Friday, October 5, 2007

another week, recovering

It's been four weeks since my surgery. Four weeks ago this evening, I woke up feeling like I was gagging, then became aware of the breathing tube that still ran down my throat. I started waving my arms frantically, like a person suffocating, and when they saw I was awake, they pulled it out and put an oxygen tube over my nose, the kind that pumps air into each nostril. Then I was horribly thirsty. A nurse gave me a lollipop-like stick with a pink sponge on the end, which they'd stuck in a cup of ice water, and allowed me to suck on it. That was all I was allowed to put in my mouth, period, for three days until I could start eating solids again. I went through a lot of those sponge-sticks.

That seems like a long time ago now, though the memory of those pink sponges — the desperate relief at the sensation of icy water dripping down my throat — is still so vivid. Life has settled into something halfway between invalid and normal. It's by no means back to normal, but it is getting there. I can't lift Daniel, but I can hold him if someone else lifts him onto my lap. I sometimes sleep in until 9 a.m., but other times, I can get up at 7 and help feed him his breakfast. I can go for walks and drive my car and run errands, but then I come home and sleep for a few hours. This week, Steve went into the office for a few hours a day, and we managed. We had friends or relatives come over and help out, and it didn't utterly drain me to be with people for hours on end. It was actually kind of nice to visit and go for walks. That's progress. Two weeks ago, I was a recluse.

Monday, at ECFE (Early Childhood and Family Education) class, I was flipping through a folder of notices and information for parents and came across a pamphlet about fruits and vegetables that can help you avoid cancer. It made me feel wierd, and kind of angry, like all that advice doesn't really apply to people like me. I eat plenty of organic food, fruits and vegetables included, and yet I got cancer. All the fruits and vegetables in the world didn't keep me from getting cancer, and it seems that plenty of people who eat healthy foods get cancer. It seems so random, the whole question of who gets cancer and who doesn't, so what does this bulls*%$ advice really help anyone? Does it really matter? I hear on the news that drinking wine is now linked to a higher risk of breast cancer — even though it's also supposed to reduce the risk of heart disease. So what is a woman to do? Feel even more anxious about every food and drink choice? That's no fun. I'm all for good nutrition, but whatever happened to just savoring a good meal and not picking apart every ingredient? Whatever happened to pleasure? (I know; there was something about this on Oprah today, but I don't feel like recapping it.) Anyway, all this was sticking in my mind all day, and that night, sitting on our bed, I suddenly said to Steve, "I had cancer. I am a person who has had cancer," and I just started to cry. For the first time, I had a real "Why did it happen to me?" moment, and I felt so helpless.

Next week, we are going up north to spend a couple of nights in Duluth. We'll drive up to our favorite haunts on the North Shore and hopefully see some nice fall color. I hope it will be restful and relaxing; it always feels good to get up there, like Heidi in the Alps. And I'm not going to worry about what I eat.


elizabeth in mississippi said...

Emi, it does seem so random. I totally hear you about the different stats.
I'm so glad that you have friends that come over and take care of you & Daniel. (Steve, too)
All my love to you and the family.

liz said...

This is interesting. I think about this sometimes, the way some people live their lives eating doughnuts and cheeseburgers and live till the age of 90, and other people, the ones who eat organic veggies and free-range chicken,get cancer. My brother lived a peerless life; a lot of good it did him. I think the best we can do is eat good food because it feels good to us. My body feels better and I have more energy when I eat well, but I'm not going to do it because it's some magical talisman that buys me x number of years, you know?

Ah, I don't know. You are such an eloquent writer about these challenges (and everything else), Emilie. Maybe this is all fodder for some great book...

Hang in there. I can't wait to give you a big hug in person!

Emilie said...

Your mention of cheeseburgers, Liz, reminded me of another story, which I have posted separately! (I am looking forward to seeing you, too.)

E in M, I am sorry I haven't called you back. Part of the problem (besides general reclusiveness, so please bear with me) is that my cell phone bill last month was ... gulp ... $156. I thought I'd save a little money by going to a plan with fewer hours. Nope: Turns out I don't have unlimited nighttime hours anymore, and I went way over, particularly with phone interviews I was doing for one of the articles I was writing. Needless to say, I've switched back to my original calling plan.

Anonymous said...

If anything I've learned from your cancer experience Em, as well as my own, it not to take life too seriously. And eating certain vegetables because they may or may not avoid cancer down the road is definately taking life too seriously. Other people have said this too. You're right - eat a meal and drink wine that tastes good at the time. That's all that matters.

- Susanne

Ellen said...

You are still young and beautiful and still have more than half of the journey left ahead of you. Now you can become your own Oprah and apply your own theories and pleasures to your life, even in the area of eating.
You should see the movie "Garden State" if you haven't already because it's about a guy who goes off all his prescription medication he takes for every little mental, emotional and physical quirk that doctors prescribe.
I agree with what you say about pleasure. There is a vicious tidal wave out there, with way too much info. that tells us what to do and why and how. You could eat blueberries til you turn blue but it won't be the "free radicals" that cause the cancer.
I think if you write a book that puts your musings into a third-person story context, it could help others not take the steady stream of information and "Oprah theology" too seriously.

Jamie said...

I agree with everyone else here - there is no magic way to prevent cancer, or anything bad really, from happening to us. It's really just a lottery, so enjoy LIVING your life.

I also think a book is in order, you're experience has been an inspiration to a lot of people, and it is one that would be a great blessing to share!