It's Wednesday afternoon and I'm biding my time until I get to take my next painkiller pill. The pain isn't overly brutal but it's noticeable and unless I can find the right position in which to sit or lie down, it's constantly there. I get to take a pill every four hours and right now there's about 30 minutes to go before the next one might bring some relief for a while.
So I'm mostly settled in at home and mom is out running a few errands. I did get some sleep last night -- not the whole night by any stretch, but short patches here and there, and that whole process will get easier as time goes on. This morning, I washed my arms and legs -- there's still a lot of tape residue on my arms and my mom is going to grab some baby oil as suggested by Francesca in the comments to my last post -- washed my hair, brushed the teeth and shaved. Then I stood back for a good look in the mirror.
The face and body staring back are very unfamiliar. I've lost a ton of weight and my face is now very gaunt and (I never thought I would ever say this!) far too thin. Someone posted a picture of me on Facebook from when I wasn't too far from weighing 200 pounds and my face was really chubby, with chipmunk cheeks -- well, that was 40 pounds ago. My cheekbones really stand out now, and I almost feel like my eyes are bugging out of my head.
It's very odd to look at myself like this and I'm looking forward to the return of my appetite and the process of putting on some pounds (which are going to come right back off once chemo starts), but right now, I'm struggling to eat a lot of food. I know that this, too, shall pass, and once again the bells will ring in the town squares and the criers will joyously sing to the masses "Yea, verily, he returneth again to the Tacoe Belle for the fifth time this week!"
As for my body, well, it's a mess. Since reaching adulthood, I've gone through phases where I could reasonably be described as "stocky," "chubby," "packing a few extra pounds," and "boy howdy, try mixing in a salad every now and then, man!" Now? Now, I can actually feel the bones on my backside when I sit on anything that's not cushioned. Now, I can probably fit into a pair of size 30 jeans (although I won't be wearing jeans anytime soon -- it's pajama bottoms for me for the next week at least). Now, my arms look frail and my legs look thin.
Looking specifically at my stomach is probably the toughest thing for me to do without cringing. There's a huge blue scar that begins at my waist, runs vertically up through the belly button to the middle of my stomach, makes a 90-degree turn to the right side of my body, and then does another right-angle turn straight up to under my right armpit. Loretta wrote me that her and Tommy's boy T.L., who had open-heart surgery a few weeks ago, wants to compare his scar with mine; sorry, T.L., I think I'm winning this one in a walk.
I know that all this is going to get better and it's only a matter of time and rehabilitation; still, looking at the entire situation -- the sallow face, the frail body, the horribly-scarred stomach -- is still a bit shocking for me and I'm not entirely comfortable with it at the moment. That will come later, I know, and after the entire treatment regimen is over, I'll gain some permanent weight -- maybe not back to the 180s, hopefully, but I'll move out of the 150s. But that's down the line and right now, I just have to accept that it is what it is.
Anyway, that's the not-so-pretty update for today. Sorry to be so graphic, but this blog is all about the ups and downs of the entire journey, and while being home is a major "up," dealing with this incredible overnight bodily change is a huge "down" at the moment.
A few people have inquired about visiting and I would say that we should hold out until Friday and then see how I'm feeling. Right now I just need to rest, relax, and eat. Hopefully this weekend I'll have made enough progress to welcome a few visitors into the home; let's see how things go for the next 48 hours.
Okey doke -- it's almost time for the magic pain pill! Time to lie down in bed and let the rush of the pain medication sweep me into dreamland. As I get more energy in the next day, I expect to start responding to all the email messages you've all sent in the last two weeks, so you should be hearing from me directly in the next several days. Thanks again for all the great support...
And on that note, I will leave you with a very emotional moment I had today.
For the last two weeks I have been trapped in the hospital and in my own head, countless thoughts flowing through days and nights of a drug-induced and sleep-deprived groggy existence. Quite often during this period, I would find certain songs making their way into my brain and replaying over and over. One of these songs was a 30-second snippet of a new Coldplay tune, Viva La Vida, that plays on an over-exposed iTunes TV commercial. For two weeks, I often replayed that snippet in my head, even though I hadn't yet heard the full song.
Today a friend got me an iTunes gift certificate so I could download the latest Coldplay album, which was released yesterday. This morning, I downloaded the album, sat back, and clicked on the full track of the song Viva La Vida -- and as its pulsating, uplifting beat kicked in and I reflected on the entirety of my hospital stay, I began sobbing with tears of pain and joy and thankfulness and unbridled gratitude at the amazing group of family and friends I have around me, holding my hands and walking me down this road. My tears lasted the length of this amazingly beautiful song and when it was over, I felt a great sense of relief. I'm going to make it through this -- we all will.
Live the life, indeed.
With much love,