May is here! And I don’t know what you’re writing these days, but I’m taking a giant stab at Story-A-Day May. I’ve managed it before, but I’m not sure this time how chemo treatments are going to get in the way. To be accurate, how the side-effects are going to get in the way.
But don’t we always have things to get in the way?
I like to post my stories in their rough, rough form over at my other blog The Fairy Tale Asylum. If you’re participating, let me know.
I don’t know how much about my life with breast cancer I want to blog about. But I’ve started an FB page to share this experience for what it’s worth. The FB page feels more conversational and more immediate. But the page isn’t for everyone. The blog format isn’t really working for me on this.
The drains are gone! If you’ve ever had surgery that required post-op drains, you know how awesome it is to be drain free. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google Jackson-Pratt drain. I chose not to take a picture of mine. It’s kind of hard to make them look pretty.
Writing about difficult subjects takes distance. At least for me. I can’t write well about anything I’m in the middle of. Can you? I don’t mean journaling, which is one thing. I mean, writing a story that speaks to other people, that conveys the emotion, trauma, insights of the experience.
I don’t plan to write a straightforward cancer narrative anyway. But I could add something to the Frankenstein’s monster story–the stitching and the bruising and the blood and the feeling of not being completely put together properly.
I’ve also got new thoughts on Rapunzel. Nothing like losing your hair to chemo to give you a new perspective on Rapunzel.
Life isn’t where I thought it was going to be. But that is often the case, isn’t it?
I’ve started several blog posts that I haven’t finished. Percocet took over and I couldn’t think. And everything I write seems ridiculous. Trite. Meaningless.
I don’t have anything to add to the cancer narrative. I can’t add any original observations.
I’ve started reading two breast cancer memoirs. I finished the first chapter of one of them and now I can’t decide if I want to continue reading it. Her story is compelling and she’s honest, and I’m sure it is a worthwhile read (several people highly recommended the book), but I really can’t relate to the beginning of her story.
She went to a strip club when she found out she had breast cancer.
While many women have written about their experience, certain things about the disease are very personal. And how you feel about your body is an issue with this disease. How society feels about your body is part of this disease.
All of this makes certain aspects of the disease hard to talk about. Near impossible for me. Im happy to tell you about drains and medications and tissue expanders and chemo. That’s the easy stuff.
I keep dreaming about strange rooms, houses, apartments, filled with stuff, so much stuff that I keep realizing there is more stuff in them than I thought and someone or people come in and take the stuff away. In the dream, I can’t decide what to do, but I’m surprised at all the stuff and surprised that people want to take it away from me, and half the time I’m not dressed properly so I can’t do anything because I’m trying to find my clothes.
Maybe the pain meds aren’t responsible for the dreams. Maybe the surgery experience brings out the odder corners of the mind. Possibly the meds and surgery experience collude.
In one dream, everything was red. Fire engine red. The walls, the sky, the ground, every single thing red. The same red of the light switches in my hospital room. In another dream, my purse was replaced with a bright yellow bag and every single thing in the bag was brilliant yellow. I didn’t have my wallet, money, or medicine, but I had this bag of plastic yellow things. The yellow of the “fall risk” bracelet around my wrist.
In every dream, the walls are huge. The walls always go up into the sky. Whether I’m outside or inside a building, the building is massive, almost beyond comprehension. And they move. Floors tilt or sink. Walls lean in.
Few of the dreams have other people in them, although one had sales people behind counters. I would say, “My purse has been stolen. I’m lost and have no money. Would you call the police?” And the salesperson would nod and say, “Wouldn’t you like to buy something?”
There were also mini-dreams. I doze off for a few seconds, and someone walks into the room and talks to me. When I open my eyes, no one is actually there. One of the people to show up was the tall man from Agent Dale Cooper’s dreams (visions?) in Twin Peaks.
If you’ve ever had pain med induced dreams, what were they like?
I’ve got my post-op shirts and even two small post-op pillows. One pillow is recommended for the drive home from the hospital. It will go between the seatbelt strap and me. I’ve seen post-op pictures of others to give me an idea what to expect. I’m getting my house in order, people are arranging to cook and to pick my son up for skate practice, and fundraisers have been set up.
And still I can’t quite believe this is happening.
Like when you’re a kid and you know that one day you’re going to be a grownup, but you can’t really believe it. Or your childless and decide to have a kid, having no clue as to what you’re in for. Or you get a publisher for your first book, but the book isn’t out yet and you can’t hold the book in your hands.
My imagination fails me so often. At least, it is easy to imagine these things happening to someone else, like a character in a book.
What events in your life did you find impossible to fully imagine until you got there?
When I first wanted to be a writer (back when I was eight, I think), I knew nothing about the publishing industry. I didn’t understand how agents worked or what it took to get a book to readers.
A few years ago a young man told me he wanted to write a book so that he could make money. I didn’t know whether to laugh or pat him on the head.
Learning about cancer treatments has been much the same way. I had no idea about the medical industry. I didn’t understand how surgeons worked or what it took to get a mastectomy. I didn’t know about post-op shirts, drains, expanders, or being estrogen positive. I didn’t know terms like her2/neu, sentinel nodes, or lymphedema.
Well, live and learn.
I’m going to have a novel published soon. I’ll get this through this too.
These days I’m drawing adventures in the medical wonderland.
I’m sure some of you know the vocabulary that I’m just now learning. Post surgery life does not sound like fun. I don’t like sentences that contain words like drains, valves, and special shirts. Not sparkly unicorn special. Good-for-incisions-and-drains special.
You just don’t know where life is going to take you.
A while I wrote about my health. Talking about my health makes me feel that much older. Does that make sense?
Anyway. The updates–for those of you aging along with me–are as follows:
The incision from surgery is still healing. 92% closed according to the computer. Fancy stuff computers tell us these days. Imagine what they’re going to know in 100 years.
I still don’t have any verdict on my heart condition, but the echo is scheduled for this week. The best thing about echocardiograms is that they don’t require any puncturing. Echocardiogram…sounds like an instagram from your heart that keeps repeating itself.
The oncologist thinks cancer is also in the other breast. So, things should get more interesting.
This morning a nurse told me how she had a bilateral mastectomy and felt just fine. Two pain pills and she was ready to go on with life. Ten minutes later I’m in my car listening to a woman on the radio talk about the debilitating pain of her mastectomy. So…somewhere between a shrug and worthy of a radio interview…