Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Life After Gladys

I don't know if the saying is worthy of a bumper sticker or not but I can honestly state that I wasn't scared because I had no idea what to expect. Perhaps that's the bright side of ignorance? How can you have fear when you haven't come to terms with whatever it is you're about to go through? And with that, when you are constantly being told how much you're loved, prayed for, and thought of, you lose track of what exactly is going on that's negative.

On the morning of April 25th at about 6:45 in the morning (obnoxious hour, believe me) I think everything came rushing to me that was about to happen. That IV in my arm was about to have something put in it to knock me out cold. That air tube was going to go over my nose and make sure I kept breathing. That finger clamp thing, well, that was just going to keep me looking like E.T. ready to make a phone call. I took a cell photo pic with my mom as they began to wheel me away into surgery and I remember them just pushing me down the halls into an operating room with a huge light over my head. There was beeping. There was the clanking of metal (and I'm assuming rather sharp) objects on a tray. I was officially scared. I was scared because I knew that within the next couple of minutes I was going to be cut open and I don't even handle splinters very well so this was not going to be pretty. I was scared because my life was in the hands of some guy who put me to sleep and I was already incredibly difficult to wake up without medicine! I was scared because I knew my mom was in the waiting room, as a nurse, knowing exactly what was going to be done to her daughter but not having a single opportunity to do anything about it. And I was scared because I was 100% out of control of everything around me. I started to count backwards from 10...9.... Sure I'll play along... 8...

And: Unconscious.

I woke up in recovery with the oxygen on and the IV dripping. A sweet nurse was trying to get me to open my eyes. I had this idea when I went in for the surgery that I would come out with a few stitches on my side and call it a day. From my inability to move, I was thinking 1) These are some good meds and 2) I think they tried to fillet me with a scalpel. So I did what any strong, independent woman would do when she woke up in a strange place, dazed, and hooked up to wires. I cried out for my mom. (Did you think I was going to say I ripped the wires off, unplugged the tubes, grabbed my coat and waddled out of there? Ha!)

I know I was awake but I'm also pretty sure I was still asleep at the same time when my mom approached. I heard her telling me that Gladys was a much larger tumor than they thought. The incision was larger than they thought. The amount of stitches were more than they originally thought. But they are confident they got everything out and there are no cells remaining. Am I right, or did they do a lot of "pre-thinking" that  was really way off base? I can understand a pitch thrown a little up and out but come on this was verging on an intentional walk, right? But I was awake and alive and that's all that mattered.

After fighting with both the nurse and my mom (believe me, that's a recurring ritual that happened the entire week my poor mom stayed with me) to let me take the oxygen tank/tubes home with me (hey, an asthmatic has got to try!) I was put in a wheel chair and sent on my merry way. Still, basically, clueless.

I was clueless to the fact that when someone tells you to do something so you don't make yourself sicker you should probably do it. I was clueless to the fact that Little Miss Independent can't do certain things and must ask for help. I was clueless to the immense outpouring of support that was coming in through phone calls, apartment visits (I was playing Weekend at Bernie's), social media messages, and prayers. I was clueless to what recovery from this surgery would entail. I was clueless as to how long "we'll get the cancer test results next week" really is in hours and minutes. And I was clueless as to how this entire adventure was going to change my life.

Gladys is gone. Now there is a large scar that marks the spot where she was permanently evicted. While it appears we've conquered Gladys, upon further appointments I've learned that the probability of me developing more tumors like her is high. And even though my mom told me to take "deep breaths no matter how much it hurts"... I didn't. And it resulted in another emergency trip to the hospital where I was told I had developed pneumonia and pleurisy. (The nurses at the ER knew me by name... Yeah, that's how I roll kids).

But I will never complain. I may whimper. I will throw my fists up in the air with anger at the abrupt ending to my bikini supermodel career (and then subsequently eat cake to help that pain). But I refuse to complain. There are too many people out there who have not been and will never be as fortunate as I am right now. And for that, I am so very grateful.

As I sit here tonight writing this I've lost my job. I'm single. I'm almost 30. The Yankees lost 12-7 in the Subway Series (I take those losses very hard, dang it!). I take a lot of medicine. And I'm living on Easy-Mac. But I'm lucky. I'm so incredibly lucky because "Life After Gladys" has taught me so many things. It has taught me that I have little pain tolerance. It has taught me that I have the greatest friends and family in the world. It has taught me that I am surrounded by so much love and strength. It has taught me that you can't take on this world as "Little Miss Independent" all the time. And it taught me that my life is just beginning a new chapter.

Frankly, I am not entirely sure where this new chapter in my life will take me. But it took losing something from inside of me to learn what I am really made of and who I am made of.... I'm made of Love. Laughter. Friends. Family. And Sugar. I intend to fill that empty hole Gladys left in my side with those same things. Losing her just made more room for: Fabulousness.


Ellen A said...

I'm so glad you've shared in such a personal way, Kristen. I would love to see you when you're feeling stronger!
Best wishes for your full recovery,

William O'Hare said...

Another incredible piece of literature!