Thursday, March 10, 2005

The long journey home

Recovery from surgery is a good bit harder than I anticipated, but I'm glad to be recovering at home.

In my last post I had predicted a release on Monday. Unfortunately, I took a fall, probably in my sleep, on Sunday night. My medical care professionals think I probably got up to use the bathroom, without fully waking, and without unplugging my IV pumps from the wall.

My own best recollection is that I was strolling through the basement of a grocery store in Japan, probably in the 1880s when I was smacked in the face with something hard. The blow knocked me to the floor. I couldn't move, except to flap my hands slightly, blow bubbles in my pooling blood, and moan. Because I was a foreigner and possibly also an intruder, I couldn't make myself understood, and no one was especially concerned with my plight. I was especially annoyed that God would let me go through the travails of chemo, radiation and surgery, only to perish alone and afraid on the basement floor of a Japanese grocery in the 1880s.

The plausibility of the Japanese grocery scenario only began to abate when I heard someone saying the name of my surgeon. I tried moaning Dr. Parker's name. Then I heard the distinctive accent of my night nurse, Mavis, and began calling out to her.

The next few hours were miserable, despite shaking the more delusionary aspects of the experience. Strapped to a backboard, rolled down to radiology, disconnected from my pain medicine pump (in my fall, the iv that had been sutured into my neck tore out), and effectively blind without my glasses (I'm going to give serious thought to getting LASIK surgery -- it is hard to overstate the disorienting effect of being sightless in a stressful situation), I was frightened, in pain, disoriented, uncomfortable and having trouble breathing. The oxygen mask seemed to aggravate, rather than improve my breathing trouble.

The radiologists kept moving me, or trying to get me to move into more painful and uncomfortable positions. I can recall one of the radiologists griping that he was having a hard time getting all my bones into the shots because I so big. He seemed particularly annoyed at the breadth of my shoulders.

I'll always be grateful to Mavis, who put on a lead apron and stayed with me throughout the radiology ordeal. She held my hand, talked to me encouragingly, and urged the radiologists to hurry the process along.

Once I was back in my room, Mavis hooked up the pca pump so I could resume taking morphine, cleaned and straightened out my glasses, and called Judy.

By the time the plastic surgeon came in the early afternoon, the morphine had kicked in, Judy, my parents and my brother had all been to see me, and my feelings of embarrassment where rising as my feelings of terror fell.

As it turned out, my fall only delayed my release by a day, but it kicked a great big hole in my optimism. It occurred to me that sometimes, that which doesn't kill us does NOT make us stronger.

My recovery from and adjustment to the surgery is taking more time and effort than I anticipated, and I'm dreading the notion of additional chemotherapy. I feel weak, timid pessimisitic. I suppose my pain medication could be contributing to my bleak mood, but I'm nowhere near ready to try to wean off it.

It seems ungrateful, now that I'm cancer-free, to be anything but jubilant. If I've accomplished the mission of my journey, though, I've still got a long trip to get back home to where I started.

Please keep praying for me and for my family.


Blogger Jenn said...

Hey Jim!

This journey has been long, painful, sad, jubuliant, and very very stressful, all at the same time. You're feelings are completely natural. The only thing that I can say is that I think you're one of the strongest, bravest people I've ever met, and that being your friend is an honor and a privilage. You, Judy, and the kids are always in our thoughts and prayers.
Jenn, John, and FiFi

5:25 PM  
Blogger vkenny said...

Hi Jimmy, What else can we say but WOW!!! We know your recovery is only beginning so please try to take it slow & easy. We will continue to pray everyday. We wish you peace of mind, body and soul. Keep Fighting the good fight!!

12:38 PM  
Blogger Kita28 said...

Dearest Jim -

I think you keep doing these things (the port-a-cath excitement, the fall) to make your movie more interesting. At least you won't need to embellish much to sell it....

For what it's worth, I've never had anyone close to me go through major surgery without a really "down" time afterwards - when they felt MUCH bleaker and pessimistic than was their wont. In some cases, it was because they hadn't felt terribly bad BEFORE the surgery. In Brad's case, the pain medication was a big part of the problem. You'll may feel much better once you're off it. But, since pain management is so very, very important (I don't need to tell you that), for a while you may just need to go with the flow. It's hard for someone with your indomitable spirit, but this might mean accepting feeling lousy emotionally as well as physically, and just trying to remind yourself that it won't last forever. And also try to remind yourself that your pessimistic feelings are physically and chemically induced, and that they have NOTHING to do with your true optimistic personality, which will triumph eventually.

Loving you, Judy, and the kids more all the time,


9:08 AM  
Blogger Kita28 said...

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9:08 AM  

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