In my somewhat mad rush to get as much prepared and crossed off my to-do list before my surgery (to help deal with A Few More Thorns on My Roses), so that I could just relax and recoup afterwards, I end up adding a broken tooth to that list while eating a shrimp and veggie wrap for lunch on Sunday. Go figure! Luckily, my dentist is able to assess my tooth on Tuesday morning, and recommends a crown to save the rest of the already heavily patched-up tooth, the timing of which will depend on how I am feeling after the surgery. It’s almost as though my body is trying to ensure – just a little more – that I focus on *it* for a while. It is a little ridiculous, really.
Later on Tuesday, I do my onion tart, steak tartare and rosé pre-surgery ritual at La Brasserie with my good friend Diana after our Pilates class. We are seated at my regular room-corner table after being met by 4 grinning faces of waiters and cooks. “Just how often *do you* come here?” asks my friend. Apparently often enough! – but for all kinds of celebratory events!
Not being even close to finishing all the pre-surgery tasks on my to-do list, I do manage to let the rest go and to get an early night in. I keep repeating to myself a new mantra from my new tanktop: “Do the best you can, and don’t worry”.
The next morning, I am greeted by several additional well-wishing email greetings when I rise at 5:30 am. Although it’s tough to get going so early, I am very grateful not to be made to suffer too long with an empty stomach – there would be plenty of time for that later! With surgery at 8:30 am, I am met by bright-eyed and stylish Diana at 6:10 am, with her bike on her car’s bike rack, so that we can bike-in the 30-min ride on this lovely sunny and crisp Vancouver morning, to be at the Mount Saint Joseph Hospital for 7:00 am. Rolo, Diana’s dachshund dog, is left at my apartment to greet us later on.
I awaken from surgery at 9:30 am, feeling fantastic at first, like from a really good deep sleep. Then my body and brain begin to catch up to the mild trauma they’ve just been through – and I don’t just mean being stripped into funny blue clothing, having my piercings taped up, and answering the same set of questions about four times! Apparently pronouncing my own full Polish name correctly is impressive, but not sufficient enough to assure the hospital staff that I am who I say I am, and that they will indeed perform the correct surgical procedure on my body. Deep down, I am grateful for the precautions.
I am taken to an intensive care recovery room for an hour, where I begin to feel increasingly more nauseous – and ask the nurse to call Diana so she can bring me my anti-nausea ginger root supplements when she returns for me with her car later on. After being offered a few medications, each subsequent one to deal with the side effects of the preceding one, I share with my nurses some of my natural remedies – such as the ginger root for my nausea, and magnesium for possible constipation – and they indicate gratefulness for being enlightened thus. At the end of the day, though, I do take a few regular ibuprofens when the freezing begins to dethaw, so that I can nap and sleep relieved from pain. Though my pain tolerance is rather high, I find it does tire me out after a while.
For the final hour at the hospital, I am rolled out to a courtained cubicle space to sit up and slowly begin dressing and standing up. The first bout of puke-reflex hits when I shift from horizontal to vertical – a pattern that seems to repeat in either direction throughout the day – but I manage to get whatever little I have in my stomach to stay down, at least until waking up from my post-lunch nap later on. Shortly after being brought in to this final staging area, Diana arrives – with my ginger root and her cell phone, so I can attend to my nausea while she gives word to my caringly and eagerly awaiting sister and mother, that I am indeed still ALIVE!
Before being discharged, I get my written instructions about the staged timing of the wound dressing coming off: the pressure padding comes off in a day (so I can shower!); the clear film dressing gets to be peeled off in 7 days (ensuring that the wound stays dry till then); and the steri-strips (that help to keep the scar thin) can be changed a week after that; while the stitches dissolve on their own after several weeks. At home, I am prepared with neem leaf and aloe gel (to help the cut heal better by keeping it moist); an onion extract gel (to help break down the scars and encourage healthy skin and to help the scars become less visible); and Arnica Montana (granules for dissolution under the tongue) and Traumeel (topical cream) homeopathics (to keep the bleeding and bruising down). And I am to see my surgeon for a check-up in 3 weeks, to ensure that the scar and the cut muscles are healing nicely. All this fuss for one little lump on the upper left side of my left breast!
On our way to the car, I am greeted outside by the ever-cheerful Rolo, the dachshund. We snap some photos along the way. Diana heroically straps my bike to her car’s bike rack. And we’re off home, stopping just once so I can get a breath of fresh air and *not* (accidentally) mess up her car. Once at home, I don my magical plush turtle slippers and we have some of the Tomato, Cardamom, Chickpea, Orange Pepper and Coconut Sauce that I pre-prepared for our lunch – my portion being but a tiny fraction of my unsatiated appetite, but I don’t want to risk it *all* going down the toilet right away. I lie down for a 3-hour nap, going through the puke-reflexes on the way down and up, but manage to recover without kissing the toilet bowl, yet.
Still feeling nauseous some minutes after being up again, Diana bravely and patiently undergoes the taking of my detailed instructions for how to make me some carrot-apple-cucumber-ginger juice, and produces a delicious nectar, which I sip in hopes of settling my hunger headache and queasy stomach. But alas, half a glass later, what’s left of my tiny lunch will not stay down, taking the juice up with it. It is nearly 5:00 pm at this point, so I think I’ve managed quite well. Where food fails me in quenching my post-anaesthetic sickness, my decision to go with my exercise strategy seems to do the trick. Still feeling pretty horrible, we set out for a walk to the end of my block. Feeling increasingly revived, we continue the procession of eager Rolo, quick-step Diana, and turtle-paced me, from block to block to block, turning to do a loop on the other side of the street a whole three-and-a-half blocks later.
Back at home, after resting a little, I crave the veggie lasagne Diana brought us for dinner. Again not wanting to risk losing her efforts, I slowly chew a tiny portion, and remarkably the colour and vitality begins to return to my face, Diana observes. Once again, I am impressed that my body knows that some exercise is good for it, and that despite not really feeling up to it, I listen and am duly rewarded.
We chat for a bit, mostly about food and recipes on my website as well as on Inspire Health’s, and about my possible options of moving for a bit to France after the summer’s intense treatments (including this surgery, and shortly, radiation) are completed, and I have recovered my energies a bit. I am making no decisions about anything post-radiation at the moment, and am keeping myself open to a variety of possibilities.
When Diana retires to her own abode and awaiting teenagers, I scan appreciatively through a few more well-wishing email greetings and open a well-wishing card that arrives from a good out-of-town friend. I smile at the content, and grin at the front picture – an image of different creatures hopping around and riding a basketed bicycle along the river Seine in the heart of Paris, with a bird confidently trusting her own wings and soaring through the wide-open skies. Umm-hmmm, thank you, universe, for sending me another little message. How did my friend in Kamloops, in the interior of BC, happen across such a fitting card, I wonder, as I fall asleep once more in my beloved Vancouver – feeling grateful for all the love and being happy wanting what I have – knowing that, if I don’t like it, I can always leave.
P.S. Writing down all this feels great, as I have not been writing my stories in a while.