Admissions of a Birthday Girl

Tomorrow marks another year closer to three decades of my existence on Planet Earth. Admittedly, there is, and always has been a strong contradiction between the number of birthdays I’ve celebrated, the age of my face, and the age of my soul. If everyone in the world forgot the year I was born, I would be very confused about my age.

A few months ago, I gazed in the mirror one day to see my first noticeable signs of aging. Before that, I had a face as smooth and white as a baby’s bottom. A baby face, that took at least five to ten years off of my chronological age. When I was pregnant, people gazed at me in shock and horror, as if I were a teen mother. I went to complete paperwork at the bank for my name change, and the teller was taken aback. “I swear, I wouldn’t have thought you were old enough to get married.” I got that, a lot.

Tick - tock.

Quite the oddity, I was actually excited to see the fine lines across my scarred forehead and around my mouth. I may be the only woman on the planet that was excited to see my face start to catch up with my chronological age! I despised my youthful appearance. I have never felt as if my chronological age fit, nor did I take it as a compliment when someone thought I was a teenager.

I will make an admission; I am one of those people that typically loathes their own birthday.  Yes, I find it absolutely pretentious.  Except, I do not detest my birthday for the same reasons that everyone else does.  As previously stated, I like the aging process.  I have always been excited about gaining more numbers.  My birthday just falls in a bad time of the year.

Growing up, I secretly envied peers that had birthdays during warmer months.  Pennsylvania has reasonable temperatures between March and November.  My friends would have all kinds of fun parties, because they weren’t all trapped in the house, buried in four feet of snow, and huddled around the heater in subzero temperatures.  Camping parties, pool parties, outdoor parties, indoor parties where we could run around the yard, parties in the park, and every other conceivable party I couldn’t have.

As an adult, the problem grew worse.  In the last ten years, I have had two nice days on my birthday.  My 22nd and my 24th.  Neither of those birthdays had anything planned.  I can’t plan a party.  Every year I have tried, I was doomed for especially bad weather.  My 23rd had to be moved to the weekend of Superbowl Sunday, when the Steelers were playing.  Living in Pittsburgh, the Steelers in the Superbowl is more important than anything.  When they win the Superbowl, the city gets shut down for two days, because everyone is too busy celebrating to go to work.  If they’re not going to work, they sure as hell aren’t going to my birthday party.

People don’t want to come out in January if they don’t have to.  I have been cursed with ice storms, heavy snow, and subzero temperatures.  So, I stopped planning parties.  I stopped planning anything, actually.  Because each year, I have been brutally disappointed.  Those disappointments mounted into resentment for that day.

Not this year!  I don’t especially care what the weather is like.  It does not matter if my friends or family notice the date on the calendar or not.  I like my birthday.  I am celebrating me, and everything my life has amounted to.  I am happy with myself, and all that I’ve created and become.  There is no need for anyone to justify my thoughts or emotions about me.

I love that it’s on a Saturday, because there are no expectations.  I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.  And, I have all of the time in the day to do anything I do want to do.  I will go out and have a lovely dinner on the house.  (I already have the voucher).  Then, I will buy myself the things that I actually want for my birthday.  No expectations, no disappointments.

This past year has been one of the harder ones, but not the hardest.  I have made so much progress in all aspects of my life.  I am managing my physical and mental health well.  My marriage is solid.  My career is taking root.  And my son is growing.  My family is happy and healthy.  I am happy and healthy.  Those are all of the things I’ve ever wanted. This birthday, I have them all.

The best birthday present ever is the pride that I have in myself.  I have walked through fire to get to this point.  I may not have done it all gracefully.  But, I made it out stronger, wiser, and better for it all.

Thnks Fr Th Crcs

I have a lot of things to be thankful for. Best of all, my family. Especially after this Thanksgiving.

I had originally forgotten that our presence was required for Thanksgiving dinner at the in-laws. I was reminded the moment I awoke. Ugh. There goes my plan to visit with my family and enjoy the rest of the day in a turkey coma.

I don’t loathe my in-laws. In fact, I love my MIL and FIL. However, to be frank, with the exception of my MIL, they are my step-in-laws. That includes all of the extended family, Nana, and Aunt N. Those two are some characters. But, in Italian families, everyone is kin no matter how they came about being so.

You know Lulu. Everything happens with a certain twist.

Family gatherings are awkward without MIL. She’s the link that solidifies me as part of the family. I’m not used to Italian families, honestly. They’re very affectionate, even physically so. Scottish families are not. We wave at each other from across a great expanse and smile.

We went to my family’s dinner, which is extremely relaxed and informal. To my parents, Thanksgiving is not really a celebratory holiday for them. It’s a ritualistic yearly event encouraging gluttony. In prior years, it was actually closer to Festivus.

Immediately following that dinner, we packed up the family and headed to the in-laws. Two Thanksgiving dinners was going to be a challenge. It was like (wo)man vs. food. And I’m in no shape for a challenge like that!

There are thirteen miles between our home and my in-laws. On the way there, C.S. talked to MIL. Apparently, FIL was at Market District to buy one of those hideously expensive, pre-cooked dinners! I was in shock! What an absolute waste of money! And next, how could they possibly afford to drop over $100 on something that could be prepared for half of that when they are so hard-up?

We arrived at Nana’s and called FIL to meet us up there. He told us that he’d have dinner in the oven and it would be ready in two hours. Two hours! Unfreakin’ believable. Over $100 on a meal you actually had to cook anyway?!

And what to do in that two hours? The house is not child-proof by any means. There is no cable and no toys for T.D. I could only imagine the disaster awaiting us.

So, we waited in the car, in 40 degree weather with the heater off. T.D. was peacefully slumbering with his parka on, in the car seat. C.S. tells me that he’s going to take more pictures of Sebastian (the totalled car) from the interior for to document the damages in the lawsuit.

Forty minutes elapsed. I was absolutely freezing my everything off, tingling from the cold. My husband called FIL back. “Ohhhh,” he slurred, “I was playing with the dogs. I’ll be up in a second.” FIL time runs on quite a different clock. Ten minutes later, he pulled into the driveway.

He stumbled out of the car with armloads of packaged, partially cooked food. I tended to T.D. I met my FIL in the kitchen and he gave me a wobbly hug. He quietly admitted to me, “I don’t know what happened. I was sitting there and I just fell asleep.”

C.S. stayed in the kitchen to help. FIL stood there, silent with his head hanging. It became clear that he had fallen asleep standing up! C.S. woke him and he said, “I took some pain pills earlier. I’m going to wake up with a cigarette in the smoking room.” He was never to be scene again.

I noted Nana was nowhere to be seen as well. Apparently, she had taken another of her infamous falls and went back to bed for the day. It was T.D. and I surfing the four channels available to find something, anything, for entertainment. It came down to Maury or Judge Judy.

Once everything was in the oven, we took T.D. outside to run around the vast property. It wasn’t without shenanigans. There had to be some entertainment to make the trip remotely worthwhile.

And it will stay like this until Christmas!

After, we joined FIL in the smoking room. T.D. found his favorite shows and sat in FIL’s lap for over an hour. And eventually, FIL passed back out, his head hanging backward with his mouth completely open. It was a sight to behold. I wanted to take a photo, but I figured as hilarious as it would be, it would likely be insulting.

When T.D. got up from FIL’s lap, FIL’s jeans were soaked with urine. It turned out that my son’s diaper leaked. And yet, FIL was absolutely oblivious. It actually looked as if FIL soiled himself! He groggily asked, “What happened here?, completely unphased.

C.S. and I joked about the absolute ridiculousness of the situation. Why the hell were here? What is the whole point of having to cook our own dinner? Who exactly are we supposed to be visiting here? Everyone here is unconscious but us!

We went back up to finish dinner. C.S. asked me for assistance in the kitchen, leaving T.D. in the living room entirely unsupervised. You know, I’ve been to every major holiday at my in-laws house for the last five years, and I still don’t know where the light switch is in the bathroom. How would I know where anything is in the kitchen! Everything was in bags, tucked away in drawers!

That is when I started to notice the address labels. There was one on the refrigerator and another on the cabinet. I looked some more and found more on the stove and the cabinet above it. They were littered throughout the kitchen! I began to play Where’s Waldo!

I returned to the living room to find absolute chaos. Life alert was activated. The phone was off the hook, beeping. Cabinets hung open with their contents strewn about the floor. And T.D. stood there repeatedly pressing the button the answering machine. I couldn’t help but laugh. What destruction! I was almost proud.

I rejoined my husband in the kitchen to ready the table. I said, “I found eight, beat that!” He laughed and asked, “Did you see the one on the toilet?!”I burst into hysterical laughter and exclaimed, “No!” He smiled devilishly and said, “I took pictures!”

Property of Nana, who is afraid you're going to jack her toilet.

I looked and burst into the hardest laugh I had experienced. My legs turned to rubber and I fell to the floor. My stomach and sides ached, while I laughed so hard, I made no noise. I curled up and just shook like a Tickle Me Elmo.

Dinner was served. Nana came out of her bedroom wearing only her nightgown. Now, had I know this was casual dress, I would have stayed in my pajamas too! FIL came from downstairs and we all assembled at the tabled. Their family is extremely Catholic, so FIL mumbled through grace.

Nana doesn’t hear very well, so our conversations are very limited. This is despite the fact that I am a 5’1″ powerhouse of sound. I’ve been teased my entire life for having a loud voice. When I did solos, I did not need a microphone, even from a large auditorium. And yet, Nana cannot hear me. I looked over and FIL was practically asleep in his plate. C.S. and I exchanged hilarious glances across the table.

WTF?!?!

This why they call it a “Family Circus”..

This exercise was pointless. With one exception.

Napa Valley: 1985 - Aged 26 Years

A Happy Thanksgiving indeed!

Marginally Clear

Thanksgiving will hopefully be a day of thanks. It marks two weeks since the LEEP procedure. Since it falls on a holiday, my doctor’s office was kind enough to squeeze me in on Wednesday, Nov. 23. I’m sure the scheduling nurse I spoke with was aware that I’d have a Sword of Damocles hanging over my holiday table. It was kind of her to be so considerate. (Note to self: Be thankful for considerate, compassionate people).

The Healing Process

I was briefed after the surgery about care and restrictions. No worries – this is not going to get graphic. I’ll admit, it was not quite as I expected it. They likened it to a colposcopy with a biopsy. I know there is a huge difference between the two. One is a little snip and the other is more akin to taking a sizable section. Like trimming the hedges versus pruning a tree.

They under-exaggerate when they describe the more unpleasant parts of post-op care. I was in nearly constant, serious pain for the first four days. I would wake up in the morning in severe pain, because a full bladder likely pressed against the area. The more I moved, the more the pain increased.

Mothers will especially stand this next part. It is more akin to the physical sensations to about a week after labor and delivery. My bottom half was sore. It was pain like a T, across my hips through me, and into my back.

They don’t tell you the real story on a lot of it, although they are still defined within the parameters of “typical healing”. To sat the least, it was a lot more intense than I predicted.

The healing time takes longer than I predicted too. The doctors assured me that I’d be back on my feet, doing my daily activities in a few days. But, those activities are not to include any aerobic / strenuous activity. I haven’t been able to do any housework. No stairs, so I have to limit my use of them at home. It’s frustrating to leave something on a different floor.

I’m still not quite back to normal. I always feel like the doctors overreact when they give you restrictions. Possibly, it is because they know patients will not follow them to the letter. But, they weren’t kidding here. I’m moving better, but I am still in pain. I need extended time sitting. I’m tired.

The biggest thing they don’t tell you is the emotional rollercoaster that follows. I don’t know if it’s hormonal, but I have been completely out of whack. I described some of it in With This Pill. Manic Monday touched upon the subject in 2.5.

This is a conversation C.S. and I had on Friday.

I swear. A lot.

I thought I was on the cusp of a depressive episode. Mobility is difficult. It is irritating and frustrating to be at the mercy of others. I am a control freak. I like things done my way, and I like to be an active participant at all times. But right now, I feel like a useless invalid watching life pass as I’m bound immobile, as much as possible.

I feel useless. I can’t take charge of classes because I have to meet them in their classrooms. I must have children assist me in classes by passing out lyric sheets and retrieving items for me from across the room. I hate asking people for help. Then, I start to feel like an inconvenience, a burden, if you will.

Tomorrow’s Follow-up
I was under the impression that they were going to poke in there and assess my healing.  Then, they were going to report how much had to be excised, and what my chances of having more children is going to look like.  What they failed to mention is that tomorrow is also the delivery of the results from the sample they took.  What I thought was going to be a completely benign appointment turned malignant fast.

What the doctor is looking for is are Clear Margins.  Essentially, if the tissue they collected has both the cancerous cells and a margin surrounding it of healthy tissue, then we can be assured that all of the cancerous cells were excised.  However, if the margins are not clear, then cancerous cells still remain and pose a possible threat.

The course of action after that is typically to wait until the results from the follow up Pap smear come back.  If they are positive, then we visit colposcopy land to see how bad it is.  And, there is a possibility of yet another procedure.

You guessed it.  This poses a greater threat to my future pregnancies.  The more cervix that is removed, the higher the risk of miscarriage and pre-term labor.  I have a plan, but I need to get C.S. on board.  If the issue is forced, I want to make the Hail Mary pass in order to conceive another child before I would have another surgery.  We have two months to make a decision, because after that, it’s do or die.

I really do want another child, even if it’s not at a great time.  If I have to do it and take some risks, I’m willing to do that.  However, C.S. has not expressed a great deal of enthusiasm about another child.  I don’t want to come to blows over this.  But, if there is a serious disagreement, I know it’s going to turn into a serious problem.

One bridge at a time, Lulu.  One bridge at a time.

With This Pill

“I will be okay. This is not real.”

“This is as real as it gets.”

“No, I know better. This isn’t me. What I think is happening is not actually happening.”

“Just take it then. Take the Xanax and this whole thing can disappear.”

“My emotions are not controlled by a drug.”

“No, they’re not. They’re controlled by four drugs to be exact.”

“…”

“Yeah, you knew that. So just take the damned thing and be done with it.”

Here, I am staring down this little, round, blue pill. This one of many, they are the glue of my existence. With them, they grant me the power to condense and contain the … what’s the word? Chaos. But, the container is still me, my head. It pollutes the one place I can recede into for solitude.

Without these pills, I am doomed to living out the chaos in bad cinematography. Sometimes, the shots are grainy, and in low resolution. There are bad angles and lighting. The acting is mediocre at best. That life is a stage and a poorly written screenplay. And in the end, not only are hearts broken, but people are shattered beyond repair.

My chest rises slowly and falls suddenly to exhaust a heavy sigh.

Damned if you do, condemned if you don’t. I will be a good girl. I will devote myself to this struggle. I will reside in this godforsaken place. At any cost, even if my frayed nerves are sparking, and the layers, upon layers of residual emotion cloud my vision to blindness. Here, I accumulate the garbage my psyche and senses excrete.

“This is not depression.”

Is it? Because, I’m not sure I know how to tell anymore. I put my BP monitor and it reads E. One of us is broken. I’ll check the pulse instead.

I am more reactive and in a very intense way. It’s as if I’m conductive, like liquid. It comes as fast as it goes. I am powerless to stop it, because it originates from me.

The idea of socialization annoys me. I’m tired of talking in circles. Hell, I grow weary imagining myself spewing meaningless words in circular logic.

But worse, I don’t want to be alone. I just want something, anything, to have a significant meaning. I am not yet willing to adopt Nihilism, and live an autonomic existence. I am more than the sum of my parts. I am not a body. I am a heart, mind, and soul, no matter how defective and dysfunctional. This existence is more than it’s face value.

I am disinterested in the repetitive, mundane activities that I participate in daily. I am exponentially aggravated by the fact that it now takes me twice the time to complete them. And I’m irreparably infuriated when my body gives up before the day is over.

Worse, I’m nearly in tears because the whole ordeal in my head is so pathetic and petty.

If it’s cyclic, then yesterday’s post is akin to The Grey Season, written two months ago. That would mean that this post is a precursor to a future post that would be synonymous with Confessions of the Pain of Payment.

Did I unlock the pattern? Or can a cause and effect pattern be substantiated?

Even if I found the map, I’m haunted. I know where this road goes and there is no off-ramp.

Just A Little Short

“Just got out walked by someone twice my age. Rawr surgery #FML”.

(Shameless self-promotion alert).

All over my Facebook and Twitter. I’ve been relying on these social media outlets recently because I’m honestly too bushed to piece together something resembling a coherent post. Besides, I already have plenty of intoxicated ramblings on the internet if you know what username to look for.

Life during a recovery from a surgery is complicated. I’m not used to following doctor’s orders down the letter. And I’m especially unaccustomed to restrictions.

Restriction #1: No lifting.
The conundrum: I’m a mobile teacher. I have one storage closet and multiple classrooms with varying duties. Typically, I’m a one woman gypsy wagon. I carry everything but the kitchen sink. Maybe that too, I’m not sure what’s inside the void more commonly known as my purse, anymore.

Challenge: Make my purse and my teaching bag lighter and more functional.

Solution: My mother was gifted one of those infomercial purses with dozens of compartments. I shed anything with excess weight. Then, I was able to combine both my purse and teaching bag into one functional bag. And, I think it is under 10 lbs.

Restriction #2: No aerobic exercise.
This is actually a more difficult order to follow than imagined. When they say aerobic exercise, they mean nothing strenuous enough to increase heart rate and blood pressure. Only because that means the activity is too hard on the body.

I already knew that I’d have to leave early so I could halve my speed. The walk was more strenuous than I imagined, and it was all downhill. I felt inadequate. Normally, I tore down those streets and played frogger while jaywalking across four lane roads. You know, jaywalking is a Pittsburghian birthright. (Although I wasn’t born here, I still cash in on that!)

And then, a woman who was easily twice my age power walked past, leaving me completely in her dust.

Sigh.

And when I got to the stop, I was relieved to settle onto a bench to ease the soreness.

Restriction #3: Restricted use of stairs
The conundrum: My typical classroom is on the third floor.

Challenge: I had to make copies in the third floor office. This office is not connected to the other third floor, nor is it accessible by elevator.

Solution: Typically, I am hesitant to ask for help. I am self-sufficient. But, not right now. I considered just sucking it up and doing it myself. However, I am terrified of hemorrhage or further damage in that area.

My boss is a wonderful woman. I approached her and explained I had some limitations and errands to run. The elevator is key operated only, and she was much obliged to send me up to my classroom. She even sent a couple of teen workers to check in on me and do my errands.

Restriction #4: No standing for prolonged periods of time.
The conundrum: I’m a vocal teacher in the middle of putting together a musical.

The solution: I sat with a CD player next to me. I assigned children to pass out certain music. And I conducted from a hard chair.

The other conundrum: I have cafeteria duty. Standing provides maximum visual observation. And I am solely responsible for seventeen fifth graders, two of which apparently had a fight during school. Ugh…

The solution: I repositioned myself between the kids with hot-heads. Still nearly maximum visual. I explained to the kids that I had surgery and I was feeling poorly. And I warned them that if I were to be antagonized, that they would face my full wrath.

Oh kids!

I’ve had other shortcomings. I can’t lift T.D. It’s made caring for him and disciplining him much more difficult. Dressing him is a task.

I came home sore today. I do know one silver lining. It will be easier in future days as I heal. The more I sleep, the more I heal.

Good night!

Me and Magee

I can’t remember the last time I knew of 5 o’clock in the morning’s existence. I was so exhausted, my memory is fragmented down to the moment I set foot into Magee Women’s Hospital. First, I stood in my living room hugging my mother and saying goodbye. Then, I sat in the gas station parking lot when the voice started screaming, “Get out of here! Go! Run away!” Next, we were at the light to the on-ramp to the highway. And finally, we were entering Oakland.

I arrived to check-in at 5:30am. I was ushered through registration so quick that I didn’t even have a chance to fill out the papers before I was in pre-op.

Pre-op is just like when they call you from the waiting room to the examination room. Then, you’re required to sit and wait for an eternity. Various nurses came through. One to instruct me to strip down and don the teal and white pinstripe hospital gown. Yes, the one that leaves little to the imagination when it comes to my backside. Another to make notes of my current medications. There’s certainly no staff shortage there!

And finally, I met my OR nurse. She was a pretty lady, probably at the end of middle-age. She had fluffy, curled blonde hair, tiny sapphire eyes, and a warm smile. I related my extreme loathing of IV’s. The first time I had an IV, it was in my hand continuously for 48 hours. The last time, they gave me a pain medication that sent me through the roof. I paced the room screaming about how I wanted the IV out now or I was going to rip it out myself. I can always feel it in my veins and it hurts my whole arm.

She smiled and said, “You’re in luck! I’m going to put a local into your hand. You won’t feel a thing.” I didn’t! I stared at the IV in my left hand in amazement. She put a blue gauze hair net over my head, pulled my blanket closer around me, and fixed the one in my lap. Everything felt so warm and maternal. She looked at me confidently. “You’re all ready!”

I took a milligram of Xanax at 5am. I must have timed it perfectly. It grabbed me hard just before I was about to go. I joked with C.S. about silly things. The pangs of panic existed, but they hardly echoed from their distance.

Dr. T. came in and I knew it was showtime. I was eager to introduce her to my husband. I felt like it was a long time in the making. Really, it has been. April 2011 was the beginning of round two. It was at that point that the nurse and anesthesiologist joined her. They plugged the sedative into my IV while I kissed C.S. goodbye.

He had the talisman. I was in caring, capable hands. I was wheeled into the OR completely soothed.

The sedative was interesting. It messed with my vision first. The fluorescent lights seemed to have a runner, a beam of light than ran along them. The staff helped me off of the gurney and onto a soft, heated OR table. They asked how I felt and I told them that it was all wonderful. I had two snuggly blankets around me and I felt like I was lying on blankets fresh from the dryer. “It feels like a cocoon.”

The staff was helping me to put my thighs into some elevated pads instead of cold stirrups. And that’s the last thing I remember.

I started telling the nurse that was talking to that I needed more medicine. I think my mind thought that I was still in surgery. She told me that I didn’t. I woke up and started sobbing. I looked around and didn’t know where I was or what happened. I asked if I could have a few tissues.

I inquired between sobs, “Is this normal? I have bipolar disorder.” I was terrified that all of this triggered a vicious episode.

She put the box of tissues in my lap and assured me, “A lot of our younger patients experience this. It’s completely normal.”

I remembered something from my childhood. I would fall asleep not remember doing so. Then, when I woke up somewhere else, I’d bawl my eyes out, because I was so confused. I felt like it was akin to that.

“Are you in any pain?”

“Surprisingly, no.”

“Can you walk?”

“I think so.”

A young, brown-haired nurse helped me off the gurney and over to a quiet, private area. I sat in a nice leather recliner and she asked if I’d like something to drink. “A soda, Pepsi. It’s all I’ve wanted this morning.” She assured me that I’d have a cold soda and C.S. in a short moment.

I was delighted to see him and smiled. He smiled back in relief, at beside me, and I started crying again. I laughed and sobbed at the time time, “I woke up crying in the post-op!” He laughed and hugged me.

The local started to wear off, and I was in some severe pain. C.S. was on the phone promptly to get me relief. Considering a had a part of me electrocuted off today, I’m great! I’m a little cranky, emotional, foggy, and tired. But nothing unusual.

Crossing my fingers and toes that the LEEP took care of all of the bad cells for good.

C.S. bought me a few “get well” presents!

War Paint and The Zodiac Pendants

“Mrs. M., your war paint doesn’t fool me.”

It was conveyed to me by a warm, tight hug from a near stranger. I met Ms. F. about a month ago. We don’t interact frequently. And yet, she was the most comforting on this turbulent day. It settled my buzzing mind and filled my lungs with fresh air.

It is moments like those where the best qualities of humanity shine through.

Rewind. 10:13AM EST. My Blackberry rang out a techno beat and nearly buzzed off of the small, black end table. 412-xxx-xxxx. “Local. Answer it.” The woman on the other end sounded official. “I’m from Magee Women’s Hospital.”

Oh.

Rewind again. 8:14AM EST. There I was, looking at my personal email. “Might as well get this over with. I opened the email containing the video to explain my procedure. As if I needed to be reminded so early. I’ve been scouring to put scraps of information together. I watched the procedure done in cartoonesque form. At the end, there was a warning. “IV sedation may cause a life-threatening reaction that could result in death.

Comforting.

Fast-forward back to the phone conversation. She wanted to know absolutely every last detail of my medical history. She asked, “Any psychiatric problems – depression, anxiety. “Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder.” How is this relevant?

She asked about previous surgeries. “Cryosurgery,” I answered. “On your cervix?”. “Yes.

“Oh.”

Those responses weren’t comforting. Thank goodness for my sister who has made it a point to spend her free time with me this week. My phone conversation ended and I was quiet for a moment. “You know ‘The Voice’?” She nodded. “It’s screaming in the back of my head.

It screamed for most of the day. Garbled monologues of hundreds of voices at once. I could only manage to grab a few at a time. “I’m scared out of my mind.” “What if…” “I don’t like losing control.”

I am okay. I am going to be okay. Maybe not right away. But soon enough. I am in good care. I can give my trust. I can let go.

Mantras.

Am I that translucent?

I can’t wear any jewelry. Quirk number 8, I am superstitious about my capricorn and taurus charms. I have not been without them in awhile. I wore it on my wedding day in my bra. It was around my neck the day T.D. was born. I wasn’t without it during my last surgery. This time, I have no choice. C.S. has agreed to wear them for me.

5:30AM EST, I will be prepping at Magee Women’s hospital. 7:30AM is the procedure. If I have to have C.S. post for me tomorrow, I will.

I consider you my friends, my equals, my inspiration, and the source for strength and wisdom. Like Ms. F., we are relatively strangers. But you’ve given me so much.

Thank you in advance for your encouragement, thoughts, and prayers. I am forever in debt for your compassion and the courage you have bestowed upon me. My gratitude is beyond any words in any language.

Books Speak Louder than Words

Yesterday was not a complete loss.

After the episode detailed in I’m Not Okay, C.S. suggested we go to Half Priced Books. We dressed and headed out in an unusual October snowstorm. The ride was enjoyable, although I was too anxious to sit still. It’s always a wet day outside when we go to the bookstore. That’s the last weather a person would want when transporting books.

Between the three of us, we must have purchased 25 books, two flash card packs, and three journals. I’ve been keeping handwritten journals in flimsy composition books. It’s nice to finally have a sturdy home for my ramblings, so they may live on for years to come.  And we put quite a dent in our bank account.

As I was sitting with C.S. this afternoon, peeling off price tags after our retail therapy, it hit me. We were in a fortress of books, and I looked him.

C.S. have a thing between us we call, “The Golden Thread”. It’s a subatomic line, coiled around each of our hearts, that runs upward through our brains, and connects to the other. It is the line that allows the one to know, at least on a subconscious level, what is happening within the other. It’s not a perfect connection, just as any other. It is susceptible to interference, outages, etc. But, it is the one thing that has always bonded us.

The only thing The Golden Thread can’t provide me with is any intelligible positive emotions toward me.

He never said the words, but I heard them ringing out, clear as a bell, “I’m sorry. For everything. I want you to be okay. I love you.”

Today, a very dear friend and I had a conversation about the LEEP procedure. She’s was more affected by the precancer than I am. She had the procedure done many years ago, when it was new, without complications.

And on this date, she is healthy and cancer free. She helped ease my fears. I’m extraordinarily thankful for her and all of her support. Without her words, I don’t know what shape I’d be in.

Thank you all for your encouraging words and support. This is one of the hardest times I’ve ever faced in my life. I’m grateful for everyone – for Ruby, Monday, James, ManicMuses, Always (yes, I saw your post on Canvas), and anyone and everyone else I may have not named. You’ve all given me a special kind of support that no one else in my life could. Again, thank you.

It’s Not Okay

No. No big girl pants. No brave face. No confident words or bright sides. This is Lulu – crumpled in a ball.

Maybe the prospective consequence of this surgery I wrote about yesterday in Taking the Bullet didn’t have time to sink. Or maybe there was some kind of mental safety barrier I built around the subject. In any case, everything collapsed into a pile of rubble with a giant plume of dust and a flood behind it.

C.S. and I were going to make breakfast – a common occurrence on Saturday morning. But, in order to cook, some cleaning was required first. I offered to do it. I am painfully aware that I have been a little neglectful of domestics. But, C.S. insisted, and didn’t hesitate to be incredibly nasty while pointing it out.

“I’ve had a bad week.”
“You’ve had one bad day!”

I felt it building, like a swirling, chaotic ball inside my solar plexus. All of the emotions I’ve dampened and thrust inward boiled, as if a roaring fire was now ablaze under their container. Flashbacks flooded my mind. I was trapped in my head, still and gazing with an empty stare across a crowded classroom. I was lying on stomach, underneath three blankets, with a pillow wrapped around my head. I was intently watching the noon news report and cringing each time I heard a door open.

These are absolute truths from the very back, of the very bottom shelves, where the most volatile substances are stored.

“I am in no shape. Back off.”
“You know there’s nothing that irritates me worse than…”

I stopped listening. There is nothing more combustible to a situation than his deaf ear, narrow mind, and dug in heels. A major irritation paled in comparison to the tumultuous storm of explosive materials about to emerge. His complaints were a slow, low string of murmurs only punctuated by breaths to gain more steam. I stood at the counter, shaking so badly that I could no longer handle a knife.

And it rang as clear as a bell, “This is a routine procedure. They do thousands of them a day. It’s no big deal.”

“It IS a BIG DEAL!”, I screamed, tears streaming down my face. “If I hemorrhage, I could die! If my blood pressure tanks again and they can’t get it under control, I could die! And even if I don’t die, what happens if one of my adjacent organs gets a slice? I end up with a colostomy bag?!”

“It’s okay if you get a poop bag,” he joked.

“No! It’s not okay if I have to have a poop bag! It’s not okay if I lose a kidney or liver function! And it’s especially not okay if I lose my ability to have a baby! Nothing about this is okay!!! It’s NOT okay!!!”

My hands were flat against the counter with my arms outstretched. I heaved and violently sobbed. I squeezed my eyes shut and trembled. The tears poured down my cheeks and onto my chest.

Two strong, warm arms closed around me. He brought me against his chest in a firm embrace. I turned to throw my arms around his neck and bury my face into his shoulder. In that moment, I was secure. I was safe, at least from myself.

“Whatever happens, we’ll take care of it.”

I’m not okay. And, I can’t even attempt to pretend anymore. The integrity of the whole farce has disintegrated past salvageable. There is no footing along that path anymore. All I can to is come to terms with this.

November 10th or 11th, S-Day. Only 11 or 12 more days.

Taking the Bullet

I went to the dreaded LEEP surgery consultation, as first mentioned in Leep-Into-Cin – Part III, and more recently in  A Peach and A Catalyst.

Dodging Bullets
Honestly, I’ve been dodging this since I received word in May that my Pap came back bad again.  I put off the colposcopy until July, as I mentioned in All the Pretty Things.  The results of the colposcopy were among many things that triggered my breakdown in August, most noted in Meet Me in the Magnolia Tree.  I was informed at that point that I would need the surgery.  And I failed to go to both my August consultation and my September consultation.  I couldn’t face what I knew she was going to say to me.  I couldn’t hear that I may never be able to have more children.  And after the debacle from my last surgery, mentioned in Leep-Into-Cin – Part II, I couldn’t fathom the idea of having to go through another one.

The Reader’s Digest Version
It’s a lot of history to take in all at once.  I understand.  So, for those of you that really don’t have the time, or simply don’t want to sift through all of it, I will provide the abbreviated version.  I was diagnosed with HPV in August 2007 and had cervical dysplasia as a result.  At the time, I was in my early 20’s and the doctors all insisted that it would clear up on it’s own.  I got pregnant at the beginning of 2008 with T.D. and it only got worse.  In fact, so bad that I had to have the worst colposcopy of my life when I was 34 weeks pregnant.

Due to some insurance problems, I wasn’t able to get another colposcopy until May 2009, when it was discovered I had CIN-II and III in some places.  Essentially, I had the worst precancer before it became real cancer.  I had a very traumatic cryosurgery done in June 2009, and that was that.  For then.

Here we are, two years later.

My Worst Fears Realized / Speculated and More
From the moment I got the call, I’ve done my research.  I knew the words that were going to come out of her mouth.  And, I had face it alone.  C.S. and I decided that it would be better to save that 1/2 day off, in case I need it after the surgery.  Not that emotionally agree with the decision.  I see the logic.  But, I knew I’d need him there.  In a way, I am hurt that he doesn’t consider my health more important than his work.  I know he is only trying to make things stretch.  But, I feel like if he cared enough, he would have been there.

Like I already knew, I risk cervical stenosis, scarring of the cervix and cervical canal, that may make natural conception impossible.  I am at a higher risk for cervical incompetance, which may make carrying a child to term impossible.  I risk infection, hemmorage, etc.  But here’s what I didn’t know.  I risk damaging other organs in the vicinity, such as the vaginal walls, colon, bowel, etc.  And that made the whole ordeal so much worse.

All my doctor could say was, “The risks and complications are a possibilty.  I can tell you that these risks are small, but I can’t make any guarentees about what’s going to happen.”

On the subject of future children, “Cervical stenosis isn’t as much of a concern as cervical incompetance.  It depends on how much we have to remove.  We can only determine that when you’ve healed.  I’ll check at the 2 week follow-up and we’ll have a better idea then.”

My Aching Heart
I cannot get my mind away from the possibility that I will be incapable of having anymore children.  I wanted one, maybe two more if I feel my biological clock start to tick later on.  I cannot fathom the idea.  It breaks my heart to think about.  I may never have another child, ever again.  I could end up barren with the thoughts of the child that I could never have.  The child that would have been a sibling to T.D. and a child to C.S. and I.

Worse, is the possibilty of having multiple miscarriages.  I had one, and I know it was my fault.  I didn’t know I was pregnant until I miscarried at about 10-12 weeks.  I was drinking heavily at the time.  And that likely did it.  If that child had lived, he / she would be 9 in January.  It took me a long time to accept the truth about it.  But, I knew it wasn’t meant to be.  The day after I conceived, my boyfriend broke up with me.  I told him a year later about what happened.  His response was, “It was better this way.  I wouldn’t have left her (his girlfriend) anyway.  Now, we can all get on with our lives.”

It was cold-hearted, but he was right.  I was in no position to be a mother.  I was too young, with no college education, no income, and hardly a stable place to live.  The child would have had a deadbeat dad, and I would’ve been outcasted by my family.  This is not to mention that I was not yet diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  That baby has a better home in the life beyond.

Will I have to go through the unimaginable pain of losing a child?  Losing multiple children because my body just can’t do it?  I’m terrified at the idea.  I cry when I hear about it.  How could I even begin to handle that?

My doctor tried to be reassuring and said, “Most of my patients who have undergone one LEEP have gone on to have successful, complication free pregnancies.” Most.  Not all.  This is my second surgery.  I don’t know exactly what I will have left when all of this is said and done with.

The Worst Case Scenario of Them All
What if this LEEP doesn’t do it? What happens if the dysplasia grows back. I only have so much cervix. Do I have to face another LEEP? And if I do, that will destroy all hopes of another child. Beyond that, we’re looking at a hysterectomy. I’m too young to have my uterus removed. So what then? Hormone replacement therapy for the next 10 – 15 years? Or will I just have to bear early menopause?

That is honestly the worst of it all. Not being able to have children and having to go through menopause.

The Only Good News
The actual surgery isn’t nearly as bad as cryosurgery. I will have a cervical block, as well as IV sedation. Instead of being in the office, I will be at the hospital. The procedure is supposed to be painless, and afterward, I should sufffer no symptoms worse than a light menstration.

The after care is much like having a colposcopy, and heaven knows I’ve had enough of those.  Literally, I’ve had four or five.  With the last one, I wasn’t doing great the same day.  But, within a few days, I was back to my regular self.  I should be healed enough to resume normal activity within two weeks (like aerobic activity), with the exception that I’ll have a lifting restriction for a month.

The Plan
The date of the surgery – November 10th or 11th.  I have off on the 11th, so I tried to schedule it for then.  But, I can take the 10th off, if needed.  My doctor specializes in treatment for woman cancer.  I trust her and really like her.  She reminds me of the wonderful OB that delivered T.D., except she’s a little more forthcoming.  She’s the only doctor that has sent my specimens to an oncologist for review.  She is the only doctor that has been extremely proactive about this.  And she is the only doctor that hasn’t treated me like I’m a case, or I’m insane, or anything else.  She’s regarded me as a person every time.

I just want to get this all behind me.  I want to be able to deal with the aftermath as soon as I can.  And, I need to make the attempt to get pregnant as soon as I can afterward.  Because, if I have to face another LEEP or hysterectomy, I’ll be damned if I don’t at least try to have another baby before we come to that.