Monday, August 15, 2011


My room is ready. (Wish it were overlooking a tranquil sea instead of in a hospital, but I'll take what I can get.) After 4 ½ hours of surgery and five hours in recovery, a room without a view sounds pretty darn good right about now. At least it's private.

A male nurse arrives to take me upstairs (what floor, I couldn’t tell you). Despite my post-surgery brain fog, I find it a little odd that he's the only one assisting in my transfer (besides my husband, that is). As I’m wheeled backwards into the elevator, I suddenly feel emotional. I close my eyes and let the tears roll silently down the sides of my cheeks.
Then BAM! The magnitude of the moment finally hits me. Just. Like. That. Up until surgery, I've been able to focus on a single thing at a time, placing one foot in front of the other. I had tunnel vision, and I liked it. But with surgery now complete, I'm left to face my new reality. And I have absolutely no idea what that looks or feels like.

We reach my room and I'm still quietly crying. Like a leaking faucet. Can't turn the waterworks off. (This time I don't even try.) The lone male nurse raises my gurney so it’s the same height as my hospital bed. Then he asks me to move myself over. Yup, you heard me right — he is not planning to slide me over using a sheet, he is asking me to move my fat fanny from the gurney onto the bed. Myself. After I just had major surgery. 

I can’t. How do I do that without using my arms or pulling on my chest? Why can’t someone else help? Where are the other nurses? Why is he asking my husband to spot him? Are they really that short-staffed?

I'm not sure how much of the above I actually verbalize (parts, but definitely not all). And there stands my fabulous husband, encouraging me to "just slide over," saying it’ll take a few seconds and then it will be done. I glare at him. Whose side is he on here? But I haven't the energy to fight. He's right. It will only take a few seconds, but why should I have to...? Before I can even finish my martyr-lovin' thought, I do a one-two-three shimmy off the gurney and onto the bed (with their help), crying the entire time. In part because I’m in pain, natch, but mostly because I’m a freakin' emotional mess. Yet this doesn't seem to faze the nurse, nor my husband. Huh?

I'm caught so off-guard by the wall of rage that is building inside me that I cannot hold it back. (Kinda like retching in the recovery room.) My feelings are overripe. Oh no. Lower your lids, this ain't gonna be pretty.

“Don’t you people understand what I’ve just been through?!” I scream the words, surprising even myself with my ferocity. (The male nurse spins the gurney out of the room so fast I think he left tread marks.) My husband looks startled. He’s never heard me lose my cool like this before. N-e-v-e-r. But the raging isn’t over. 

“I just had my breasts cut off!" I continue screaming (and don't care who hears me — so unlike me). "Don’t you get it? Do you know how hard this is?” My voice is horse. 

All the raw, suppressed emotion of the past two months shoots out of me like loose gunshot, hitting anything and everything in its angry path — in this case, my poor husband.

“You're a very strong woman,” he says calmly. “You’ve been so strong through all of this.” 
Lest he think I don't know it, I take the opportunity to tell him. "I am strong!" I yell back. Then, with more than a trace of vulnerability: "But I can't be strong anymore." I'm sitting in a heap of sheets. He leans in to give me a hug (not easy to do given the IV and the pillows and the bandages and my semi-reclined position). 

I wish I could say that releasing my emotions made everything better, but that would be a lie. The pain — physical, mental, emotional — has only just begun.


  1. Renn, I wish I could be there to hold your hand. You are strong - but it sucks to have your strength tested this way. I hope some wonderful people are taking care of you and bringing some smiles into these hard days.

  2. I'm told that too... that I'm strong and have a positive attitude and I'll get through it. YES, we are strong, we have to be. But that doesn't mean we're not scared. Surgery IS a lot to go through, all the pokes and pain and inconveniences and changes to our body. It's stressful!
    I hate that about cancer, that it weakens you, brings you to your emotional knees. It's scary. So I cry, you have to, you have to let it out. You have to talk about your fears, or write it down here on your blog. It helps to write it down.
    I call it riding the "emotional roller coaster". That's what a cancer diagnosis is.
    You will ride back up, heal from the pain both physical and emotional, and have your healthy self back. It just takes time my friend. Hang in there xo

  3. Thanks Cynthia! I do, and they are!

  4. SJN, so true! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Renn,
    I remember that day for me. I particularly relate to how you were placing one foot in front of the other, dealing with it day by day. That "tunnel vision" was a way of dealing with "it" in small increments. It's easier that way, but the reality of it all, the emotional fatigue and stress is sometimes just more than we can handle.

    You are incredibly strong and you WILL MAKE IT through this, stronger than ever.


  6. Praying for you, Renn. I'm so glad that you have your sweet husband and friends at your side.

  7. Maaan, surgery was the pits. Looking back, I think it was the most frustrating part of my treatment, because I couldn't DO stuff anymore. And, I was all aghast that nurse wanted you to slide over by yourself--seriously, that's hard to do when you can't use your chest/arm muscles very well. grr.

  8. Brenda: I knew the s*** would hit the fan for me at some point, just wasn't expecting it to me the very moment I rolled into my room! But that was when I gave myself permission to let down my guard and let my healing process begin.

    bitca: So much of BC was the pits, I don't think I can choose! LOL!

    Mary, Mariko, tks! ;-)

  9. I do not have cancer but I have been reading your blog and your journey. To be honest, I am disturbed and 'creep out' by the attitude of some of your health care providers. Losing your report, provoking you into confrontational mode to get test done, mis-reading your charts (Daffy doc). It is NOT acceptable to ask you shift yourself unto a bed, post surgery.

    You paid for this care. It is not a government-provided public health service (where anything goes!!!). Are these below-par levels of care standard, in the US?

    I live in a THIRD WORLD region and have had surgery of the uterus, which I paid for although, public health is available. I was left with a compelling sense of gratitude for the comfort and concern of the doctors and nurses and others. Even the cook came to my bedside to determine why I was not eating her meals, and how it could be rectified. If your experience was mine, I would have been devastated.

    Cancer is the ultimate 'big bad thing'. Nothing worst! Patients facing the INDIGNITY and powerlessness of surgery and disease should not have to put up with such cold, indifferent and lackadaisical care.

    You were right to rage; your anger is justified.


Your comments are encouraging — and encouraged!