A month ago I woke up in the morning in a hospital bed as somebody from the front desk delivered flowers. There was a bunch of orange lilies and fall leaves from my uncle, and a lovely pink arrangement with stock and roses and a daisy from The Brother In Beer. A couple of my coworkers came in to see how I was doing, and then two of the otolaryngology residents stopped by to see how I was healing. That's really all I remember.
Two days ago I stood at the bedside of one of my patients as one of those otolaryngology residents scoped her sinuses. *I* knew who *she* was, but I wasn't sure she recognized me as the person whose throat and oropharynx she had cauterized. I didn't say anything.
As she was rolling up the scope tubing, she glanced at me and said, "You look good. You sound good. Do you feel okay?" I just nodded, and thanked her for doing such a good job on my mouth.
My last words before surgery were "Gosh, it sure does, doesn't it?" after the anesthesiologist told me that the gas he was giving me would make me dizzy. My first words after surgery were "I am not going to work today. I just had surgery!" to my boss, whom I saw standing in the post-op bay at the foot of my bed.
A month ago, I freshly didn't-have-cancer-any-more, though I didn't know it. I knew I wasn't wearing the silver Braille ring I normally do, so I stretched my hand out for it and Pens gave it to me. I knew I hurt, so I pushed the magical button that Nurse Carolita had put into my paw. I tried to blog, just enough to let everybody know I was okay.
A month later, I'm still learning that I have to wear a plastic thing in my mouth to be intelligible. I leave the house occasionally without it on, and have to turn 'round and come back and grab it off the kitchen counter. I still get surgical slough out of my sinuses or throat, though it's not as bad as it was--not by a long shot--in the first two weeks after surgery. I can talk, pretty well, actually--most people think I'm at the tail end of a cold unless I'm really tired, in which case they think my cold is a bad one.
Today I'm aware that things haven't really changed all that much, unless you count the ways that they've changed completely. I'll have a plastic thing to deal with for the rest of my life. Friend Lara has just started the long road to being an ex-cancer-patient, and Friend Pens is looking forward to her own surgery later next month. My uncle is still obsessed with shooting the (highly illegal) twenty-gauge shotgun I keep in the house, and the Brother in Beer is still brewing.
I can't work as much as I'd like to, yet, and I can't eat crunchy dry stuff. My upper jaw hurts, still, where that tooth was sawed off and the bone avulsed. There's still an enormous hole in my upper jaw that leads directly into...my sinuses, I guess, that has to heal by granulation and is doing so slowly. I'm tired most of the time.
But I no longer have cancer. I have a scan coming up in January, to see how the bone in my head is healing, and an appointment tomorrow with the prosthodontist to try to make my speech even more perfect. Next September or October I'll have the first official follow-up scan to make sure there has been no recurrance of cancer.
In a year, when I get the word that that first follow-up scan is clean, I'll change my birthday as Lara suggests. It's no longer a big deal to me to celebrate the day I get a year older; I'd rather celebrate the day I got another chance. Again.