Sunday, October 12, 2003

It's Time

Tomorrow we will be going to the hospital for J to have some pre-operative tests, and to meet his surgeon for the first time. I have the strangest feeling, like we should be doing something special before that time comes, like our life together will be defined as before this meeting, and after. In reality, if there should be any such delineation, it should be before the surgery and after, since the surgery will really alter some things either temporarily or, gulp, permanently. Still, something is telling me that tomorrow will be a defining moment, and I am filled with dread.

It's not about being afraid of doctors or hospitals, since between my parents, Lydia, various family members and friends, not to mention my own visits, I am a hospital champ. I have the whole routine down, and it's almost a strange badge of honor that I refer to just a little too proudly, "I am a hospital regular!" But it gives me comfort to feel some sense of control over what is usually out of my control, and it's helpful to me. And to be sure, it's been helpful to other people many times.

For example, it's okay to help with simple things in the hospital, no one will yell at you. Like, unless your loved one is restricted concerning intake of liquids, it's good to know that you do not have to wait for the overworked and understaffed nurses to run and get him a drink. Find out where they keep the pitchers, cups and straws, where the water and ice are dispensed, and let the nursing staff know that you will go get it yourself. If you do this in a helpful and matter-of-fact way, and not in a snotty, fed up kind of way, believe me, the nursing staff will be GRATEFUL that you are pitching in on the simple stuff, rather than hitting that hated nurse call bell every two seconds. And you know what? It shouldn't be this way, but it is - the more pleasant and helpful the patient's family is, the more likely the nurses are to come into the room when the patient REALLY needs them, because they know it'll be about something important, and they will get cooperation and not grief over petty shit. It's human nature, and if you want your person to get good care, you learn how to comport yourself so that they are more likely to get staff attention than the cranky ass in the next room. Sad, but true, in my experience. This is not to say that hospital staff do this on a conscious level, or to accuse them of being anything less than consummate professionals. It's just logical - you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Back to the point, and that was that I'm not concerned about the hospital environment, but about the things that I can't control. J is going to have to endure some more embarrassing and uncomfortable tests. I'm proud of how he's been dealing with all this so far, but there are some really uncomfortable things to be discussed, and there will be a big change in his life, our lives, after surgery, and I wish it would all go away. Meeting with the surgeon will make it very real, indeed.

I want so many things. I wish that things had never gone bad with Lydia, because she was such a comfort in situations like this, and I really wish I could talk to her now. Of course, that's impossible, and with all the unpleasantries gone by, it's absurd. It's more that I wish I could talk to her the way she was a few years ago: reasonable, empathetic, knowledgeable, helpful. And I wish I could talk to my Dad. He could always soothe me when I was anxious.

I wish J's brother seemed more interested in what was happening to J. It hurts me to see how J has to initiate every conversation about his illness, and how his brother just listens without imput, without asking questions, or trying to comfort J. As much as my brother can drive me insane some times, I can't imagine him being as dispassionate as J's brother, if I were the one with cancer. I know it's hurting J, and my heart breaks for him. Is it too close for comfort, and it makes him think too much about his own mortality? Is he more concerned than he shows? Is it not real to him until J seems ill? Does he need to be moaning in the hospital bed before his brother is startled into reality? I don't know him well enough to guess, but it's really troubling.

I wish J's mother wasn't still so fragile after her own health problems, so J could discuss this with her. He's doing the right thing by keeping it from her for the moment, but it would be good if he could talk to her now. He needs support.

I wish that my brother didn't insist on turning every comment I make into a positive, like I am never allowed to express negative or unhappy emotions. As I've said before, I am thankful that this is a curable cancer, and that it seems most likely that surgery will be the only course of action needed to be cancer free. But DAMN IT, I am still allowed to be angry that it is happening in the first place, that J has to suffer, and I'm scared about how well he will cope with it all.

Despite all the time I've spent in hospitals with loved ones, or perhaps because of all of that time, I'm resentful that the powers that be are just so unrelenting with the pain and suffering. I'm grateful for the good things, I can appreciate the good things in life. I get it. Now knock it off with the bad already, okay?

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