The First Recovery Begins

I am out of the hospital. Apparently, though, the hospital adventure was just the start of a series of experiences designed either as lessons, to make me a better person, or as punishments in response to the kind of person I’ve become over the years. Whatever their genesis, it might be best if I recount the experiences in brief:

  1. A lingering cough that led to a diagnosis of lung cancer;
  2. the removal of the lower lobe of my right lung followed the diagnosis;
  3. during my seven-day hospital stay, the death of our car’s battery, leaving my wife at the mercy of the (thankfully) reliable shuttle service to and from the motel where she stayed during my hospitalization;
  4. the stoppage (cloggage? nonfunctionage?) of the toilet in the motel room where my wife was staying; and
  5. returning home (after dealing with numbers 1 through 4 above) to a reasonably warm house that cooled considerably when our HVAC system went down due to an electrical issue (fortunately, my wife’s sister allowed us to stay overnight with her last night in her very comfortable guest room).

With good fortune, our HVAC system was to be repaired today between 1 and 3 p.m. and the other trials we have faced are behind us. Well, that’s asking for too much. The HVAC system is not working, if only temporarily; the repairman will return either later today or tomorrow with a new replacement part—but the temporary fix should last the night. If we can just not have any new challenges in the immediate future, that will be a welcome adjustment. I know, I will have to deal with chemotherapy after my surgical wounds heal. And I know, before my wounds heal, I will have to suffer through the pain of recovering from the surgery. Thus far, since my release from the hospital, the pain has been tolerable more so than it has been intolerable. I hope that lasts. The idea of coping—for long—with an intolerable level of pain is absolutely unappealing. I guess I could do it if I had to, but I think I’d rather be sedated for a week. And I would be (some say “could be,” some say “am”) a most difficult person to be around.

The question is this: what the hell did I do to warrant these self-improvement experiences or punishments (depending on your perspective)? I am certain my life and lifestyle both warrant the imposition of considerable quantities of life-lessons, but I believe, as well, that a cancer diagnosis, alone, would have been sufficient to change me. I did not really need the removal of the lower lobe of my right lung (well, I suppose that could be part of the longer process of a cancer diagnosis). But certainly, my wife should not have suffered the inconvenience of a dead car battery as a consequence of my behavior. And she shouldn’t have to deal with a toilet stoppage as part of my rehabilitation. And she shouldn’t have had to deal with an uncooperative HVAC system. I’m not sure I should have had to deal with that; I am certain she shouldn’t!

Of course this entire string of life-changing events/challenges/aggravations/discomforts could be purely coincidental. In fact, I am relatively sure they are. But I’m not absolutely certain. I’m willing to concede that the universe is sufficiently complex that it may be capable of telegraphing a series of messages to me, hoping I give them considerable thought so that the “lessons” find their way to the intended cerebral stations inside my brain so that I finally “get it” with regard to the messages the universe wishes me to understand. Still, I’m skeptical. But that skepticism notwithstanding, an extensive process of self-criticism is in order. I’ll try not to go into too much detail about that process here on the blog, but I will do some self-reflection, though probably not today.

I do engage in self-reflection and assessment on a regular basis, by the way. I ‘m not sure that comes through clearly in what I write, but I pay quite a lot of attention to my behaviors and thoughts and the motivations behind them. But perhaps I should do more. I’ll remain a skeptic, but will do so from within an open-minded framework.

At any rate, my recovery from surgery has begun. Though the surgeon reported no evidence that there was cancer anywhere but the tumor he removed, I haven’t gotten results of lymph node examinations. I may wait to get that information when I have a follow-up appointment in around two weeks. I look forward to getting the physical recovery behind me. The roller-coaster of pain has been tolerable, I suppose, but my threshold of pain tolerance is not high; I want the pain to end quickly and to never again reach the levels it reached post-surgery. Is that too much to ask?

I’ve learned something since the diagnosis of my cancer. Not about me, but about other people who learned of the diagnosis. Even people I have never met face-to-face.  I’ve learned that people within my “sphere” are kind, generous, loving human beings. So many people have offered support. So many have given it, even without realizing they have done so. Just by expressing sympathy, empathy, or a willingness to be available to my wife and me if and when we need them, people have given us support before I even knew I needed it. That’s evidence of innate compassion, I think. This evening, a friend from church will stop by with a chicken pot pie! She must have read my mind. It’s one of my favorite things, but my wife doesn’t/won’t make it (maybe she would if I begged, but I haven’t begged just yet).

And we’ve been offered rides, errands, food…you name it. An electronic friend in Sweden allowed as how she wished she could send me a post-surgery cookie care package.  I wonder if these folks  realize how important their expressions of support and sympathy make? I wonder if they realize how their willingness to interrupt their lives to make a difference in ours improves my perspective on humanity?

I’ve written so little in the past seven or eight days, I still don’t know just where to begin. I guess this post has been the start. I still want to “journal” my experience in the hospital. A number of experiences merit more words from me, I think, but I guess I’m not yet ready to write them. More to follow. Someday.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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6 Responses to The First Recovery Begins

  1. Robin, the HVAC system is working now. The remaining evidence that the universe is malevolent and driven by debauchery and anthropomorphic loathing is on the decline. 😉 Your tenderness and the fundamental decency exhibited by you and those around you argues against the likelihood that we’re facing a monstrous universe motivated by hatred. It’s entirely possible, I must admit, that I’m delusional. Nothing wrong with that! When friends near and far come together to wish us well, in the knowledge that we’d do the same, I can’t help but embrace the universe and almost everything in it. And for THAT, Robin, I am eternally grateful to you and the good people around you!

  2. I hope by now all the crazy issues of HVAC have been resolved and you and Janine are comfortably warm and cozy and doing well. I don’t know why, but I don’t think the universe teaches us lessons or punishes us for wrong-doings. I think we are complex beings with so many things happening all at once in our bodies, a virtual universe in and of itself. We have moved on from our early days of tribes and communities to our mostly lonely spheres of modern human life. I think this is why all the acts of kindness from friends and strangers, people we know and people we only know virtually move us so deeply. It reminds us of who we are and how we are truly connected. Our human bodies do so many things without our knowledge, and then one day we wake up and say, “uh-oh, oh shit, I did not plan for this.” Your friends near and far come together to wish you well. This is our lives as humans. We do for you what you would do for us. Now today we wish for your full and wonderful recovery.

  3. Thanks Bill, Cindy, Pauline, and Linda for your comments and your good wishes. Friends who care matter at least as much as the most powerful drug and the sharpest scalpel.

  4. lindakblack says:

    Glad you’re home and looking forward to a future on the mend. Take care of yourself, my friend.

  5. Find something that makes you laugh in spite of the challenges you’ve been through. Maybe you just laugh at the challenges life has sent your way, Laughter is so very good for us, whether forced or the result off reading, hearing, seeing something funny. Buddhist monks laugh as a form of exercise knowing it is good for them. I wish I had a funny joke to share with you in writing, but I don’t right now, At least not a short one. As the old song goes, “laugh and the world laughs with you!” That’s enough. Sending laughter your way.
    Pauline

  6. Bill Spears says:

    It sounds like you’ve had a rough few days. Not anything snyone would want yo have to ending following any surgery, worry about cancer seems more than enough. I am happy to hear there is no additional cancer. We are thinking about you and Janine snd pulling for no additional issues.
    Love, Bill&cindy

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