?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Eve is two weeks from tonight, and so far I haven’t done a thing regarding decorations, the tree, or dinner. It’s not like me, but then I haven’t been myself lately.

That is, in the physical sense. In the mental realm, I’m me as much as ever, which means as I’m napping these afternoons my mind is planning how to accomplish Christmas with as little effort as possible. I’ve got a plan for the decorations (Do fewer.) and the tree (Get help.)

But dinner for six has had me stymied. Preparing it, even over the next two weeks, feels daunting; and serving it feels equally so. Which led me to contact local caterers for help. Since Christmas Eve is a Sunday and Christmas Day a Monday, the two caterers I called declined. One suggested I contact a well-known local hotel, because “hotels have to feed their guests.”

In fact, their guests included some of my guests, so I was sure the problem was solved. Turns out even the hotel in question isn’t serving on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day at all because “we wanted to give our staff time off to be with their families.”

Randomly I googled “personal chefs in Berrien County,” and that’s how Mindy Kasewurm came into my life. Despite hosting both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with her own family, she is taking on feeding mine. And we are feasting.

We’re still working on the final menu, but I know it will please the carnivores and the pescatarians, those with allergies and those without, those who want to eat healthily and those who don’t. Most of all, it pleases me.

Today is an 8.

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Have I Mentioned?

I don’t reread all my blogs, so forgive me if I repeat myself.  And if I do, it’s because the issue is still on my mind. Here are some more things I really didn’t know about the aftermath of a serious surgery.

The sutures itch; but it’s likely not a good idea to scratch. (Is it ever a good idea?) The area around the incision is numb and has been since the operation.  This includes part of my upper back as well. The doctor said that would eventually go away.  But what month of the year is called “Eventually.”

Duane the drain is still hanging around (Literally) and being as annoying as ever. I’ve gotten better at finding places to hide him in pant pockets or safety pinned to my bra. But he’s ever present. And I’ve learned that when he departs, I’ll still be changing bandages on the site where he was attached to my body.

On the plus side, my surgery was 25 days ago; it occurred to me that the next step – radiation – calls for approximately 35 treatments over six and a half weeks. So I’m using this surgical recovery experience to see what it feels like for the next phase in terms of passing the time. In the process, I’ve learned the meaning of “slow.”

Today was a 7.

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On the Right

I could never be accused of being to the right, politically speaking. But since my surgery I’ve become aware of how right-handed I am.

I was sedated enough that I don’t recall anything about the actual surgery, other than it was on the right side of my right breast in the armpit area. When the sedation wore off, I was told not to move my right arm any more than ninety degrees up from the floor or out from my body.

That’s also when my left arm began getting a regular workout.  It brushed my teeth and my hair. It lifted things like bottles of water, forks, and protein bars. It opened jars and boxes. It struggled to help my other arm put on a coat and then remove it. It tried ironing, which took twice as long as with my right arm. Then there’s writing thank you notes and signing checks, all right-handed tasks, which my left arm hasn’t mastered yet.

And bathing? Don’t ask. Since I’m still not allowed to shower, this is the biggest challenge of all. From the belly down, I can manage by standing in the tub with the water running from the spout, holding the soap in my right hand, and using a wash cloth on the soap and then my various body parts.  But how do you wash the arm that is doing all the work if you can’t use your other arm? It has to be a two-person job.

This is probably more than you care to know, but according to my left arm today was an 8.

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Word of the Year

In November, Dictionary.com announced that its word of the year was ‘complicit.’ Other words in the running included ‘intersex,’ ‘horologist,’ and ‘totality.’ And, of course, there was ‘fake news.’

These words aren’t part of my everyday world, but there are a few phrases that have become de rigeur these past three weeks.

For instance, when I bemoan my lack of physical activity, I hear “Just be patient; it’s temporary.” Or “It’s a process, you know.” When I ask how long something typically takes, the default “Everybody’s different” raises its hand.

Perhaps the speaker doesn’t know what to say to be helpful and resorts to pat answers. In other circumstances, I’m guilty of doing the same thing. But now that I’ve heard these phrases regularly of late, I intend to retire them from my own lexicon.

Maybe we can retire “fake news” too.

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21 Days

I’ve heard it said that to make something a habit you must do it for 21 days. I checked this on the Internet and learned it’s really more complicated than that.

If it’s an easy habit, like drinking tea in the morning instead of coffee, the saying is probably true. But if it’s more complicated, studies suggest it takes from two to nine months to make something an automatic part of your life.

It was 21 days ago today that I had my surgery. Twenty-one days since I’ve had Duane the drain.Twenty-one days since I’ve had only one position to sleep in. Twenty-one days of wearing baggy clothing. Is all this now a habit with me? Just by necessity.

Maybe another factor to making something a habit is a strong desire to do it. My new “habits” are fueled only by the desire to get them all behind me. Today was an 8.

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Day Three

I promised a report on the drain situation, so here it is. I honestly don’t think being sedentary for three days helped much at all. We take two measurements a day: the first yesterday was 10, which is really good.  The second was 30, which isn’t.

But I’ve committed to being quiet for three days, so will continue on this “house arrest” routine until tomorrow morning. Here are some other things I’ve learned.

Lounging in one’s nightgown all day isn’t conducive to feeling great. As someone who worked at home as a freelance writer for years, I always dressed and put my face on before heading to the computer and work. I should have done the same in this situation.

Taking ibuprofen is a good idea. I started four days ago and find the drain is less annoying when it’s less painful.  As one who doesn’t take a lot of medications, I’m adverse to prescription pain meds. But maybe I’ve been too rigid.

Having a bra with the right fit is essential. In the past three weeks, I’ve experimented with seven different styles. Some were too tight; others too flimsy. But the current one that SW, the oncology nurse navigator, gave me before I started “house arrest” was, in the words of Goldilocks, “just right.”

Earl and I are working on another jigsaw puzzle. It’s nice to have a challenge that takes your mind off your woes. And tomorrow I go back to being me. Have two appointments and a bunch of errands that accumulated while I was loafing. All in all, today was a 7.

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Day Two

With emails and voicemails from friends encouraging me to “Hang in there,” I’m on Day Two of restricted activity.

In the spirit of the day, I haven’t even gotten out of my nightgown or washed my face. Haven’t made our bed either. And Earl made a new egg sandwich recipe for lunch.  He loved it; I didn’t. But it was nice that he did the work.

It is now only 4 PM, and I’ve had a long afternoon nap. I plan to watch a beautiful sunset in about forty-five minutes (The weather has been most cooperative.) and then review some of the medical information I’ve accumulated since this all began. It’s just the right amount of excitement!

We shall not be dancing this evening or painting a bedroom or vacuuming. But Saturdays usually bring two weekly magazines to our door, and Earl has started another jigsaw puzzle. So we’ll amuse ourselves with sedentary activities until we check the drain before bedtime.

Duane the drain better be happy with all this. If he is, then the day is an 8.  If not, it’s a 3. There’ll be a report tomorrow.

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Retreating in Place

To get back to Square One regarding my recuperation from breast cancer surgery, it was suggested I take three days off and become a couch potato to rest the affected side of my body, which hasn’t been pleased with how busy I’ve been. Let it be said that I didn’t think I was inordinately busy, but health care professionals and a few friends have indicated otherwise.

The first challenge was to find three days where I had few commitments and could allot the time to this experiment. I found them by cancelling a couple pleasurable commitments, one that would have surely fed my soul.

So today is Day One, in which I lounge on the couch more than usual, watch a movie in bed on our DVR, spend time on the computer but limit my piano playing (which seems to annoy my affected side), and sip mint juleps while watching some home shopping channel hawk kitchen pots. (If you believe this last, you don’t know me.)

The idea behind this is that the quieter I am the less Duane will move fluid from my insides to the outside. And the less Duane drains the better it is in the long run. Of course, I may be grumpy and demanding, as horizontal is not my default position; but Duane’s needs will be served.

A friend of mine suggested I’m “retreating at home,” as if I were on some spiritual journey.  It made me think of all those Catholic high school retreats I attended where we couldn’t talk and spent three days in prayer. If I remember correctly, I spent them thinking of my current boyfriend as I fingered my rosary.

Still, maybe I’ll consider this a spiritual experience. I have a rosary and will try to think of something positive about cancer as I do the requisite Lord’s Prayer and Hail Marys these next three days. Today was a 7.

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Big C, Revisited

I returned to blogging almost two weeks ago by announcing that I had been diagnosed with cancer. Breast cancer to be precise. I’d had surgery to remove it four days earlier and was feeling fairly upbeat. I renamed Big C as lower case c, feeling smug and in control.

I did as I was told and didn’t raise the arm on the affected side more than ninety degrees. The doctor said I could drive as soon as I didn’t take any prescription pain medication, so by Day Four I was my own chauffeur again and even had mall walked with friends.

I’m wiser now.

The “big” in Big C isn’t as simple as I thought in my first blog on the subject. It doesn’t just refer to the concept of cancer or the size of a tumor or the difficulty in the surgical procedure to remove it. Nor is it only about attitude. It’s far more insidious.

It’s what goes on in your mind when you’re tired of a drain. (See previous blog about Duane.) When you realize your activities are more limited than you’d imagined. When one week seems like a lifetime on the continuum of improvement. When your misery overtakes reality.

Normally I’m a glass-half-full person; but as the seriousness of the situation has caught up with me it’s become more difficult. Yet, I still believe keeping Big C at bay requires constant positive thinking. So I’m working on my attitude adjustment.

And today was a 6.

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Duane

Seven years ago, when I had surgery for ovarian cancer, I spent four days in the hospital hooked to a morphine drip on a moveable stand. I named the apparatus George.

I am always restless in a hospital setting, so to pass time I would walk in the halls, George on one side and Earl on the other.

Fast forward to this month, when I had surgery for breast cancer. It was an outpatient procedure, and I was sent home with a drain. Little did I know this drain would be more annoying than the morphine drip.  And be with me longer too.

It’s been two weeks and one day since my surgery, and the drain is nowhere near being removed. It limits movement on the right side of my body and cannot be gotten wet, which also limits bathing. And hair washing. And other various daily activities. In hindsight, I preferred George.

But, since this drain and I are attached at the shoulder for the foreseeable future, I am naming it Duane. Duane the drain caused today to be only a 5.

 

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