back, in canberra, post surgery.
for those of you who are not connected to me on FB or Twitter: surgery was a bit of a failure. the bad tumour is wrapped around several arteries, and there is no chance of a surgical removal. at all. on the upside, the liver is definitely able to be resected, so my surgeon is going to ablate the tumour if we (chemo) can get it small enough, and then resect.
and, if that fails… RADIOACTIVE BEADS. which is not ideal because surgery is better, but it’s radioactive beads, and that is way cool.
the surgery itself was still pretty intense. they did the full open-up – i have a wound that stretches from one side of my torso to the other, and up to my sternum, in an upside down T. the scar is already super fine, but i know my abdomen will never, ever look the same again. the pain is managed now – i have opiate patches to keep it under control, and i’m starting to wean myself off it. it is a strange pain – a stretching sort of pain.
BUT: for any pre-surgery-cancer-people: it wasn’t that bad. seriously, it was gross, and uncomfortable, and at times really, really painful, but i got through it, and i am ok. i am completely fine with the fact they have to do the same surgery again. the pain was really, really well managed, up until the point where i threw a tantrum about the morphine making me constipated, and me not wanting to have laxatives (because i am a complete idiot. DO NOT DO THIS. take laxatives. take them for the few days BEFORE surgery). then, after they got my pain under control again, i was fine.
i am still wearing surgical stockings because i am paranoid and the hospital i was at didn’t have a discharge policy of post-surgical anticoagulants.
i spent some time in sydney before we came home, and the first few days back in canberra out at my partner’s parents’ farm. it was beautiful and quiet, and it was different from home, if that makes sense? it felt like a holiday. while, as wonderful as it was to be back home, i was reminded that it was back to the grind of the same thing, that cancer thing, every day again. it is ok though. you just keep going. i just keep going.
my feelings about the whole thing are complicated. i was bitterly disappointed in the first few days. it was shattering. but i felt ok, not long after. it could have been my surgeon’s optimism. he was faultless, by the way. he visited me every single day i was in hospital – including Good Friday, and both weekend days. he patted my hand once, saying ‘you’re a tough girl’ and he would tell me how well i was doing, and that my surgery was still major. he told me ‘elizabeth, there is always hope, and there is so much more we can do.’
there is a moment after something like this – a piece of the medical puzzle failing, where for a moment, that hideous cancer narrative comes shattering in. the battle. if cancer is a war, i just lost a fight. i am a loser. a loser. a LOSER. i am a cancer LOSER in my BATTLE.
i am no loser.
this is no battle.
i am not fighting.
all i do is what i am told. this is not fighting, this is obedience and sometimes hard work, and sometimes being really sad, and sometimes hating everything. but no part of me lost because that surgery didn’t work this time. and when the chemo stops working, i am not a loser. when there is, one day, nothing left that they can do, and nothing for me to do other than scramble up hope but hold close to the understanding that my time is finished – i am still not a loser.
i felt like a loser. i felt like this was my fault – like i should have been able to do something more. but i did everything. i worked real hard and i did everything i possibly could. and that is why i was out of hospital in a week. that, and luck – the luck of not getting infected, and of my cancer load being so low in my body that i have the physical strength to bounce back faster. it was both work, and dumb luck. the anatomy of my cancer, pure and simple.
i am not a victim. i am not a loser. all i do is what i need to do. and now, i need four more sessions of chemo and another scan, and then we try it again.