Surgery, of any kind, sucks.
Except maybe something like a facelift. Which is probably no walk in the park, but still. Come on, you're getting a new, hopefully better looking, face.
Anyway, when you have surgery, there're things that you know are gonna be horrible.
The standard stuff. Going under anesthesia, pain, inconvenience, rehab, shitty insurance, blah, blah.
Well, I'm here to tell you, that's just the start of your long careen downhill.
First, there's the cheerful phone call you get from the admitting nurse the day before.
Nurse Ratchet: Oh...do you have a living will?
Ratchet: Advanced health care directive?
Ratchet: Can you bring them with you?
Ratchet: Well, in the event you're unable to make decisions for yourself, we need to know who can...you know...decide.
Me: I don't plan on not being able to decide.
Ratchet: No one does, dear. No one does.
They apparently need to know who can unplug you before you're even plugged in.
Then there's the surgical outfit.
Although I hesitate to say I wouldn't be caught dead in it, because I might, I take great offense at it, for several reasons besides the obvious ugly factor. Here are two:
Why do I need a hairnet? I'm not frying chicken at KFC. And why does hubby insist I look absolutely precious as he's taking my picture with it on?
Why, in the name of Marcus Welby, MD, does the gown open in the back?
Are immediate anal probe situations common?
Will they need emergency access to my ass?
I'm no doctor, but it seems to me that any medical crisis would involve things like your heart...which is not in the back last I checked.
The more I think about it, I'm not sure why it has to be open at all. Everyone who's ever watched an episode of ER knows that if you're in the operating room, you're at home plate. All they'd need to do is use one of the many sharp implements at their disposal to cut it open if need arises.
I am convinced this whole set up is for their amusement only.
I've seen Seinfeld. I know what goes on when you're sedated.
And speaking of open back gowns...even though you've been under a general anesthetic, had an epidural and are pretty much dead from the neck down, they will give you a laxative.
This needs no more commentary.
The drugs might not be as good as you hoped.
There are actually several that didn't work for me. This can take hours, perhaps days, to figure out.
And that red thing on your remote isn't a call button for a cocktail bearing waiter. In fact, they don't allow liquor of any kind.
Is this a shock to anyone but me?
When they insert the catheter, you're anesthetized.
When they take it out, you're not.
Your surgeon might be the orthopedic specialist for the Nuggets.
If he is, he might mistake you for a professional, or at the very least, a wanna be - athlete. Amazing, considering the open-in-the-back gown situation that's proof positive you have no fear of atrophy.
Never mind that, your rehab program starts when you're still sedated.
Unfortunately, you don't stay sedated.
Hubby assures me that the counting sequence when doing reps is NOT one, two, ten, seventeen...
Then there's the swelling.
Anywhere that anyone got near during your hospital stay swells to twice it's normal size.
In my case that was my left foot, leg, and ass.
The upside is...there is no upside.
They tell you to bring comfortable clothes to go home in. Not clothes three sizes bigger.
The outfit you have to wear at home is worse than the surgical duds.
As I type I'm wearing an ice pack diaper and have my leg in a machine that's right out of a Saw film. Up until yesterday, I wore blood clot prevention boots.
At least I'm allowed to wear pants. Big pants.
My surgeon's initials are in, apparently, indelible ink on my left thigh. This is creepy.
Think about it.
Finally, Hubby says I'm mouthy, cocky, and uncooperative.
This doesn't count as a surprise though, since that's what he said on our first date.
The joke's on me. I get to do it all again on the other side in March.
Sometimes it just is.
Christmas is the giving season.
Well, I'd like to see unabashed getting come back into style.
Every day that my mom was in hospice, our littlest grandson (her great grandson), brought her presents. His sippy cup, his tools, the TV remote, his bottle (...empty...let's not get carried away) a flower. Whatever odd thing he picked up, he'd offer it.
I'm convinced that every gift he brought her added a day to her life, so delighted was she to receive them. She knew he wanted her to smile, laugh, get better. He knew the TV remote made him bat shit crazy happy, so he felt sure it would do the same for her. So he gave it.
It worked. Getting gifts, no matter what kind, mattered to her, made a difference.
Now, I'm laid up.
Mercifully not yet in hospice.
Nothing even life threatening. Just annoying hip surgery. A surgery made more annoying by the fact it arrived on the heels of my mother's death. Not the best emotional timing.
That's when they started coming.
The gifts. The cards. The flowers. The food. The texts. The emails. The Facebook messages. The blog comments. The tweets.
Every possible venue available for gift giving and well wishing was taken advantage of, on my behalf, by the most thoughtful, generous people I've ever known. Some, I don't even know well. Some I haven't heard from in more than 30 years. But I can promise you...
It worked. Getting these gifts, in whatever form, mattered to me, made a difference.
They brought tears, made me laugh, soothed my grieving soul, put band-aids on my wounded heart, and lifted my heavy, sagging spirits.
Flowers, as a way to say, "I'm thinking about you and want to make your day a little better" will never be the wrong way to go. Marybeth, Melanie, Patsy, Beth and Tom, Mark and Luann, and the good people at Venoco sent all these.
The well wishes, kind thoughts, and perfect sentiments keep rolling in.
I'm a writer. Words carry a lot of weight with me. Here's some that were sent my way from Mark and Sandy, Jack and Justine, Kelly Rutter Nemic, Tom and Becky, Wes Marshall, Pat and Marcia and Matt and Jennifer:
The very one who rocked you in the beginning needed you most in the end...your mom must've been an amazing woman.
As you remember your mom, others are thinking of you and wishing you comfort.
People who've lost someone special know that the real grieving begins...later...when everyone has gone back to their own lives...know that those who care for you wish to share this difficult time...
I know your mom loved you more than anything...
Sending well wishes your way and hoping your boo boo soon goes away.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.
Your mom must've been a rock, an inspiration and a person who cherished her family.
I'm here for you.
Whatever you need.
We're thinking of you and your family.
Although I'm not a part of your inner circle support group, I feel a special bond with the Venoco family and it breaks my heart when someone so kind and caring as you and Ed suffer such a loss.
That one was especially meaningful since it came from someone I don't know well, who works with my husband. Yet he took the time to write, and send, as much comfort as he could.
I'm not a religious person.
I've said so often in these pages.
But there's something particularly lovely about spiritual people who send me biblical words of healing and support. They're sharing something so personal and meaningful to them that they're willing to cross the boundaries of political correctness to do it.
I've been so humbled and touched by their offerings of prayers and extensions of grace.
No matter what you believe, I can't think of anything more comforting than knowing others are calling on their God and his angels to make an exception for you.
Then there's the emails, texts and phone calls (in some cases nearly every day) from my kids, my grandkids and my friends like Lisa Rivas, Lisa Robles, Mary, Kerri, Angel and Marybeth, Terry and Barbara and Mike and Jana.
Then there's Haley. My special food friend who made me homemade bread and sent us this lasagna when she heard I was having surgery. She's only 12...I keep thinking she's 11 but hubby says I'm wrong....which would be unusual for me. At any rate, she's young but knows the value of the right gift at the right time.
Then there's my author friends, Robin Winter, EL Farris, Julie DeNeen and A.W. Daniels, and William Martin who continue to market my book and blogs on Twitter, FB, and their own blogs even though I haven't been able to reciprocate in quite a while. And even though they have their own stuff to promote.
And this book came from my friends Jennifer and Matt...for something to do between the drug taking, the self pity, the mindless staring into space and eating. It's about a woman who has hip surgery and her husband thinks he can get away with a bunch of stuff cause she's out of commission. She kills him with a bed pan and crutches.
Na....just kiddin...I haven't had the chance to start it yet. I'm still in the mindless staring into space phase.
From my daughter, Kayla, this husband groper...I mean an extended arm from the hip surgery kit she sent. That claw on the end is holding the lip balm I dropped. Clutch.
And finally, there are those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for me:
The Fickers, the Behnke's, Marybeth Carty, Lisa Rivas and bartender guy, who all bellied up to the bar in my stead. Tears. With friends like these...
So, my blogger friends, my life has been enriched in ways I never thought it could because all of these wonderful people took time out their day to wish me well.
There's an argument to be made that I'm missing the point. There usually is. It's all in the giving not the getting. If all these good souls hadn't given...
Yeah, yeah, I understand that...but for now, I'm the getter.
And this is my blog.
When you lose someone you love, have health issues, or just all around feel like crap, there's not a lot anyone else can do for you. Except this: they can remind you what its like to feel happy.
That's the gift that keeps on giving.
In previous blogs I've regaled you with my hip problems. In case you're new or just want to torture yourself and reread, here they are:
It Can't be That Part I
It Can't be That Part II
Both of these highlight my delightful experience with bi-lateral hip surgery, the medical profession and the health insurance industry. To conclude, after a year of mishaps and misdiagnosis and a year long battle with my insurance, I had labral repairs on both hips.
Labral tears are usually a professional athlete injury. Before you google me to perhaps find out about my storied past as an Olympic Curler, no need. Unless it involves a curling iron, you won't find me. I survived a head on collision. Which should get me a gold medal, but didn't.
Four years later, the familiar tinge snaked through my groin and thigh. I immediately knew what it was.
Been there, done that.
So I did what any intelligent, health conscious person would do.
I ignored it.
Finally, when it got REALLY bad...
I still ignored it.
Then the pain interfered with my stiletto wearing and all bets were off.
Having been pushed around by my general physician before, this time I went directly to the source. I skpped my primary doc and made an appointment with an orthopedic doc - a hip specialist, no less.
Hip Specialist: This is my 15 year old assistant. She'll examine you and I'll be right back.
15 Year old Assistant: Does it hurt when you do this?
Me: Ouch. Yes.
15 Year Old- What about this?
15 Year Old : And this?
Me (catching on): I don't know. I'm not doing that.
15 year old, stern look on unlined, freckled, face: Um hum. Well, let me ask you-
Me: I know what it is already. I've had it before. Torn labrums. Both sides.
15 Year old, eyeing my flabby thighs, gelatinous biceps: Hmmm. Did you have an accident?
Me: Well, four years ago, when it happened the first time, I had a head on collision, they weren't sure-
15 year old: So...no accident. You'll need an x-ray.
Me: Nothing will show up on an xray. I need an MRI.
Xray Technician saunters in- Come with me.
Xray guy chats amiably about nothing. Lines me up in front of the xray machine.
Xray guy: Were you in an accident?
Hip Specialist looking at X-rays: Well, the xrays are clear.
Me: I know. Torn labrums don't show up on xrays. I have to have an MRI.
Hip Specialist: Umm humm...yeah...so have you ever heard of super cali fragilistic bursitis?
Me: I've heard of bursitis.
Hip Specialist: So we can give you a cortisone shot today or start you on physical therapy and if the therapy doesn't help we can still give you the shot.
Me: Does the xray show that I have bursitis?
Hip Specialist: No.
Me: Then why would you treat me for that?
Hip Specialist: Well, we tend to do the easiest stuff first and-
Me: I'm not leaving without an MRI appointment. And you're not giving me a shot and I'm not doing physical therapy. I have torn labrums.
Hip Specialist: Well...if you do have torn labrums you'll have to see the labrum specialist and not me.
Don't threaten me with a good time.
A month later, after my MRI, Hip Specialist calls on a Sunday: You have torn labrums on both sides.
Me: You don't say.
Another month later 18 year old labrum specialist says: Were you in an accident?
18 year old specialist: Yep, both sides, torn. We can't repair them again. They've gotta be replaced. I'll have my assistant schedule it.
Assistant: Okay, all scheduled. Here's the paperwork, all the pre-op and post-op stuff you'll need. By the way, did anybody tell you that you have an ovarian cyst?
Me on hold with my family physician trying to make an appointment to get the cyst checked out. Got cut off three times. Gave up.
18 year old labrum specialist's assistant: Just wanted to let you know we'll need a deposit of half before your surgery.
Assistant: This surgery isn't covered by your insurance.
So, off I go to surgery (again) tomorrow. With my 18 year old surgeon and no insurance.
I'm sure it'll be fine.
It went so well the first time, right?
"If you had the chance, what would you tell your younger self?"
I've seen that question a lot lately. It's a blog topic, a celebrity interview question. The answers are often trite.
"I really AM beautiful."
"Don't be so hard on yourself."
"You ARE thin enough."
Not that those things aren't true. They're just probably not the only true things.
At least not for me.
Whenever I've dared examine myself, if I'm honest, I've never concluded that I'm fantastic. Does anyone with half a brain ever leave a therapist's office thinking, "It really is everybody else?"
So, in the spirit of having half a brain...what would I tell my younger self?
It's okay to not have an opinion. I felt strongly about...everything. Even when I didn't know my ass from a hole in the ground. Wait...I don't think I've changed that much...anyhoo...
My friends' husband?
Thought he was a jackass. Did I know him? No.
Who's Reagan? What's an omic? No matter. I could argue for a couple hours about that topic.
I was there. I knew it wasn't true.
There's something to be said for the ignorant optimism of the young. It's just not anything good.
It's okay to have an opinion and keep it to yourself. Ack. Little did I know that even if I knew a lot about the subject at hand, it was sometimes preferable, even wise, to keep my pie hole SHUT.
My friend's husband really was a jackass.
Shoulda kept that gem to myself.
Jeans don't make your ass look fat. All that fat makes your ass look fat.
Who knew she wouldn't take that well?
I wasn't there and I still don't think its true. But, do I really need to tell the devout (like my mother-in-law for instance) I'm an atheist? Well, agnostic. I'm too lazy to take a stand.
Turns out, no.
Silence really is golden.
Chances and opportunities aren't limitless.
This one hurts. Bad.
Went to the concert instead of work? Fired.
No problem, I'll just get another job. Not so fast. Especially when you've done it ten or twenty times and you're 35 and the economy comes to a screeching halt.
Need to exercise more patience and understanding toward my mother? Sure. Later.
Too late now. She's gone.
Didn't finish college? Who needs that crap? I'll do it later.
Marriage, kids, divorce, finances, life...later never came.
Here's the finest pearl of wisdom: chances and opportunities involve a hell of a lot of work and sacrifice. Not willing to do it? Then it won't happen.
Other than a fair trial, you have a right to very little.
Your parents or your neighbors lifestyle isn't your birthright. See chances and opportunities.
Privacy is a privilege, especially if you still live at home.
Happiness is a choice, often elusive.
Self esteem is earned. Doing a job well (starting with that first one at McDonalds), working hard at something even though you're not that good at it until you get better, doing things you need to do instead of just what you want to do, that's how you build self esteem.
Stand up for something you believe in even if it costs you.
Changing the world is often something only the young have the energy for, so do it.
Go to the mat for an ideal. Nothing builds character more than that.
Hate your job and want to quit? Wait.
HAVE, HAVE, HAVE to get married? Wait.
DYING to have kids? Wait.
Can't imagine living without that way too expensive outfit? Wait.
How many mistakes would I have avoided if I'd have just...waited.
What doesn't kill you often doesn't make you stronger.
Trash your health with booze and cigarettes? Cirrhosis and emphysema don't kill you...at least not quick. Hacking up your lungs and turning yellow from jaundice really isn't attractive. And it sure doesn't look fun either.
If you feel depressed or anxious ignore it, buck up, it'll go away. It won't affect your judgment or your decision making? Right?
This will kill you. But not until you swill in misery for years.
The same bad relationships over and over? They wear you down, give you ulcers and wrinkles, make you cry, and beat you down. Kill you?
Gratitude is more important than almost anything.
There hasn't been one day of my life that I haven't had something to feel grateful for. I should've recognized it, celebrated it, shown thanks for it.
Lucky for me, I'm still breathing. As long as I am, it's not too late.