From the Other Side of Surgery

The last ten days has felt like a trip through multiple time zones. I have moved in and out of emotional states quicker than I could land in any of them. I have also moved in and out of full anesthesia, followed by regular doses of pain meds; so that, coupled with the time-zones-slash-emotional-states has left me blurry and, to be honest, grasping for solid ground.

But let me back up and share, first, that all-in-all, I am feeling much better than expected post-surgery. Certainly physically. I have minimal pain. Some discomfort, especially at night, but nothing I (pain-wimp) can’t handle. I also have more mobility than expected. After three nights of sleeping half-sitting up, I can now fully recline and even lie on my right side. I have been warned by others who have traveled this road to be very careful. To do less than I think I can do. To not reach for that glass in the cupboard nor comb my children’s hair. Though because I didn’t have a double mastectomy, I can do both of those things with my right arm. Mostly, though, I lie in bed or on the couch and (I admit) watch a tremendous amount of TV. I haven’t been able to make much sense of my book. And until today, I haven’t been able to face the blank page to write. I have gone for one or two (very) short walks each day. (Starting in the hospital when I walked to the end of the hall and back. Who knew how exhausting that could be.) And tonight I ventured out for my first big event: the breast cancer support group at the Cancer Connection. Just being in that room made a difference in my emotional state. Yesterday was a dark-cloud kind of day. Today I felt some light.

But let me back up again. To my family’s return from Arizona. (Oh what an amazing trip. Oh how I long to be back there.) After months of dreading the arrival of my surgery date, all I wanted was for it to come already, so I could stop the waiting, the anxious, anxious waiting. By Tuesday night, I was almost excited to wake up the next day and go to the hospital. Relieved (to finally be done with the waiting) is a more accurate description, but relieved almost to the point of excitement. And I was calm. I composed a blog post in my head that I never did write; it went something like this:

I am not carrying fear to the hospital tomorrow. I am ready. I will be thinking about: (And here I posted, in my head, a series of pictures, which perhaps I will post, for real, tomorrow, when it is no longer the middle of the night: the Arizona red rocks; my closest Northampton women friends gathered around a dinner table with me two nights before surgery; some kind of adorable picture of my children; perhaps a bird being carried by the wind.)

I took my children to school Wednesday morning. I came home with just enough time to watch the slew of selfie-videos texted by my beloved Brooklyn crew. And then I drove with Josh to the hospital, with Maggie following behind in her car and my parents behind her. I met what turned out to be a most remarkable surgical Image 1team. I might have made inappropriate jokes as the drugs hit and they wheeled me to the OR. I have a vague recollection of referencing Grey’s Anatomy and warning the docs to be on better behavior than the ones on TV. I also remember a giddiness, like I wanted to hang out and drink beer together. And then, moments after taking in the bright lights and metal carts and thinking, “So this is what an operating room looks like,” I was out.

In the hours after I woke up, I remember a few things: eating left over pasta with Josh and thinking it was delicious. Not being able to open my eyes, they were so heavy with fatigue, so talking with closed lids to the medical people who cycled in and out to check on me. When someone checked my bandages, making the conscious decision not to open my eyes because I was too terrified to see my new body; wondering whether I would ever be able to look. Several hours later, wanting to look; looking; and feeling okay—and then feeling such tremendous relief about feeling okay.

All this happened sometime between Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon. By Thursday night, I was home. By Friday night, my friend Jenae was here for the weekend (by my side along with Maggie, Josh and my parents); and my kids were gone for the weekend (having the time of their lives with my in-laws and nine of their cousins).

And I spent the next several days continuing to travel through multiple time zones and emotional states. I’ve done a tremendous amount of grasping. Wanting to be back in Arizona with my family. Wanting another taste of that giddy feeling I had in the OR; another taste of the relief I felt taking my kids to school on Wednesday morning, knowing I would soon be on the other side of surgery. Wanting time to stop moving so fast. Wanting my children to keep being children. Wanting my friends and family to keep showering me with love. Wanting to land in a time zone, in an emotional state, on my own two feet, long enough to catch my breath.

Today, Tuesday, I think I finally felt some ground beneath my toes.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

11 thoughts on “From the Other Side of Surgery

  1. Dearest Jenny
    Been following this journey of yours with a deep and hopeful heart. I join with so many in marveling at your openness and candidness in sharing your story – your fears and delights and everything in between. You will do great in your recovery with patience, guidance, support and the love that has encircled you near and far. Love and hugs.

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  2. Jenny, You are a warrior. A gentle warrior. Whenever I read your posts, I am humbled by your words and experience and awed by your grace. After reading, I always hit reply- then cannot find words to parallel what I feel- cannot find words to emphasize how much I want to say to you or the words that are equivalent to your experience. It is just my heart… my heart is what I feel whenever I read your posts. I feel you- close to you and that is due to your writing but I am sure to memories of our days eating meatloaf and rice at lunchtime. I wish for you strength, and peace and time….whatever you need. And want you to know as someone from the outside- you are succeeding at going through this with awareness. The moments of clarity and presence you describe and the support you are receiving from your amazing “team” are proof of “Heaven on Earth” and that there is a blessing in everything. My friend… you are: fierce soft scared brave bold beautiful triumphant human and soooo much more…. When I teach a yoga class I always talk about Stirrha and Sukha – grace and effort. Helping people try to find that balance of getting into a posture and “efforting” or using their muscle where it will serve them and softening when they don’t need the effort. That even when their legs are shaking or burning their hearts can be free and point towards the heavens finding space and freedom. You my friend are demonstrating stirrha and sukkha remarkably and I know that your journey will be hard AND filled with amazing gifts. I love you, KC

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  3. Glad to hear you’re finding the…uhm…adventure not so painful just this moment. Sounds like you’ve had quite a time.

    I chose not to have reconstruction and elected for a double MX for the sake of symmetry. But I’m old and don’t have a man to keep happy. 😉 Am happy with the result and usually go flat, only because given a choice between “comfort” and “care what anyone else thinks,” I’ll always choose comfort. 😉

    Hope you’re soon going strong and can come back to AZ in the near future.

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    1. I couldn’t be with a man I had to keep happy by doing reconstruction! For the record, “my man” would have chosen fewer procedures (ie no reconstruction) for the sake of fewer risks; but after much indecision on my part, I decided I would be happier with reconstruction– and Josh has been at my side supporting me every step of the way!

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  4. Glad you’re hanging in there and have such a wonderful support network. You keep going girl. Much love, Uncle Stirlin

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  5. A good piece to offer other people as support as they go into surgery. The loving holding that surrounds you and in which you are participating fully is what shines through.

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  6. Hokusai says

    Hokusai says look carefully. He says pay attention, notice. He says keep looking, stay curious. He says there is no end to seeing

    He says look forward to getting old. He says keep changing., you just get more of who you really are. He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself as long as it is interesting.

    He says keep doing what you love.

    He says keep praying.

    He says every one of us is a child, everyone of us is ancient every one of us has a body. He says every one of us is frightened. He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.

    He says everything is alive — shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees, wood is alive. Water is alive.

    Everything has its own life.

    Everything lives inside us.

    He says live with the world inside you.

    He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books. It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish. It doesn’t matter if you sit at home and stare at the ants on your veranda or the shadows of the trees and the grasses in your garden. It matters that you care.

    It matters that you feel.

    It matters that you notice.

    It matters that life lives through you.

    Contentment is life living through you. Joy is life living through you. Satisfaction and strength is life living through you.

    He says don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.

    Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

    Let life live through you.

    —— Roger Keyes

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  7. Welcome back to this side, Jenny! What a journey. And I’m so happy you weathered the ride. You have a fabulous crew and many people on many shores waving and shouting you home:-) Hope you get your beauty rest and many hugs and joyful mornings. xoxox lj

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