Friday, January 7, 2011

The Toaster Speaks!

Friday evening. I've had my surgery (on Wednesday) and they seem to think they got all the tumor or mass or whatever it was. Now it will be a week or so until pathology returns with the final verdict. Of course, the night I came home from surgery there were, shall we say, complications and I was in what I believe members of the medical community and certain clergy refer to as "f---ing agony" most of the night, into Thursday morning. I felt like a water balloon, an unbreakable water balloon, and desperately needed help.

So, Thursday at noon my dear Chris drove me back over the Ben Franklin Bridge to the hospital emergency room and within a matter of a couple of hours, I guess, the problem was diagnosed, I was sedated and Little Fred met Mr. Foley! I am now the proud wearer of what David Sedaris has written of as a "Freedom Leg Bag" (see link above). It is not fun. The connection, the care, the discomfort... I'm just grateful that this won't be lasting more than three to seven days.

Surprisingly I was able to make good use of the little bit I've read so far of "Start Where you Are" by Pema Chodron, where she talks about focusing on the moment, the here-and-now, treating everything as a dream... the past, the future. It helps. If you've read this far, your experience reading the first paragraph is memory, a dream, it's gone. Breathing, concentrating on the breath... in... out...  And I was able to maintain a semi-positive outlook, joke around a little with the staff: to the young man who inserted the IV needle into the back of my hand: "You're good at this, right?" I'm sure he's never heard that one before! (Oh, and speaking of sedation, if you ever need it and you're given a choice, go for Dilaudid. It's a "hydromorphone" and it works in approximately two seconds. It also comes in pill form, liquid and rectal suppositories, so the possibilities are endless...)

Still, even through the haze I was able to be at least marginally grateful for what I have here. Working at the Drexel College of Nursing & Health Sciences I think gave me a bit of an "in" (I was in my own little room, not one of those emergency room cubby holes with the flimsy curtains or, worse, warehoused on a gurney in the corridor.) I have someone to care for me and about me: I don't know what I'd have done if I'd been on my own. I'm sure I'd have found a way, but just the presence of a calm, loving person -- it helps. And while I can't help feeling that in a few years complications like mine will be dealt with in less invasive ways (if innovation is allowed to flourish), I was grateful I wasn't going through this fifty years ago, like around the time my father was having his own problems and visiting the urologist on a regular basis. I remember him coming home describing in more than adequate detail what he'd endured and thinking "Please, God, don't let me have to go through that, ever! Please, please, please!" I offered similar prayers for good grades and so on as a kid, and those didn't work either. I've since learned it's pointless to pray for "stuff".

And so I thought of my father, too, who wound up with his own Foley catheter and health problems in the last years of his life and I was able to be there for him and occasionally attend to some of the less pleasant aspects of his care. Not that I'm so wonderful... but it was something I was glad to do for someone who did so much for me. If only to shake his head and wish me luck each time I came up with some hare-brained career scheme (writing for the movies, hand painting silk...) We were there with him when he died, holding his hands and Chris swears he felt a rush of air go by him at that moment.

It's all just what it is. As I get older, I find I'm more and more able to not take things quite so seriously. Everything is not the most important thing in the world. My childhood, my years in California and Switzerland, the deaths of my parents, work, my surgery, this morning's coffee: it's all a dream.

Just concentrate on the breath.





There you are...


  1. oh my sweet, you are someone i am so proud to have known for so many years. and many more to come. we'll talk this sunday. it's late and i'm hoping you're in bed. i'm on my way. much love to you. m

  2. Wonderful! It's all about the breath!! Keep us posted on the results of the test.
    The Sedaris piece was hysterical. Thanks for sharing...
    And nice to see the ZBarn on your blog.
    Love to you,
    Mrs. Z