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.