The first night at home was uneventful, but that is exactly what I wanted. No interruptions, in my own bed, and next to my wife. This beats a room and a bed in a hospital every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Even with having to wear that basically antique CPAP headgear when I am sleeping, at least I am home.
Waking up after my first night at home was almost surreal. Like the last three weeks had not happened. In that sleepy twilight right after a person wakes up... In that small period of time that the mind can't easily pick out reality from the sleepy subconscious place where our dreams reside... My mind actually is able to forget the recent events and the physical issues I have endured. I am... me again. For just a very short time while my mind clears and starts the differentiation between the real and the dreams... I am me. The old me. The me before cancer. Damn, this feels good. Maybe I dreamed all this and now I am finally waking up. Slowly my eyes open. Lea Ann is still asleep next to me. I understand why some people enjoy watching others sleep. So beautiful and peaceful. Looking around the room, the way the light is filtering through the curtains and mini-blinds lets me know it is still very early in the morning. Not long after sunrise actually. I can hear the music from the radio that we always play at night. It helps to drown out the sounds that tend to wake us up, like my CPAP machine, or the the dogs of the man that lives behind us, or the sirens that travel up and down the major road we don't live that far from. It's our alternative to white noise. Plus it has a beat and you can dance to it. I also slowly start to notice a strange new sound. A deep thrumming hum. That's odd. Anyway, as I continue the early morning wake up, the first morning yawn comes on, and what usually accompanies that? A good stretch. So I do... and reality lands on my head, or rather on my abdomen which in turn quickly shakes up my brain. The stretch causes me to arch my back crunches the incision there and stretches out the incision on the stomach. Not to mention that the yawn is not a good one as my breathing still is not right and I can't take a full intake of breath. Reality is back... Dammit.
Time to get up because Mother Nature has decided that it has been too long since I have been in the bathroom. I am currently unable to sit up the usual way in the bed, in the sit-up style as most people do because my stomach is far from ready for that, but I have to get up. Rolling slightly onto my left side, I put my elbow on the edge of the bed with my hand up in the air. With my right hand, I grab the left and try pressing down, using it as a crutch and as a lever too. Slowly I am able to get into a sitting position, but my damned arms are both shaking like hell by the time I am. Luckily the mattress we have is one of those that doesn't transfer movement, so Lea Ann is able to stay asleep. The walker is folded up and leaning against the wall next to the archway that goes into the bathroom. I reach over and grab it, pulling it over and unfolding it, albeit quietly. Pulling it in front of me, I use it to stand up slowly. Legs still are not quite right and not nearly as strong, but they are working. I have to stand for a few seconds to gain my balance and make sure that I don't get light headed. If I am going to fall, I want it to be on the bed. Soon enough the feeling of stability comes and I shuffle into the restroom to get a little relief.
Later that morning I eat. Not a lot. Just a single packet of oatmeal. Lea Ann attempts to get to to drink a protein shake, but I back away from it after a few sips as usual. I hate that aftertaste, no matter how much Lea Ann tries to cover it by adding chocolate syrup or fruit or whatever else... Someday maybe I will get used to it, but not today. After bringing me the shake, Lea Ann goes into the bedroom comes back with the BP cuff, the pulse-ox monitor and the log for my stats. She used to be a CNA several years back in Illinois before we met and knows how to take BP and all. She is taking this logging of BP, oxygen saturation and weight very seriously. BP is down for me but still a bit higher than usual. it runs high in our family as a rule. When I was 18 it was as high as 165/100. Its not that high today, but still above average. Oxygen levels are in the mid to high 90's, which is very good, but I do still have the oxygen on. My weight this morning was right around 240. I have lost 120 pounds since originally seeing the doctor about the problems eating and swallowing about 5 months ago. I'm not too worried about it, but Lea Ann seems to be. I'm dropping weight like a bad habit. She has even mentioned that she wonders if I may be developing an eating disorder. If it keeps up I am sure she will bring it up to the home health nurse and the doctor at one of the myriad appointments in the near future. I just need to find a less radical diet plan. She is also worried because I am still not walking much and talking even less. Not to mention I am still not using the breathing therapy tools they sent me home with. And she is right in all regards, I am just not seeing it. I just want to sit on my butt in my recliner and watch TV. I'll get better over time. Little did I remember that the physical therapist is coming today. That means so much for sitting on my butt. At least for a while after the therapist gets here.
Later that morning the physical therapist arrives. A big muscular kid. Taller than me and maybe half my age. He's happy to meet Lea Ann and I and asks if I am ready to get some strength and stamina back. I do have to admit that my lack of strength and loss of the size I see in the mirror in my legs and calves and shoulders is a worry to me. As I have said before, I was rather proud how strong I thought I was. Now I can hardly sit up in bed or walk on my own. Now here comes kid telling me what to do to get better physically... This is going to be a tough thing to handle for my ego. He takes 10 or 15 minutes to fill out yet another set of paper work. Please sign here and here and here and initial here... Then he grabs his own pulse-ox monitor out of his bag and walks over to put it on my finger. He then asks me if I can stand for him. I am able to stand, after try or two and with a little support from him. He has my walker and sets it in front of me. I lean heavily on it. The oxygen saturation on the monitor is right around 90, maybe a a bit less. He asks if I am OK and if I need to sit down. A am a little light-headed, so I say yes and sit heavily. He adjusts my oxygen a bit higher and then helps me up again. This time he says we are going to take a little stroll around the house. We walk around the living room, up and down the hall, and even out onto the patio in the back yard. Less than half way through I am huffing and puffing and have to stop and rest for a moment. This happens twice more. This is really getting into my head. I am not strong enough to do anything. Great. This feeds my depression... When I get back to the recliner I sit heavily again and have to allow my head to clear as I was getting light-headed again. He praises me for trying and keeping it up to the end, but the ex-athlete part of me says I didn't do anything and that I should be ashamed... and I am. He says he has been cleared to come three times a week and the next visit will be day after tomorrow. The number of weekly visits will go down as I recuperate and get stronger. Three times a week is a good bit of work, and I will be walking and trying to get away from the walker AND the oxygen. I can live with that. Those two things make me feel so OLD... As the therapist and I say our goodbyes and shake hands, he and Lea Ann talk a bit, but they are out of my hearing range. At that point in time I had no idea what they were talking about, but looking back I can assume that she was asking what he might think would motivate me to start moving and doing things for myself. As I sit in the recliner, my legs are starting to get sore already and they are still shaking from the walking. This is not going to be fun. About the time the physical therapist leaves, the home health nurse shows up. They confer outside with Lea Ann briefly, then she comes in and does her checks on me... BP, oxygen saturation, she lowers the O2 on the oxygen lines too because the physical therapist had forgotten to, temperature, checked all the incision sites and the dressings, and listened to my breathing. This will be the usual for the next several weeks, at least until I am finished with chemotherapy and radiation. She is also going to help us keep track of the appointments we have and what is said and found out there. She is very good. Despite my mood, I find myself liking her and how she does things, and it seems Lea Ann does as well. It is always good to like who you have to work with, and in this case, we do. Gotta love the caregivers, and that includes Lea Ann, who is catching the brunt of my crappy moods. That is so not fair to her. I see that now, but then I didn't. Then I was still too deep into my own head and pity party to see it. I am such a lucky man to have her by my side. She is literally the better and stronger half of me. She is the lifesaver I hang on to when things are getting too overwhelming. She doesn't know it, and I never said it then, but she was, is and always will be. I have since told her that, but at the time I wonder how the hell she put up with me.
The rest of the next few days are uneventful and pretty much carbon copies of the first day back. I am not looking forward to the physical therapy that is to come as it will make me see how weak and frail I truly have become, but it is a need to make me get stronger too... I am very conflicted, and I am sure it shows.
Thank you all for reading along and I will see you again next post!