes, though the subjective is another thing entirely).  I need a bunnies-and-kittens type break after this entry, and the Recovery Room needs its own entry anyway.

(to be continued)

Love and hugs to anyone who needs ‘em.

2 Responses to “Cancer Chronicles: Not Dead After All”

  1. Maryon 23 May 2010 at 4:13 pm

    I could tell you many Recovery Room horror stories of my own. I’ve been in more Recovery Rooms than I can remember how to count. This room (these — all of them in all hospitals) should be renamed as being The Horror Station. No matter how much suffering one has gone through before surgery, this is a place where there is a higher level of it (or multiple levels). One quick story: There is a nightmare I hope you never experience in a Recovery Room — that of having the tube still down your throat and strapped to your head that is used for giving one anesthetic in the OR during surgery when you awaken (which is supposed to be removed before you awaken) and not only having trouble being able to breathe with it in place but starting to vomit and beginning to drown in it and not being able to get the recovery room nurses to take it out. Try not being able to talk and waving at the nurses who are doing nothing but talking to each other and they tell you they’ll be “over” in a bit to deal with me. Try concentrating on not choking on vomit and literally dying while you can’t get enough air in. Try hoping not to drown in your own vomit before the lazy nurses care enough to remove the tube; before they care enough to stop gossiping (I could hear every word) and tend to a patient in need of help. As they finally got to me and removed the tube they had to turn me on my side to keep me from aspirating vomit into my lungs which nearly happened. Then I passed out from not having enough oxygen. Gossip was more important than patient care!!!!!! And this is just one such experience of many.

  2. Momon 23 May 2010 at 4:42 pm

    I Love You!!!!!