Saturday, May 11, 2012
I looked. I looked because I was actually scared not to. I have been having wicked insomnia lately. Even if I don’t take a nap in the afternoon, or have caffeine after 7 p.m., and even limit myself to one diet coke in a day and only decaf tea and go to bed by 10 p.m. AND take my pain meds, I’m lucky if I can get a wink of sleep by 3 a.m. I’m usually exhausted and can’t actually DO anything except lay there, but my mind will not turn off, no matter what I do. And when I finally do nod off, I have some crazy, often disturbing dreams.
Last night it was that the wounds on my chest began to open and come apart. They are glued together – there are no stitches. Crazy, huh? It all hurts so bad, my entire chest, that I’m not sure I would know the difference if they were starting to come apart unless I look. And my mom, the only person I’d ask to check for me besides the doctor, had to go to work, so she’s no longer with us at my apartment any more. So it was up to me.
I did it a bit sneakily at first. I went in the bathroom, distracted myself for a few minutes like the last time, and then stood in front of the mirror. Slowly, I pulled one side of my tank top down, just enough to see the wound (too early to really call it a scar yet and I can’t think of another word for it, although I’m sure some of my writer or medical friends will come up with plenty – probably glaringly obvious – ones).
It actually didn’t look too horrible. By doing it this way, I could fool myself into thinking that this was just a cut across my breast and that the rest of it – nipple and all – was just below, under my tank top. That side hadn’t opened so I pulled it back up and went to the other side and did the same thing. Nope, that one wasn’t open and oozing either, and appeared to be as good as could be expected, although that will be confirmed Tuesday by the doctors.
To reward myself for facing my fear, Nick drove me to Bliss Spa at the W Hotel, just across the Boston Common – somewhere I’d typically yell at Nick for driving to because it is so close – for a manicure. I’ve never been there before because it’s so much more expensive (double what I normally pay), but I went to the one in London and know that they are super sterile and careful, and ask clients every visit all about any recent surgeries, prescriptions, etc. So I knew my right hand would be safe there. You see, this is my new world: for the rest of my life I have to be super careful with my right arm, due to all my lymph nodes being removed and the risk of lymphedema, for which there is treatment but no cure. (I will go into all that more in a future entry, I am sure, but won’t bog down this one with the details.)
I had a relaxing time, and had just a few minor amendments to my mani to baby my hands and reduce the lymphedema risk, such as no hot treatments on that hand and extra careful cuticle treatment. Then I called Nick and told him not to worry, I could make it home, the short walk across the park. Sure, I can! It is on this trek that I realize:
Things that Suck
- That it takes all my energy to walk across the Boston Common carrying just one small, near empty pocketbook, because I changed it out and emptied it before surgery, knowing I wouldn’t be able to carry one of my normal size and weight.
- That I cannot take my long sleeve top off and just wear my tank top on this beautiful day because I haven’t put the now minimum requirement of SPF15 on my right arm, chest and face (another lymphedema prevention requirement).
- That I have to find a bench to stop and sit on at the end of the Common to rest before resuming the remainder of my short journey home, just down Charles Street.
- That I can’t buy a lemonade because I am alone and know I can’t carry it AND my purse.
- That I couldn’t do a damn thing if someone came along and snatched said purse because I am currently so freakin’ weak. I know I wasn’t Ms. Muscles before, but I always thought I could put up a decent fight (thank you London self-defense classes) should anyone try anything. Now I can barely lift the stupid light pocketbook!
But I also remind myself how lucky I am. That this pain will eventually subside. That my strength will return. That I will be able to walk and run and carry heavy purses and defend myself again. There are millions of people in this world who cannot say that. I think of the people with rare diseases who my company makes treatments for, such as my dear friend Monique who has Pompe Disease. She is a fighter, who will battle the disease for the rest of her life. I read on her blog M.E.G.’s Confessional about what she goes through on a daily basis, and I know I really have nothing to complain about. She is also one of the strongest women I know, a constant source of inspiration, always sharing the positive, educating others on Pompe Disease and campaigning for treatment all over the world, including recently in New Zealand. It’s from women like her that I gain my own courage and strength, and am reminded not to take anything in life for granted!