This was written as a much needed catharsis and documentation of some of my experiences waking from post-surgery. I don’t want to be a downer on this, but I feel the visceral truth of many people’s experiences goes unmentioned, leaving the next person in their path walking just as blindly as before, so I felt it was important to actually post this as well.
I am still in the throes of initial recovery at the hospital (out of the ICU yesterday), but have a long way to go before I’m able to really care for myself and leave this place.
Also, I haven’t wanted to post anything because there is a much greater story as to the “development” of my cancer and the forthcoming ways of dealing with it, a lot of which my parents and myself don’t know yet. We are waiting to have an appointment with the oncologist and after we get a wider understanding of what is happening and the plan from here on out, I will post a more informational update.
For now, I have this to offer, coupled with all the gratitude I can muster out of this broken body for the care packages, financial donations, and words of encouragement. If you would rather not hear about the less than pleasant aspects of post-operation life, I would suggest you not read this one…and I totally understand.
Till the next update friends, enjoy your runs!
5 days with Cancer.
There is Cancer.
And then there is everything else.
There is everything else surrounding cancer, that may or not be directly related to that greatest of concerns. Those that often go unmentioned. Unnamed. They are there, on the periphery, out of the spotlight, as their individual states of pain and discomfort are trivial, but as I’ve learned, the combined effect is so incredibly potent.
There is the pain on the bottom of your foot from struggling to find a comfortable position in bed all night, but always resorting back to resting in that one same position. There are festering, multi-colored sores, highlighted by surprisingly tall, thin, fluid-filled blisters on the inner arm and abdomen, a map of sorts to the newly-discovered allergy from medicinal tape. There is the nurse that scrubs your forehead too hard with a soapy washcloth, painfully tearing away the acne that has built up and dried into clusters in the open air, now leaving little scabs dancing across the forehead. There is the tube that was pushed down your nose and into your throat, rubbing raw against the sensitive inner skin as your body swelled around it’s extension. There is the fear reserved for horror movies during those first two days when you lapsed in and out of consciousness, unable to communicate verbally as the tube filled and choked with your constantly draining mucus, causing at least one vomit episode in order to force a path through. There are the oxygen tubes inserted straight up your nostrils and taped to your nose so tight that after a few days every breath in drug them repeatedly over an already worn path of painfully raw cartilage. There are the chunks of blood and mucus dried up behind those indiscrete tubes, accessible by no one and choking off just that much more precious oxygen. There is the catheter unforgivingly extending from your penis and running off to a container somewhere on the floor, it’s exit point marked with a spot of pointed burning, causing fear of moving too much once you have appeased it’s complaint. There is the nurse that gave such careful and attentive care during the day, only to be replaced by strong, fumbling new recruits at best, and hardened-hearted veterans at worst. There is the swollen face, holding captive the sleep in your eyes, unable to drain away, so now drying up and becoming yet another abrasion to contend with at some point during the day, you ending up as the loser with stinging, salty eyes. There is the accumulated psychological fatigue of the passing of days and hours, which you can not find the energy to track, only waiting with fierce impatience for the ailments to fall away and die. There is the pain in your rectum that you aren’t sure what is it’s cause, hearing nothing mentioned from doctor’s or nurses alike, forcing you to consider if anyone even knows there is something down there. There is the rippled balloon pulled a touch too slowly from the rectum, unleashing the foulest of feces smells into the air after being trapped by the enema device for days. There is the morphine that offers such a magical release from the pain and yet holds the body down as if it is being crushed by a lead blanket, destroying all ideas of movement and basic self-care. There is the urinating container on the table next to you, just 2 inches further away than you need it to be for careful grasping, like a dare one can’t avoid taking, and the subsequent pain that stabs your abdomen as you are forced to roll to the side to achieve those precious inches. There is the swollen scrotum, expanded to a point one is hard-pressed to believe as a common response to surgery and something much more dire, creating great magnitudes of difficulty in movement, in distinct fear that a little too much pressure, or a mis-judged placement of sitting might rupture the whole casing completely. There are the leads that extend to the wires, their adhesive backs pressed deeply into chest hairs that involve a great ripping removal when procedure necessitates, multiple times in the span of a week. There are the fluid and electric pathways, so many of them, snaking in and out of the hospital gown and entering into the body in some spots or into ports in others, always a tangled hassle of plastic tubing, causing detailed calculation with every simple movement, wether across the room or just simple across the bed. THere is the epidural entry point that runs the back like an external spine, finding an IV access to bring it inside, offering the most precious relief on the inside, but an unavoidable point of nagging and discomfort on the out, ruining the hopes for a simple flat backed sleep position. There are the dreams, induced by restless sleep and a body filled with the effects of pain-numbing drugs, always difficult and hard to separate from reality, which upon awakening didn’t offer much safety. There are the moments during the day where one is hypnotized in and out of consciousness by the effects of the drugs, a set of closed eyes immediately bringing in images of frustration, discomfort, inhibited drunken movement, only to be awoken into reality with only the characters changed. There is the indescribable pain of switching off one pain management system to another, causing a brief lapse of time that becomes filled with a quick growing and increasingly mounting physical stabbing of the abdomen that threatens to consume the whole body, offers no respite, and is only fought off with minimal mitigation techniques and the slow drip of drugs, leaving the victim with a 100 yard stare and unable to recognize the world around them. There is the skin that dries with sores, and if kept still too long pries away at the attached with a forceful tearing of movement. There is the itching that comes with fabrics pressed to the skin for days on end, despite baths contained within wash cloths. There is the string of social workers, nurses, doctors, specialists, who some show themselves to be caring and considerate, while others merely filling formalities, but all unable to break from the procedure of interrupting sleep, thoughtful consideration and just necessary downtime for a wounded animal. There are the spaces between joints that begin to pop and press on each other with the most simple of movements that have now gone neglected for more time than one even gives thought. There are the days without real food and real liquid, replaced by a nutritional concoction and fed unceremoniously into the body, circumventing any tastebuds or pathway of enjoyment, making you feel like a dystopic, futuristic sci-fi movie character. There is the accumulation of mucus that builds in the mouth, throat and lungs as one sleeps with little positional relief, necessitating a morning of incredibly painful half-coughs, hoping to dredge up just enough chewable mucus to spit away and allow for a few moments of free breathing. There is the waiting, comprised of the boredom that can’t be filled with just movies, reading, individual passions, before being consumed again by the desperation of it all. There is the oxygen tube, snaking out from the nostrils before joining back up again to wind around the backs of the ears, rubbing a blister gently, slowly, but unremovably in its place. There is the poke in the back of the arm, to keep the legs from clotting post-surgery, that starts to come day after day after day, a dreaded morning companion who hangs around into the afternoon. There is the mouth as if filled with paste, robbed of quenching fluids and left to smack against itself in desperate longing for any tiny remnants of moisture. There is the line of staples, pulling together the incision as if a railroad was laid on the abdomen, making an abrupt turn around the navel before finding its course again, visually threatening to derail everything in its path should the rails split under tension. There are the arms and legs swollen and restricted from the water flooded into the body during surgery, fending off death in the moment, but creating a monstrous visual in the aftermath.
There is cancer. And there is all this.
And then there are the tears that arise like a rapidly filling well, all this accumulation, all this compounded discomfort, all these non-cancers that take a toll impossible to trivialize, the tears that flood out all the positive imagery and thoughts of strength, leaving behind a desert of cracked land where no individual with the passion of life in their body would find desirable to reside, or even visit.
These are the first 5 days after my cancer surgery, the externalities and the cancer itself…Right now, it’s hard to discern which is worse.