Monday, May 30, 2011

at home/what you took

what do i remember?
admissions, 6am. waiting, always waiting.
pre-op, 7am. undressed, anonymous, gowned and stretchered.
strangely not more nervous, feeling the way you do before a big gig or some other thing you can't quite imagine doing
in half an hour i will be unconscious and they will be cutting me open
how do you begin to even be scared about that- it's too surreal.
pushed through cold halls lined with canucks pictures- hockey fever even in the OR- entering the room and seeing them all prepping for my arrival.
the biggest thing that has ever happened to me and i won't be conscious through it
asking the anaesthesiologist where he was from- saudi- and suddenly slipping
into nothing

to a gorgeous view on the 4th floor, i think
slightly weepy, feeling as if i hadn't quite finished dreaming a dream
hoarse from the breathing tube
thirsty, and not allowed to drink
but fully aware, fully alert
looking at the clock: high noon. that means they went ahead with the surgery. it's done, all of it.
taken to the ward
not the gyno ward where new mothers go
they wouldn't want to mingle with us
more waiting
waiting for news
waiting for the surgeon
waiting to get up
waiting to get to sleep
waiting for visits

some impressions:
not too much pain, which is amazing
i've had worse hangovers than this
catheters are surprisingly convenient
walking, when it happens, is surprisingly hard and i do the zombie shuffle around the ward complete with iv drip and ass-exposing gown- what a cliche i've become

knowing- from eavesdropping other patients' stories- just how lucky i am, how my news could have been so much worse, how blessed i am with friends and work and family
but anger, yes, now that begins now that i'm home
you took some things from me and i'd like them back please:
confidence in my health and my body
speed, fleetness
a lifetime of saying i've never had surgery, never even had a cavity, never known how rare i was in this
you took my ability to bear children
took things out of me
left me with doubts and fears and a new vocabulary:
cancer survivor
left me questioning any ache and pain i get: what is this? should i worry?
this can be a dark place and i need to go there sometimes
even as my steps grow stronger
as i return to work- i WILL return to work
as the soreness fades
i will come back here
to remember what you took from me

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's been a long time. I'm so sorry, but I think you'll get it when you read this. There were friends and family to tell first, not to mention the fact that I was just so busy for the last three weeks. I did write, but I couldn't post until now. Here's a selection of posts I wrote but didn't publish right away:

may 1st, 2011
this feels almost entirely too easy.
it's so weird to be back here, because time is doing that stretchy-slidey elastic band thing and it could almost be that i've never been away; there was no ghost train or pumpkin patch or 'brief encounter'. when you have different jobs throughout the year you remember things in terms of work. this was the month i did so-and-so, that was the christmas i went here...
well, this is my third time here, and it's starting to feel like a second home. i got here friday night, stayed up late in a frenzy of unpacking, did the same yesterday. there are only two of us in the house so far; the others arrive in a few weeks. it gives us the chance to settle in, clean, stake out our territory and make things the way we like them to be. i am very lucky in my roommate (the only newbie this year); he likes things tidy (so do i) and so we cleaned and organized things together and this shabby Panabode-style wood house has never looked so tidy or felt so much like a home in my memory. last year it looked like a frat-house most of the time. i think i tackled so many years' worth of cobwebs yesterday that the house realized i was a friend and has made brendan and i welcome here. i felt kind of silly, but i even 'smudged' the house yesterday with some sage i found in the living room. so many years of people staying here, happy and sad, getting along and fighting... it just felt like the right thing to do. i sheepishly admitted this to brendan and he said he agreed.
today was mayday, and glorious sunshine to go with it. such a funny contrast to the deep snow which is still piled everywhere; they had a long, snowy winter here this year. brendan and i hiked through the meadows, on snowmobile trails that were still firm enough to hold us, and also on ski trails where the snow was starting to get so rotten that we sunk in up to our hips every other step. quite a workout! we were out for at least an hour and my face is red from the sun. i hadn't thought i'd need sunscreen quite so early, was more worried about whether i'd brought enough warm clothes!
speaking of bringing things... although i had to pay quite a bit to ship five boxes of stuff up here, it was worth it. my little bedroom is cozy and homey, and as the house fills up with two more people, if i need to retreat to my room i will feel happy there among my things. not that i need to retreat right now. my roomie is 10 years younger than me, and very happy to be here. i was afraid he might be a bit too much of a 'keener', but his enthusiasm is contagious, and after the boys and their distinct lack of enthusiasm last year, this is great. to have already done a hike, on our 2nd day here, is wonderful. we seem, so far, to be able to strike a nice balance between talking up a storm and being silent, between hanging out and giving each other space. as i said, i feel very lucky.
today was so beautiful that this afternoon we even got our bikes out for a quick ride to upper wells (it was a quest for junk food, very necessary after all our exertions!). to be able to cycle, on roads which were clear and dry, but surrounded by many feet of snow... was not something i'd ever experienced before. now the sky has clouded up and our rehearsals begin tomorrow, so i'm glad we snatched the chance to get outdoors while the going was good.
i am keeping my fingers crossed that our phone will soon be working. the people at telus seem to have a hard time setting up phone service for residents of wells and every year there is a weeping and a gnashing of teeth before phone service is hooked up. they promised me 'today', but it's 5:30 and still no dial tone. my sweetie's going to get one more night-time call from the gas station phone box, i guess.

may 8, 2011
i feel such a weird mixture of lucky and unlucky at the end of this first week that i don't really know where to begin. 'begin at the beginning, go on until you reach the end and then stop' is a quote that popped up in a novel i was reading, so here goes...
it's the evening of the first day of rehearsal, last monday. i get several facebook messages from j: 'call me'. so i do. our phone line isn't functioning yet so i call him from the public phone outside the whitecaps motel. i'm worried that his mom has fallen ill, or that he's had some kind of health scare, but the news he has is about me: my biopsy results have come back positive for cervical cancer. i'm reeling, trying to keep it together and take it in while standing outside at a public phone. needless to say, i can't and i start crying but i'm still trying to keep some kind of control, since i'm not in private (although at least wells isn't a high-traffic area, at least not at this time of year). j's obviously in shock as well. anyway, we talk it through as best we can and then i have to go and break it to amy & richard at theatre royal, after the first day of rehearsal, that i may have to leave, that i may not be able to finish my contract here, that i may not even get to really start it. and they are shocked too, and supportive.
and so the week goes by in a flurry of rehearsals interspersed with phone calls to places and departments i never wanted to have to speak to : gyno-oncology, cancer agency, hospital, not to mention family and a few calls a day to j for moral support and updates (at least we have a functional phone at the panabode now, so no more weepy public phone calls after that first night). i learn a few things: first, that things tend to move quickly when you have anything to do with the dreaded 'c-word', and so i have an mri scan scheduled for this tuesday, and the cancer agency has even managed to get that done in prince george so that i don't have to come all the way home to vancouver. i will miss one day of work, the theatre will cancel one show this week, and then i can keep working up here until i fly back home.

Friday May 20th, 2011
How did it get to be almost 2 weeks since that last blog entry? How did I get to be sitting at the kitchen table in a log house, typing at 10pm while the final addition to our household bakes late-night Peanut Butter Whoopee Pies?
We are four now. Me, Maya, Robert and Brendan. Three of us worked here last year, and the new guy is fitting in just fine. Maya showed up tonight and immediately started baking, which is how she settles in. This is a quirk I can live with very easily, although my waistline may not thank her. The Panabode, our house, is cozy and friendly. I think it responds to the love we're showing it, shaking off years of casual neglect; well maybe not shaking it all off, but looking brighter and nicer than it ever looked last year. Not just a place to live, not just a party shack, but a home for 4 very different people who will hopefully be able to get along for the next 4 months.
Not that I'll be here for the next few weeks, unfortunately. My schedule next week is as follows: Do shows all weekend, fly back to Vancouver on Monday night, have a consultation Tuesday morning, have surgery on Friday. And then.... we'll see. I'm raring to get back up here and keep working, but I'm terrified that my body won't be a resilient as I want it to be. And it's a bitter pill to swallow, this knowing that I won't be able to bike or run or fling myself around the stage as i've been doing these last few weeks.

So do you see? I'm typing this back at my home in Vancouver, and the last few weeks feel like a dream; did I really get all the way up north, start doing a show, and then find out that I have cancer and have to fly home for surgery? How could I not be in shock?
I go into VGH early Friday morning for a hysterectomy. A what?! I'm 36 years old, for godsake. I can run, I've biked 15km a day for the last week, I feel healthy as a horse. My spirits for the last few weeks have fizzed like sodapop as I made new friends, learned new songs, tried on costumes and re-entered 1869. Now suddenly I'm a cancer patient. In a few days I will be sore and tired, fuzzy-headed on painkillers. I wasn't ready to come home. I am so afraid they'll forget abut me up there, that the wound made by my absence will heal seamlessly and if I'm lucky enough to go back (which I won't know until after surgery), they won't care.
I miss my life before cancer. I know how lucky I am, but I'm still angry and scared.