Monday, May 31, 2010

Jammy Cow

The day of the 'procedure' arrives.  I have a shower and take care doing my make up and straightening my hair.  After much deliberation I have decided that I would take up Ex's offer of accompanying me.  Who knows...maybe this could be a turning point.

He's arranged to pick me up at 9.30am and is late, as usual.  I pace around the house, tying and untying my cobalt blue cardigan, worn to bring out the blue in my eyes.  I don't seem to appreciate that I will be having surgery soon.  My outfit is carefully chosen.  Where on earth do I think I am going?  I am dressed for a lunch date, rather than a hatchet appointment at a hospital.  I am a fool - but the distraction keeps my mind off the word 'cancer' and 'procedure'.  I wonder if he will hold my hand.

He finally arrives and is, as usual, on the phone.  At least it is work.  I listen to his conversation all the way to the hospital, feeling nervous but for all the wrong reasons.  My heart pounds and my chest heaves, with the assistance of my Victoria Secret hold-em-up-and-squeeze-em-together bra.  A pretty pathetic attempt to create a cleavage...he knows damn well underneath all the padding it's pretty much two raisins on a ribcage.  But this is the closest we have come to having 'a date' for over two years and I am giving it all I've got.

It doesn't seem to make any impression.

Waiting in the reception area we make small talk about mutual friends.  I want to bring up the subject of us but now doesn't seem the right time.  It never feels like the right time.  I'm a little irritated on hearing about his dinner dates with our old neighbours and how well our previously close friends are doing with their newborn.  "Oh, she's a natural.  Very relaxed." he remarks about a friend's second wife.  Is this remark innocent or a well disguised dig?  No matter.  It smarts.  It doesn't occur to me at the time that one of the reasons I was so on edge during our early days as parents was his own intense anxiety.  We were such a poor influence on each other.  Maybe he will be able to relax and enjoy it a little more the second time around...

Finally I get called in to see the surgeon.  I really haven't given much thought to the purpose of this visit and it is only when the Dr starts to discuss the procedure and the nature of melanoma that it strikes me.  I have cancer.  I listen to his description of melanoma being like a can of paint being thrown at the wall - the main blot of paint is easy to identify - it is the splatter effect which is the problem.  Today they are going to remove skin possibly containing 'cancer splatter'.  It will take an hour for the lab to provide initial results that they have removed a sufficient surface area and then I will be stitched back together.  I start to sweat.  I start to regret not wearing waterproof mascara.  I start to regret wearing mascara at all.  I start to feel a little scared.  I think I might even feel a little faint.

Pretty soon I am lying down wearing the requisite paper gown, my back being stabbed with numbing juice, the skin soaked in sterilizing solution.  The Dr starts to slice away and, whilst I can't feel any pain, I can almost feel pieces of myself being removed.  Warm blood trickles down from the incision and I feel the nurses wiping it away.  It seems to take forever.  Although I am lying down I still feel lightheaded, as though I am going to faint.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Just don't pass out, you big nelly.  Think of small children having life saving brain surgery.  Blogging friends who have undergone mastectomies and chemo.  This is Nothing in comparison.  Stop being such a bloody wimp.

The next thing I know I get an electric shock, which sparks out of the end of my right index fingers.  "What the...!" I exclaim.  "Sorry," apologises the surgeon, "maybe you have created a short circuit touching the metal under the bed.  Bring your hands up by your head."  I bend my elbows and place my hands under my head, a little tense at this point, it has to be said.  "JEEZ!"  I laugh as his next attempt to cauterise the skin produces an electric shock which sparks out of my left elbow.  "What's happening?".  We remove my watch, while the surgeon reassures me again and again that, in over 10,000 procedures, he has never seen this happen before.  "Yeh, well.  I've been told I have a very magnetic personality."  I tell him.  Thankfully it doesn't happen again - although now that I know they are burning the end of my blood vessels to minimise the bleeding I go back to feeling a little lightheaded.  The smell doesn't help.  Bacon, anyone?

After what seems to be a lifetime, but in reality is probably only 45 minutes, the surgeon leaves the room and the nurse patches me up for my hour wait before I get stitched back together.  "Go and grab some lunch" she suggests.  I stand there in my gown and start to cry.  I can't stop.  This whole thing is so grotesque and so unexpected - and so reminiscent of days gone by, when I was in and out of hospital during my pregnancies.  My un-waterproof mascara starts to trail down my face and a combination of tears and snot drip onto my lips.  Lunch?  I can't think of anything less appealing right now.

I stumble out into the waiting room, still crying, and Ex gives me a lacklustre, tentative hug.  We go over the road to the ubiquitous Starbucks and I have a coffee.  Ex continues to make small talk but I no longer have any enthusiasm for meaningless conversation.  Is this really what we have come to?  Trying to compare notes on friends we have in common?  The hole in my back aches and is echoed in my chest.  I want him to hold my hand.  I want him to look at me with concern and love.  It's not going to happen.  It's nice that he volunteered to come with me, as a friend, but I no longer have the energy to put on a brave face in his presence.  I'm exhausted and know that this is the moment that I really have to let go and accept this relationship on the basis that he is comfortable.  It feels anything but comfortable to me.

Finally I return and get called back into the surgery.  Good news.  Initial results are good and they appear to have removed it all.  I should feel relieved but all my senses appear to be numbed by the anaesthetic.  I lie back down to be re-cauterised and stitched back together.  This is the part I have been dreading the most.  I don't feel any pain but there is still the oddest sensation.  It takes nearly an hour for them to re-attach the skin with nearly 40 stitches - and the whole time my body shakes with sobs.  I cry for Mack.  I cry for Ex.  I cry with the memories that are nearly 8 years old, but that seem as fresh as the wound that has just been inflicted.  I wish it was as easy to sew my life back together.  I feel as vulnerable and alone as I have ever felt.

Finally it is all done and I am able to leave.  I still can't stop crying.  Ex re-attempts the awkward hug but I fold into myself.  He is no longer my soft place to fall.  We part ways quickly at the exit as it is almost pick up time at school and he has the boys tonight.  I get into a cab and sob into my cobalt blue cardigan all the way home.  The last thing I want is to be returning to an empty house.  I want to see my boys.  I want to be somewhere I can feel looked after.  I feel frightened as I grip my bag of meds and ointments and care instructions.  Who is there to care for me?  What if something happens?  I don't want to be alone.

My paranoia continues through the evening but, miraculously, I get a good night's sleep and I wake in sheets that are still clean and not sticky with pints of fresh blood.  Well, that must be a good sign, I think. I get up and plan an active day, but within 2 hours I am back in bed, exhausted, and sleep for another 5 hours.  It takes at least 4 days for me to feel back to normal and physically able to be in charge of the boys without suffering a panic attack every 37 seconds.  Ex doesn't call to see how I am for the first 48 hours, despite seeing me like a pathetic wet rag after the surgery.  This, to me, speaks volumes.  Time to cauterise that particular wound once and for all and move on.  Time to really start to heal.

A couple of days later I agree that Ex can take the boys to Disney on the previously aborted trip.  Within a matter of hours a friend casually suggests that I accompany her on a freebie trip to a 5* resort in Barbados for 6 days.  Her husband has a work commitment that he can't get out of.  I hesitate for a couple of days, although for the life of me I can't think why.  A free holiday?  To Barbados?  5*?  When has anyone ever made me such an offer?  Finally I come to my senses and tell her I would love to go.  It coincides with the boy's Disney trip, so is perfect timing.  Within a matter of minutes my flight is booked.

How very jammy is that?

I am hereby to be known as The Queen of All Jammy Things.  The Jammiest Cow in town.


I am off to Barbados tomorrow, in fact.  I have packed all manner of flouncy and skimpy things.  Oh.  And SPF 55 of course.  As getting a tan is out of the question, I guess I will just have to sit under an umbrella sipping cocktails, pickling my liver.

It's a hard life.

And turns out, I am not so lonely after all.


  1. Have a wonderful time - you deserve it. PM x

  2. Perhaps Barbados is the Universe's way of patting you on the back for letting certain things go...? Have a wonderful time and look forward to some wonderful changes...

  3. You so deserve that trip, and you're not jammy at all. I think it's a sign. A fresh start. Have a fab time and take care x

  4. Oh honey. Such a combination of everything under the sun (heh, I know--bad pun). So (((hugs))) for the surgery. *Yay!* as well as more (((hugs))) for realizing it's time to cauterize the marriage wound. And *YAY!!!!* (as well as a teensy bit of jealousy, gotta say) for Barbados. GO. Heal. Come back and start the next stage.

  5. What an horrendous experience to go are not jammy at deserve it. Go and have some fun and time out! X

  6. Heck, that's a thing to have gone through. Blimey O'Riley.

    I admire you, because you are so real about it all. Me, I suppressed it all under a big stiff upper lip and my Pollyanna approach of "it could be worse". I thought I was being brave, but perhaps it was dysfunction by another name. Which means that now I am still dealing with emotional fall-out, whereas in a year's time, you'll be heading off for your annual Barbados trip with ne'er a care in the world. (Annual Barbados trip because you will have such a fabulous time that your friend will decide she prefers your company on holiday to that of her husband, and make you promise to accompany her on a regular basis.)

    Enjoy the break. Enjoy the fact that it was good news. Enjoy the sun. Enjoy the sea. Take a notepad and write some stuff while you're on the beach... it's good therapy.

  7. That is hugely deserved. Have a wonderful time and try to forget all about everything!

  8. What a wonderful end to a painful post. Relax and enjoy!

  9. You write so well that I can always feel just how you've been feeling. Sounds like a horrifically emotional experience but good that you're getting closure (of sorts) on the ex and fantastic that you've been given this opportunity to escape and rediscover you.

  10. What a post. What a post. Your life is such a rollercoaster just now. I can't think of anyone who deserves a 5* holiday in Barbados more just now. You go and have a great time now!

  11. 5* trip to Barbados after all you've been through. Call it karma, or lifes way of evening things out. Enjoy it. x

  12. blimey, I thought I'd had a bad day! I'm glad you have the opportunity to get a break and Barbados -wow. Don't be surprised if some of those tears pop back out again before you see the end of it. That's a dreadful stress to go through and like the 8 years stuff you cried for this time, maybe the tears of stress for this rotten time will come again but hey - with Tequilla and a fit bar tender to see them through who cares - you go girl! (fantastic writing and post thank you so much for sharing)

  13. Cheers my dear - you'll be in Barbados now and I hope you have a fantatstic time! Here's to healing!

  14. I know you're having a fantastic time and I look forward to hearing all about it.
    Much love brave one.

  15. I started reading this with my tummy in my mouth and I am so happy for the ending. Thinking of you

  16. Give me a ring when you get back and we can compare notes about our trips. I think I know who will win though!

  17. Lots and lots of hugs and sending many many positive vibes your way.

  18. PM - Thank you lovely!

    Hels - So hard to believe that wonderful changes are on the way...

    Not Supermum - I am bound to return to a ticking off from the surgeon from getting sunburnt on my stitches yesterday, despite trying to be oh so careful. And I wonder how I got melanoma in the first place...

    Teacher Mommy - Some days I am 'good' about everything, but today that feeling is elusive...urgh. When will this be all over??

    Chic mama - so hard to be in a resort looking after my friend's kids, with so many other happy families around. Maybe this is my problem - that I struggle to be grateful for all the good things and find it so easy to focus on what's missing. Still. One day this will all be behind me and will make sense...

    Iota - You are my hero for the stiff upper lip. Wish I could be as resilient.

    NVG - I should have left my brain and memories at home! So hard to forget, even though I am in such idyllic surroundings. I am so crap!

    Karin - Thank you - I am trying!

    HOM - unfortunately I am rediscovering that my anxieties, judgement and envy are still with me, even on a lounger in the caribbean! Sod off bad thoughts and worries....can't you see I am on holiday!

    MWA - It does feel like a sort of self-inflicted madness to be here yet still be wishing I was with the boys...have to keep reminding myself to go look at the palm trees and Let It Go

    Pants with Names - I am enjoying it, but...

    Kellogsville - your prediction is correct. Could sob my eyes out today. Makes me feel so ungrateful towards my friend's generosity.

    Tattie Weasel - Thank you love! Fingers crossed for a clean bill of health when I return...

    Lulu - can't wait to talk to you when I get back, miss your dulcet tones!

    The Madhouse - Thank you - so kind.

    Expat mum - I don't know - your break sounded like a whole heap of fun

    Susie - Thank you for your vibes...I am trying to tune into them right now!