It seems that doctors have this thing where they always try and underestimate any procedure. They’re either desensitized or they try to trick your brain so you don’t freak out ahead of time. It’s probably part of their training. Who knows.
When I went in for the pre-op meeting, they told me the recovery time was going to be somewhere between 4-6 weeks. It all depended on the patient, they said.
In your mind you, you’re like “wow, that seems like a lot of time, buuuut, 4 weeks to rest, watch tv, hang out while the pain meds do their trick – that sounds doable!”… right?
You honestly have no clue how it will all play out.
So, I finally go into for surgery, everything goes well. Good! They removed the entire gland and four lymph nodes to test them and make sure the cancer hadn’t spread, which would have been really, really bad. The results came back negative, Thank God!
This is my delusional face. On drugs, after surgery – clueless of what was to come.
Because of insurance, you’re only technically allowed to stay in the hospital for one night. After the meds started wearing off, which was around bed time, I became the most horrific person in the world – forget this smug-face-Sandra from the photo above. I was in so much pain, screaming at the poor nurse. Marissa was staying with me in the room, and of course, she couldn’t sleep either. They tried meds, but they didn’t do the trick. They tried stronger meds, nope. You completely forget that your entire body just went through a tremendous amount of trauma. But what hurt the most was my back. My shoulder blades, my arm, and to top of it up, I had 2 drains on the side of my body. They tried pillows, nothing. Everything they tried would hurt in the trial process. We might have spent about 2-3 hours trying to get me reasonably comfortable.
And finally…. heat. A small little plastic bag behind my back. Ohhhhhhh… relief.
I thought, this was the start of my 4-6 week recovery process and panic started creeping in. You lose perspective of time when the number is low – 4 weeks. For me, it ended up being the 6 weeks. So it was six weeks, which are 42 days, 1008 hours, 60,480 minutes of constant pain.
I went home the day after, but even high on meds, I was shocked at how immobile I was and how much pain I still felt. You take for granted all the muscles around your shoulder, bicep, peck, that help you reach, sit, get up, lean, hug, breathe.
Ok, let’s watch some TV, but, I can’t reach the remote control. Small little task, right? I try, but can’t bend over to reach the coffee table. Ok, Sandra, time to ask for help. But the pressure I felt on my chest, would barely allow me to speak one word at a time. Even with my extensive experience with yoga breathes, I couldn’t manage sentences.
Inhale, pain, “REMOTE”, pain, exhale.
Then, either my parents or Marissa would put The Remote next to my hand. And of course, they’d put it next to the bad-arm-hand. But, I couldn’t move it, nor twist to use my other hand. So again, I go…
Inhale, “MOVE”, exhale, inhale, “CAN’T”, exhale.
It’s also a huge blow on your self-esteem having to rely on someone for everything. For every single small thing. Lean up, lean back, take pills, drink water, hold water, eat. You get the point.
The only place I felt comfortable was the couch. I couldn’t even sleep on our bed because the pressure of Marissa getting on the bed would move me and create an excruciating pain. So we camped out on our living room. Me on the couch, her on an air mattress in front of me so she could help me get setup for bed, take my 4am meds and help me up when I woke up.
I also had these crazy muscle spasms that wouldn’t allow me to sleep. My body would contract all around that area, paralyzing me. So much, I even had to go to the ER the day after I went home.
For an itty bitty tumor of 1.5 cms this amount of pain was ridiculous.
I became so angry at everyone. Nobody understood the pain, discomfort and shame I felt. I was angry at my poor dogs. I didn’t even want to pet them at first. I was angry at Marissa for not anticipating my needs – but how could she? I was angry at everyone because they weren’t hurting like me. I know this isn’t fair, but that’s how I felt. You go from being the most independent, resourceful, strong woman, to a being that can’t do sh!t for her herself.
All those small things. Those trivial things. You take for granted everyday.
But even though I was angry, I knew I was on the path to recovery. This thing wasn’t inside me any longer. I felt free. Clean.
I also received a mountain of support from friends and family sending the most thoughtful gifts. Flowers, cards, care kits, even a special coffee roast called “The Avondale”. These small things definitely lifted up my spirit.
It’s the small things that make you realize how much they either can break you or hold you together.
One foot in front of the other. That’s what this whole process is all about. Tests, surgery, appointments, expansions, physical therapy, etc, etc. You have to take one day at a time. Solve one problem and then move on to the next.
I’ve asked several people if they’ve seen The Martian, and apparently nobody likes Matt Damon, which is fine. But that movie really reminded me of what I was going, and I’m going through.
You solve one problem, and you solve the next one. And then the next. And if you’ve solved enough problems to get to come home.
NEXT > THE BIG THINGS