Health

NO PRANCING FOR ME

I went to the doctor today. I made a list of the things I needed to talk about, among them trying to get some Prednisone or something to make me able to actually enjoy my vacation in Maine in October. I just want a week off of the whole pain and misery thing. I checked with my cardiologist and he seemed to think a week of Prednisone would be fine, at least for my heart.

I know Prednisone is evil and will — with prolonged use — melt my bones. But really, I’m not asking for a long-term run. Just a week. One lousy week of living without pain.

Dr. Marc Jacobs filterHe said (really, no kidding, he said this), “I don’t want you prancing around like a 20-year old, hiking all over Maine.”

Prancing? Like a 20-year-old? When I was 20, I was wrapped in plaster from my rib cage to my knees following a spinal fusion and laminectomy. I can’t remember ever doing any prancing even when I was a kid. But hey, he doesn’t know me yet. If we had a longer relationship, he would realize what an absurd statement that is.

Not only am I not doing any prancing, but we’re sharing our vacation with our best friends. He will be one month past knee replacement surgery. She’s almost as arthritic as me and she is way past prancing. Garry is in better shape, but he’s not bouncing around either.

I pointed out I was unlikely to take up bungee jumping or mountain climbing, but the doc was convinced I would do something stupid and potentially damaging to what we humorously call my body.

“You’re 67 years old. You’re recovering from massive and extremely serious surgery. That’s reality. You aren’t healed yet.”

“When,” I asked, “Is yet?”

“Six months.”

“Six months,” I repeated. And I sighed.

I should be used to it. Maybe I am, but I don’t like it. Not at all. I just wanted a week off. One week, so I could walk, take pictures. Enjoy myself and not be in pain. Go out, find a moose unaware, take great wildlife pictures. In the wild, not in a zoo. But no. I have to be sensible. Bah.

I’ll deal with it. But I really wanted that week. One week without the pain. I guess it is too much to ask.

WHAT EMPOWERS YOU?

From the Top – Today, write about any topic you feel like — but you must reuse your opening line (at least) two more times in the course of your post.


What empowers you?

When you’re worried, frightened. When you’ve lost your way and have no idea what to do, what’s your game changer?

Is it a hug from a loved one? Encouragement from peers or colleagues? A visit to the doctor where he or she assures you that all is well, not to worry?

Information empowers me. Knowledge. You can hug me, praise me, love me, talk to me, but if I don’t understand what’s going on, I’m lost and miserable. You cannot comfort me unless I have information to process. For me, the head rules and always has. It is how I have survived and how I continue to live in a world full of danger.

Despite recent visits to doctors, something is happening. I do not understand. On my most recent trip to the cardiologist I learned that the painful lump under my right used-to-be-a-breast-but-is now an implant is actually a lump of twisted steel wire. No one told me after taking me apart in March, they wired me back together with steel, knotted the ends. Sometimes those wiry lumps saw right through skin on the chest.

I pulled one long wire out months ago. With a tweezers. It had poked through. In my defense, I didn’t know what it was. No one had told me I was wired. Or a few odds and ends may have been left lying around in my chest.

What empowers you? Are you satisfied with “Everything looks great” without details? I should have asked more questions.

pacemakerThe pacemaker guy tuned up my pacemaker. My heartbeat should never drop below 72. My pre-surgery heart rate was slow, around 50. Apparently 72 is the gold standard. Thursday, at the oncologist, my heart rate was 62.

I explained the pacemaker guy said it shouldn’t be so slow. They remeasured twice. It was up to 69 the final time. I decided not to worry. I can’t worry about everything; I’ll collapse from exhaustion.

My oncologist said (“Oh my God, that’s a lot of surgery!” ) heart surgery, there must have been CT scans plus other imaging of my chest. No one mentioned anything unusual — e.g. lung cancer. I agreed though I don’t remember. I was semi-conscious, unconscious, or in so much pain I didn’t know what was going on through much of my hospital stay. They could have done anything. I wouldn’t remember it.

Yesterday, the area around my pacemaker began to throb. It is Friday evening, so there’s no one to call. A sharp thing is trying to poke through next to the incision. Has a wire come loose?

There’s no one to call, no doctor to talk to. Information void. Garry asks me what I want to do. I have no idea. I don’t know if this is serious, if I’ll be dead before Monday. Or it’s nothing and I’m just making myself crazy.

What empowers me?

Information empowers me, comforts me, reassures me. The wire isn’t through my skin. Yet. I wonder if it’s a lead from my pacemaker that’s come loose, in which case is there anything preventing my heart from stopping?

What about that party this afternoon? Can I go? I’ve been looking forward to getting out, dressed up, some make-up. It’s been a long, lonely time.

What empowers you? What would you do? What should I do?

100 POUNDS LIGHTER AND SMILING

Can’t Stand Me - What do you find more unbearable: watching a video of yourself, or listening to a recording of your voice? Why?


I don’t find either unbearable. I spent a lot of years working in and around media. You get used to how you look and sound. I think most people get upset because they have an unrealistic idea of what they look like, what their voice is like. Familiarity makes it better.

superwoman-2-largerBut really, I’m just using this post to tell everyone about today’s visit to Beth Israel. This was my 3 month appointment where I got to learn how things are going with my heart and pacemaker.

EVERYTHING IS GOING GREAT!

Got that (sorry for the pun) off my chest.

It’s been a long time since I heard good news at a doctor’s office. The things I’ve been worried about turn out to be normal, bone and tissue still in the process of healing. It will take time.

The pain in my sternum will be with me for who knows how long. But the pacemaker is doing its thing. Though I suggested he turn it up so I could have a turbo-charged heart, the pacemaker guy said “Sorry, not yet. Maybe next time.”

I am  the bionic woman. Faster (not). Better (than what?). Stronger (working on that).

The new mitral valve is doing what a mitral valve ought. My previously blocked aortic valve is unblocked. Everything is good, good, good.

I feel 100 pounds lighter. Now, I can address the continuing deterioration of my spine. It can’t be fixed, I know, but there may yet be something that might lower the pain level long-term. So I can get out more. Walk a bit. I’m going to give it my best shot, anyhow. If there’s nothing more to be done, I’ll deal with it … but maybe there are options to explore.

Meantime, I am feeling as happy as I have months. Imagine. Good news at last. How amazing is that!

WHEN SH*T HAPPENS, SMILE

After major surgery, the process of healing is long and slow. Progress occurs in leaps rather than steadily. Periodically, you notice a jump in progress. Today I can stretch. Tomorrow I can pick up my dog. Next Monday, I can (slowly) navigate the stairs. Suddenly, I can drive and manage a trip to the grocery store, go out and take a few pictures. It’s all in slow motion, but it’s happening.

Surgical pain decreases. Incisions heal. Then, progress stops. That’s it. The surgical part of your resurrection is accomplished. The rest of life comes rushing back.

Speaking of back, the spine that didn’t work before still doesn’t. I can’t walk any better than I  could pre-surgery. The rest of my chronic problems are back too.

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While I am realizing how much my back hurts, everyone is telling me how great I look. How much better I must feel. I realize that — appearances notwithstanding — I don’t feel all that much better because what was bothering me the most wasn’t what they fixed. If I try to explain that, everyone tells me not to be so negative.

So I shut up. It’s natural, I guess. After all, I just had four different kinds of heart surgery so ergo ipso, my  heart must have been a major component in what was bothering me, right?

Wrong. My heart was failing but I didn’t notice. Impossible you say? Not really. It was a gradual thing which I attributed to asthma and other problems I’ve had for years. The bursitis in my hips bothered me most and my difficulties walking and doing stairs was less heart, more arthritis. My digestion has been a disaster for more than a decade, the result of botched surgery. That didn’t change.

I know the quality of my life is supposed to have improved. I know because everyone tells me so and I do mean everyone, including almost complete strangers. As far as they are concerned, the fact that I am going to (in theory) live much longer than I would have without the surgery signals a major improvement in my quality of life. Never mind that I didn’t actually know I had a problem with my heart and wasn’t concerned with it.

I was (am) more worried about a recurrence of the cancer I had 2-1/2 years ago.

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The reality — which no one wants to hear — is life and its quality have stayed the same. Making me sometimes wonder why I bothered. I want to blame someone, but who? There are no bad guys in my scenario. I can’t even blame myself. Shit happens. A lot of it happened to me.

So I guess I have to keep searching to find the up side to all this beyond (maybe) increased longevity. I need something else. Even if that isn’t what everyone wants to hear.

YOU LOOK GREAT!

Binding Judgment

Does it ever make sense to judge a book by its cover — literally or metaphorically? Tell us about a time you did, and whether that was a good decision or not.


Don’t know about books. So many books don’t really have covers anymore! Houses, though … I’ve fallen in love with houses because they were beautiful only to discover they were falling to pieces underneath. Sometimes after I had already bought them, which (lemme tell ya) is a real bummer.

Home

And then — there’s me. The cover looks pretty good these days. If only the stuff underneath were half as healthy as the wrapper appears. Ah well. If one must fall apart, one might as well look good.

If you look good, you get the surprised “Wow, you look great!” from friends rather than the shocked deer-in-the-headlights face followed by a horrified “What’s the matter with you?” That can ruin your whole morning. I’ve gotten both and I prefer the first.

Now, I need coffee.

BYE BYE SUPERWOMAN

Originally published last August, I thought this deserved a rerun. For all the women I know who are discovering they are human after all — this is dedicated to you.


Not long ago, I was Superwoman. I knew because so many people said I was, so it had to be true, right? Then life fell apart. I started to miss those leaps over tall buildings. I barked my shins and fell on my head. Finally what was supposed to be a single bound turned into a crash and burn.

Superwoman

Thus I learned I couldn’t do it all and shouldn’t try. Superwoman wasn’t so super any more.

The thing about having a superwoman image is, it’s flattering. Sweet having folks tell you how much they admire you. Great hearing them say they wish they had your courage. Even if you don’t believe it, it’s nice to hear, isn’t it? The words provide validation. You feel appreciated. Loved, even.

Unfortunately, flattery has strings. Having told you how great you are, your friends feel free to tap into the strength they admire. They know, by some instinct, you will help. It’s a reflex. You see need, you try to help. If you think about it, you almost never say no to anyone. It’s remarkable how popular that makes you.

Since retiring my cape, I’ve learned a few things. Strong people, especially women, attract needy people. It’s as if we have “free help” tattooed on our foreheads. Everyone can see it — except us.

It took me the better part of a lifetime to accept my limits and understand in my heart I don’t have endless reserves. If I fail to pace myself, when those closest to me need me, I have nothing left. It turns out emotional energy is like a bank account. You can’t keep making withdrawals unless you also make deposits.

I can’t fight every battle or support every cause. The first time I said no to someone who asked for help, I felt so guilty I thought I’d drown. Years later, I don’t say no easily or lightly, but I say it. Remarkably, the world keeps turning.

Superwomen are easy to manipulate. Guilt and an over-developed sense of responsibility makes us vulnerable to emotional blackmail. We do the hard things others can and should do for themselves. It’s a trap no less for them than for us. Most people are not too weak to do what they need to do. Strength is not DNA, it’s choice. Most “weak” people are lazy, fearful and don’t want to make hard choices. They don’t look for solutions. They look for help. Big difference.

The Superwoman (along with Batwoman and Superl...

Plenty of people have serious problems including me. I’ve wondered if I have pissed off a malign deity or am working off some terrible Karmic debt. I don’t really know how I’ve gotten through but I’m still here. It wasn’t valor; it was desperation.

People say when things get bad, you find out who your friends are. From the dozens of people I helped over the years, to whom I offered a place to live when they were homeless and much more, when life turned on me, fewer than a handful were anywhere to be found. All the rest went missing.

That was when I put my cape in mothballs. Now I take care of close friends and family. And for the first time, I take care of me.

Thirty-five years ago, my mother asked me a question. She asked: “If you were to list the people in your life that matter, who would be first, second, and third on the list?”

I listed my son, my husband and a close friend.

She said: “You’re wrong. The first name on that list has to be YOU, because if you don’t take care of yourself, no one will. You won’t be able to care for anyone else, either.”

I thought it a strange thing for her to say. Her own life had been taking care of others. She was dying then. I suppose it changed her point of view. She was right, of course. We are responsible for ourselves. Only when we make sure we have what we need can we take care of anyone or anything else.

God — and maybe Superwoman — will have to take care of the rest.

VITAL ORGANS WILL PLEASE REMAIN VITAL

Great Expectations - Tell us about one thing (or more) that you promised yourself you’d accomplish by the end of the year. How would you feel once you do? What if you don’t?


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I’ve promised myself to keep living right through the end of the year. I don’t know if I — myself — would be disappointed were I to fail, but I’m pretty sure at least a few folks would be a bit upset at my unfortunate demise. So I’m counting on lungs, heart and all those other vital organs (including the under-appreciated and oft ignored pancreas) to keep doing their things … so I can keep doing mine.

A LATE NIGHT RANT. BECAUSE.

My body and I are engaged in battle. Body is winning this round, but I hope to prevail in the end.

Every condition, chronic disease, whatever that has ever bothered me is running at full throttle. Things that haven’t bothered me for decades are back. My rheumatoid arthritis is acting up. Every joint hurts. My irritable bowel is outraged and trying to kill me. It’s spring, the pollen is high and asthma is kicking my butt.

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Of course all the heart surgery has wreaked havoc with issues I already had from the bilateral mastectomies a couple of years ago. Finally, there’s the pain from the recent surgeries. It’s much better than it was even a week ago, but it’ll be a few more weeks before I feel I’m over the hump.

I am good in the morning. Most of the time. From lunchtime onward, I slide downhill until evening when everything hurts. The later it gets, the more it hurts. I can’t figure out which pain is caused by what condition. Or maybe it’s the clammy weather. Or stress.

I want to feel good again. Is it too much to ask? Right now, it is … but I remind myself it’s not forever. It will to take a bit more time, but in a few weeks, I will be me again.

But late in the evening when everything hurts and I don’t have drugs to fix it … at times like this, I want to rant. I figure I’ve paid the dues; I’ve earned a rant.

Instead (usually), I go to bed. Becoming unconscious seems like the best idea of all.

CONFESSION

Time for me to confess a few things.

I’m having a hard time. My body and I are at war … and the body is winning. All my systems are out of whack. My gut is in full rebellion. I can’t sleep more than a few hours a night no matter what meds I take.

I can listen to audiobooks but I can’t seem to focus  on text. I’m having a lot of trouble reading your posts because I can’t stay focused on anything longer than a couple of hundred words. I’m best  in the morning. As the day goes on and my various body parts begin to crash, my attention span diminishes with each passing hour.

I look okay, but I’m not. Not yet. I’ll get there, but it’ll take time.

So I apologize to all of you. I can’t keep up. I can’t read all your beautiful posts though I want to. I’ll do more as soon as I can. Right now, just keeping up with comments is a stretch. More will come. Later.

ITCH!!

For everything, there is a season. This is my season to itch.

First, you wake up from surgery in screaming agony and after a while, it subsides. Little by little, it goes from agony to misery. The misery lasts months, though if you analyze how you feel, you recognize under the pain layer, you’re feeling better.

Until the itching starts.

itchingFirst, it’s a tickle. A couple of days later, the prickly feeling becomes a torrent of itching. Which you dare not scratch lest you open up one of your incisions.

I have seasonal dermatitis too. It kicks in every spring and fall. It’s not a disease, so there’s no cure and by itself it can cause frenzied itching. And hey, it’s spring, sort of. A bit cold and rainy, but according to the calendar, it is spring. So my dermatitis has clicked “on.” Add that to the healing incisions and it’s a perfect storm of sensation.

You can get drugs to dull pain. Sometimes you can get drugs to make pain go away entirely for a while.

Nothing makes itching stop.

It’s a sign of healing they say. Me? I hate it.

IF YOU LOOK GREAT BUT FEEL LIKE CRAP, SMILE!

I decided to take a selfie this morning. I look pretty good. I walk like Quasimodo and mumble “Oy” under my breath a lot. My chest hurts … not only the new incision, but the implanted breasts my surgeon built a few years ago.

As I feared, they’ve taken a serious hit in the course of this mess. Putting on some kind of support garment helps some. Between my chest (new incisions and old incisions), my back (new damage, old damage, calcified damage) and the oh my God itching … it’s a symphony of sensation.

But I look fine. My hair hasn’t (yet) fallen out. It has thinned, but not completely disappeared and I’m glad I didn’t precipitously cut it off, though there were times in the hospital when it was stuck to everything, in my bandages, my food, my mouth … it was a very hairy world for a while. At that point, I was sure I should have gone for pixie cut, just for the ease of maintenance. And not having it adhere to absolutely everything.

selfie - marilyn - me 4-27-14

The discrepancy between how I look and how I feel is more than a bit weird. From the mirror, out peers a healthy-looking woman who can’t pick up a small dog or a frying pan and creeps around the house hunched over mumbling imprecations, mostly in Yiddish.

Garry and I have discussed this, how strange it is when you look fine but don’t feel anything like you look. How do you deal with compliments when everything hurts?

Answer: You say “Thank you! ” Then you smile, showing as many teeth as you have remaining in your mouth.

As Garry says, “It’s all packaging. As long as the package looks good, print the legend.”

UNDERNEATH THE PAIN, THERE’S ME

I had a spinal fusion and laminectomy when I was 19. For the next 45 years, I pretended I didn’t have a problem. I rode horses, climbed mountains, went sledding and skating and hiking.

Then, one day, thanks to an uninsured driver who T-boned me because she didn’t feel like waiting for a green light, everything changed. There was nothing for me to fight or overcome. There was a flapping noise and I knew my chickens were coming home to roost.

Marilyn again

There was no possible cure, no new surgery to repair me. If I didn’t take reasonable care of my damaged spine, I’d be in a wheelchair. I gave up the horses, sledding and other dangerous stuff, but kept up the walking, hiking and an occasional wild ride on a roller coaster. Until the lump of calcification on my lumbar spine grew to the size of a small soccer ball and the bursitis in my hips made everything hurt.

Still I refused to give up my feet in exchange for a chair or scooter. I’m sure if I stop walking, I’ll never start again. So I save renting an electric scooter for those rare times when we’re at a theme park or something else that requires lots of walking. I don’t have the endurance to spend a whole day on my feet and the pain would take all the fun out of it for me and my companions.

Mind you, there have been a lot of other life threatening medical events along the way. But none of the other medical problems, no matter how potentially lethal, limited my life the way the arthritis in my spine has. Apparently for the last few years, my heart has also limited my activities. I didn’t realize what was going on. I had no reason to think my heart wasn’t just fine. As far as I knew, it was okay. So I attributed all the symptoms to something else: asthma, allergies, whatever. Now, of course, I know better.

I plan to keep doing as much as I can. Right now, I can’t do much. My cracked sternum is unhealed. When it is healed — another 7 or 8 weeks from now — then I’ll see what I can do.

The pain — and there is a lot of pain — is like a separate entity, perched atop the rest of me. Underneath the pain, I think maybe I’m beginning to feel pretty good. It sounds weird, I know, but the pain is a layer — like evil frosting. Underneath, there’s the rest of me. That part feels better than it has in quite a while.

So, I have to let healing finish. There’s a lot of internal as well as external healing that has to take place and there’s nothing I can do to speed the process … but a lot I could do to slow it down!

Patience is not my strong suit as I’m sure you’ve guessed. But this time, I need to find it. I can’t hurry bone and muscle. Trying to force it is likely to prolong the problem, not shorten it.

It isn’t easy! Especially with the weather turning warm at long last.

A MIDWEEK UPDATE

Time for an update!

The visiting nurse made her final visit today. I am officially able to be on my own. I have been assured no matter how I feel, I’m doing really well.

All four of my incisions itch. The big one down my chest, the medium one on my shoulder and the two smaller ones on my left leg. I dare not scratch but oh, how badly I wish to claw at those incisions!

My chest still hurts. I can’t pick anything up. It’s an interesting cocktail of sensation. My guts are in knots because it appears I have picked up a case of The Stomach Virus That’s Going Around. Garry has it, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that I have it too, but the timing could be better. Keeps things lively in an unpleasant way.

It turns out what’s been making the chest pain worse is my computer. Not the computer per se. It’s the picking up and putting back that’s making my sternum hurt, so now I have to ask Garry to hand the computer to me, then put it back when I’m done.

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It’s almost as bad as needing help to go to the toilet. Okay, not quite that bad, but bad enough. And this is my ultrabook, the lightest computer I own. Not counting the tablet which is under-powered and runs Windows 8, a hateful operating system that renders it even more useless than it would otherwise be. Seriously useless.

But — I digress.

am getting better. I can’t see the changes from one day to the next, but I can see the differences from week to week. I’m a lot stronger than I was, but it’s infuriatingly slow.

Impatience has always been my nemesis. This time I have to find patience. I can’t let myself get stressed, can’t push the process. It takes time for bones to heal, for a new valve to settle down, for a reshaped ventricle to work properly. It’s only three weeks since I came home from the hospital. It will be at least another seven before I can haul a laptop without help.

I’d heave a sigh, but it would hurt.

JUST ANOTHER UPDATE

I’m getting back into life. Progress feels rather glacial from my perspective but it’s undeniably progress.

foyer and lightI can write, as long as I keep stuff short. I still can’t focus long enough to read much but I’m getting there. Close, very close. Finding a comfortable position in bed remains a major challenge because I can’t yet lie on my side without feeling like my chest is being crushed. I’ve been assured it will come, but not yet. Soon-ish.

I tire quickly but each day is a little better than the one before. I have bursts of energy early in the day then I wear down. By 3 or 4 in the afternoon, I’m beat and I hurt. Still, last week I was exhausted by noon. Change comes and I guess one needs to take the long view.

I did I lot of stuff yesterday. We went to the grocery store and the pharmacy. I did the stairs — both flights — three times. I hiked up and down the driveway — our own bunny slope. It was a lot for me. And I was released from physical therapy ’cause I’m doing so fantastically. I have photographic plans for today.

Except I don’t feel well. Or not well enough, whatever that means.

I guess how one feels is a matter of “compared to what.” Compared to two weeks ago, I’m feeling great. Compared to last year, I’m a puddle of misery, a complete disaster.

It just depends on how you look at it … and whose body in which you are living.

 

ADVENTURES IN HEALTH CARE OR LACK THEREOF

It snowed Wednesday. Just an icing but it prompted a lot of people who actually had to get their cars rolling first thing in the morning to say “This is a joke, right?” A New England joke. The day before, temps had been in the high 70s, I had turned the heat off, so Wednesday saw me and Garry huddled on the sofa in sweatshirts and blankets. Would the cold last long enough to justify revving up the oil burner? Or should we gut it out and shiver until more seasonal weather prevailed? Medicare-Payment-Methods-1024x768 Being so recently sliced and diced, I was not in fighting trim. By evening, I went for heat. Shivering was bad, but sneezing? Wow. That’s a killer. I’m still fighting the battle of no PCP. Technically, I’ve got one. I’ve just haven’t met him. Yet. I’ve got a date, May 2. Not so far away, but far enough. I hope this one’s a keeper.

In the meantime, I’m self-medicating everything including my blood pressure. I’m not doing anything crazy, mind you. I’m merely taking the BP meds I was taking before the surgery because I don’t have anyone to monitor me, no one to call or consult.  Other than the visiting nurses. They are wonderful and deserve medals.

Except they are all leaving because I’m doing so well. Ironies piled on ironies. My self-medication program is working. I’ve got my BP back into the “good” range from the “outta sight” levels of last week. Adventures in health care indeed. This is closer to adventures in lack of health care. How weird I’ve got medical coverage — good coverage — but no doctors. What a world, eh?

STUMBLING DOWN THE WINDING ROAD

They warn you when they send you home it will be hard, especially the first few weeks. They warn you about depression. It seems to be part of the heart surgery package and hits pretty much everyone to some degree. Some of us worse than others. The emotional healing component is a wild card. Assuming that physical healing proceeds without incident, there’s no predictable pattern — or much available help — for handling feeling.

There’s a sense of loss, that “something is missing,” though you don’t know exactly what it is. A sense of dis-empowerment, that you’ve lost your dignity, a part of your self-hood. There’s a sense of having been raped, assaulted, beaten down.

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Some feelings result from the very real physical assault of all that surgery. Your body has been invaded, redesigned, twisted, opened, broken and put back together. You may not have been conscious when it was happening, but your body remembers even if your brain can’t recall details.

Waking up after the surgery, I knew something was missing, some part of me was gone and I was afraid to awaken until I found the lost piece. Eventually I bowed to the inevitable and woke up, but becoming conscious was accompanied by a profound sense of loss. I’m not who I was. I know I am — at least technically — better, but it’s hard to imagine ever feeling whole again.

Even after breast cancer and having both breasts removed, the sense of loss was nothing like this. There was pain, confusion, fear … but surprisingly little sense of mutilation.

The complexity of my feelings combines with a sometimes overwhelming physical misery. It makes me wonder why I went through all of this. To what purpose? I know the correct answers to these questions, but as the days wear on and evening approaches, it feels as if I am wearing a too-tight iron brassière. I can feel the hard metal straps cutting into my shoulders and my chest feels crushed. It’s hard to breathe, hard to even think.

I whimper and wrap myself in a heating pad, trying to soothe cramping muscles and twisted bones.

All systems are messed up. Digestion, breathing, skeleton … everything feels off. Sleeping is difficult. Finding a position that doesn’t hurt is a major challenge. I have a headache much of the time. The headache isn’t so bad … it’s just the “insult to injury” part of the process.

I have a little mantra I keep repeating to myself. “I can do it,” I say. “I CAN do it. I can do it. I can.” Whatever it is, I do it.

I can shower on my own. Thanks to one wonderful friend, I can do my bathroom stuff and actually get up and down from the toilet without the humiliation of needing help. I can do small things. Make myself a sandwich, toast an English muffin. Read a bit, Write a bit too. My back took a beating. Whatever they did to me in the operating room, I came out of there with new problems in new places. Oh well. I guess it will heal. Eventually.

My other mantra: “It will get better. It will be better. I will be better. I will be better. The future is worth living.” I mean it. But it hurts.

If it were not for friends and especially for Garry who bears the brunt of both my physical inadequacies and my emotional messiness, I’m not sure I would be able to go on. I know this is taking a lot out of him and it adds just one more layer to that invasive sense of helplessness.

It will be better. I can do it. We can do it together.

I just hope it’s worth it.