December 3rd, 2009

cancer-Dorito

[cancer] Beginning to blog the experience - the Ninja Moment

I crawl ever further out from under the Dilaudid-induced haze here as the days go by. Still rocking the painkillers pretty hard, with all the attendant emotional and mental weirdness (which will be documented as my head clears even more). Thought I'd start with what I've come to call "the ninja moment" as my initial attempt to talk about being in the hospital.

The first night out of surgery, Wednesday the 25th, I was in ICU. I have little memory of that now, though I expect I can extract some if I work at it, and discuss everything with shelly_rae (who was there overnight), calendula_witch and so forth. After that, they had me in a bed in the cardiac ward, where I remained on epidural medication until Saturday night, the 28th. At that point my drain had been removed, and the epidural shut off, though not extracted, and I'd switched to oral pain management via Dilaudid pills.

I woke up around 11 pm with no idea where I was, or who I was. Classic soap opera amnesia. I noticed someone sleeping on a banquette near the foot of my bed (shelly_rae, of course, but I didn't realize it right then), and I could hear people outside in the hall. Also, a light was on behind a curtain to my right.

I spent several minutes trying to figure out what this could mean. Was I in a hospital? (The epidural tubes were kind of a giveaway.) Why? Who was this person sleeping near me? I decided I was being held prisoner, and that I would have to find a way out of the room, quickly and quietly. I also decided I had to pee something awful.

Very carefully I slipped out of the hospital bed. Mind you, until that night this had been a two-person operation due to the Foley catheter, chest tube, epidural and IV lines. At this point, I only had the epidural, which is (annoyingly) mid-back, so I managed to slither over the bedrail and onto my feet with a minimum of fuss. The epidural stand was clumsy and heavy to move, but I managed to slink into the bathroom — the lit space behind the curtain — without attracting undue attention.

At that point I urinated about 1/2 liter into the little jug thoughtfully provided there. (I couldn't remember who I was or what I was doing there, but apparently I could remember to pee in the jug.) I'm here to tell you that a person evacuating 500 ml of urine makes a lot of noise for a long time, not the least bit stealthy. My mighty ninja powers did not extend to silencing Niagara. shelly_rae woke up at that and quite reasonably asked what I was doing.

The sound of her voice brought me back to myself, and I was left with a steaming jug in one hand while I trying to explain my big plan to escape from durance vile under her watch. She laughed, and steered me back to my bed.

I'd experience several episodes of confusion (or frankly, drug-addlement), but this was the most structured and elaborate. By the time I got back to bed, I was laughing at myself. Weird stuff, that post-operative environment. More to come, when brainspace and mental acuity allow.

cancer-do-not-want

[cancer|photos] More on love and surgery

As previously mentioned, kylecassidy and circle23 came by Sunday night, November 29th, shortly after my discharge from the hospital for the thoracic surgery. kylecassidy has an ongoing project of shooting writers in their writing spaces, which had been the original idea even before this round of cancer treatments had been scheduled. Once I knew I'd be sidelined from the surgery, I encouraged them to come anyway, with the notion of documenting some of the physical reality of my cancer experience, both the love and the pain.

calendula_witch and shelly_rae were here at Nuevo Rancho Lake that evening, taking care of me with help from jkoke. the_child was present as well. kylecassidy and circle23 showed up, bustled about with some equipment, then began shooting me as I lay on (and in) my bed, showing my surgery scars and talking about my experiences a bit. I'm pretty sure the Dilaudid did most of the talking, frankly.

The pictures range from striking to heart-rending. Some are difficult to look at, due to the fresh scarring; others show the love in my life with startling clarity. I think they tell the story more than my words do, so Collapse )

Images © 2009 Kyle Cassidy. All rights reserved. Reproduced here with permission.