Monday, December 14, 2009
Toxic Wasteland...thanksgiving and beyond
TEN DAYS LATER
Not unlike Roman Polanski---certain post-surgery patients should be fitted with some sort of electronic security anklet-to make sure they stay PUT, preferably in bed, once back home. So that, trying frantically to make up for lost time, they don’t hit the streets a few days later with a list of errands that would exhaust a driven, wildly ambitious Personal Shopper on drugs and thirty years younger in some TV Reality Show a la Amazing Race.
One of the main problems here? I’m a moron. Why do I imagine I will have more energy than after the last surgery—especially as there clearly must be some sort of cumulative effect now after about 12 hours of general anesthesia during 4 SURGERIES in 10 months. And even worse, as I may have mentioned before, a grand total of about FOUR MONTHS OF massive doses of ANTIBIOTICS that would bring a wild rhino to it’s knees.
I am now officially a TOXIC WASTELAND. Can the antibiotics even be remotely effective after all this time. Surely fucking not!.
Three days before the surgery- two varieties of antibiotic delivered via very large pills—as a preventive measure. Then a week of IV antibiotics - 3 days in hospital and another 4 days of it at home thanks to my trusty 6’ 6” Russian nurse Vadim who obliged again by coming to rouse me from my bed to deliver the I V. And now, another 7 days of pills.
I have officially never felt WORSE. Not during the entire nightmare year have I felt sicker than I do right now. It’s as if I wake up every day with a massive hangover. Imagine being force fed three enormous Indian meals in a row, about half a dozen donuts and then drinking two bottles of champagne and five rum and cokes. Think how you would feel the next day. The blinding headache. The bloating. The gas. The total hideousness. And…the depression.
Got the picture? Well multiply it a few times more and that’s how four months of antibiotics makes you feel.
At least feeling as revolted and revolting as I do means that the day alone on Thanksgiving was sad but I felt no hunger. And there was no pressure to perform any motherly duties. Son Nick in New York with his beloved godmother –ice skating, Broadway show and slices of ‘the best pizza ever.’ And Lola spent it with her second stepmother and half brother and sister. (She veery sweetly brought me a bag of very good leftovers.) Hey, I’m an Aussie I kept telling myself as I lay in bed in a lot of pain, taking half a Vicodin every few hours and emptying the bloody drain- what do I care about Thanksgiving – but these annual family rituals- the accompanying brainwashing TV ads and movies picturing jolly celebrations with your clan have a way of seeping into the consciousness and despite any extenuating circumstances, make the lone twit in bed feel like a miserable old single failure. Yep, well aware that feelings are not facts but my brain can seem like a mighty powerful and willful bitch of a thing sometimes—leading me down very thorny, overgrown paths of sentimental and undermining beliefs.
And what if feelings ARE facts??
MUST read Power of Now again immediately. Though the last time I had the energy to read seems long ago and the voice of Eckhardt Tolle (yes, even bought the book on tape) is unacceptably tedious. I will Google it and see if there is a riveting sentence or two I can memorize. My daughter points out that I have a stack of books written by cheery folks who have had cancer and ‘seen the light’ along with books like “Change Your Diet-Change Your Life’. I know, I know, we are what we eat—Stay Alkaline and test your pee with the drawer-full of PH testers I have but how much frigging broccoli can one eat in a day? And who can cope with an acidic read-out every other day? Next morning I steal a couple of Marlboro Red from Lola, run down to the corner in my pj’s and Uggs and a coat where forty yards away sits a lovely Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Order up one of my beloved Mocha Ice Blendeds, grab the National Enquirer someone has left and run back home. Bliss for about thirty minutes before the guilty goody-goody side of me has a field day.
So a day or two more of deep discomfort, bandage-changing and drain-emptying as the long Thanksgiving weekend drags on interminably and by Monday I have a list of things to do a mile long. Monday morning. Hopped into my car which had only one ticket due to the fact that I have yet to go to the 84 places necessary to get parking permits for my new address and realized I was not up to hitting the DMV to change the Rego address. Not today. Maybe never. But after dropping the over-exhausted teen (who loves New York and wants to move there) at school AND on time, I did, by some miracle, notice the yellow light indicating I needed gas and headed up Vine to fill ‘er up.
This is easy. I can do this. Keen on multi-tasking I make a call, hop back into my car to plug in the nearly out-of- battery-cell phone and get involved in a heated discussion of why the recent announcement that women get TOO MANY unnecessary mammograms is dead-on. These are not fly-by-night fools saying this. They are experts and have studied it all and I loathe the way the Obama administration is being raked over the coals for something that in essence will protect women from unnecessary radiation and then often, unnecessary surgery and chemo. But it’s a thorny issue and yes, there are exceptions but who knows if their lumps would not have gone away of their own accord if they were watched carefully….
Oh I could go on…but my friend is already bored and so I merrily drive off to the next task till I hear an almighty CRACK and realize I have omitted to remove hose from car. SHIT! I stop and see that it has at least come out of the gas entry-point of my car and done no visible damage. But the long snake of a thing has come out of the bowser—is that the right word – and is lying right next to MY car there as people stare disapprovingly. So I run inside and try to explain what happened to a foreign gentleman. Not sure he understands me. I repeat that the gas hose has come off it’s moorings. “Moorings?” Yes, I can’t put it back, I say, looking as sad and tragic as I can. But he waves his arms and says something I don’t understand but I feel I’ve done my duty and hit the road without looking back. A friend later says they’ll have filmed my car with secret cameras and to expect a bill for about $1000. That seems harsh and I beg my brain to file it under “LATER”.
And you probably won’t have a whit of sympathy if I tell you that three minutes later, stopped at a light on Melrose I look over as I chat on the phone and see a black man pointing at something in my car – or at me. I politely ignore him and keep chatting. My eyes flicker to the right again and there he is again, staring crossly and pointing as he shakes his head at me. Oh for heavens sake, I recall thinking—what’s his problem. Lucky I didn’t give him the finger. (My son practically faints with tension every time we drive together. He gives a running commentary as to what lane I should be in, slow down, put on your indicator MUM, NOW...MUM THERE’S A RED LIGHT COMING UP…stuff like that.) The lights change and off I speed only to hear sirens and a loud speaker moments later telling me to “PULL OVER. NOW !” I look back.
Oh, it’s the POLICE. That’s the problem with my foul, gas-guzzling Land Rover Discovery. It’s so high that when the cop car was right next to me I couldn’t even see it WAS A COP CAR. I make up a brilliant story about my young son at the airport calling to say the plane got in early and I’m running late because I’ve just been to my cancer doctor and the very sweet, kind policeman lets me off. I’m sorry but you can’t NOT use the cancer thing for as long as you can. Just lucky he didn’t rip my now out of date Disabled Tag off the rearview mirror and handcuff me on the spot. New Year’s Resolution. Throw out the Disabled Tag and never speak without a hands-free. (And don’t tell Nick—he will be livid. Out of guilt for some driving transgression of the day I sometimes let him drive the last fifty yards down the street. But only when it’s dark and there’s no one around. He’s a superb driver. And yes, I am a wicked, lying scofflaw. I’m going to change.)
And I vow to buy a new hands-free but I also need to get into the New Age and buy a new phone that can access email and so until that decision is made, how can I get a hands-free? I want an IPHONE but Lola says I won’t be able to handle it. I’ll show her!
I head to the nearest Starbucks for my venti latte with half a pump of mocha (it used to be one whole pump) and as I rush past some sort of Christmas display in my hurry to get the last Times, it catches my drain which I have pinned to my t-shirt in …It means the long skinny tube comes out of the plastic bulb and blood spatters on my jeans and a few drops on my shoe and the floor. This may well be one of the low-points of the month and I dash to get napkins, wipe the tiny spots off the floor and then run out the door mortified,NOT looking back to see if anyone noticed as I hold the tube upwards to prevent more spillage. Minus my coffee, I reattach the tube in the car—and realize it’s a bad day for tubing and I am still in desperate need of a caffeine hit.
So off to another frigging Starbucks-miles out of my way—and then come to my senses and realize I need to go home immediately and retire to bed for a couple of hours before heading back out for groceries and the teen. I sleep as if I’ve just done a marathon and wake up three hours later at 4 with that awful sick panicky feeling when you’ve overslept in the day and scarcely know where you are…I must dress and rush to Nick’s school.
My darling son tells me the evening’s homework ahead and we both visibly wilt at the prospect of math, science, english AND history – not to mention reading and coming up with a proposal for the bane of my life—the Science fair Project. I LOATHE Science Fair Projects with a deadly loathing and feel that this is where a guy could TRULY be worth his weight in gold. A man, a father, a boyfriend…even just a man friend. But they’re in short supply so what can you do? I have so far talked the teen out of something to do with engines and fuel efficiency since I argued it would be too hard to show that on one of those wretched display boards. And what is the hypothesis and how do we go about it and do graphs?? I want to shoot myself on the spot when I realize it’s due in a week. Just the proposal – but I know from experience that it will take us forever. Lola suggested growing crystals and at first he seemed excited but I think he now regards it as too girlie. Last year’s was about landslides and the year before it was How Long does Different Food last without Refrigeration before getting moldy and that, not surprisingly, was a humdinger. Rotting, stinking chicken, cheese and vegies in the garage that had to be checked and photographed every few days.
Anyway, he struggles with all this homework due to ‘learning differences’ (after much and thorough testing) and needs more time than most but his mean mother must now drag him to buy groceries before going home as I could not even achieve that in my hideously unproductive day. The guilt, the guilt...about anything and everything and when he sweetly asks “How was your day mum?” I don’t even know what to say. I must lie of course and not reveal that it was useless, I was nearly ticketed by cops and it mainly consisted of sleep. I don’t want him to worry. A fatherless adopted child should not have to worry any more than strictly necessary.
Well I can only imagine he’s been worried this past year. It’s hard to tell how much fear has swirled around the brain of a gorgeous 14 year-old who is growing like a weed, has size 13 shoes and who shaves, speaks with a manly deep voice but still gives very big hugs. He’s moved twice this year, nine times in his life, been to five different schools (two in another country), has tutors three times a week to help with failing grades and a mother who swears like a trouper. But… no boy has ever had a more doting mum or a more fantastic, loving sister. Lola was nine when ‘we’ adopted Nick and she definitely adored my genius idea that we were adopting him ‘together’.
Gosh - I get chills every time I remember the excitement as the birth mother’s due date arrived. We were on HIGH Alert. Forget the anticipation of Santa, Disneyland, the Tooth Fairy –or even her fifth Little Mermaid birthday party. Waiting for her baby brother (we knew it was a boy) to be born beat everything. She was deliriously impatient–and a joy to watch. Every time the phone rang we both screamed. Even Molly the Husky ran around in circles like a maniac. She didn’t want to go to school in case she missed something but I swore on everything holy that I would swing by Campbell Hall on the way to Valley Presbyterian. It was before Mapquest but I had my route worked out. Fortunately he came into the world at about 8pm on a Friday. We were standing by but still imagined it was a few days away. I had just cooked Lola and her friend from school who happened to be with us, gorgeous lamb chops and since I loathe cooking (have I mentioned that?) I’m not keen on any effort going to waste but once we got the CALL at about 7.30 saying “We just wanted to inform you that they’re about to do an Emergency Caesarian – you should come now”. That was it. Dinner was left on the table. We shrieked, screamed, panicked, laughed, ran around in circles and tore out the door to the Valley. Driving like a bat out of hell down Sunset and over Coldwater Canyon, we arrived in record time, taking a good fifteen minutes off my timed practice run. We arrived at the Maternity ward and were naturally sent to lots of wrong places before we ran down a corridor and bumped into a nurse carrying a swaddled baby.
“Is that ours?” shrieked Lola. The nurse looked up wide-eyed as if we might be crazed baby-snatchers.
“Is that the Hobbs baby?” I smiled politely. She confirmed that this was the baby for adoption and we all cheered. But she was a humorless human, was having none of our glee and promptly marched off to the Newborn Nursery, not even slowing down as Lola and Ally ran behind, DESPERATE for a peek. Unfortunately children were NOT permitted in the nursery and I sent the girls around the corner where they frantically jumped up and down to try and see through the glass window. I was still carrying the great huge camcorder bag which I had not had time to open….I followed the nurse as she put the drops in his eyes and rather roughly checked him and measured and with shaking hands tried to get out the camera. He started to howl and I was desperate to pick him up but I wasn’t about to grab him for fear of being sent out with the kids…I guiltily waved at them as they madly gestured for me to bring the baby over to them. I did finally get to hold him for a few precious moments and weepily took him over to the window so they could get a glimpse. Beaming faces. All very touching, All so very sweet. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
The adventure began and not an ounce of jealousy ensued. She relished the thought of him as ‘her baby’ from the moment she held him two days later in the hospital as I signed papers and we prepared to drive him home with us. From then on she would rush in from school, sneak into his room and pick him up even if he was asleep, against strict orders, to ‘watch over him’.
“He’s asleep Lola. Go and play in your room honey.”
“He was awake mum—he was crying” she would lie, bald-faced, thirty seconds later, having wickedly woken him from a major snooze.
As he got a little older she and her friends would spend hours fussing over him, giving him bottles, bathing him and dressing him up (often in dresses, like a doll, sometimes with lipstick- he didn’t mind) but always with extraordinary maternal finesse and expertise. (I could care less about babies at that age). Our place was a favorite hang-out and understandably. They got to PLAY with a REAL LIVE BABY who left the long-begged-for American Girl doll and her myriad outfits for dead. All her pals adored him. Especially our fabulous next-door neighbor who was exactly Lola’s age. Lauren, also adopted, was mad for Nick as well and would often appear, pretending she had permission, to help Lola give Nick a bath and then stay for dinner—often her second. There were endless calls from her mother insisting I send her home immediately – but we all loved her lively, giggling presence and I often fibbed that we’d begged her to stay so she wouldn’t get into more trouble than necessary.
Yes, with a mother and a sister who give and demand more annoying kisses than most, he knows he’s loved and gives tons of affection back–but it doesn’t stop the guilt. That’s who I am.
And now there ‘s the bloody guilt all over again that I decided to have a double mastectomy and DO this to my poor body. I’ve had a good look and the new breast is in fact fairly lumpy and odd-looking. A bigger scar than last time—but that’s to be expected. And I don’t care about scars.
I drag myself down to see Dr Bob the next day and he’s happy as a clam. He really just takes a quick peek under the bandages to make sure there’s no sign of a flaming infection again. Satisfied, he tells the nurse to change the bandages. As I realize he’s walking out the door, I don’t have the energy to speak up and ask about lumpiness or any other bloody thing. I’m over it.
And I’m over antibiotics. I’ll be finished in a few days but I’ve been awfully good. I take the pills on time like a regular goody two shoes. Okay—I gagged a couple of times this week and spat out several pills in fury as I dry-heaved and wept. But the prospect of another staph infection and MORE antibiotics has kept even a rebel like me on the straight and narrow.
Onwards and upwards.