“How are you feeling?”
People ask tentatively, as they drop off food, run into us on a walk, send a quick text.
“I would like to say much better,” I confess. Maybe I’m a little better? But if so, not enough to feel any kind of relief about it.
The surgeon’s team has stopped making references to “having your drains removed or replaced” and is now cutting to the chase: “your drain replacement procedure.” It’s scheduled for this Friday, and they want me to stay in New York until at least Monday for follow ups.
My drains were collecting 60, then 50, then 40, then 12 ml. Drying up, I celebrated! Too early, apparently. Suddenly, the total was 170 ml. Then, 185. Ugh. Not drying anytime soon.
This has by far been the roughest part of my treatment thus far. Not because I feel totally awful or sick—mostly I’m just tired—but because it feels like it’s stretching longer and longer with no end in sight.
The twins, who have for the most part breezed through my chemo and surgeries, barely seeming to notice anything beyond my rash, are becoming more and more aware. “I hope you feel better tomorrow, Mommy,” says Jack each night. He’s taken an interest in the healing crystals friends gave me, and we taught him how to spiral it outward from my body at pain points. “Do you feel better?” he asks. I do.
Delaney and I bond over a shared horror for adhesive. When my ultra-sticky dressings need to be peeled off, she is there holding my hand. “You can squeeze as tight as you want,” she tells me solemnly. I do.
With each passing day, we work through anticipated future compromises. It will be a different kind of Christmas, we warn the kids, maybe not as many events. That’s ok, they assure us. A few days later, we talk about not doing gifts this year—maybe just one gift to share as a family. They don’t flinch (mostly).
Per does more and more, and the overflow has started to fall on the kids—and not just Nathan and Evelyn, but the twins, too. They shuttle high calorie drinks (egg nog, whole milk, fresh squeezed orange juice) and collect sips for their effort. One morning, I ask Jack to make me a PB&J sandwich. He’s never done it before, and he forgets to toast the bread, but he masters the basics and delivers it with a huge smile.
At some point it occurs to me: while I’m waiting, waiting, waiting... life is still happening.
So I’m done waiting.
I went back to work today. “Are you sure you’re ready?” Per asked.
“No, but I’m in about the safest environment I could be in—with people who love me and who will feed me and send me home if I get too tired.”
I’m glad I went. I did get taken to lunch—and I ate! I was tired, but not too tired to have a few good conversations and get started back on some real work.
I’ll be back in the office until I have to go to New York to get those new drains at the end of the week, which will be with me for a few more weeks or six. Maybe those will get replaced, too. I ordered two new sweaters to fit over them, telling myself they are only a wardrobe issue. (Sometimes I believe this.)
But I’m done waiting for them to be out. This intermission is over. Thank you for bearing with me.
See you soon for Act Two.