I was so proud of myself for getting off the painkillers. And then yesterday afternoon I caught myself thinking of white wine spritzers, thinking of Baileys, not being able to wait for them, and I was reminded of mom. After her surgery she refused to take the painkillers. She thought that pills were a sign of weakness and a source of possible addiction. She started drinking instead.
Tuesday morning. I spent the whole night deep asleep in my own bed last night. And I woke up feeling 'normal' as if none of this had ever happened. I wasn't sick from the chemo, I had no pain or discomfort from the surgery. I was just me - normal, waking up in bed. It could've been last year, it could've been next year. It wasn't now.
And it's interesting the first thing I noticed as I drifted to consciousness was the ‘knot’, a hard core that I haven't felt since I was 'normal'. A competitive, surviving, fighting core that makes hard decisions and sees them through, the does the right thing even if it's hard or painful to myself or to others. It's a judgemental core too. What is right and wrong? I let go of that core when I started to get real sick and needed other people to take care of me. It didn't help my survival one bit to be demanding and judgemental. These are qualities that have their purpose if you're the boss, or the parent. Not so much when you are the patient. When you are the patient, and you are depending on other people to take care of you, then it pays to be sweet and accepting. That is the first thing I noticed after I woke up from my first real night in my own bed, and the chemo is getting far enough behind me that I feel much less sick from that too. The first thing I noticed is the return of the hard core. And here is the thing. I rejected it. I let it go. I said no. I no longer want to be that person. Even if I get fully well, I no longer want to be that person. I want to let go more. I want to let go of that side even more. I want to stay more placid and accepting.
I'm not a middle-aged person with a middle aged career and middle aged-aspirations any more. That is for my kids. I'm moving on to becoming the older person. I really am going there now. In my mind, I'm ready for this change in my life. I feel like I've achieved all my middle-aged aspirations. I've been successful enough, I've gone to international conferences and presented my work, I've won awards, I've done interesting work that let me travel the world and meet a big range of compelling charismatic people and go to places off the beaten path where few of us ever get to go. I've done all that. I feel good about all that.
My kids are fully functioning adults with kids of their own that they're doing a good job of raising. And they are good people too. I like them. I would like them even if they weren't my kids. I am proud of them but I don't take credit for who they've become, only for launching them, they are both flying free now. I feel good about all that. And the grandkids are pure bonus, pure joy and bonus and yes they are the first step along this road that taught me the value of letting go of demands and judgement. I wouldn't say that I spoiled them, because I think that type of "spoiling" with gifts or privileges is just a way of demanding affection, but I did accept them, as they were more than I did with my own kids, than I did when I was the parent trying to raise kids who knew the social norms and would survive and be successful in the world. With my grandkids I was more just fascinated by who they were naturally, and left all the training, judgemental jobs to their parents. I feel good about that. I made adult friends, I had adult fun, we went on exotic vacations with interesting people, we went scuba diving every winter for a while. We went to places like Bonaire and the Caymans that have a higher standard of living than Canada. I felt good about that too. I didn't feel like a hated/needed tourist. We went to plays, we went to museums, I wrote plays, I hung out with playwrights and artists and all flavours of talented accomplished peers. And I still do. I feel good about that too.
But that can all start to be kinda done for me now. I would like to move into a new, more settled phase, where I work on different things, where I stay put more and let the world come to me. Family, friends, colleagues. I don't feel like I need to go on any more exotic trips. Doesn't mean that I won't do that if the opportunity arises, but I don't feel like my life would be short changed if I didn't do more trips. Been there.
Now I'd like to keep pursuing this internal journey. And I realize now that will require a couple of things. One is to keep rejecting my judgemental, demanding ‘knot’ the same way I would reject a cancer mass. It was useful once, but it's not useful and it's even a hinderance for where I want to go next. And the other thing is time. I will have to find and make time for this internal journey. It will take sheer, sitting still, uninterrupted, quiet time.
I'm still in treatment. I don't have to do this right away. I still keep puttering through my days, but I'm also simply giving myself recovery time. Soon life will come back to me and I will have to start making and finding that kind of quiet time. Later on, later this summer. And no big decisions will happen around here until we know the results of the pathology. Not until after that.
It's not like this new, sweeter me doesn't know how to take care of herself and survive, it's just different. It's just treating myself more like one of my grandkids, not even the love and acceptance that I would give to my children, even more than that now, more like the love and acceptance I would give to my grandkids.
I am on this other track now. Switched tracks already. Switching tracks already.
I took a plain old extra strength over the counter painkiller yesterday evening, around supper time, after my husband left to go pick up the director. I was so proud of myself for getting off the heavy duty painkillers that I quit paying attention to pain, I quit trying to control it. And I was having pain. Pain in my armpit, some throbbing pain on and off there, pain along my breast stitches, surface pain there. And I was just living with it.
I was so proud of myself for getting off the painkillers. And then yesterday afternoon I caught myself thinking of white wine spritzers, thinking of baileys, not being able to wait for them, and I was reminded of mom. After her surgery she refused to take the painkillers. She took it as a sign of weakness and possible addiction. She started drinking instead. It happened gradually. Just really enjoyed her wine with dad on the weekends on a special evening. It relieved the pain, it made her feel better. They probably had sex then too, so an extra endorphin reward with that too. And then a year or two later it was hidden vodka and Diet Coke. Drinking all day long, grumpy between drinks. An alcoholic. And that went on for a few years before she realized and stopped. She stopped drinking cold turkey, one New Years at our place. She said, this will be my last drink, and it was. I looked at the second Bailey's and ice cream that I made myself, in secret, after my husband left to get the director from the airport and saw my mother happening in me. I went and got out a plain old extra strength painkiller and took it. That's what got me through the biopsy pain in Baltimore. It helped me be functional when I was taking care of the kids. And yes, it worked way better than the booze. And although I took it around 6:30 and didn't take anymore after that, it was just enough to break the feedback loop. Those pains are still gone. And I had my first really good sleep last night too. So.
Yes. I am back to being able to take care of myself again, and I am taking care of myself again. And I realize that is more important than letting other people take care of you. It was great having my sister here, but I did need to step up and start taking better care of me, myself. And I am the one that knows what works, and how much to use. So that was a lesson. Even after only a short visit and intense caregiving, even after only that much, it is still a journey back to taking better care of myself. I'm glad she was here for the part when I truly couldn't care for myself, and I'm glad she left again when I was more able to do it too. And I’m glad I learned from her that I deserve better care than I was giving myself before.
So, here I am. Had a minor accomplished day yesterday. Got stuff done. Had my bath, did my walk, had a good nap. Ate too much sweets. Drank too much booze. Corrected with a plain old over the counter painkiller. Gonna keep that in mind over the next few weeks. Whenever this whole weird boob, armpit thing gets to me, I remind myself that four to six weeks is the recovery time. It's only been ten days. I expect too much.
And Rob Ford, who was diagnosed with his cancer around the same time as me, he's been through all his chemo and radiation and he had his surgery yesterday. It was a ten hour surgery. His recovery will be three to four months. But he is done with the chemo and radiation now. They figure they got it all. Two inch tumour. Seems so small when you think of it. The plastic surgeon said that Dr. B took an apple sized, fist sized mass of tissue out of my body. I hope that means he got really good margins. I hope that does not mean they saw active cancer in there when they opened me up. That is what I hope. Weird that I know more about Rob Ford's cancer than I do about my own. I know more about the results of his surgery than my own.
I have a little plan to go get my pathology results myself and read them myself before I go in for the June 3rd meetings. Brace myself. Be thinking in the right terms before I go in. In case. In case it's bad news.
What is bad news? What is the worst news? Anything that sends me back into chemo, that will be bad news. That will be the worst news. I don't ever want to go back there if I can possibly avoid it.
What else? I finished my book, the Year of Magical Thinking. There was very little magical thinking in that book. And I did look up her daughter and learned that she had mental health issues and a drinking problem that contributed to her illness and death. So. The lack of honesty even in the account of her husbands death bugged me. I wasn't so bugged about her bragging about her lifestyle, it was kinda interesting to peek into that lifestyle, and I was surprised to see a photo of her and see both how ugly she was, and how old she was. She did not come across as an ugly old lady. I think that is because she was well loved by a man, and simply never saw herself that way. Nice, I liked that. My husband thinks I'm cute, he thinks my peach fuzz hair is cute. He never looked at my long silky beautiful hair like that, he never felt my long silky hair and enjoyed it. I did. But he didn't. He is however getting a huge kick out of my peach fuzz hair. And he likes to feel the top of my head and look at me with glowing, charmed eyes. Yes, it does make me feel better about the lack of hair. You can't fake that look. You can't fake the real delight he gets from it. He genuinely thinks I'm adorable as this little, white haired gnome person. How we internalize the way others see us. I feel adorable now too. I see it. When I look in the mirror I see the adorable gnome person that he sees, I'm internalizing that person. Soon I will have the courage to walk around bareheaded with just the adorable peach fuzz.
In the meantime, I will remember to use the plain old over the counter painkillers as needed. Stay on top of the pain that way. Don't drift off into booze and sleeplessness. Learn from what happened to mom.
Surgery wasn't the end for her. It was only the beginning of a long story of disability and pain. I want to try to avoid that if I can. We don't have to go down that road. These are different times.
Dispatched: May 14