Five weeks out from surgery, I’m probably 80% healed up. I can walk with a normal gate, and I can get through a whole day without having to take a nap. I’m back at work full-time as well, though it’s another week still until I can lift anything heavier than 10lbs. And the glue fell off my incisions a couple weeks ago, and they’re healing up really well.
But I still definitely have a ways to go. I can’t bend down to pick things up off the floor yet without a struggle; it’s a good thing it’s warm enough for me to go barefoot at home, because picking up things with my toes has become my super power. And forget tying my own shoes; just reaching my feet long enough to put them on is a serious struggle. I still get tired pretty quickly, and as I tire the pain ratchets up. I have trouble getting up out of chairs without arms. And if you’re a cat who decides to walk across my stomach, prepare to be flung.
In the week after my surgery, I was surprised by how quickly I progressed. I had been imagining that I would be incapacitated for much longer, in intense pain for longer, stuck in bed for longer. In that way, recovery was much easier than I had anticipated. It seemed like only a few days before I was up and moving around quasi-normally.
But there’s a lot about the healing process that I wasn’t emotionally prepared for, and it’s that which has been much, much more difficult than I anticipated, both physically and emotionally.
For one, no one warned me about how much internal healing I was facing. See, being slightly smaller than a softball, my cyst took up quite a bit of real estate, more than was naturally available. It compressed some things and moved other to the side. And once the cyst was gone (and my body got over the initially shock of being invaded,) my organs started to…put themselves back. And otherwise rebuild themselves. And some other things that I don’t know exactly what was going on in there, but I know that it was pretty violent and caused a lot of intense cramping. And meant that for the first three weeks I was essentially on a perma-period. Which, let me tell you,
is awesome is not that bad fucking sucks. Especially when for much of it–unlike a normal period, where my body releases blood and tissue at a slow, imperceptible rate–my body decided to wait until I stood up or shifted positions and suddenly let loose a good half-cup all at once. How’s that for terrifying? Both the spotting (splooshing?) and the cramping have pretty much disappeared (thank fucking god for that,) but while they were around, they were that perfect combination of incredibly painful, wildly frustrating, and fucking obnoxious. And definitely not something that I was emotionally prepared for.
I also wasn’t ready for how tired I would be, and for how long. I mean, I knew I had a lot of resting ahead of me, but once I started to feel better, I guess I figured that I would get stronger and require less rest. Not that five weeks out, an activity so simple as grocery shopping would require that I come home and take a nap. Or that I still wouldn’t be able to sit on a stool for more than about 15 minutes at a stretch before my core muscles start to shake. As I’ve returned to feeling more normal than not, I keep expecting my body to be able to do all the things that it used to, and being surprised (and frustrated) when it can’t. I look normal (minus the dotted line across my belly,) I feel (more or less) normal (as long as I don’t have to sneeze or cough,) so why can’t I do all the normal things I used to, like walk for more than 30 minutes at a time without needing a rest? Oh, right. The dissection.
Which leads me to the part of this whole enchilada that has been the hardest of all: the motherfucking frustration. That’s the only word that can possibly describe this whole experience. Frustration that I don’t feel like I know my body or its limits anymore. Frustrated that I don’t understand my relationship with pain anymore; before surgery, pain was a thing to be ignored and overcome in the name of getting stronger, but now, I have to decide if the pain means that I’m getting stronger or that I’m overdoing it. Frustrated that I don’t sleep well anymore, because when I toss and turn (as I always have,) the sharp pain in my side wakes me up and makes it nearly impossible for me to fall back asleep. Frustrated that my current version of exercise isn’t a 3-mile run or weight lifting at the gym, but a 30-minute walk that leaves me exhausted and sore. Frustrated that the healing process hasn’t been consistent or linear, so some days are better and some days are worse. And frustrated that even though the surgery is more than a month behind me, it still affects my life in very real ways every. single. day.
No one warned me about any of those challenges. The physical, the mental, the emotional. “Just don’t lift anything heavy for six weeks,” that was all they told me. But not how much it would take out of me. Not how much it would require of Kyle. And not for how long it would be the defining feature of my life. That’s probably the thing that’s been hardest of all.
But if the worst part has been the frustration, the best part has been the support of my friends and family. Especially Kyle. I know this is cliche and expected and bullshit, but seriously guys, he’s been amazing. I mean, for fuck’s sake, my first week at home he had to dress me. And even now that I’m mostly healed, he’s still had to take on all the (literal) heavy lifting around the house; taking out the garbage, doing all the laundry, carrying things around for me. But even more amazing to me is how supportive he’s been emotionally. No matter how much I complain about how uncomfortable I am, bitchy I get because I’m sleep deprived, or how many times I feel as if the physical and emotional load are too much to bear, he always listens without complaint and is ready to stroke my hair and tell me that the hard part is over and he’s proud of me for being strong. Especially while I was on my perma-period, there was many a rant about how much this sucked, how it was so hard having a woman’s reproductive system, how I was over it and just wanted this to be done; he never rolled his eyes or told me to suck it up or otherwise indicated that he was tired of listening to me pulverize that dead horse into dust. (Even though I’m certain he kinda was.) Kyle has always been my rock, my gravity, and my shelter when the world seems to swirl darkly around me, and my recovery from surgery has been no different.
And he wasn’t the only one. So many of my friends and family leaned in with support. Cards and hugs before surgery rained down on me from all kinds of loved ones. Karen, my mother-in-law, came out and stayed with us for almost a week to help take care of me when I first got home. All my friends who came to see me in the days after surgery, despite my pajama-ed state and the fact that I was a bit loopy from drugs. And my co-workers–who have been unflinchingly supportive– dutifully helping me move my special chair between rooms, picking things up off the floor for me, and running up to the catwalks to focus lights for me. I even had to ask our flyman to tie my shoe for me once, and he did so with only the mildest of ragging. Even something as simple as a kind word on Facebook from a high school friend, neither of us having spoken in years, sharing their own struggles with reproductive issues and offering words of support, went miles to brighten my sometimes dark mood.
Going through this experience has taught me a lot. How amazing my husband and friends are. How kind and willing to help strangers can be when you ask for assistance. How physically demanding my job really is. How many other women out there have had to go through an experience just as shitty–if not shittier–than mine. How flawed the human female reproductive system really is. Just how strong my body was before the surgery.
But I’m ready to move forward from all that. Instead of marveling at how strong my body was and how difficult recovery has been, I’m ready to direct my focus towards making my body strong again, and returning to all the things I love to do. Throw myself back into a job that I enjoy, and rejoining my co-workers in the trenches. (Or as we call it, the back of a truck.) And ensure through my actions that all of my friends and family realize that I am grateful everyday for their love and friendship.
The monster-grapefruit is gone. There’s no more grapefruit-and-me.
There’s just Monster. That’s me.