Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23

Earlier this week, I'd mentioned Kim and Marcus Ellsworth and their blog. Their son, Ethan, passed away March 26th last year. Kim's been writing about him, about their whole family, really, all month. It's interesting to me, how she's been writing for the last week or so with "Tuesday of this week last year" as a title or subject matter. I'm one who usually tends to tie memories to what went down on the actual date, rather than on the day of the week that it happened - if that makes sense - but her post today transported me back in time to the Friday of this week last year.

It was March 25th. It was one of the hardest and worst days of my life. I mean, it was rough. I'd had surgery on Tuesday. My incision was only 10 inches this time around (versus 14 the first time - I'll take an incision from my breast bone to my belly button over an incision from my breast bone to my pelvis any day), but 10 inches is still a heck of an incision. Friday was the day that I was given permission to shower. I hadn't showered OR washed my hair (obviously) since Tuesday morning before I went in for surgery. After three and a half days of either lying in a hospital bed or sweating up a storm as I toddled around the fifth floor with my walker, I was more than ready to shower - if only to get my hair back to its natural state (or, rather, out of its natural state). Only, I had mis-calculated how difficult the shower would be. Between the fact that I couldn't stand up straight on my own, the nurse who thought it would be a good idea to let my bandage get wet in the shower, thinking it could just fall off (it did not just fall off, folks - a good 12 x 20 inch bandage that was taped to my abdomen was literally plastered to me in the shower and it was pure agony to have it ripped off me) and the earring that I tore out as I was trying, one-handed, to rub shampoo into my hair... The shower was not a great experience. And sadly, it was followed by my first ever suppository (ooh-la-la), which resulted in explosive gas and poop for the rest of the day. (Explosive gas is never fun. Explosive gas when you have absolutely no abdominal muscles to control the movement is so painful that I cannot even begin to describe it.) My brother Spencer came by to visit that afternoon and I had to relegate him to the waiting room with my dad so he wouldn't have to be around me while I was in my crazy pooping phase. My mom had gone down to visit with them. Without anyone in the room to talk to, I decided to check Facebook out and find out what was going on in the world outside the four walls of my hospital room.

Facebook told me a story that I hadn't heard yet. With my having been in the hospital since Tuesday morning and drugged beyond my ability to do much more than breath into a stupid incentive spirometer (the devil's tool if there ever was one), I hadn't been online much. I didn't know what Facebook had known for most of the week. My friend Marcus's son, Ethan, had been in the hospital since Monday, and he and his wife had just learned that their son was dying. Not just hospitalized with a scare. Not just a coma. (Like there could be such a thing as "just a coma" when it's your 7 year old in a hospital bed.) Ethan was dying.

Marcus had been in a hospital room all week (all week - he'd left the hospital one time that week) with his son. His son was dying. ... And I hadn't known.

I lied there in my hospital bed and I cried. With a stomach that could hardly bear the weight of a shallow breath, I sobbed. I sobbed because my skin was still smarting from the bandage that been ripped off during what could easily be considered the worst shower of my life. I sobbed because my ear ached where I'd torn my earring out while I was trying to wash my hair (again, worst shower of my life). I sobbed because the pain was ... well ... horrible and all encompassing. I sobbed because I was scared out of my mind that I would never truly be cancer free. And I sobbed because I had just learned that one of my two best friends from high school was losing a child.

This Friday last year was hard. Incredibly and inexplicably hard. In every way, it was hard. Physically, emotionally, spiritually - it was hard.

But you know what? I lived through it. (Even if I wasn't sure, for a while there, that I could or that I wanted to.) And a year later, I'm so glad that I did. Not that I'd ever go so far as to say that I'm glad that I had that complete and utter day from hell last year. Nor would I say that I'd sign up to do it again. (Please. I'm not crazy. Nor am I masochistic.) But, looking back, I had a lot more than pain going for me that day. My mom was with me. Always. She is always with me when I'm in the hospital. (Marcus Ellsworth has nothing on my mom. The woman sleeps in a chair in my hospital room so she can be there if I need her, and the longest she ever leaves my side is to go get something to eat.) My dad and my brother were there that day. Jo came that night with Roomie and they sat with me until I was tired enough to fall asleep. Did I have pain and suffering on that day? Heck yeah. But I also had family and friends every which way I looked. I had the miracle of modern medicine on my side and surgery had, once again, saved my life.

Friday of this week last year was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, to be sure. But it wasn't all bad, even if it was really (REALLY!) hard. I'm grateful for the clarity that the passage of time can bring, for the ability to look back and see that, even on a dark and horrible day, I was not alone. There's a lot of comfort that comes of knowing that there are people all around me who love me and are there for me. Remembering the hard days can be ... well ... hard, but the hard days have made me so much more grateful for the good ones. And the remembering of where I was last March has helped me put things into perspective this March. Is it easy to live my life knowing there's a malignant growth inside my person? No. But it wasn't easy to have a malignant growth removed, either, and I got through that (twice). I can do hard things. I know I can, because I have.