It is 4am when they awaken me to take my vitals. At this point, I really feel like I need to pee. Again, I sit and try to relax. I run water, try standing, nothing. My nurse suggests that she can get a scanner and check my bladder to see if it is full. If so, they can re-catheterize me. It isn’t long after this suggestion that my body finally says, “I got this, I can do this.” Relief at last. I wonder if her suggestion always works so well.
After my big 4am excitement, I contemplate staying awake. Steven has already fallen back to sleep, so I decide to close my eyes and drift back to sleep too.
I awaken at 6:00am. I consider the new bag I have hanging from my stomach. I realize I am the less than one percent. I am the one that couldn’t get fixed so easily, and ended up with a colostomy. I now have a stoma, a piece of my intestine, sticking out of my belly. It looks a little like a rosebud. A rosebud that spews poop. It also makes loud farty noises at unexpected times. Maybe I’m a little warped, but I think this is hysterical. It happens, I have no control. It is loud and unapologetic. I don’t know why I find this so funny, this was not the way I was raised. You don’t make those noises in public. And here I am, with no control. This should be interesting.
The downside of this little poop bag is that now that is all I can smell. I can’t stand it. I wait until 9:00am to call Kaileigh and ask her to bring me some flowers. I need something to put on my rolling table that smells better than I do.
The nurse comes in and suggests I take a sponge bath. Although this is nothing close to a shower, I am so glad to get all of the gunk from the previous day off of me. She has given me lots of facecloths, so I can scrub every part that needs scrubbing. It feels good to be clean.
Once that is over with, already I am bored and looking for something to do. I have brought a drawing book, and start to make circles. I decide I will fill the page with circles. This will be my goal for the day. I envision the page covered with beautifully detailed circles and start. It is a long, slow process. These circles take a long time. Maybe this is symbolic of my illness.
Kaileigh and Ayla come in early along with Chauncey and Josh.
They come bearing bouquets of flowers; lovely lilies, mums, daisies, carnations and more. Flowers from my daycare moms. There is a small vase for my table, and the scent of lilies fills the room. It is so lovely. Lovely for me anyway. Lilies often give Steven a headache and irritate his asthma. He quietly takes an allergy pill and never complains.
There is also a small package for me that was left on my doorstep this morning. It contains items so useful that I can’t even appreciate yet the thought that went into them. In it I find a cami, a tee shirt, two pairs of socks and a rose scented aromatherapy spray. The spray is heavenly. I spritz it when Steve leaves the room and it lifts my spirits.
I am still sucking on sponges until my doctor visits me. I am not so much hungry as I am thirsty. Sponge lollipops are not a good thirst quencher.
Shortly after my family arrives, Robin stops in for a visit. She heard that I was asking for her when I woke up and wanted to come by to say hello. She is my age, and has a son who is close in age with mine. We talk and laugh, and have a lovely visit. I re-learn that I should not be so judgemental.
The anesthesiologist stops by to visit, the one that did my epidural. She has a surgeons cap printed with brightly colored vegetables all over it, and I ask her about it. She says the uniform is so boring, they try to outdo each other with their hair coverings. It is kind of cool to see them all together at the pre-op nurses desk with their crazy hats. It brings a bit of humor to a tense atmosphere.
She asks me how I am feeling, to which I answer fine. I am out of bed, seated in a chair, with blankets wrapped around me. I feel like I am a queen holding court. I have no pain, and if I do, there is a little button I can press that will give me a shot of relief. She checks my back, which just has thin plastic tubing running into it, but is covered by a huge, clear plastic bandage. She seems satisfied and wishes me well. She will check in on me again tomorrow.
Not only do I have the epidural line, but I am also hooked up to an IV. This means that whenever I need to go to the bathroom, I need help. Pushing an IV stand requires help from your belly somehow, and mine is a little sore. A nurse comes in to help me get to the bathroom, and then out, and records how much I have peed. They need to be sure I am getting enough fluids.
At one point I ask the nurse if I can go for a walk. She seems delighted and agrees. She tells me to take it slow, which I really have no choice in. I’m not about to go running down the hall. She tells me to pace myself and doesn’t want me to go too far. Once we go out, we have to get back. We go down to the end of the hall and turn right at the nurses station. We pass the service elevator, and turn around. We go down to the end of the hall my room is on, and return me to my chair. Well done.
Dr Lentrichia comes in during the afternoon to see me, sometime after lunch. He asks how I am doing, and I tell him I feel good. I may owe this in part to the blood transfusion I received during my operation, fresh young adult blood in my veins today.
He looks at his work and is pleased, but feels badly that I ended up with a colostomy. I tell him I respect his decision, and appreciate his good care. He asks if the oncologists have been in to see me yet, but they haven’t. He tells me they will be in later to speak to me. I tell him that another doctor has been recommended to me, Dr. Howard Safran. He brightens at the mention of the name. “Oh, I like him!” he says. I take this as one more excellent recommendation.
Before he leaves, Dr. Lentrichia tells me I can start having clear liquids. No sooner does he leave the room than, voila! I have food. The nurse must have anticipated his order and called it down ahead of time.
It turns out to be Lipton Giggle Noodle Soup, without the noodles. Something they used to sell when I was a child. I probably only had it once or twice growing up, but it is one of those flavors that is immediately identifiable. It was delicious. There was some tasty jello as well. The Italian ice on my tray was horrendous though. How can something so simple be made so wrong? Ayla and Chauncey offer to go out and get me a Del’s. That’s more like it!
My kids come and go over the course of the day, but by dinnertime, everyone is back. Sara and Alex bring dinner that was dropped by the house by one of my dear daycare moms, Jane. Caesar salad with grilled chicken and french bread. My son Alex’s favorite meal! Shortly after, Walter, Cindy, Dave and Dan show up. My niece Julia calls to say she will be by with more food.
At one point we have eleven people in the room. We are quiet though, and keep the door closed. When a nurse walks in to take my vitals, we hold our breath, wondering if she will kick some people out. “There is a lot of love in this room,” she says, and offers to get us more chairs. She takes my vitals and leaves.
We all sit around, talking and taking turns drawing circles in my book. There is a lot of art happening in this room, a really nice evening. Shortly after my friends leave, my niece, my kids, Steven and I all watched a video on how to change an ostomy bag. It is gripping TV (not!). I am touched that so many people want to learn about it with me though.
I am tucked into bed by eight o’clock, with some toasty warm blankets on top of me. Jean, who was my nurse last night is my nurse again this evening. She has finally stopped blessing me, crossing herself and looking heavenward each time she talks about my condition, and now we just speak of family and things we have in common.