I’m going to be frank, universe: the whole medical-crisis thing, with two separate ER admissions, two separate emergency surgeries (including one on my birthday), and five nights in hospital, each day ending with the empty promise that “we’ll release you tomorrow”? WORST SURPRISE PARTY EVER. Maybe next year, run your plans by me, huh?
Oh, goody! Unsolicited advice about my back problem! Of course I didn’t know exercise, gentle movements, and ibuprofen would help; I mostly loll about bonelessly like an oyster, hitting my spine with a hammer and swilling gin through a straw for the pain.
My new super-short haircut looks great, but on humid days it presents some morning surprises. This morning, it was standing up in vertical curls.
Elsa: ACK! My hair is — ack! — I look like I’m inventing something! I look like a mad scientist.
The Fella: I like it.
Elsa: You just want to come back to my lab and see my Tesla coils.
The Fella: I do.
Elsa: I look like Barton Fink.
The Fella: You look pretty.
Elsa: I look like a cockatoo.
The Fella: No! [approvingly] You look like Rod Stewart.
Elsa: …that’s not better than a cockatoo. Or different!
So. On Tuesday, I finally had my long-feared and panic-inducing Horrible Oral Surgery, and of course once I was in the chair, it was completely routine and harmless and Not At All Horrible.
What everyone told me is completely true and almost magical: once you go into twilight sleep, time just cuts out. One minute my surgeon was thanking me for directing him to the easy-to-find vein in my right arm (“That is one great big pipe!” he said more than once), then there’s a hazy half-memory of me hollering a Liz Lemon quote* at him in great good spirits, then I laughed and laughed and laughBAMsitting in a curtained space with The Fella, clamping something cool to my cheek and nodding earnestly at a nurse in mid-conversation.
I had several points I urgently wanted to communicate, and she was very polite and responsive, so much so that it took a whole day for me to figure out that she was certainly not instructing me but The Fella, who was not visibly loopy and forgetful.
Indeed, my obliviousness to my own mental state is the most disconcerting aspect of the procedure and recovery. I keep announcing “All better!” and The Fella keeps nodding and saying “That’s nice!” but it’s taken me several days to figure out that I’m still pretty zonked out, cycling up and down as the medication hits and recedes.
This afternoon, The Fella brought me a dish of applesauce. (I’ve spent most of the past few days in a nest of pillows and blankets on our futon, and he’s brought me an endless stream of soft foods, drinks, drugs, and movies. He’s a prince.) Quite a while after I finished it, he gently said, “Here, I’ll take that,” and I was surprised to find that I for some time, I’d had the empty spoon just barely tucked into my mouth. Just because.
* I can’t be completely sure that I was yelling hilariously in the surgery room, but The Fella confirms that I was quoting Liz Lemon in the recovery room. Though I was amused no end, I wonder how much the surgical and aftercare teams loved to have me splayed out and hollering “You’re too late! I already killed her!”
My eyebrows (especially the right one) say that I disdain this barely-veiled decree for mandatory feminine grooming as anti-feminist verging on misogyny. I didn’t see that option listed in the article, though.
I had hoped to start the New Year with a fresh burst of blogging, but first I and then The Fella got knocked out by a particularly vicious flu.
We’re all better now.
Last night, I sliced open a finger with a kitchen knife*.
You won’t hear much from me for a while.
*not neeeeeeeearly as bad as it could have been: after some deliberation, the ER doctor decided I didn’t even need stitches, just bandages and a tetanus booster. With luck, the biggest danger from this injury will be the crippling boredom that sets in when I can’t [cook/ sew/ write for long stretches/ rearrange furniture/ do chores] for a few days.
So I went to my first of several appointments leading up to the Horrible Oral Surgery. This first visit was a long-overdue check-up with my regular, wonderful dentist and his staff… and to my astonishment, nothing much happened.
Oh, some things happened: x-rays and an exam, a referral to an oral surgeon, advice on dealing with dental anxiety before the surgery, another visit scheduled. But you know what I mean when I say “nothing much happened.” I mean that nothing happened that was painful or humiliating or even out of the ordinary.
No red light started flashing, no klaxons went AWOOOOOOGA, no oral surgery strike team arrived via helicopter to scoop me up and medevac me to the nearest maxillofacial unit. No one even gasped or clutched their pearls in horror or took away my official grown-up badge.
Indeed, both the dentist and the hygienist shrugged a little when I asked which should come first, my follow-up cleaning or my Horrible Oral Surgery. I somehow imagined the gaping pulpy painful HOLE IN MY JAW might constitute an emergency, but the dental professionals think otherwise… which is a-okay with me.
After my uneventful appointment I went home, where The Fella fed me my favorite non-crunchy take-out (asparagus tempura salad with spicy peanut dressing) and ice cream, stroked my hair, and told me I was soooooooo braaaaaaaave.
Whatever you’ve been putting off for too long, just brace yourself and do it. Do it now, do it soon. Forgive yourself for putting it off, give yourself permission to feel fear or anxiety, don’t shame yourself for it. Just do the thing. And when you do it, I’ll tell you the truth: you are sooooooo braaaaaaave.
Instead of composing an entry, I’ll just post the latest e-mail to Elsa because that usually says it all. I’m writing about my latest experience with skin cancer, the third one, that showed up on my forehead and was removed last week:
It’s good to be silly right now–it helps more than anything. I don’t look at myself too long in the mirror except to have a good giggle. The bandages are still on and the stitches come out tomorrow, which feels way too early. The wound is still fresh and painful, but the doctor said the sooner the better in terms of scarring. I trust him even though I’m pretty sure I’ll want to throw up during the stitch removal. I think I’ll take some xanax before my appointment–I got a prescription a few months ago before my parathyroid surgery in case the panic attacks came back and I really could have used them last week. The nurse reasoned that my twitchy, tear-filled reaction was due to all the adrenaline they used on the area in order to reduce the blood flow (in addition to numbing.) During the procedure, the doctor and nurse both kept urging me to talk about our upcoming trip as JM held my hand, but that didn’t work and the nurse and JM tag-teamed me with cold, wet cloths in order to keep the clammy, flop-sweat at bay. It wasn’t pretty and I apologized profusely thereafter even though my doctor insisted I did quite well. JM said the doc worked incredibly fast, but I suppose anyone would under threat of projectile vomit.
So here we are. Tomorrow I’ll see my new face without all the bandages. In just a tiny way I’m sad. I got used to the old one and even admired her awkward beauty from time to time. I think I might like this new one even better though. It reminds me of the time when I dyed my hair bright blue way back in ’88. Whenever someone looked at me, she or he would immediately look away in any other direction, la la la, acting oblivious which made me laugh. I think that experience can help me now. My face isn’t that different–the change is subtle. I still wouldn’t get cast as that odd extra in a Woody Allen film, but I’m exactly who I want to be inside and out. Life has been good to me…
So I had surgery for my parathyroids. Three are gone for good and the one remaining is slowly getting up to speed remembering it’s function. While everything is normalising, I need weekly blood tests to measure calcium levels and take a supplement from which they will gradually wean me. The problem is that I’ve got tingles that are driving me batty and the doctors just shrug because my numbers look good. I basically feel electrically charged, vibrational, and then my arm or leg will suddenly be overcome with that sensation like it’s about to fall asleep, intensely so. It’s not painful, it’s just, well, disrupting. And the last two days it’s been particularly active.
This afternoon I started going a bit stir crazy. I needed to literally make some sweeping gestures, larger than my Wacom tablet would afford. I needed to move and I needed to MAKE SOMETHING. There was no paper in the house large enough to do this on, so I took A3 sheets and taped them together for my palette. I discovered I have no charcoal, only a piece of white chalk, but then found a tube of black paint and some brushes. It didn’t have to be pretty, it just had to be the act of putting brush to paper and moving my arm. It didn’t help in the physical sense, but it still felt really good.