Home Home Home!
I’m back from Stanford! Okay, I’ve been back for about three or four weeks. I was in the hospital for eight days, and let me just give a shout out to all the nurses who cared for me (in particular, Hazel, Ayissa, Joanna, and Katie—you guys rocked) as well as the doctors and the rest of the staff. Stanford Cancer Center is an amazing place offering fantastic care, and I’m pretty damn grateful for all their care and expertise.
I didn’t take my laptop with me to the hospital, and that’s okay since most of the time I was either zonked out on pain meds or trying to figure out what the hell happened to me. Back home, I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks, and I sort of feel lost. Doctor’s orders are to heal, and it goes without saying that healing is a huge part of my day. I have a new cleaning regimen, both for my trache and for my leg; and now after these few weeks, I’m both used to these new routines, and totally over them at the same time.
My surgery was extensive. I’m not going to go into it much, because it’s kinda boring, but in short, I had a tracheostomy, a fibular free flap surgery, a glossectomy and a neck dissection (you can find information on all the procedures here). That’s a lot of surgery all at once (ten hours), so when the doctor tells me I need to heal, he ain’t kidding. Three months of healing, which is mostly sleeping, reading, watching movies, playing games, playing with the dogs, listing to podcasts…. Sounds awesome I know, but I have a lot of emotional trauma connected with the surgery, so that is a big part of my healing as well: processing what has happened to me; what the surgery has done to my body; what I have lost and will probably not regain.
And that is what I’m doing: processing and healing. It’s not going to happen over night; it’s already been just over a month since my surgery and I have a long way to go. I need to process, accept and basically get over not only the physical trauma I went though, but the emotional trauma as well. This was something I knew intuitively would happen way before the surgery, and that is what I am dealing with now. The long-term aspects of not being able to speak (very well, or at all) are a bit daunting. The same goes with not being able to consume liquid or food except through my PEG tube. I have no idea if all or any of these conditions are permanent or not so I just sort of… have to accept that they might be. And that is a fucking hard blow for anybody, let alone a woman who loves to cook and eat, attended pastry school, worked in vegetarian kitchens on and off the past ten years, trained as a professional sommelier and writes a vegan food blog. I have to process all of that and just….let it go. Move on. And I can; I will, but it’s going to take me some time.
Here is one saving grace however. The other night I realized that all this processing—this lingering sadness and even depression I’ve had over all of the above is just temporary. It’s like a bruise; a goddamn big, bad bruise, but a bruise just the same. It will fade and disappear eventually. All the sadness I have now will do the same—fade and go away—if I let it. Dwelling on the things I’ve lost does me no good. I mean, yeah, I have my pity parties and cry over things now, but eventually, I’ll let it all go and get used to a new normal. It’s already starting to happen. While I DO miss food, I am beginning to crave my formula. My very vegan formula that I often supplement with fresh fruit, greens or even peanut butter (though not peanut butter and greens together; I’m not insane).
And admit all this sort of crappy news and information I share, there are a few positives; things to be grateful for. My husband, Cody, has been nothing short of a hero. Seriously; this man drives my butt around whenever and wherever I need to be there (mostly to Palo Alto—where Stanford is. But while it’s only about a 50 minute drive without traffic; with traffic it can be over two hours). He does the house work—the laundry, the dishes, car stuff; etc. He mixes up my pain medications in the morning. He takes care of the dogs. He even rubs my feet at night (yeah, that puts him over the top into hero status I think). I am forever grateful for him. Also, our dogs have been awesome. I mean, they’re dogs; they are supposed to be awesome; but still; I take nothing for granted. I have reconnected with some lovely friends who have gifted me goodies and health concoctions that make feel loved and truly cared for (this means you, Stacie). It’s summer, so the sun is out (not always a given here in the SF/Bay Area), and that always lifts my spirits. And with my limited eating abilities, I have reached my goal weight. And then went past it; by nearly 10 pounds. And I’m currently trying to work my way back up to that goal weight. The swelling in my face is nearly gone. When I awoke after surgery, high as hell on painkillers, I took one look in the mirror and a hearty good laugh at my face and cheeks. I didn’t look like a chipmunk so much as one of the goddamn balloons from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! That and the trache tube sticking out of my neck are the real reasons I stayed home for the first three weeks after I returned home from the hospital. Happily, my cheekbones have reappeared.
(Below are some self-portraits I drew while at the hospital. I used the white board paddle they had given me, and giggle the entire time. I’m not sure if I was bored or just in a silly mood. Probably both.)
And one more thing: when the pathology report came back from my surgery, my doctors told me that they had gotten all of the cancer, and that they could see no sign of spread. And that is some grea—wait; what? Did you hear that…..? Shhh……. Oh? I…? OH. Shit. That… was the sound of the other shoe falling. It would appear that, for several reasons, my doctors think that my cancer may come back. May? Might? You choose; either/or. Regardless, it leaves me with more processing to do. But I’ll say right now, that even without food or speech, I love life; I love my life, and I pray to all that is Good and Holy and Vegan in this world, that I live a long, healthy-ish life. Have you ever seen that meme that says something along the lines of “I am not afraid of the storm. I am the storm?” Yeah—that’s me. I am the storm. I say that to myself whenever I am worried or depressed. My plan is to weather whatever tornado, tropical storm, thunder cloud or hurricane is thrown my way. I have to.
Thank you my friends. Now that I’m mostly back on my feet, I’ll try and get my ass on a schedule and write more. It’s good for me! I’m still not quite sure how to proceed with Tofu Bunny; but I’ll figure it out. It might be something like “vegan shit I accidentally encounter;” or something like that. Anyone have any fun or funky vegan ideas? Email me!