Wednesday, October 27, 2010
A couple weeks ago I was telling a girlfriend how relieved I was to have a free weekend coming up. I closed my eyes and sported a Zen smile as I reported, "Yep, all we have to do is visit my brother in law in the hospital because he had his right leg amputated after complications with diabetes." All we had to do? Seriously. My friend gave me one of those compassionate/pitiful smiles in response, her expression telling me how not relaxing it would be to visit a family member in a long-term rehab unit after losing a limb. Apparently, she forgot that's how I roll.
Over the past year while I should have been blogging, I was dealing with some pretty messed up stuff. Why the sophomoric lingo, you ask? Well, that could be my new-found dialect from spending 5 months with my 17-year-old goddaughter J. I thought it would be cool to have her visit the midwest for the summer, giving her a change of scenery from the small-town drug scene I thought she'd only dabbled in before her senior year. When I greeted her tweaked-out self at the airport, however, I quickly determined that the change of scenery would not involve sweet corn and summer matinees, but rather an in-patient drug and alcohol rehabilitation center about 3o miles from my house. She was less than thrilled at my idea of summer camp, as you can imagine. But, as she quickly learned, that's how I roll.
And, while frantically arranging drug assessments, in-patient care, insurance verification, faxing stuff back and forth with my sister in Oregon to let the healing begin, I failed to return a call from my primary care doctor who wanted to discuss test results from an exam I had in May. The doctor's office called repeatedly, leaving messages, to which I thought, "Um, it's a Pap Smear, not liver failure; I'll call you back after I take care of aforementioned addict godchild in crisis." But, this particular doctor was like a dog with bone, that one. She called my emergency contact/neighbor to have her find me on a Friday afternoon to summon me to her office that day. Seriously? I called and told her politely that I would contact her office on Monday, after finishing my homework, painting another coat of stain on my deck, throwing my husband's 40th Birthday party and dropping off my niece at rehab at 1:30. My doctor replied that no, I would come in that day, in one hour, and she would wait for me. Cause that's how she rolls.
Apparently cervical cancer is just as critical as 40th Birthday parties, a well-protected deck, and confronting adolescent drug addiction. Suddenly, I was playing out a scene I'd seen on television and in movies--the one where the doctor comes over and sits beside you, looking with compassion as the C-word sinks in. It was also a bit like an AT&T phone call--the words cutting in and out, hearing bits and pieces: "Carcinoma...Stage 1...surgical...consultation on Thursday...do you have children?...hysterectomy" That last bit came in loud and clear as my brain finally walked bravely up to C-word, stuck out its hand and said, "Hey There!"
I drove home and said the word out loud to my husband, whom I'd not bothered to call until I was at the doctor's office in a last-ditch effort at denial. We stood in the kitchen, slices of late afternoon sun coming through the window as we stared at each other simultaneously thinking, "Are you kidding me?" as little A tugged at our legs and sweet J looked on from the couch. I took a few deep breaths and shifted gears as quickly as possible. That 40th party wasn't going to throw itself!
Fast-forward a month of so: J. had a month of rehab under her belt and I finished my summer dissertation-writing course. K and I were coming to terms with the possibility that little A might be our one and only. I had a procedure done the next month, called a "cold knife scrape"--clearly named by a man, who'd never had a knife all up in 'em, much less a "cold" one. Fortunately, my surgeon, Dr. M., was a kick-ass pregnant woman approaching her third trimester as she scrubbed in and held my hand when the tears came, just before the anesthesiologist put me to sleep.
As summer came to an end, we learned the good news that there was no new cancer and we could consider having another little one if doctors kept tabs on my cervix. We were settled into a visitation routine with J, who earned overnight visits to our house on the weekends. She and K played a fun game called, "You're not the boss of me" and I spent Saturday nights parked outside her AA meetings. We were finding our way into a new kind of normal but K was dealing with the fallout of a cancer scare with a loved one by experiencing anxiety and sleepless nights while I dealt with it in classic, stoic, Edvalson fashion: repress and move forward.
Now, a few months later, with J graduated from rehab and back at home in Oregon, I spend my weekends working on the dissertation while K chases Baby A (who, as it turns out, is not such a baby anymore). We ponder big questions like Baby #2 (or not), spend a few hours a month in therapy to process all the crap, and know that whatever happens we have each other's back. Cause, yeah, you guessed it, that's how we roll.
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