Yesterday I checked into NYU Medical Center and got that cancer cut right out of me. It was a more involved process than I thought it would be, but it's over. Relief doesn't begin to explain how I'm feeling. (That's my hand—it's not that wrinkly, it's just the weird saran-wrap-like tape they use.)
It's little the things that freaked me out the most. For example (sorry squeamish people!) yesterday was the second day of my period. You ladies know that's probably the goriest day. Well, apparently when you have surgery you're not allowed to wear a tampon. They don't want you trailing blood everywhere, so the hospital supplies you with a pair of sterile underpants and a giant, diaper-like pad. While I wasn't expecting even Target-level underroos, the item they supplied was so weird looking, I didn't even understand that it was underwear for a minute—it looked more like spongy mesh hand towel than anything you could possibly wear. Once I figured out it had legholes, I put it on and immediately felt my dignity flush away with my tampon. (I looked around online, but I couldn't find a pair to show you. You really need to see these things to believe them.)
After I was all fitted out for surgery, I sat down to relax in my tiny little waiting room. I had my Angelina Jolie Vanity Fair and my iPhone. I met the anesthesiologist, a couple nurses, and then my surgeon came in. She circled my cancer scab and initialed it—she tagged my ankle! I've heard of people getting the wrong organs removed, so I was cool with this. I wouldn't want them to lop off a freckle by mistake.
I'd kind of figured I'd be in a small examining room with my oncologist and someone feeding me valium through an IV. Instead, a nurse walked me into this giant, real-life operating room with about six medical professionals poised and ready to work on me. This was the only time I felt panic. It suddenly felt like I really had cancer, not just some random scab. I hopped up on the stretcher thingy and worried that I was going to bleed all over it (from the lame-o pad contraption, not the cancer). Then I remembered how much gore usually goes down during an operation and figured a little menstrual blood wasn't going to freak anyone out.
Someone laid my right arm out on a platform (like Jesus on the cross!) and began taping it down. That would've freaked me out more if the anesthesiologist hadn't been distracting me by jabbing in an IV into my left hand. I told her my other arm had better veins, but she managed to get it in there just fine. I remember saying hi to my surgeon, staring up at the big lights hanging overhead and then waking up as I was wheeled into the recovery room.
"Did I snore?" I asked the first nurse I saw. She looked at me like I was retarded and said no. Later I realized she hadn't even been in the operating room. Liar! Then another nurse came at me with an ice pack and lifted up the neck of my gown. I asked her what she was doing. She said she needed to put some ice on my wound, as she started to put it down the front of my gown.
"My ankle got cut, not my boob!" I yelped. She was mortified and pulled the ice pack out from under my gown before it made contact. Phew! She explained that my doctor usually does breast surgery. That was kind of a jarring way to come out of anesthesia, but not as jarring as if she'd actually hit my nip with the ice pack.
Spyro showed up a little while later and laughed and said I looked high. I sure felt happy! I announced I was ready to go home and begged a nurse to give me some water. I hadn't had anything to eat or drink since midnight the night before and I was super thirsty. Once I assured them I wasn't going to hurl, they gave me a little styrofoam cup of the best water I've ever tasted.
I was still hooked up to some machines and so entertained myself by changing up my breathing and watching the results on the monitor. Yep, I was definitely stoned. Then I remembered I'd had a sex dream while I was under and hoped I hadn't said anything filthy to any of the doctors. I'm not even going to ask.
For some reason I was freezing so they kept giving me these really nice heated blankets. I don't know how they warmed them up, but they felt so good, except there'd always be one little strip of skin that didn't get covered and that was cold. Spyro tucked them in for me and I felt a lot better. Eventually they moved me off the stretcher and walked me over to the recliner side of the recovery room. The nice nurse there gave me graham crackers and more water. Unlike some of the other crabby nurses, this one was funny and kept cracking jokes about how hairy we Irish ladies can get.
Once she disconnected me from the monitors, all I could think about was changing out of the weird hospital underwear contraption and putting in a GD tampon. I asked Spyro to hand me one. He grabbed one out of the box and slammed it on the table, like he was opening a pack of smokes. The cotton tip came up out of the wrapper and the applicator went all the way down. I told him I just wanted him to hand it to me, not unwrap it and put it in for me! (As if he ever would.) I heard the nurse laughing on the other side of the curtain.
Once I got that all sorted out, I got dressed, we went and picked up my Vicodin and we came home. After gobbling dinner (and a couple Vicodin) I spent much of last night in a stupor until I passed out around ten. Today started off a little rough, but tonight I feel much better. I even went for a little walk this afternoon. I figure by tomorrow I'll be totally fine. While I would say that the terror of having been diagnosed with cancer was off the charts, the actual physical pain paled in comparison to the stuff I've had done to my mouth.
So that's that. I can stop all the obsessing about death and just appreciate what I've got. Things I used to take for granted. Things like tampons.