This feeling is a lot like the first few days after giving birth: a little bit hazy, joyous, sleep deprived, somewhat painful in recovery, filled with well wishes, gifts, food, and pictures. We’ve also experienced the stress of something new, a changed routine, restlessness, limitations and the need to feel “normal.”
Before I went into surgery, I often joked with my friends about the “Vicodin Haze.” Like, “Oh, I’m going to send you a Christmas card NOW (mid-November) because I’m going to be in a Vicodin haze after surgery” or “Yeah, I’d go see that movie with you, if I wasn’t going to be on painkillers” or “I’ll be more up for visitors after the fog of painkillers wears off.”
I was all talk.
When I said those things, I had never taken a Vicodin in my life (and, according to spell check, I’m even spelling it all wrong). Aside from a day or two after giving birth, I had never touched anything stronger than an Ibuprofen. The “painkiller haze” was a term I learned, a concept given to me by other post-mastectomy women, for what I would feel like after surgery. “It took me about three weeks,” said my sister, Grace, about the fog. Three weeks, pshaaahh, I’m so gonna get over this soon!
I was all wrong.
At Day 11, I’m starting to wake up. If you were to ask me if I was in a haze in Days 3-10, I would have said, “No.” Funny, I didn’t even realize I was until I wasn’t. Truthfully, I’m terrifically glad that I have this blog and that I wrote during those days because I have only a vague memory of them. Re-reading my words here, I think, “Okay, that sounds like me, so it must be me, I just can’t really remember writing it.”
I vaguely remember visitors (yes, Jackie and Michelle, I remember you). I just can’t remember our conversations. I remember opening cards and packages, and I’m thankful I had enough foresight to attach the cards to the packages. Because, at Day 11, I’m thinking, “Wow, someone sent us that? How awesome!” I log onto Facebook or email (still can’t hold up a pen to paper) and begin writing a thank you note, only to look at my Inbox or Outbox to see that, in fact, I did already write one!
So, the fog is lifting. I can still feel it’s hazy shade hovering above me, but it’s slowly lifting. Memory is slowly coming back.
On Day 7, I recall an exchange I had with Jorge. I was asking him to grab me my sweatpants:
“Can you get me those.. that..?” I said.
“What? Get you what?” asked Jorge. I was secretly wishing for superpowers of communication. I am convinced that if I were to get superpowers, it would be for my Husband to read my mind.
“Get those, those, you know, the blue?”
“Not exactly, Liza.”
“Jorge, seriously. The blue .. the thing.. put on.. thing….”
“Nope. Not yet.”
“Forget it. I’ll get it myself.”
Pants, Liza. Pants. I wanted him to get me a pair of pants.
While you’d never know this, these blog entries have taken me at least 5x longer than usual. I’m struggling to find words, struggling to actually use the muscles to type them, and re-reading them as they make absolutely no sense at all sometimes.
Tomorrow, at least 2 of my drains will be removed. I’m fighting seriously painful areas on my side, just breathing to get through the hours.
Though, as each day passes, I am thankful. In these moments of pain, when I know that relief will be just hours away, I am reminded of people – friends – who live with chronic pain. For whom relief isn’t in a quick removal of a drain or a popping of a pill. They live proudly, strongly, and painfully, through each day.
I am reminded of the privilege of having loving friends who bring food each day so that we can be relieved of once less burden. I am reminded that, each day, there are children who do not have enough to eat, sitting side by side with those who have more than enough.
I am reminded of the privilege of living in a house, having the basic needs of shelter, heat, running water, blankets and a soft bed. I am reminded that there are men and women in my own city who do not have even that which I take for granted.
I am reminded of the privilege of family; that I do not have to go through this alone. I am reminded of those who have no one to pick them up from the hospital, no one to visit them, no one to check on them from day to day.
I am thankful that this fog is lifting; for the privilege of being able to dull my pain, a temporary pain.
Tonight, my prayers and thoughts are for those who do not have. While my pain is real, it is simply a nuisance.
The real pain is experienced by those who do not have the privilege of living in a world without it.
Peace, love, and clarity,