One Fresh Hell, Hold the Tomatoes

Last week found me a visitor to a mental health facility, leaving him there each evening, heading downcast out to my car and my lonely drive home. This place just a few miles from our house, in the foothills just south of the city in an unremarkable single story building where I chose to allow supposed professional responsible human beings to rescue my ailing partner from the shackles of long term anxiety and depression. Leaving without him broke my heart and provided not a whit of relief as a few close friends hoped a “break” in the action might provide. His pained eyes looking upon my sadness as yet another judgement to come down upon me. Another multi-year term added to the #lifer hashtag slung around my neck like an albatross, another petal of hope plucked from the near bare flower of love for him in my heart.

All the while I possess the knowledge that I likely won’t live to see our future through to a plausibly happy conclusion. Even though this love is over 10 years in the making, cruel editors mangled the melodramatic script and the film itself in the can, spliced together and the story arc mangled under the cruel cinematographer’s blade. The final reels go to the studio with all of my scenes cut and lying on the floor.

I hoped for relief at the end of a long week spent alone over the course of treatment, no sparkle reappears in his eyes yet and his happiness not yet resuscitated. It takes the Zoloft about four weeks to help much.

But I’m mostly alone these days. Yearning for my partner’s support and the kind of tender and caring love many of which many metastatic sisters write and blog about, I now look over at him, home in bed, and find one whose dark, inky emotions remain locked away inside his heart, like stars behind clouds on a black night canvas. He lays there disengaged, brooding silently, interrupted by long bouts of sighing. Inside him rises the simmering anger of so many men who find themselves bitten by but embarrassed to speak of such disorders.

Sometimes, it’s just frustratingly difficult to hide my outrage for being his care giver for over three years, of which this past 18 months one of the most heart wrenching trials of my life. My god – this and cancer, too? Fuck. What more can one do but look up and ask the ceiling over our bed long and winding questions about the treacherous nature of spiritual meaning, self-worth, and the relative value of a life. I then break from the summation of my existential questioning of cogito ergo… to find an email in my inbox from someone who reaches out to me to thank me. Grateful for my honest approach to my blog posts they type out a note that reminds me of why it’s worth it to know that it’s my responsibility as a wife to make a decision to help alleviate my partner’s suffering and try to revive him, to ask the wide, wise universe that his soul be returned his body.

He, too, wants only the same for me – happiness – yet indicates we may not stay together. For fuck’s sake — why now and you have got to be joking (the only sentences I can form without punching him in the face.) These trivialities came to him exactly how? On what plane of existence does he live in that this would even be okay? Not even by a substandard, unintelligent alien culture of unfeeling assholes would this rank as logical or even just “fine.”

Then, with that comment lingering in the air as the gas he passed as he falls asleep yet again and I’m left to wonder alone, naturally, what fresh hell might await me tomorrow?

Hopefully a new sandwich called “fresh hell” from the deli and no more than that.

Sloop John B. aka Let Me Go Home

So hoist up the John B’s sail
See how the main sail sets
Call for the Captain ashore
Let me go home, let me go home
I want to go home
Well I feel so broke up
I want to go home
Hoist up the John-b sail.
See how the main sail sets,

I groan as I depart outrunning the Smurf blue scrubs-clad wheelchair engineer who, I’m totally convinced, wants only to embarrass me with one last spin round the rotunda of Stanford’s gynormous older hospital (a new one is on the way, thankfully). Leaving behind me a dishearteningly BORING stay in Stanford’s F-wing. Wow, ever so apropos of the oncology floor, the F-uck it wing, the F-ucking cancer wing. Let me never ever go into a hospital again.

Dehumanized. Depersonalized. Muted. Turned into a brainless pajama bag of pain and shit. Exasperated, exhausted annoyed. Telling the same boring story of how I arrived, my trip through the ER, the amount of fluid siphoned out of my abdomen, whether or not I went poopy in the toilet, as well as my level of discomfort. All told to a supporting cast in this theater of the absurd. All except for my angel in uniform, Stacey, who actually sees me as human and spending more than one shift with me, even requesting to take my bed at assignment time. We talked about everything and nothing, perfumes, children, cancer, other nurses, hospital stories. Stacey stopped by when she wasn’t obligated to do so, and see how I was feeling, to let me know she’d ordered the Flower Bomb perfume I sprayed on her wrists a few days earlier to make sure she’d like it enough to plunk down hard earned cash for it. Like a friend might, she came by my room when she’d heard my ticket outta there had been stamped, to say goodbye. Stacey remained my friend in the hospital for six boring shifts and her big smile, bounty of hair and breasts, and her need to talk to someone who could just ask questions and listen to her.

Basically, and aside from Stacey, at any given time, one might become confused permanently by a troupe of medical professionals, including:

Two doctors, one of whom visited me for exactly three minutes and accidentally ran into me during one of four daily 30 minute cross hospital walks,
Seven distinct nurses
Three nurse practitioners
Two social workers
One psychologist
One spiritual leader of the Rabbinical kind

The same questions day in day out, night after sleepless night…your level of pain, 0-10, 10 being the highest. Where? Which pain? It’s all over and all different. I learned to pantomime and point to my pain, showing anyone who buys a ticket to my freak show behind the curtain. No one likes to stay overnight in a hospital let alone six fabulous nights at the Palo Alto Stanford Hospital Resort and Country Club. Where sleep comes only to those who sleep with the fish, there’s no relationship between yourself and a concept called privacy.

I’m not contagious, therefore my roommates become a series of Spanish speaking, translator required, entire family toting, new treatment guinea pigs under tight scrutiny from the nurses who all ignore me. I’m not part of the program. And but the way why the translators who clearly were trained in translation skills raise their voices with each translated word to the supposed Spanish only speaking individual in the next bed in the room, is beyond my comprehension. I hear both of the roommates, between whom I get one 36 hour reprieve from holding my farts due to close proximity of their family and our shared bathroom.

You want to define understatement? My visible excitement level peaking higher than my pain level for the first time in weeks as I jumped at the first chance to “give up” my bed and an opportunity manage my symptoms at home until my next procedure. Emphatically and resoundingly, please please please let me go home – like The Beach Boys song. For the record, the break in self care and trying to pull my partner out of bed (generally so I could try it out alone for a few hours to recuperate) I needed more than I realized. I fully enjoyed people focused on all of my physical needs for a little while. Pathetic, right?

Maybe so, but I’m home. I got home a week ago yesterday. Simon, my cat-son, truly gave me the what for when I got in, ignoring me at first, but unable to help his nose, which had a mind of its own, from sniffing down my belongings and then coming over to sniff me. Persuaded by sight and scent he crawled into my lap and purred and I rubbed by now-damp eyes in his soft brown fur, and said, Mommy’s home, baby, mommy’s home.

Now that’s pathetic.