Monday, October 24, 2011


Let's talk food and conversation post-surgery — specifically, food delivery by friends and family while a patient (that would be me) is recovering. 

The people, they come with the meals. As in, they bring over the food, they sit down and they eat it with us. 

Perhaps this is peculiar to my circle of loved ones; my family lives thousands of miles away, and two out of my three siblings (plus my sister-in-law) have traveled to see me post-surgery. My husband has taken off work to take care of me, so I don't really need (or want) anyone staying at my house. Lucky for me, they all stay with my Mom.

But let's get back to mealtime...
Because we don't live near one another, I don't see my whole family very often, so I want to see all of them, all of the time while they are in town. I don't want to miss out on anything (the old me) but you know, I've just had cancer surgery and I'm exhausted so I'll need to set some limits (the new me). My family picks up dinner at various locations along the way to my house and we all sit down and eat together. We laugh and and talk and talk, mostly (thankfully) about noncancer, nonsurgery-related stuff. 

Laughing feels good (great, in fact!), but my physical, emotional and mental fatigue win out every time. I can hang out for two to three hours, tops, but then I have to ask people to leave. I feel bad, but I feel even worse if I don't get my rest. 

Here's how dinner went down the first week I was home from surgery:

Day No. 1 Husband picks up takeout and places it on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle tray. (Dinner in bed. Yay!)

Day No. 2 Mother and sister bring over a fresh salad and homemade dessert crepes. I graduate to the kitchen table. I do feel more "normal" eating at the table versus in the bed, but I'm more tired, too. 

Day No. 3 A wonderful friend drops off food from our favorite Mediterranean restaurant. She wants to bring a few of our other close friends with her so we can all have dinner together, but Husband explains I've only been home two days and it's too soon for a party. (Oh so true.) She abides by our wishes. I put on a lightweight black robe (newly purchased for just such an occasion) and no makeup. We sit at the kitchen table, me hunched over a little in my body's attempt to protect my chest, and we chat for 20 minutes. Then our friend goes home. My husband and I quickly dig in to dinner, just the two of us. It's perfect.

Day No. 4 My brother and his wife fly in from out of state; they arrive with my mother and sister in tow, and a chopped salad and BBQ tri-tip in hand. They set the table and transfer the food into bowls and dishes and pour the water, but the peppering of questions is exhausting: "Where do you keep this? Where can I find that?" If I were able, it would be easier to set everything out myself, but I am prohibited by my doctor from using my T-Rex arms for anything but the basic necessities. We end up out on the porch, and the mood is upbeat and jovial; but we are missing my younger sister, who had to work and could not fly out. After two hours, my face is tired from laughing and smiling; I hit the proverbial wall. Again, I tell everyone it's time to go home. (The more I say it, the easier it gets.)

Day No. 5 Close friends bring over lasagna from a local Italian restaurant; they stay for dinner too. We get fancy and eat in the dining room. My husband pulls out a tablecloth and even sets the table. I don my best robe this time but refrain from putting on anything more than mascara. I do my best not to lift a finger, but it is getting increasingly frustrating to direct people in my own kitchen. I find it hard to allow people to do things for me; it makes me feel vulnerable, weak and needy. (Me no likey feeling like that.)

Day No. 6 My family, still in town, comes for lunch, which they bring with them; we hang out for a couple of hours, then (again) I ask them to leave so I can take my requisite nap. My brother calls later in the day to tell me they're going out for Mexican food, am I up for joining them? I ask Husband if he thinks we should go. He responds that it's completely up to me. Hmmm. It's been six days since my surgery and neither one of us has been out of the house. Husband needs this night even more than I do. And it's the last meal I'll have with my brother before he flies home. We decide to go, despite the fact that all I want to do is S.L.E.E.P.

I throw on a big, busy, button-down blue shirt to conceal my lovely (understatement!) white compression vest. I braid a tiny bit of hair to keep it off my face (something I haven't done since probably high school), pop a Vicodin and gingerly get in the car. We meet up with the fam, dine on tacos, enchiladas and margaritas (don't worry, I refrain), and laugh. A LOT. I actually forget that I am recovering from a bilateral mastectomy. (Really.) I. Actually. ForgetFor two splendid entire hours, I am the old "me." The pre-BC me! Happy, fun-loving, carefree. Then comes the crushing blow of reality. I have a sudden power outage and then I remember — Oh, right. I have the "Big C." 

I'm emotionally and physically fried. I'm uncertain when I'll see my brother and sister-in-law again, and I sob in the parking lot saying goodbye to them. My feelings are right on the surface — rough, raw, untethered. I go home, crawl into bed and sleep like a woman six days out from surgery.

Day No. 7 Husband's brother stops by bearing pizza, an antipasto salad and an apple pie (all takeout, natch). The table-hopping continues; this time, we dine outside on the patio table and enjoy a couple of hours of light conversation. Like clockwork, I suddenly lose my energy and excuse myself to take a nap. 

Husband returns to work; a neighbor drops off a pretty lily at my front door; other friends and family members send flowers, a get-well gift basket full of goodies, cards. A great pal I've known since grade school (we go waaaaay back) picks up lunch later that week and brings it to the house; the following week, another close friend comes over and makes me tuna salad. When I tell her about the meals people have been bringing, she is rather surprised that I have been eating dinner and making conversation with everyone who stopped by. She made an interesting point: "When I'm bringing food to someone who is recovering from something, I never go in the house. I ring the bell, hand off the dish and leave! I never expect to visit with the person recovering." 

That got me thinking. Was I weird (or worse, not focused enough on my own recovery) for expending so much energy in conversation post-surgery? How else does someone occupy themselves when they're healing? It's true I pushed myself when all I wanted to do was sleep. I wasn't sure if I had done the right thing, but I knew I had to fill up my 'support' cup (pardon the BC pun) while I could; once everyone flies home, I am on my own. 

But let's backtrack for a moment, shall we? It's Day No. 4My mother and siblings and I are in the kitchen; we've finished dinner, they've cleared the table and we're about to say goodbye. Then the telephone rings. 

Husband takes the call and steps outside to talk. I think nothing of this; he's likely talking to one of his buddies who tends to call around this time (it is 8:30 PM). 

I finish hugging everyone just as Husband steps back into the kitchen. He looks directly at me and says, "That was Dr. A." Ummm, that would be my surgeon. The one who removed my boobs and my lymph nodes. That much registers in my brain.

Dr. A. just came out of surgery, and my pathology report was waiting for him on his desk. He called my husband immediately. We all fall silent. 

"Your nodes are clear." 


He repeats the stunning news, choosing different words this time so we all understand: "They didn't find any cancer in your lymph nodes. They took out eight of them. All were negative."

I spontaneously burst out crying, blubbering like a baby. My family starts screaming and cheering. I fall into my husband's embrace, everyone circling around us. It's a joyous, overwhelming, unbelievably poignant moment. If Dr. A. had called just five minutes later, our guests would have been gone. But as fate would have it, my family was right there with me, standing in my kitchen when I got this monumental news. It was, in a word, Priceless. 

My path to the pathology report was definitely worth the wait. The food and conversation post-surgery? I think it's gonna be "drop and go" next time out.


  1. I love that you sharing this with us as you recall all of these GREAT moments. I am in that room, in your kitchen and I feel the joy.


  2. Thanks AM! There are so many things I need to get out of my head before I forget! Journaling only goes so far. Making headway. YAY! I hope you are doing better. Sending you lots of cyber hugs!!

  3. Renn,

    Your descriptive way of writing really made me feel I was there with you and your loved ones.

    What wonderful medical news after a wonderful week or so of wonderful food! I'm thrilled for you. It's especially sweet that your family was there to hear all about it.

  4. I am reading this with tears streaming down my face - I'm so happy and thankful with the good news and so amazing that your doctor phoned just at that moment.
    Your strength sounds amazing and it also sounds like you are surrounded by the people who truly love you

  5. Beth, thank you. I place myself in whatever situation I am writing about and the feelings and memories come flooding back. It is a gift and a curse! LOL!

    Mary, yes, my path report news was fanTABulous! Really, truly. Sorry to have made you cry!!


  6. I have tears in my eyes as I write this and I am SO incredibly happy for you, Renn!! Your writing is beautiful and I rejoice with you that your family was there to share in the moment.

  7. First of all, I'm thrilled your nodes were clear. That's great news and I'm glad your family was there to share that moment. Next, don't feel guilty about telling people when to leave, what to do, that you're tired or whatever. Despite getting this good news you are still recovering and need to take care of yourself first and foremost. Lastly, your delivered meals sound fabulous! Hope they keep coming for a while. Thanks for sharing. You do such a good job.

  8. Yummmmmm... Mediterranean food! Such a blessing to be surrounded by so much love and support.

    Also - I gave you an award on my blog today! Come by and grab it when you can :)

  9. This made me tear up. It's always great to have family support and I wish you a quick recovery.

  10. This is so YAY!and tiny braid and vicodinish and yippee! Hurray hurray hurray! I wish I could serve you some cinnamon toast on my buzz lightyear plate...but will send a virtual to infinity and beyond!

    good good stuff girl!


  11. Mary and Jaya J, sorry to make you both tear up! But it's a good cry! ;-)

    Michelle My Bell — thank you! How exciting, my very first "lovely blog" award! Glad you stumbled into my world over here. I will be stumbling into yours too!

    Lauren, your post made me laugh out loud! Would love some virtual cinnamon toast. *especially* on a buzz lightyear plate! Tks, girlfriend.

  12. Renn,
    I was lucky to find you via The Pink Underbelly. Congratulations on the wonderful news about your nodes!


    PS- your delivered menu sounded amazing. You have wonderful support system.

  13. Thank you, Tory! I am thankful for my support system. I will check out your blog. Thanks for finding me!

  14. Renn, I vote for "drop and go," then my hubby and I can watch a movie, relax, and if I fall asleep it is not in front of the guests! I will light a candle for you on Dec. 1. I will keep you posted how it goes next week! Here's to squishies! Best, Lindsey

  15. Great stuff but I have to ask what has gone on recently? More than a month since your last post.


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