Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Just a Sad, Lonesome, Pained Bark

I feel like...

A middle aged sea lion covered in battle scars, recently bit, stranded on a rock in the middle of a grey choppy sea, slowly bleeding out, just out of reach being circled by slow moving orca who occasionally test my proximity whilst I sing my whale song.  Only I'm not a whale so there's no harmony to it; just a sad, lonesome, pained bark from a middle aged sea lion.

No worries - there are no orca (or wolves for that matter) nipping at me.

Hey, you know what another name for orca is (besides killer whale, which is untrue; they are a member of the dolphin family, not whales)?
Sea wolves.  Just sayin'.

And I'm not alone based on all the encouragement from friends, family, medical staff and the over abundance of the kindness of strangers that got me through the day.

I knew today was going to be hard - so hard.  I knew it was going to be painful - I was prepared.  I knew today was going to be long.  It was magical bubblegum flavoured unicorn juice day.

I'd fallen about 36 hours previously and hurt myself BAD.  My outer hip is bruised up, my inner thigh muscles from groin to knee are torn up and my mid to lower back is twisted up.  When I sit or stand and am motionless there is zero pain.  However being motionless causes everything to lock up, which is OK when I have nowhere to go, but that's rarely the case.  The first few steps are always excruciating (8-9/10 pain) as I break through that stiffness.  It doesn't get much better.

So I taxi it to the hospital because I wasn't keen on being dropped off at 6am by the man who had to go to work and waiting the 3 hours before my blood appointment.

From curb to hospital is about 20 ft.  4 steps, rest, pant... I can do this.  4 steps, rest, pant... are you kidding?  Did the doors just get farther away?  4 steps, rest, pant... you are not allowed to cry!  Stop resting!  It only makes starting harder.  I was rescued by Steve, a switch board operator, who dashed in, found me a wheel chair and took me to blood.  The kindness of strangers!

I'm not accustomed to getting help.  This felt good and weird.  It also felt weird when the blood nurse rolled me into the tapping room and out again.  That was easy.  I love when experienced nurses go after my well protected veins.  Now that I was done with blood I had to get down to the first floor, check in and back up to this same second floor to let them know I was checked in so when the blood results were in I could do triage... including mentioning my fall.  BUT... here I was trapped in this ridiculous wheel chair - a chair with wheels but requires a 2nd person to push you around.

If I put my mind to it I can do it.  I can walk to the other side of the hospital and fetch a proper chair since I was alone and would have to be able to get myself about all day.  But first a visit to the loo which is on the way because I wasn't dealing with any last minute accidents when my brain finally kicks in and says, "umm, you need to pee NOW."  Thanks for the heads up brain.

From the blood unit to the loo is straight down the hall, with frequent stretches of wall mounted railing for the 3 point contact that makes walking easier, the distance is about 100 ft.  This took me over 20 minutes to struggle towards.  Good call on the stop at the stop and pee notion!

In that period of time at least 3 ladies were so horrified by the pained expression on my face that they had organized a "lets get her a chair NOW" party.  There was a functional mobility one left outside the door for me when I was done.  WOO-HOO!  Just call me speedy!  Thank you, kindness of strangers!

Being in a chair is weird.  People give you a lot of room and try to accommodate you a lot more because "handicapped".  Even the Second Cup lady was like, "can I add the cream n' sugar for you?"  What?!  Good service from this kiosk?!  Well, OK then!  Also, being able to sit through my day, the pain was wiped from my face and replaced with good humour.  My face really is a clear slate on which my thoughts and feelings are projected.  I managed to joke with a few people about my first day with the new wheels and I could tell that made their day easier too because no one is hanging out in the cancer ward just for kicks.

Being in a chair is fun... at first.  By the end of the day it was just tiring.  Nothing compared to the exhaustion I would have experienced had I not had the chair, but just the same.  At least I was getting good at steering, rotating, backing up... ok, not so good at the back up.  It's not quite mirror opposite but somewhere in between.

So I reported the fall in triage, who reported to my oncologist, who wanted me down there for an assessment, who requisitioned an x-ray, who then sent me back down for chemo.

I had to stand for triage.  "Are you sure we can't go on last weeks reads?  Nothing's changed really," I begged.  "Please. The pharmacist will want to know for sure."  Up on the scale I go and it's bang on the same read.  I sat back down - whew.

I had to stand for assessment.  Standing up is tough, standing still is easy.  My Dr. figured not broken, but just in case, lets have a look.  I sat back down - whew.

I had to stand for x-rays.  And climb onto one of their horrible beds.  And twist just so.  That took about 20 minutes and then I had to climb back off.  Why the hell don't these beds come with hand grips or rails or some sort of pulley system where you can leverage yourself up and down?  I sat back down - whew.

I had to stand in chemo.  And climb into one of their designated drip chairs, which are surprisingly comfortable.  The nurse was great too.  She knew how to tap my sneaky veins and we joked for a bit about how the Benadryl would knock me out (expect snoring) which she appreciated since most people who come through chemo aren't there for kicks.

My drip comes in 4 separate bags: steroid, meds, Benadryl, saline flush.  The Benadryl gets me every time - out cold!  I keep trying to fight the zzzzzees but it's an impossible battle.  The flush helps a bit to wake me back up, but really, I could just sleep forever.  It's times like this I wish the man were here just to whisk me home and put me to bed.  But he has to work.  And there's things I gotta do too.  Like get drugs and call a taxi.

Stopped at the pharmacy to drop of script and had about 45 minute wait, so I booked over to the gift shop (Weeeeeee!   Wheels!) per usual to kill time.  Most of the shops racks are arranged with lots of room to get a chair around in.  Most of the shoppers are extremely courteous of people in chairs.

I almost bought a $5.99 coil bound watercolour block with hot press paper.  Yeah, because that's what I need - more hoarded art supplies and something more to lug around today.  I suspect this book will be there for my next visit when I have more mobility.  People don't recognize gold when they see it.

There are some lovely coffee cups in the shop now too with Van Gogh paintings on them.  I think I'll spoil myself with one before Christmas.  Now which do I love the most?  Every Van Gogh is so different and yet so him.  Irises?   Sunflowers?  Starry night?  His work, while looking nothing like my own, may be why I can paint impressionism so well.  It's about just putting down the paint and accepting that the brush and medium are telling a story.  You can't force it.

I had to laugh this one time: I did a nature mural for a sister-in-law that included a heron flying across her lake.  From a distance she was in awe at it's perfectionism.  She climbed up on the scaffolding with her fancy camera, zoomed in and was shocked.  "There are only 3 brush strokes!  What a rip off!  How can you paint something so perfect with only 3 brush strokes!"  Me rubbing knuckles on chest.  "Yup."

So I got my drugs.  Now to wheel all the way to the other side of the hospital... (again) to hail a cab - or call for.  The guys dropping off are not allowed to pick up.  Every cab at the hospital must be a requisition coming and going.  There's no piracy here.  It's a privilege for them to be allowed to transport the unwell.

"*Please send a taxi to the ambulatory, cancer side of the hospital.  And this is important - send a car, NOT a van.  No vans.  I can't get in and out of vans.*"

The chap went to the main entrance, circled a few times and left because I was nowhere to be found.  I got a text messages saying why my ride was not showing up.  Finally - a good excuse for these silly auto text messages I get every time I dial them up!  I called back immediately and reminded them that I had requested the ambulatory doors on the opposite side of the building.

A van pulled up.  Grr.  Oh well, I NEEDED to be home.  FAST.  So much pain.

I did get to sit in the front seat so I didn't have to crawl through the back to reach a seat.  Alas, the seats are just above hip height on me which means a hop up.  I'm not much of a hopper these days.  Also, I'm entering the van with my torn up leg side first which I have to manually leverage in, never mind manually leveraging leg number 2 in which took me a few tries to get tucked in so I could close the door.  And it's a bucket seat.  Yeah, new, padded, conforming comfort... that I'm stuck in.  I can't slide into a comfortable position or slide out for that matter.  I was hoping I could just turn and drop out of the van when I got home but no.  Even that required a lot of manual lifting, prying, more tearing... When the customer says NO VANS they mean it!  Van taxis suck ass!  Besides, 99% of the time, who needs all that space?!  Who the hell is booking around with 5 other friends all the time that you need a van?

OK - now the worst part of my day.  That epic journey from the front of my building to the apartment.

My stride with cane is about 3" and very shaky.  Pulling my left leg forward is so very painful!  10/10 pain that I'm scowling through but I'm not going to cry.  The cab driver helped me through the first set of doors.

The next set of doors is locked, which I got open, but I can't get through because it's heavy and leaning on me and my shoulder bag weighs a ton!  A tenant comes to my rescue and holds the elevator for me.  It takes 10 minutes to get from the front door to inside the elevator where I have to stop, turn, rest, wait... I'm alone.  I can swear and cry because I know how much it's going to hurt when I have to start again.

It takes too long for me to inch through the open doors and they elevator doors smack me twice as I try to escape.

From the elevator to my apartment door is 10 feet...  With 2" shuffling strides that's another 10 painful minutes.  I can hear myself crying out with every step, weird whale songs, curse words and sobs.

My own apartment door weighs a ton and automatically closes.  It too leans on me heavily and I can't get through it with my shoulder bag, cane and one mis-step where I've put too much weight on my bad leg and am having trouble pulling  my right leg forward to catch up.  I have to throw everything down and just deal with my body.  The shoulder bag is down - I'll need to push it ahead of myself because there are drugs inside that I need.  The keys I throw to the floor strategically under the key rack.  Easy enough to find again when I need them next.  My get my flip-flops off and my swollen feet thank me.

Fuck my fucking life I dropped the cane too.  I missed the door knob and it now lays on the floor.  I can't get to the couch without it.  Mind over matter, I manage the deep bend to fetch it.

There's another 8 ft between me and the couch - 5 minutes of shuffling and screaming cuss-words with that goal in mind.  Another 10 minutes to get my ass on it, to turn, to pull my legs up and lay down.  The cane also comes in handy as a crook to hook around my feet so I can pull my legs up.  I couldn't have moved them on my own.  I was near paralyzed with pain.

There's that weird whale song again as I scream hard and loud into a pillow so as not to traumatize my neighbours any more than I have to.  I know they can hear me in the hall.  I hear them.  It's the dinner hour and they have kids and spouses they have to comfort because their neighbour is in so much pain.

It wasn't long before I passed out.

And here I am.  I woke at midnight, long before the brain said, "you have to pee NOW" so I tested the legs.  No pain at all while still.  I had to be very, very careful with the strides... only 6-7/10 pain moving forward; some times only a 3/10.  And back to the couch to document all this before it escapes my mind.

Pain is a weird thing.  In the moment it's 100% real and debilitating.  A few days from now the memory of it will begin to fade.  A few months form now it will be a fairytale about how bad things used to be.  I only remember how bad it was because of these posts; to go back and read them, it's almost heart breaking that someone experienced that.  But it was real.  Plus, every pain is different.

At the townhouse I was made of glass and splintering wood.  I was shattered and it took my breath away.  2 years ago I was trapped in a rusted iron maiden while impaled by knives and crowbars.  This time I'm simply torn and seized up - not so simple.  There's no telling which sensation was worse.  All I know is that I'm taking a lot more medication to control it these days (including natural ones), desperately seeking some "Quality of Life" - the go-to catchphrase for most medical professionals... and now me.

What I really need now is time to rest and heal.  Time to relax.  Stop putting pressure on myself to get on with life.  This is it.  This is life.  And it is getting better, just so long as I don't rush it along.  Not that I was trying too.  I fell.  It was an accident.  I simply didn't have a leg to stand on and that's no one's fault.

- - - - -

Bonus (because I really don't like confrontation), I didn't have to step up and bail on the teaching job myself - the nice lady who put me in touch with the opportunity handled that for me.  I should man-up (I know, right?  so not PC) and do the right thing by also reaching out and apologizing for not being able to live up to my responsibility.

I know - I'm not responsible for being hurt/ill.  Sucks when you realize you haven't a leg to stand on.  This usually happens when you're already half way down! It's totally a Canadian thing to be apologetic for that which you cannot control.  Whatever makes you and them happy.

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