Loosening Up Tight Ends

Nearing the end of my stay, it was time for the industrial-sized staples holding my skin together to be removed.  A young woman came into my room, claiming to be a nurse.  She explained that it would not be painful, but would try to remove them with the tweezers she held in her hand that looked more like a tool she found in her garage.

I could say she seemed nervous, but I wasn’t going to question her ability.  Perhaps she was just squeamish about doing such things.  The medical team wouldn’t send in an incompetent without supervision.

As she pinched the first staple with the tweezers, she shifted it left to right, gently and slowly, attempting to slide it away from my skin.

I was extremely nervous myself that I clenched my hands over my mouth and held my breath.  The staples seemed as wide and almost as thick as a nickel, so I thought for sure it would hurt as they left my skin.

During the process, she casually revealed, “It’s my first time doing this, so please be patient.”

What?!  Why are they asking an inexperienced person to remove these huge staples that are preventing my skin from cracking open?  My feelings of her uneasiness fell true.  Fortunately, with little discomfort, she eventually removed them all.  I let out a sigh of relief as my body began to relax.  “Thank you.”

 

My “stomach” turns each time I read this part.  I did a little internet search for medical staple sizes (to reinforce my memory of the large metal that dug into my belly) and instead got to see graphic pictures of stapled stomachs and open wounds.  That’s when my nausea forced me to “turn the page.”

Do you get squeamish at the sight of blood and gory wounds?

Chocolate Kisses

One evening, I received an amazing surprise in my room.  My parents and sisters had been visiting since earlier that evening.  They are numerous, so some stood around the end of the bed, and the others in the hallway or chatting with my neighbour.

From the entrance on the left, I heard voices that peaked the interest of my family, so I wondered who was there.  I couldn’t see because my curtain was extended to the end of my bed.  My neighbor wasn’t in great health, and we wanted to keep from disturbing him.  But the voices grew louder.  I knew my neighbour’s visitors were also reacting to who had just entered our room.  Soon the beige curtain separating our beds was the only thing preventing me from seeing what all the commotion was about.  The sounds became closer and closer.

What excitement… in the arms of my husband was my little girl!  How unexpected with all the distraction of the last week and a half.  I spared not a moment to throw myself over the blankets and toward the end of the bed where he held her.  My arms went out to her, “My baby!”

I wasn’t sure where I got all that energy.  You would think I would grab her in my arms, but I think I realized I wasn’t able to.  The skin on my torso was still very raw.  It didn’t even dawn on me that I should take her.  I got close, and tried to kiss her.  It felt like weeks since I had seen her.  I missed her so much.

She seemed traumatized, as her eyes glared at me.  “Why is she wearing a mask?”  Was she afraid of this room?  Has she forgotten who I was?  Did I look that scary to her?  I only had a hospital gown.  She couldn’t see the tube from my intestine, and no other accessories were connected to me by then.  It could be intimidating for a child to be in a hospital environment – but she looked as though she had seen a ghost.  What was going on?

I wish I could comfort her.  I don’t remember if she said anything.  The bottom half of her face was covered by the mask, and her little curls sprung from her hat.  You could just see her beautiful, chocolate eyes (I would call them) that were all of me – depending on who you ask.

“She has a cold, and we wanted to make sure she doesn’t infect you.”

“Oh, is she alright?”

“She’ll be ok.  We gave her medicine.”

“I think she’s frightened by the mask.  If she has a cold, she probably has trouble breathing with it.  She looks horrified.”  I faced her again.  “Mamma, how are you?  It’s so nice to see you.  I miss you.  I love you.”  I just blurted things out continuously.  But I remember having a big smile on my face, so happy to see my baby, Isabella.

That look in her eyes remained disturbing.  I’ll never forget it.  Was it the medication she took that made her feel spaced out?  My husband still held her.  She looked at me, but barely flinched an eye.  She was so young and needed her mother.  God, I miss her.  I want to hold her in my arms.

They would hardly let me touch her.  The effects of the pain medication made everything simple for me.  There wasn’t any argument about my daughter not being allowed to sit with me in my bed.  I was blessed to have her in my presence for a few minutes, but before I knew it, she was taken back home.

Some days later, I met Isabella and my husband on the first floor lobby.  My sister took me down in a wheelchair, so I could spend some more time with my daughter.  I missed her more and more, as I began sleeping less and less.  I couldn’t wait to leave the hospital so I could see her at home every day.

So much concentration on my cancer really made me feel absent from Isabella’s life.  It seemed she wasn’t really there, like the feeling I had when I found out I had cancer.  I unintentionally became distant from my life.  Time didn’t exist, just robotic experiences.  Doctors, tests, news of probable imminent death… they all took my full attention, even though it was not my intention.  It’s trauma that causes you to turn on your coping mechanism – even if you don’t know how it will manifest itself.

Those brief visits with Isabella reminded me how blessed I was.  Leaving her would be devastating.  I thank God for her and my second chance.

 

In this Thanksgiving period, I am especially grateful for the miracles in my life.  My daughter, my second chance at life, and the opportunity to make God proud of me for trying to be the best mother I can.

The Gourmet

When the doctor decided I was ready to take in food orally, my first hospital meal arrived on the plastic box tray.  As I lifted the cover, I was startled to see some lump of meat on the plate, mashed potatoes that came from a powder, and those famous veggie cuts that came from the freezer.  Horrified by the sight – and the less than pleasing smell – I called for the nurse.  “I am not supposed to have solids yet.”  I attempted to seem cool about the panic that stirred within me.  Without having eaten real food in about a week and a half, this sight scared the hell out of me.

She took the tray away immediately, surprised, since she knew about the operation I had recently.  Her expression to mask the dangerous mistake was subtle.  Nurses are thankfully trained to be in control, so patients don’t feel they are in incompetent hands.

She had the orderly bring in a beef broth (I can’t stand beef!)  I couldn’t have much, since I wasn’t hungry and didn’t particularly enjoy the taste.  There wasn’t any negative reaction to the brown liquid, but I would love to test my capacity for eating with my mom’s homemade chicken broth.

Within a couple of days of increasing food density, they eventually brought me that minced meat and mashed potatoes dish that I found so tantalizing the first time.  It wasn’t easy trying to eat hospital food when I wasn’t even feeling hungry.  I forced down some of the disgusting mash, not knowing if the quantity I had eaten was enough.  I left about half on the plate.  On the upside, it wasn’t making me sick, even after more than an hour.

I hadn’t the slightest idea how much intake was required.  No one seemed to even mention a quantity.  The nurses were unfamiliar with gastrectomy diets.  Was I supposed to figure it all out on my own?

 

On September 28, I thanked God for twelve years in remission… and counting!  Enjoy life!