Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Life, Death and Seasons

What is it about spring that makes us want to get rid of clutter? It's in the stars, I guess. The way God intended. The clearing out, cleaning out, making way for ducklings, young, bright and new.

The stages of my cancer recovery have coincided perfectly with the seasons. Diagnosed in the fall just after the leaves changed and started falling from the trees. Then chemo winter, barren and stark, like my whole body, parched and dry and cracked. (The best fix – Weleda Skin Food. Stuff's fabulous.) Feeling as naked as the stiff ground. And thank God for spring, and surgery. Getting rid of, clearing out, cleaning out to make way for the new.

On the day after Easter, I spent my first whole day with NJ, and barely any drugs. It was 80 degrees outside. I was tired, and NJ and I napped together for the first time since March 30. We strolled to the coffee shop on Main Street. It felt nice to be among the bustling, busy day and people with things to do and places to go. Business, things being done. I had a latt̩ with coconut milk and raw Stevia (love that they have that there); NJ had a bit of cookie. I hadn't been to the coffee shop in a while. Jon blames the place itself for giving me cancer because that's where I went everyday for sweet treats and cinnamon rolls just before it all went down. And now I'm back, the addict going back to her dealer, her mistress Рmy love affair with sugar. But, it's reassuring that I'm learning more and more how to genuinely enjoy my old haunts with a new food attitude, and a better picker. That's the hard part. The new choices, and the starting over.

I've started over before, lots, but I thought getting married, meeting my husband meant not having to start over anymore. I was so wrong. Now we begin again. Life after cancer. And so now I feel like I should say something about "surviving."

I don't feel like a breast cancer survivor, just a survivor in general, like, isn't everyone surviving all the time, living through each day, beating some kind of odds? Being one of the marriages that lasts, a writer who gets published, a mom who really does get to have it all, being kind, having real, true faith. We are all survivors when we get through the treacherous, heady, life-inducing, laughter-invoking, lush, pink day. If you live in or around DC, you're a survivor when you get to and from work, and if you get home with a smile on your face, you are truly victorious.

It is not easy always, but it can be, mostly. Easy in the way it is to navigate a ridiculous argument with your mostly-lovely husband, easy in the way it is to shift a trusty old five-speed you love to drive, easy in the way it is to love your children and find them more beautiful every day, even as they get smarter, craftier and generally crazier (and more terrifying in their capacity to become if you're not very, very careful).

I have never been more thankful for God and his seasons, Easter, rebirth, life renewed, resurrection.
NJ enjoying her first Easter Peeps.
On a lighter note, coming back to life makes me think of Michael Jackson. I just watched This Is It, filmed before his death on his "comeback." He still had it, moves, man. He was so awesome. Dang. Death is just as much a part of seasons as the living, and that part is a stinker.
holy experience

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fun With Pharmaceuticals

I'm finally emerging from my drug-induced cave. No more stupor-like behavior. Except for today when I forgot to wear panties under my dress to get a pedicure. Under normal circumstances, I would have dutifully gone back home and put on undies. I'm not a commando kinda gal, and, well, frankly, I just find it kind of icky. There was just this one time, but I was trying to get my boyfriend back and it was strictly out of necessity and an exception to the rule. But today, I just didn't care to drive back home. It's a little hard for me to steer (look, I'm being extra cautious and all), and who has the energy to drive two miles all the way back to the house? Clearly, though, the joke was on me, seeing as how my pedicurist was a dude, the only dude in the place. And straight, I'm fairly positive. It's hard to relax during a spa pedi while struggling with all your might to ensure your thighs are glued together. He must of thought I was afflicted with something, in my legs, or just a stress case who doesn't know how to relax, ever. When he was rubbing my feet, he asked me how I was feeling. It all seemed kind of weird and perverted and I just wanted it to be over with already.

Here are just a few things to keep in mind if you ever need to be highly medicated for any long stretch:
1. Take pills before pain sets it, or it's too late, and your screwed.
2. Eat a lot, anything you want, because it helps you get out of bed when you picture how amazing it looks and how delicious it will taste.
3. Drink tons of water, but that doesn't mean beer or wine, especially if you're taking Dilaudid. This will help you poop, and take stool softeners too, even though these don't really seem to do much. Water is best, and Yogi tea called Get Regular.
4. Try to shower sometime, but not until it's been a few hours after your last drug. You might slip or pass out or fall asleep. If you don't want to shower, don't feel bad about it. Like I said, it's a little dangerous anyway.
5. Do Reiki, lots of it. (There is so much more to say about Reiki, I'll write about this alone in another post. It's amazing, life-changing, a simple miracle.) Even if you're in so much pain, Reiki means less pain, and it helps to calm your nerves and tension, which might alleviate pain more than anything else under the sun.
6. You might wanna smoke a little herb if possible, but not with Dilaudid. And, really, just a tiny bit, because if you cough, that would really hurt. If you don't know where to get any, ask the most normal looking but cool person you know (one who dons a bow-tie or listens to the Goo Goo Dolls would be a bad choice, for example), or a lesbian or a person who drives a Subaru (sometimes this is a lesbian, too). They usually have a stash. I hear this stuff really helps, but I wouldn't know, personally. Plus, I guess it's illegal.
7. Pop another pill before it hurts too bad, or it will be too late.
8. Wear perfume so you're not too stinky, and it will cheer you up.
9. Light candles, but don't burn down your house or even just your bedroom, and surround yourself with soft, pretty things. These will also lift your spirits.
10. Pray several times a day and night, even about stuff you might not normally pray about, like "God, please help Gretchen see that Slade is shady and not the right guy for her." This is a good time to get closer to God, and that's no joke.
11. Indulge when you're up to it. Shop, but only if you're not too out of your mind and don't overdo it, buy some new lip gloss or get a mani/pedi, but don't drive on drugs or forget to wear your panties.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Not So Fast

I think I lied when I said the worst was over. Getting my "expanders" blown up with saline hurt like the dickens. Yesterday, I wanted to rip these fake expanding metal-ish boobs out of my body. They hurt, were pulling my skin, burning my incision, aching my back, crushing my ribs, taking my breath away. Lying around makes it worse, but there's nothing to do, but something, anything is good. Do something. Otherwise, it's turning just right, stay there, don't move, ouch, shit, don't, move, that way, drugs, ow ow, more drugs, more House Hunters, repeats of Real Housewives, get up and get some Oreos, cake (I am eating everything and anything during recovery, to gain weight, to feel better, and have fallen back into my sugary ways with such gusto, it's remarkable I ever went without – a glutton for sweet punishment). I would like an epidural and am really not sure why only laboring women get to have them. Why should they get such special treatment? Child birth was a cake walk, which sounds very delicious right now. And speaking of eating, as of today, I've ingested 40 Hydrocones and 20 Dilaudids, which is stronger than morphine apparently. Am I wimpy about pain? I’m kind of a baby, but seriously, I didn’t even take drugs after NJ was born. I’m actually sick of taking drugs. I just want to get back to normal, feel normal. There is light at the end, and it looks exactly like big, glorious, boobies. Can’t wait to get naked. Speaking of which, I think this summer calls for my first one piece since I was 12. This J. Crew get-up is super cute.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Post-Op Perks

People always say how adaptable children are, but it's still amazes me to see it in the flesh. NJ has become completely attached to Jon, and is barely bothered by my inability to attend to her in the way I did before. When she does reach for me to pick her up, I sit down on the floor and she crawls into my lap. And she's gotten into the somewhat annoying and adorable habit of grabbing my hand and dragging me everywhere. I'll take what I can get. My husband is now the lucky recipient of diaper duty, whining fits, dirty hands and faces, naps, baths, bedtime and thousands of kisses. Not to mention breakfast, lunch, dinner, dishes, laundry, sweeping, cleaning, and the list goes on. Maybe surgery isn't so bad after all.

On the Up-and-Up

I took a shower yesterday for the first time since surgery. I know you're doing the math in your head, but I'll just come out and say it: It's been 10 days. Jon told me I was stinky, and I asked what I smelled like, and he said blood. Gross. If that's not an indication that it's time to wash the funk off, I'm not sure what is. I've been nervous though, to move, to get my wounds wet, to see myself naked.

And, well, I just got my drains taken out, along with the nasty pus grenades that were attached to them. Jon and NJ went to the park and saw farm animals, one of which was a pig with 20 suckling piglets. That's how I felt. Like an immobile pig with nursing babies attached to me. These things made me feel faint every time Jon had to empty them for me, two or three times a day. He is not squeamish in the least bit, and luckily, I got these gnarly things out faster than the two weeks they'd said I would be lugging them around.

In true Hopkins form (I always meet someone awesome), a woman overheard me talking to the receptionist about my drains. "Would I be getting them out today?" I asked. The stranger could tell I was nervous and approached me. I had just been noticing how lovely she was, too. Super tall, striking light aqua eyes. And smiling. Love that. I noticed her 'do and thought "I hope I look that cute with short hair." She said she was a few weeks farther along than I was and the drains were nothing to worry about. She confessed she'd been so nervous too, and hoped I'd get the same nurse she'd had. Soon after we chatted, the nurse called my name and the woman said, "Oh good, that's her." Yes!

I told the nurse I was more nervous about the stupid drains than anything I'd been through so far. I mean, it is a frightening prospect. Ripping out something that's attached, somehow, to the inside of your body. Jon said, "You just had your boobs chopped off and you're worried about these little ass drains." Perspective, perspective. Thank you love.

She told me my boobs were beautiful. I didn't know if she was telling the truth or not because I was too scared to look. But, yesterday, when it was time to shower, I did. Beautiful is hardly the word that comes to mind. She said to remember this is just the beginning. They won't look how they do now. And, I know that. But, I felt upset at seeing them, mostly because it really hit me what I've been through, am going through still. It's hard for it to sink in, even now. I doubt it will ever. It's sort of like when someone you love dies. It never seems real, even years later.

But, things are on the up-and-up. There is more to come, but the worst is over. Thank you God. Thank you beautiful friends. Thank you my amazing family. I couldn't have done any of this without you. And, thank you for the cards and gifts. I adore them. They always make my day, make me smile, and mostly make me feel loved – the best gift of all.