So, unusually for me, I didn’t really report anything in the first two days following surgery.
This is because a) I was 8 hours in surgery and then 8 hours in recovery with a very dodgy bleed that wouldn’t stop, and kept threatening to send me back into theatre (‘gushing’ they said the next day, though not at the time), b) I then grew a big haematoma and that provoked two more nights of being ‘ready for surgery’ first thing in the morning/s, and lots of terror because c) morphine and I are not friends (we are, in fact, vomit-y to say the least) and d) I was shattered and out of it.
But by Day 3 things were improving, and on Day 4 I left hospital. Despite a time-of-leaving/missing-blood-tests hiccup staff were uniformly and utterly generous, kind, sensitive, aware, accommodating and brilliant. And special mention to the recovery nurse from Oz who I talked to (in between morphine haze) about vocation and mission. She was vocation personified.
My facebook page is fairly private. There are family and (actual, real life) friends there, and also people who are friends-of-friends. I tend not to say yes to total strangers, the kindness of strangers is what twitter is for. So this, slightly edited for still more privacy, is what I shared with them, in case it’s interesting to you.
Post-Op Day 1 :
Thank you thank you all so much for your love and kindness and generosity. It was a VERY eventful night, following a long long surgery, but things are much better this afternoon. And, in huge gratitude to the NHS and the massive privilege of this view (Buddhas!) I send you much love and thanks. I won’t get around to answering emails/texts for a bit, I AM going to rest! There’s a taniwha in that river, protecting me … Xxx
(Shelley took the pic, not me!)
Post-Op Day 2 :
A peculiarly intimate and lovely relationship with the young woman in the bed opposite. From named country maybe, didn’t want to ask for fear of sounding like a UKIP-er (though everyone always asks me about my accent…). She’s so young to be going through this (30s, as I was first time round), and we both had dire first nights and equally upsetting second nights (in the 48 hours here I have twice been told I will need to go back into surgery, due to various dramas, only to be reprieved at last minute) … Anyway, she and I both had slightly better days today, better enough to be able to say hello to her husband (?) and them to Shelley. And just now we wished each other a good night and a better day tomorrow, inshallah. And so I have someone’s else’s health to add to my list to chant for, as others are chanting for mine. (And when not crying about being carted off to an extra surgery, this view is stunning …) Grateful and NHS-loving goodnight.
Post-Op Day 3a :
Word of the day, as taught by (yes the named country) Companion – alhamdulillah! Yay for no more surgery, as threatened again at 1.30am! She is Arabic teacher so I might go for a word a day. She said she made a supplication to Allah for me, I told her the Buddhists were chanting for her. (I know it’s grating, atheists, but mine is a humanist practice, so you don’t need to mind.) xx
Post-Op, Day 3b :
Ward has turned into Mike Leigh film with arrival of “Girl With Dog Bite Hand” (to be played by Eleanor Lawrence). ward is usually reconstructions, but less cancers today so a working class cliché in the way only Leigh (not working class at all) can write, has arrived to fill the space. Of course she, like Ward Companion, will turn out not to be cliché at all when we begin to speak, but for now, her friend on the phone “Who the fuck’s *****? Tell fucking **** I’ll fucking slap her, I don’t even know any *****s” is providing appropriate Leigh-ish character notes. (I, of course, am the working class girl made good, protesting my working class values and delighting in the liberal mix offered us by our great NHS, utterly unaware that the other two think I’m a crazy middle-aged lez. Brenda Blethyn’s part.) Yes people, I am well enough to be turning it into copy.
Post-Op, Day 3c :
If there wasn’t all the blood, bruising, stitches, noise, heat, exhaustion and general OUCH, this would be an amazing place to stay. Everywhere else, you’re gorgeous, but there’s a Taniwha in the Thames keeping me here.
Post-Op, Day 4a :
5am, Big Ben calls me, 6am the trolley dances begin, 6.30 bp and temp, 6.49 the fluorescents are on. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, and I’m definitely feeling.
Post-Op, Day 4b :
And from the 8th floor with the startlingly view and the gentle but nonetheless confining guards, Rapunzel of the golden hair let down a rope of plaited drains and called to her princess, “Ride the Taniwha! Come save me.” And the guards were kind but firm in their denial of freedom, “For you still have three ropes to plait, Rapunzel, and you may not leave with three ropes, no matter how high your princess climbs. And Rapunzel was exceedingly disgruntled.
Post-Op, Day 4c :
So, Ward Companion (yes, she does have a name) asked if I had read the Koran. I explained about Faisal (progenitor of The Room of Lost Things), how he and Shelley swapped holy books, the flowers he sent for our CP ‘even’ from his very faithful stance. She then said could she ask a personal question. It was the ‘how do lesbians have sex’ question. Now, given she’d told me and Shelley some very personal stuff about her own circumstances, I figured I ought to be honest too. (As if I ever wouldn’t!) so I gave her a brief run down on various lesbian sexual practices (as with straight ones, all individual, depends on the people, not all of them my own). She was pleased with that because she’d “always wondered”. Then we were back to faith, with what do Buddhists believe in – much wonderment at the idea of no actual god – I explained nam myoho renge kyo, she suggested 2 surahs (sp?) I could read, and I will. Then it was lunchtime. Next, post-drain dressings changed by young health care worker who asked if I had children. I explained about gay and my previous cancer and IVF and miscarriage and babyfather, she told me about her boyfriend. Bit of Buddhism in there too, and also how I have the choice to be out, she (family from West Indies) doesn’t, and yet we both live in the same racist, homophobic (etc) society, hence my choice to be out at all times. She approved of that and then outed herself with alopecia, removing her wig to show me her stunningly beautiful hair-free head. Which she never does. Blimey. What a morning! And now I may be going home this evening, depending on bloods. (It would appear my work here is done!) God knows what Girl With Dog Bite Hand thought of these conversations, as she was leaving (from behind curtains ) as we had them. Astonishing, all of it. Truly. (And thank you, but I prob don’t want any visits for a few days, there are loads of clinic & hospital visits lined up already, and the hardest thing at home will be to do less than normal.) Here, I hope, endeth the epistles from St Thomas’s.
We finally got home about 9pm, almost 8 hours after I’d been told I could go, far too much freelancer’s time wasted on Shelley’s part, lots of to-ing and fro-ing about blood results not getting returned, then another lot of bloods taken (and these from ouch, post-chemo-dodgy veins) and then they didn’t come back. Anyway, they let us go eventually, with consultant’s ok – and I know that a night’s sleep in my own bed and fresh leafy greens, good home food are probably going to make more difference than any amount of stopping in an over-heated (for the flaps), noisy ward, however dedicated and brilliant the staff. My job now is to eat spinach until I have the haemoglobin count of Popeye himself. Your iron-rich recipes (that don’t taste too rich and don’t involve liver) very welcome.
And also, yay NHS. Obviously.
Next week, back to Fun Palaces …. (oh and removed tissue pathology results. looking forward.)
Love reading about how you are doing. Speedy recovery at home and all best wishes for great results.
I hope your recovery goes smoothly & peacefully. And that the results come back with good news. My OH starts chemo tomorrow (done the nasty surgery bit) and you write about your experiences matter-of-factly and positively. Thank you.
Thank you. What helped me most first time round with cancer was reading/hearing other people’s honest accounts of how it was for them. I also have a need, or desire, to turn big events, and sometimes small ones, into story. Hopefully then, this can be useful for other people, as well as myself.
Fantastic writing. You are writing, not just blogging. Hope you make a great recovery. lots of love xxx