Saturday, October 13, 2007

Not PollyAnna, not wallowing

It's time to get moving.

Not to take over the world, not to solve everyone's problems, but to stop wallowing. To let feelings in, but not allow them to overtake me as much as they have. To allow myself to feel, but not allow the darkness to swallow up the light. To look for the light switch(es) or the way out of the tunnel.

I soaked in the tub - waist down only, no water allowed near my breasts - this morning and read "Martha Stewart Living," a gift magazine that I don't usually read but enjoyed as a departure from my normal fare. I'm dressed, and wearing warm clothes, prepared to go to Lincoln Park.

Ryan is packing a backpack with snacks and a thermos of peppermint tea, and we're going to Lincoln Park to let Shep run around and give all of us some outdoor time. Tessa will collect nature samples - beautiful leaves, acorns, pinecones - of the season. I will breathe deeply in the misty air and look for joy in the gorgeous views, my scampering pup, my playful daughter, and my strong husband (who is back to himself and prepared to make amends and take care of me).

I saw my breasts fully exposed for the first time today, and looked in the mirror for the first time. They are two different sizes. There is swelling but I suspect that I needed that smaller implant, the one that we didn't have, the one that wasn't ordered. Maybe this means that I made a mistake moving forward with the surgery, but I refuse to see it that way. The mistake was the doctor's, not mine. I suspect that my breakdown would have been worse if I didn't have the surgery behind me. Maybe in a few years I'll go back for another surgery. Maybe in 10 years when it's time to replace the implants (they have a finite lifetime) I'll do it. I just hope that I don't get further encapsulation and need to do a surgery this year or next year, because I think I'd rather live with it than face that again.

making up

I got my chance to make it up to Tessa.

Fifteen minutes later, she came to me, crying. "Mama, my ear hurts...please pick me up, pick me up, Mama...." with tears running down her face.

I can't pick up anything over 5 pounds. Crap.

But I held her in my arms, stroked her hair, got her Children's Motrin, made a warm compress, and snuggled in bed with her and read her books (she lost interest in the pony movie because she wanted to be in her own bed - no TV in her room).

We looked at "The Human Body" book and learned about how ears work. We read "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Bad Day" and we compared notes from our day to Alexander's and we laughed together.

It felt good to make it up to her, to be there when she needed me, to give her comfort.

And Ryan is up and feeling himself again and he's making me coffee and wants to take care of me.

I'm exhausted. All of this is exhausting. I couldn't sleep from about 1-4am last night...I just lay there. I hope that's not a side effect of Lexapro.

Friday, October 12, 2007

GIANT dose of guilt

So I hit "publish post" and I go upstairs to watch the dumb pony movie with my beloved daughter.

She has put herself to bed. She's under the covers, sound asleep. I didn't watch the movie with her like I promised because I was too late.

This gives me a break which is what I thought I wanted but then my heart breaks for her and I think "why couldn't I have just put off my pity party for ten more minutes so that my sick daughter could fall asleep in her mama's arms"? I put my needs over hers and it didn't pan out. ARGHHHHHHHHH.

Crap. I feel like the worst mom in the world, even though it's not true. (I played with the village with her today, putting the kids to bed in their little plastic beds, taking them to the little plastic pool, tracking down the lost little plastic kittens. I made us a nice lunch, which I didn't eat but sat with her for. I'm not the worst but really not not not the best.)

Ouch. Major self-flagellation going on, even though part of me knows I shouldn't but I want to be the best I can be for her, not the good-enough mother. (Which is the title of a book. That I think I read. And recall not liking.)

By the way, I left a message for the therapist today, who, right on cue, has not called me back.

The blog does for therapy for now. Not bad therapy if I may say so myself.

this sucks

Ryan watched Tessa for an hour today while I blogged and then laid on the couch. That was my break.

What follows is not a gratitude list or a peaceful meditation.


I took Ryan to the doctor, and took Tessa to a coffee shop to wait for him (she's got a cold, so I didn't want her in the waiting room). We waited, then picked him up. Then we went to Rite-Aid, and Ryan waited in the car with his barf bucket handy while Tessa and I filled the prescriptions.

I dutifully asked the pharmacist all of the questions (Imitrex for migraines, an anti-emetic, and a pain med) and how they worked together and when he could take them blah blah blah. Side effect of all three? Sleepiness.

Got Ryan home. Got his water. Gave him three meds. Said "good night" and he went to the guest room.

Tessa and I are in PJs again and it's just after 6pm. Her nose is a faucet, she's pale, she's sneezing, and she's saying "my ear hurts." She's also saying, "I'm thirsty" and "let's snuggle" and "watch a movie with me." I have set her up but then I need to take my meds (I'm breaking down to take pain pills, plus the Lexapro, plus Benedryl....oh, crap, I forgot Aromasin) and she's saying, "Watch the movie NOW Mama!" She deserves me and love and tenderness but I just need to take my damn pills so leave me alone! (I say that here. I did NOT say that to her.)

Me? Oh, me? What do I have to complain about? New side effect: blurry vision. The happy pills won't kick in for at least another week or two (or six or eight) and I'm PISSED OFF. I feel nauseaus, achy, tired, sore (kicked in the chest by a horse kind of sore, mostly centered around my left shoulder). My new nipples (and area) are oozing stuff into the gauze that makes me want to barf when I look at it. I'm told that this is normal. I have a headache. My eyes are itchy.

But now I'm going to go upstairs to watch "My Little Pony" with my beloved daughter because that is what you do when you're a parent.

If the drugs work for Ryan, he'll feel better in two hours. But the pharmacist said that I should let him sleep it off. I asked. I wish I hadn't. But I love Ryan and I want him to be well and I guess I can count my blessings if I get away with him being ill only one day instead of five like last time. And I know this isn't what Ryan wanted or predicted. And I know that he feels genuinely lousy, that light makes him throw up he's so sick.

But it was supposed to be about ME. Is it EVER about me? Or am I something to be fit in whenever it's convenient? It appears that it's the latter at the moment, and at the moment my emotional and physical problems belong to me and nobody else and I'm in charge.

When Ryan is well enough to talk this through, we'll figure it out. And he can make up for it by taking care of me again.

Nobody said that life was fair, but this feels ridiculous.

a glimmer of hope

Ryan is upstairs, wearing sunglasses to block the light, reading Tessa a story, so that I can rest. This was his idea.

I think it's a very good idea.

This is what it feels like to feel like hell and do what needs to be done. This is what I have been doing for a couple of years.

I wish that I could feel more tender right now, and that the tenderness was more genuine; instead, I feel like a little justice is being served, and that Ryan will be walking in my shoes for a while.

Maybe he will see that it feels good to be Strong and Brave, too, even (especially) in adverse circumstances. And this will let me feel weak and small when I need to be.

failing the test

Ryan is resting in the darkened guest room. I have brought him ice for his neck. I have read him affirmations of wellness. I have coached him through deep breathing. I have massaged his neck. I have made him an appointment (4:30) for the doctor. I have served him applesauce. I have put out towels, dimmed the lighting, and made him take a hot shower.

Tessa is playing. I have braided her hair. I have worked on words (she's expressing an interest in reading, and knows how to read "cat" and "rat" and other "at" words!!!) with her. I have played ponies with her. I have made her oatmeal for breakfast. I have wiped her nose. I have held her in my lap. She is calling for me; she wants me to play fairies with her.

I have swept up the doghair (a morning ritual). The dishwasher is running. The beds are made.

I am still in my pajamas. My heart is heavy. My chest, still bruised, hurts. My eyes, though the sutures are out, still alternately itch and throb.

Tessa can't go to a playdate because then she'd spread her nasty cold.

Ryan can't do much without throwing up.

So I'm in charge. Again. It's up to me to make everyone happy and well, and it's my responsibility. I'm very responsible. Everybody else trumps me. Here we go again.

I'm pissed that I'm trapped in this pattern. Angry at Ryan because when we figured this out (stress triggers migraines for him; lack of sleep triggers migraines for him) in August that he didn't follow up and go to the doctor to get migraine meds to prevent this from happening again, even though he promised, even though I brought it up twenty times. VERY angry about that. Angry at Ryan for coming to bed at 2:30am when he has responsibilities and he's run down, so that he put himself in this position. Angry that now that we're in this position, he can't fix it, so it's up to me to manage. Very, very angry.

And yet I feel sympathy for him when I hear him retching, when I see how pale he is. His pain is real, and I love him and want to help him.

But he put himself in this position, and I have to bail him out. And nobody is taking care of me.

Tessa is tapping me; she's hungry. It's lunch time. Here we go. Today, I am failing the test. The only difference between today and other days is that today I am saying I AM MAD ABOUT THIS. I DESERVE BETTER. THIS IS UNFAIR. I WILL NOT STAND FOR IT.

I didn't ask Ryan if he would go to the doctor, I just made the appointment. (My assumption is that he'll get migraine meds to make the problem manageable.) I'm taking this into my own hands. If I have to pay the price for doing it someone else's way, we'll do it my way. I will not accept less.

first test

Today will be a test of sorts.

Tessa is sick; she was up in the night (and that never happens) and will need extra TLC and nurturing.

Ryan has a migraine. He gets them when he's particularly stressed and not taking care of himself. The last one lasted five days.

The test will be to figure out how to take care of myself properly in the midst of these unfortunate events.

Tessa is still sleeping - she really was awake a lot last night. Ryan is laying in a dark room with ice on his neck, practicing deep breathing and affirmations of wellness. When he's well enough, we need to get him into a doctor's office to get migraine meds, asap.

I am going to take care of myself. I will give because there is pleasure in caring for others, especially those I love most, but I will try to remember not to give more than I have. I will expect them to be understanding of my problems, as I will try to understand theirs.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

fighting analogies

I am a Warrior Woman. I fight for a cure. I'm doing battle against breast cancer.

All words of war.

It struck me just now that I am not a two year and four month survivor; it's that I have been FIGHTING the war for two years and four months.

2y4m of never knowing when I'd get bombed again.

2y4m of being humiliated (let me just look at your breast; wear this horrible gown; etc.), battered, bruised, poked. I've filled enough blood vials to fill gallon jugs, I'm sure.

2y4m without much of a break. Of constant assaults. Of having to be sharp. Of being ever vigilant. Of holding my gun, my back against a tree, trying to discern shapes in the darkness.

And now, it is announced, I am being sent away from the battlefield. I have been released.

And as I reenter civilian life, I have no idea how to manage myself. No idea how to strip from my mind what I know. No idea how to be polite and civil about everyday things.

Sounds pretty extreme, doesn't it? But it's how I'm feeling.

The PTSD thing makes too much sense to me. I'm not self diagnosing, but I am looking at the idea.

I need to learn how to be less vigilant; to think about it less.

Off to take my first Lexapro. I'll call the new shrink in the morning.


Today I woke up with the unsettling feeling that I was going to have to get moving again and be human again and that sounded like a really big burden.

I got out of bed, went upstairs for coffee. Poor Tessa woke up coughing, saying "My throat hurts." I feel so bad for her; her cough is really horrendous, and worst of all she had to miss "her" day at preschool, and the field trip.

My mom came to pick me up and take me to the doctor. I had to go in to have the stitches in my face removed (thank God because I was really done with the blue strings poking out everywhere) and to have the bandages removed and replaced on my chest.

Being back in the doctor's office was not pleasant. Having stitches removed and being cleaned up and having tape ripped off my skin was not pleasant. But I made it through.

I told the doctor my view of my experience, and she apologized profusely, told me how much she respects me, and had tears in her eyes. It all felt strangely flat to me.

I returned the WonderWoman costume and picked up the fabrics for Tessa's "bat princess" costume (I think I've come up with a creative way to marry those two ideas). I picked up my new prescription: Lexapro is the name of the magic drug intended to keep my dark feelings at a manageable level. I had lunch with my mom.

And now I have to go rest. This is more than I've done in a few days and though it's not much, it's all I've got. Facing the doctor today took a lot out of me.

I still have to wear a straightjacket bra for another week. Still no showers for a week. My nipples are still bleeding and gross, but I'm told that the skin grafts worked and that they look good. I go back to the doctor in a week.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

little steps

Tomorrow I'm going to pretend to be a normal human being for a while.

Tomorrow, for the first time in days, I'll take off the sweats that I've been sleeping in for days, put on shoes, and leave the house (to go to the doctor, to go on a field trip with Tessa). I will pick up my new prescription for magic pills (Lexapro). I will be there for Tessa, to play with her. I will go to bed early.

I feel like a totally different person than I did a few days ago. I don't know what to think of the changes.

Ryan has utterly stepped up and has waited on me hand and foot, and I feel gratitude and peace about this. I think it's pretty scary to see your wife totally lose it: sorry, honey. The cat has laid under the covers (he goes under by himself!) by my leg, not moving, for 12 hours at a time, just being close to me. Shep sits by me and whimpers. The animals know that something is up and it hasn't been good.

Tessa, on the other hand, has been delighting in bringing me small treasures (my bedside table is filled with things from her room) and telling me stories and being excited about her playdates with friends, which have been many in the past couple days (thank you thank you). Today we told her that it's her day for show and tell tomorrow and she's over the moon with excitement. (The decided upon items: Special Blanket and Special Bear, the items she has slept with since babyhood. Special Bear is so worn that you can no longer tell that he used to be a warm winter white, and he's no longer fuzzy...but he's very special.) Tomorrow is a field trip to Discovery Park to look at spiders and she's convinced that she'll find the first spiders and that it's going to be magical. I'm going to try to attend, too.

I'm looking deep, deep inside. It's not pretty. It's not fun to acknowledge my fear, my powerlessness, my anger. It's not fun to see how I have contributed to my own problems. It's not fair to see that even when I did everything perfectly sometimes things went very, very wrong. It's not fun to look at how much awful stuff I've had to endure over the past two years, and to acknowledge that there were no lessons or positives out of those experiences.

It's not fun to put up a "STAY OUT!" sign that has a note under it, "PollyAnna, this means YOU!" because I'm so mad at PollyAnna. Or maybe at myself because I am she. Or not. But anyway, I'm mad, and I don't welcome that kind of optimism back in my life because the let-down is NOT WORTH IT.

But I also know that I need to be an optimist, I just need a new way for it.

I'm returning my Halloween costume, by the way. I was going to be WonderWoman to show my alter-ego but I've decided I'm NOT WonderWoman and so it doesn't fit. I have other ideas now...stay tuned to see.

My voice is coming back.

I don't know how much I can explain outside of the's all pretty raw, unappetizing, scary stuff, and I don't think I'm ready yet. Thank you for understanding.

What a mess, though. I never saw it coming and now it seems so obvious.

I can't wait to get my hands on my new pills.

an outpouring of love

As I am crashing and burning many have made it clear to me how important I am to them, even when I am not smiling and being sweet and pulling my share.

Part of me wants to jump out and get back in the world but I'm too scared to do it too soon because I suspect that the abyss is still trying to suck me down and I need to gather my strength.

Part of me wants to help others right now. To take care of my family. To do all kinds of "right" things.

But I think that I am going to rest. To stay away. To let everyone take care of me. To not answer the phone.

Thank you for sticking by me. You know who you are.


I really had it out with Ryan yesterday.

He really hasn't understood what I'm going through, and how much I need his help to be the glue in this family when I am down and out. That everybody needs to have their hand held, me included. That nobody is as strong as I was being. NOBODY. That I hurt just as much as anybody else, that I need love just as much. That "I'm fine" doesn't mean anything if I'm bleeding and swollen and hurting and tramatized. I think that "I'm fine" in those circumstances means that you if can't see how not-fine I am, how much I am struggling, how much extra care I need, then you are not really looking at me. If you can't look me in the eye, I can not reveal my pain.

That's pretty messed up. I know. Ryan is closest, so he gets the brunt of it.

Ryan protests. He wants to help. This is where it gets sticky. He is so frustrated that I have not let him help; I am frustrated that he has not tried harder. I am frustrated that I wasn't allowed to ask him for help as he struggled with his own demons, and that I had to shoulder so much in his place. I'm damn angry, as a matter of fact.

Ryan is a good man. I'm glad I married him. I love him. He is a great dad, and Tessa thinks that he hung the moon. He is capable of great things. This is not about belittling him. I'm just trying to be honest about where all of this "stuff" I'm dealing with is coming from, and it's not all roses.

My strength is real, but also a farce. It's what I did to hold it together through a long ride through hell, but it has its limits.

And I have reached those limits.

A woman on the YSC has been through more than I have. I won't tell her story here because it is not mine to tell, but she knows about pain and loss and cancer and other tragedies; she started her journey before mine, has been going without a break, and isn't done yet (though she will be soon). I admire her more than I could possibly express here; she is graceful and real at the same time. She sent me a reply to my "help!" message that I sent out to the girls in Cancerland, and she told me that she had been watching me since the beginning. She told me that she's been waiting for this, and that it was okay for me to break down now.

Suddenly, it all feels so transparent. This was inevitable, and I didn't see it coming.

I have not really dealt with all of this. I have told myself that Bad Things Happen and It's Okay.

Bad things happen. It is not okay. It's reality, but it sucks.

And a LOT of bad things have happened to me.

As somebody else put it to me, PollyAnna never got cancer.

It has been pointed out to me that a lot of survivors get post traumatic stress disorder. A counselor on the YSC pointed out to me that she thought I had an acute case, and to get thee to a shrink post haste. I'm pretty sure she's right.

I have taken great pains to prove to people that I Am Okay. That I am Bigger Than Cancer. That I Am an Inspiration.

Well, maybe I am. But I'm also human. DAMNIT. This part hurts. That no matter how much I deal with pain in various forms, in the end, I am not WonderWoman. I can take bullets to the chest and lift SUVs off innocent babies but in the end, I'm just human, and I still hurt, and I still bleed. I can lift the SUV to save the baby (or myself), true, but I still put out my back, damage my muscles, break my bones, and burst my blood vessels. I am not unscathed from the process.

I have forgotten how to acknowledge pain. When is pain too much? For me, it's when the nausea overwhelms me and I feel terror because if I throw up my chest stitches will burst open from the force of the vomit expelling from my body. I know the pain is too much if I start shaking uncontrollably. I know the pain is too much if I wake up moaning. I've experienced those things more times than I can count.

But right before the moaning, or the shaking, people ask me if I'm okay and I think "Well, all my parts are there. I guess I'm okay," and so I say "I'm fine."

I'm not fine. It should be abundantly clear that I am not fine. But when the pain is a throbbing in my body and it's almost manageable if I lie perfectly still and keep my breathing shallow, I haven't been able to acknowledge that this is the kind of pain that nobody should ever experience. Never mind that if I HAD to, say, if the hospital caught fire, I could make it out on my own two feet, it's not okay. Never mind that I can take it as long as it doesn't crank up any more. I shouldn't have to take it.

The nurses are surprised when they come to check on me and ask me my pain. "What number on a scale of 1-10, 10 is worst?" I think. It feels like I'm dying. But I know I'm not dying. 7? Oh, don't be a wuss, 7's for really bad stuff, and this isn't all that bad, because I can still talk in short sentences if my eyes are closed. "Five?" I say, uncertain. "FIVE?" they respond, "Why didn't you tell me! Let me get you some more narcotics! Let's bring that down."

How come I don't even know how much pain I'm in, on my own personal scale?

My cancer has been inconvenient to more people than I can count. People are tired of my complaints. They like it when I'm brave. "Oh I'm so glad you're up and about so soon!" they say. This is how I have defined myself. I am successful when people are telling me how brave I am.

I'm the girl who lost 40 pounds while in the middle of hell. The girl with a mastectomy who went swimming the day her head was shaved bald. If I can do that, I can do anything. I'm the girl who speed-walked the first year of the 3-Day.

I'm also the girl who wrote a 3-Day speech that had 2500 people in tears. It honestly struck me - why are they crying? It was supposed to inspire! It was supposed to show that there could be joy with pain! We all know that cancer is painful, but I was showing joy! Why were they crying?

More importantly, why were they crying so freely when I was not?

If you've followed any of this rambling, you know, as I am now realizing, that I am completely crazy. I have really lost it this time.

I spoke to Rev. Peg yesterday, and she reminded me of the sermon from last week, teachings of a Buddhist monk whose 3-part name (Thac? Nan?.....?) I can never remember, even though he is an amazing teacher and human. Anyway, it was about owning all of our parts. It was about allowing ourselves to acknowledge our anger, to turn it over in our hands, to accept it, and to look at it with acceptance before doing anything with or to it. Or maybe it's about not doing anything to it, just acknowledging that anger is real, as much as joy or other "positive" feelings. I need to go online and read the sermon, that's for sure. (I heard the lecture when 24 hours out of the hospital, in pain, on narcotics. Pardon me for getting the details mixed up.)

Because I think that I have said, "There is no point in being angry over something I can not control," and I have tried to turn my anger into positive actions (focusing time on fundraising, for example). I have not accepted that I have burning anger. That it just "is." That it is an (acceptable?) part of the package. That you cannot go through what I have been through and emerge unscathed.

And now the anger has exploded and taken over. Instead of apologizing for this, instead of smoothing everything over, instead of pretending that I feel better than I do, I am attempting to stand back and watch - let - it blow.

This meant that I spent a lot of last night crying and yelling. Let me tell you, this is not Lifetime Movie material. This is ugly.

Part of what I am realizing is that I have spent a lot of time making people feel better about the fact that I had cancer, the fact of my pain, the fact of my concern. People love to talk about how I'm going to fight this thing and win; nobody wants to talk about the fear of losing. "Oh that won't happen to you," they say. Well, I'm allowed to worry. I'm allowed to acknowledge my fear. My cancer isn't scary because I had to take bad drugs and do awful surgeries; my cancer is scary because it threatens to take away my breath, to turn me back to ashes.

And I'm angry that I have all of this fear and nowhere to put it.

I'm angry because if I spend an hour at home watching Dr. Phil I feel like I have let down Tessa and myself and everyone because Dr. Phil is junk-TV and not useful and I have wasted a day that I was lucky enough to have. I feel guilty because I could be doing something useful to improve the life of my family or of the planet. I feel guilty because I'm resting when I should be working. There is always work to do. But when am I allowed to just rest? When am I allowed to take an hour to gather my thoughts, or to just rest?

On Monday, fresh out of surgery, Tessa at my mom's, why did I do four loads of laundry, change the sheets, take out the recycling, load and unload the dishwasher? WHY? There are a lot of answers to that questions, and I'm not interested in the most simple answers.

I guess I'm running out of steam. I'm waiting for Dr. Rinn to call. I need meds. I still feel completely off balance.

Ryan stayed home today to take care of me. I am under orders to rest.

Our fridge and freezer are stocked with meals from friends and Mom. Tessa has been under wonderful care from my Mom, Heather, Katie, Beth, and others. I can't blame any of this on a lack of a support system. I have bouquets of flowers, food, desserts, cards, gifts to remind me of how much people love me. It makes no sense at all that I would feel unlovable, but I can't explain it. I am so grateful to my friends and family - you know who you are, and how much I love you.

I'm just a basket case.

And for those of you reading this and thinking that this is just a phase, let me say in no uncertain terms: this is me, too. This me has been there all along. I need to be in this place right now. It's dark and it's scary and I hate it but I've got to get through it. PollyAnna is still missing but I'm starting to resent the hell out of her because she led me down this path and then abandoned me in the wilderness with no map to get out. I'm pretty pissed off at her, for letting me believe in her, for letting me believe that I could count on her to stick around, because she has left when I needed her more than ever.

In a day or two I hope I will be functional again, not weeping at every turn. But not today. Today I'm crying a lot and so confused. In a day or two I will have to emerge from my hole and face the day and look at the sun (or feel the rain on my face; it is Seattle) and I will try to find some middle ground between PollyAnna and the darkness where I don't feel schizophrenic. I will take all of the necessary steps (make gratitude lists, meditate, deep breathing, take drugs, seek a counselor, blah blah blah) to figure my way through the mess and I'll figure it out. But this part of me is not going away.

I have to deal with this part of me so that I am prepared when it comes back again, because I am very ill prepared this time.

What a freaking disaster. Just when I think I'm at the end of the awful journey, just when I think I'm the most healed, I fall apart. Great.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I am relatively certain that I have slipped from a bad mood into a clinical depression.

If I look, it's been coming for a long time.

I have called the amazing Dr. Rinn (who was out of the office today) and left a message asking for anti-depressants. Maybe magic pills can make my problems go away.

I am completely drained of strength. I do not have anything left to give to others or myself.

I am ashamed of my inability to be a good mom. Thank GOD I can blame the surgery right now so that Tessa doesn't need to worry about one more thing.

I want to crawl into a hole, to disappear.

I can not shake the feeling that it is my job to make everyone else feel better, and that it's my Good Attitude that keeps the world spinning. It seems that now my Good Attitude has gone away the world will stop, but I know that's stupid and egocentric of me. I'm not that important, and I know it. Maybe a better way to put it would be to say that without My Good Attitude and Amazing Strength and Courage, which are ways I have defined myself, I feel unlovable. I feel like a screw up. My Good Attitude, Strength, and Courage have defined me for a long time and without them I am lost. Scared. Hopeless. Lonely. Frightened.

If anyone is seeking inspiration from me today, I'm afraid you'll have to go elsewhere. Shop is closed until further notice, with apologies from management.

And yet a tiny bit of me remains. For those of you who know and love me, know that I am working on it. That I am hopeful that Dr. Rinn has some new magic pills in her arsenal that will take the edge off. That I will remind myself of all of the things that I have to be grateful for, even though such a list makes me want to gag. That I will work on repairing my damaged relationships (I'm pissed off right now and there are those who know it). I'll get over it. I always do. It's just that right now, it's so dark, and I can't find a match, and I'm cold and scared.

Maybe all I need is rest.

Good God, reading this, I sound like a bad novel; like a cliche'. Whatever. It's all I've got right now.

Bad mood reigns

I am in a horrible mood.


PollyAnna is on vacation. I can't find her anywhere, and frankly, I am too freaking tired to look for her.

I do not have the ability to hold polite social conversations on the phone at this time. If you ask me how I am, I will tell you. Be warned. It's not pretty.

Physically, I'm doing fine. It sucks, but it's fine. I'm trying not to take pain meds because they have too many bad side effects. I'm managing.

Emotionally, I'm a wreck. I have done too much, been through too much. Ryan and I are arguing, and I'm very angry with him (and he with me). I have to come to terms with the fact that I ask for too much, and I need to ask for less. This is a struggle for me.

I am tired of being the strong one. I am tired of having to hold it all together. I am tired of doing the right thing, I am tired of being an optimist, I am tired of making lemonade from lemons. I am tired of trying to buoy the spirits of everyone around me. I am tired of telling everyone that I'm fine. I am tired of making others feel better that I had cancer. I am tired of smiling. I don't feel like smiling. I feel like crying. I am tired.

I do not need advice right now. If you offer it, no matter how well intentioned, I may snap. I apologize in advance for this anti-social behavior. I value good manners, but I am at my limit. It is best that I avoid social interactions right now, because I don't have one milimeter of patience or extra goodwill to share. I'm at my limit.

I'm just tired. Really, really tired.

Monday, October 08, 2007

PollyAnna, where are you?

Damnit PollyAnna, come back here. Right. This. Minute. Come here! Where are you?

I really need PollyAnna, and she has left me when I need her most.

I am in a terrible mood.


Surgery was not fun. It makes me feel sort of ill just to think about it.

I got to the hospital early, and spent a joyful half hour holding Michele & Dave's newest family member, Everett. It was the only highlight in a miserable day.

But then I had to go check in to surgery.

I checked in, and answered all of the questions. "No, I'm not pregnant." "Yes, I'm sure." Don't you people read my chart? I've had a hysterectomy - I am NOT pregnant! I even told them, "I've had a hysterectomy and oopharectomy" and they continued to ask, "Are you sure?" Whereas I realize that they have to be careful, there is a point at which this type of thing is insulting.


First, Ryan was late, because his work meeting ran late. On a normal day I could handle it, but I was feeling really alone and scared and I couldn't stop watching the clock, wondering when he would get there. In a hospital, right before surgery, 25 minutes feels like a lifetime.

Then, they had to poke me multiple times. First, to do blood work, with a "sorry no I can't hook up the IV someone else has to do that." Idiots! Then, to hook up the IV, but I told her it wouldn't work without a hot towel to enlarge my vein, and I got the "oh I've done this lots of times" and then she tried and poked me but it didn't work. She was surprised; I wasn't.

Then waiting for the anesthesiologist, who got the IV in right away, but put it right in the bend of my wrist so that I couldn't move my hand without feeling the needle jab me inside of my wrist.

Then, off to a supply room filled with boxes (!) with the surgeon to take pictures and mark me up for the operation. Lots of Sharpie pen on me, as I stand there, mostly naked, a gown tied around my waist because I am not allowed to wear underwear into surgery (but it's CHEST and FACE surgery.....?!), my bare rear end up against the cold wall.

Lots of marking, lots of discussion about where the nipples should go. The surgeon couldn't seem to understand that the muscles on my chest still have feeling even though the skin doesn't, and she kept pinching me and moving my breasts around in a way that hurt me. I kept saying, "That hurts" and "that's really uncomfortable" but she kept saying "Oh really?" and "oops I'm sorry" and then she'd do it again in a moment.

Throughout this, there are knocks on the door, and we are interrupted by three different people, each of whom comes in, rummages through boxes and drawers, says, "Sorry!" and leaves. All while I am standing there naked and covered in Sharpie.

Small indignities such as these add up after a while.

Then we discussed the different things that would be accomplished in the surgery. I asked about what size the new implant would be to make my left breast smaller to match my right breast. The assistant got nervous, stating, "Wait I didn't know about that and I didn't order another implant" and she rushed off to track it down.

What the ****?!

She came back, sans implant. None had been ordered.

At this point, the doctor changed what we had talked about. She said, "Oh, I'm sure it will be fine without the implant exchange; when we remove the encapsulation it will look smaller," and I said, "If this is true, then how come you wanted an implant in the first place?" and there was some discomfort in the room.

I was told that I could reschedule the surgery if I wanted to. She told me that the implant was just for back-up purposes, and that she thought things would be fine.

So now I'm expected to go into surgery without a back-up. Great.

I knew that I should walk away. I knew that the risk of things not going well was too high, and that I should reschedule.

But I couldn't.

I couldn't face walking into the hospital again. As I have blogged here, I have felt the weight of a thousand worlds on my shoulders as I faced this surgery, and I have hated the worry about it. I couldn't do it again. It makes me shake to face surgery, and I couldn't face it again.

I started to weep. My choice was to go into surgery without a back-up plan to put in a smaller implant if necessary - the back up that the surgeon told me we would have, that she felt comfortable with. Or, I could walk away from the hospital, explain to Tessa that Mommy didn't get nipples, that we weren't done after all, that we needed to plan for another surgery.

Naked and shaking, I slid to the floor and sobbed uncontrollably. I could not stop crying. It is so brutally unfair that I would be forced to make this decision, minutes before surgery, naked, IV in my arm. The assistant said, "Just look on the bright side. I believe that a positive attitude will help!" and I wanted to commit her to an insane asylum. I know a LOT about being positive. I'm Ms. PollyAnna most of the time. But things go wrong, and not because I have a bad attitude. I'm the one who got breast cancer, who needed an extra surgery because the sentinal node results were wrong, who had an allergic reaction to Taxol, who got third degree radiation burns, who is already on her second set of corrections to the plastic surgery. Don't tell me to have a good attitude! A good attitude will not help if I'm under anesthesia and the implant size is wrong and there is no back up.

A horrible choice, and I fear that I made the wrong choice. But what could I do? Walk away from surgery, rescheduling my families' lives; or get it over with. I knew if I walked away that I could not be certain that I would ever have the strength to sign up for it again. I knew that I couldn't put myself through it again. And I knew that I could not face telling Tessa, who has counted on this symbolic moment for so long, that Mommy wasn't getting nipples after all.

I can not believe that I was expected to make such an important decision while naked, IV in wrist, covered in Sharpie, in a supply room closet, minutes before surgery. I am only human. How was I expected to manage this? What was the right thing to do?

So I said, "Okay, I'll do it."

We'll see if it worked. I'm still in a straightjacket bra, and will be for two weeks.

I woke up from surgery feeling fuzzy headed, nauseated, and in pain. I couldn't get the pain to go down - it climbed and climbed, and they kept giving me more meds. I couldn't sleep. It was all I could do not to throw up. They hooked me up to a pain pump at night - it was realized, amongst all of us, that there was no way I could go home - and this was idiotic because I was exhausted and the pain pump was set up for every 10 minutes. So, every 10 minutes, I would need to wake up to re-deliver pain meds, or suffer the pain of not doing so (which would wake me up anyway).

At about 1am I asked to be given oral pain meds, and to have the pain pump removed. I slept in half hour stretches after that, but at least that's better than 10 minute stretches.

I was more than ready to go home in the morning; I even stopped at the coffee shop on the way, before collapsing into bed, just to prove to myself that I was alive.

I am trying to steel myself for the fact that I might need another corrective surgery, and I could kick myself into next week for not having more strength and courage to walk away.

I will certainly let my plastic surgeon know how incredibly disappointed in her I am; I will make sure that she understands that the "minor clerical error" of not placing an order has had a huge impact on me, and that I find it extremely unprofessional of her/her office.

In the meantime, I'm trying, often unsuccessfully, to have a good attitude about this, and to heal.

Tessa has been in a bad mood much of the weekend; Ryan and I are still in bad moods.

Today goes on much like normal, though Tessa is with my mom. I've folded four loads of laundry, emptied the dishwasher, taken out the recycling (it's garbage day), etc. Life goes on even when I'm feeling miserable.