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How Are You Doing

March 7, 2010

People are always asking me, How are you doing? And each time I hear it, I wish it meant what it used to mean, before I got The Cancer. It used to mean Hi! Now it really means how are you feeling? How’s your cancer? I want to be back to peachy keen, wouldn’t change a thing. I cannot wait until I’m feeling peachy keen.

How I’m doing changes from moment to moment. But right now this is how I’m doing on a daily basis:

I’m still swollen. I’ve got nerve trauma on my right arm, from the lymph node removal, that causes it to feel as though I have a rug burn. When I go about my business, I am frequently reminded of my surgery because of the nerve pain. I am also unable to stretch my right arm very far without getting pain from the “cord” that’s under my arm. I’m supposed to protect this so that I don’t damage it. But I’m supposed to stretch my arm to regain motion. It’s confusing. How much can I move that arm, how much pain is okay.

I can’t clean my house. I can’t cook food beyond the basic microwaving. I can barely open a bottle of Advil. It takes me forever to load the washing machine and transfer stuff over to the dryer. Driving hurts. Getting up from the couch hurts. Getting out of bed hurts. Putting on clothing hurts.

If I walk out into the cold (hello Minnesota!) I get muscle spasms near the lymph node site under my right arm. They don’t hurt too much but they are creeping me the heck out. I apply pressure and the spasm go away, for the most party.

My port-o-kath site feels less creepy but now it’s bruised and tender. Driving the car yesterday was hard because the seatbelt goes right across the port. I held the seatbelt out while I drove one-handed. I also get pressure pain at the port site when I turn my head in a certain direction.

Trying to get comfortable at night in a position that’s pain-free  is difficult. By the time I get situated and have that stupid CPAP mask just right, I’m mad. And when I get mad I start to cry and when I start to cry my nose gets plugged and the CPAP becomes useless. Last night I was so frustrated, I threw the mask as far as the hose would allow, went downstairs and tried to divert my anger with some television. It didn’t work so I lay down on Thing 1’s bed (I don’t know where I’ll go when he’s home) and had a good cry, got comfortable and finally fell asleep.

I get mad when I’m in bed and finally get comfortable, only to have The Big Nugget come to bed and throw the balance off. We have a queen sized bed and it’s really too small to give me the spread-out room that I need. He accidentally bumps my arms while he’s sleeping. And it doesn’t really hurt that much but I’m anxious that it will so I wake up alot, worrying. I’ve asked him to bring up our spare single bed from the basement and set it up right next to our bed so that we can have one giant bed and I can have all the room I need to attempt comfort. Guess who’ll be sleeping on the twin?

I had no idea that it would take this long to feel better after a bilateral mastectomy. I had no idea about the lymph node removal 0r the damage it could incur, some of it permanent.

Every time somebody tells me that they think I’m so brave, I feel incredibly guilty. Because I’m not brave at all. I had no choice. I am merely struggling to keep my head above water. If I were brave, I’d choose to dive in for the fight. None of this has been by choice.

I don’t know how people keep this bottled up inside without blogging about it or going to a therapist a hundred times a week.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. Tonia permalink
    March 7, 2010 2:26 pm

    I am about 8 months out from my last chemo due to lymphoma. I don’t have any magic words or advice- everybody’s experience is different. I’m always told the “how strong you are!” thing–I also have a rare form of Lupus and a multitude of autoimmune issues that are caused by the frackin’ Lupus. You are dead on. I didn’t choose this path with courage. I was flung down it with me kicking and screaming the whole way. Because honestly what are your choices? You have to fight. And some days, you don’t have it in you and you lay down and cry, but then the next day you go back into battle. I send positive thoughts and strength your way!!

    • March 7, 2010 6:57 pm

      Thank Tonia. Between you and Harriet, and all the other involuntary volunteers – I am lightened from your words.

  2. poolagirl permalink
    March 7, 2010 2:57 pm

    I just shipped something off that will hopefully make your days a bit brighter. I think of you all the time, sweetie. Still lighting candles.

  3. fran permalink
    March 7, 2010 3:01 pm

    There are quite a lot of truths about cancer in this entry, especially this line…

    [Every time somebody tells me that they think I’m so brave, I feel incredibly guilty. Because I’m not brave at all. I had no choice. I am merely struggling to keep my head about water. If I were brave, I’d choose to dive in for the fight. None of this has been by choice.]

    …except I subbed the word angry for guilty, I never felt guilty about going through this, I only felt guilty about what I had possibly done to contribute to the cancer.

  4. March 7, 2010 3:25 pm

    Hey! I have NOTHING going on on Tuesday and would like to come clean your house. You can order me around and point out things to clean and I will do it! Do you want me to email you for confirm? Is this something you need? Let me know.

  5. March 7, 2010 4:51 pm

    The stock answer is, “I’m in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in.” It makes people laugh, and you don’t have to go into detail unless you want to. (There are some people you really don’t want to share with.)

    I had people (mostly the U.D.) to do my laundry and to shop for groceries. I did not try to drive right away. And my surgery wasn’t nearly as serious as yours.

  6. Leslie permalink
    March 7, 2010 10:23 pm

    I’m so sorry you are feeling this awful. I wish there were something I could say to help, but of course there is not. I’m just sorry.

  7. March 7, 2010 11:32 pm

    keep writing writing writing….I have always hated the how are u question from people all ready to get up in your grill with sympathy and understanding. I would usually be extra unctuous sweetiepie like Absolutely Super Duper! It provided a momentary pause in the conversation. It helps if you can make your eyes really steady and put on a clown smile also. I remember early in my experience living in big cities having @$$hole males say Why Don’t You Smile? And I’d always want to use Village Voice writer Jennifer Johnston’s comment: because I have a brain tumor.

    I got no advice. Just indulge in all your vices right now, and if that’s red velvet cake and lager, go for it. The Puritans that lived into their 90s all had beer for breakfast you know… (just finished teaching a course on that period)….

  8. March 8, 2010 5:40 am

    I don’t know what to say except I’m so sorry you have to go through this.

  9. goatbarnwitch permalink
    March 8, 2010 7:06 am

    I so wish you never were sent down this damned road…. one step at a time…. that is all anyone can really do. Always thinking of you {hug}

  10. March 8, 2010 7:53 am

    I don’t know why, but blogging about the things I hesitate to say to anyone, helps me too. I think it’s because our little community here is so safe. We are all so supportive of each other, regardless of the situation. Those that aren’t supportive tend to go away because it’s no fun to be mean to others who may rip you apart, but then again may smother you in kindess. ;o)

    I have no idea what it’s like to live with what you’re living with right now. But I keep thinking of something my therapist used to tell me over and over. “Do what YOU need to do. No more. No less.”

  11. Claudia permalink
    March 8, 2010 8:43 am

    I think you are brave to write about everything. It’s a fearless writing. You’ve always been a brave writer. Yes, you are brave. And it’s not about the cancer. Fuck the cancer. (I’m so so sorry everything hurts. 😦 )

    I’m going to sing you a song and distract you from the pain for a few seconds.

    Let’s see. How about the Name Game?

    You’re Kathy kathy bo bathy, banana fanna fo fathy, fee fy mo mathy, Kathy! xoxo

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