Friday, February 18, 2011

The Entertaining Side of Recovery

Erin came home from the hospital on Monday evening and has been recovering well from her surgery. The surgery was a success – they removed all of the cancer from her breast and the follow-up pathology report confirmed that the cancer had only spread to one lymph node (which has also been removed). We are thankful to God for the good surgeons and nurses who cared for Erin and helped her through those first days after her surgery. Since we live about 100 miles from the hospital where her surgery was performed, we were a little nervous about the possibility of her having questions or complications after coming home. But so far she has not had any unexpected complications – at least not any medical complications. In terms of her day-to-day functioning, though, Erin has had her share of personal complications.

Of course, this is not her fault. She is dealing with a lot of pain from the surgery, so she is taking a very powerful pain-killer and muscle relaxant - both of which make her tired, confused, and….well…entertaining. Erin’s older sister, Katie (who has a blog of her own), was kind enough to document one particularly entertaining account from a couple days ago. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!



On a typical day, my sisters and I will talk on the phone at least twice. Sometimes it’s for absolutely no reason other than the, “I’m bored and it’s 4:00 p.m. and nap time is over and it’s cold outside and I don’t feel like cooking dinner and my husband isn’t home from work yet and I don’t know what in the world else to do.” Sometimes our conversations simply revolve around what we did the night before and what we have planned for the rest of the day. For some of us, those conversations are more interesting than for others. And then at other times, we simply call each other to laugh. Often it will be over something one of our kids said. How could I not share, for example, the fact that my son thought that my heartburn was caused by the fact that I was just loving Jesus too much! I’m glad we can laugh at our kids and, at times, at life’s circumstances, but I’m also thankful that my family has the ability to laugh at themselves. As my sister Erin has been known to say, “You just can’t take life too seriously.”

While I’ve had plenty of moments that deserve, and often receive, a good laugh (while teaching a Bible study this week, for instance, I referred to the weapons my husband saw on a trip to Yemen as ‘Machete Guns’), I am going to focus, at her request, on a conversation that I had with my “don’t take life too seriously” sister on Wednesday afternoon. When I called, I was concerned. By the time I hung up, I was laughing.

Erin has been in a great deal of pain since returning home from her surgery, thus the need for a consistent dose of pain medications. And, as you can imagine, she is not taking the everyday IB-Profin. And, as you can also imagine, the pain killers do something to her capacity to…well… think straight. And, as you can further imagine, if you catch her at just the right time, the conversation can take all sorts of interesting twists and turns. On Wednesday I caught her at just the right time. I called to see if she was still in much pain. When she answered the phone, I got a very slurred “Hello” (imagine the word minus the “ll’s”). I had the answer to my pain question immediately.

Me: “Erin, how are you?”

Erin: “Not really good. I feel great” (slurred….again).

I have to admit the “I feel great” part already began to take a toll. I was totally smiling, but trying, at this point, not to laugh. Then, silence.

Me: “Um, hello?”

I wondered if I should just hang up.

Erin: “Hello?”

Me: “Are you there? Do you want me to call back later?”

Erin: “Hello?”

Me: “Hello, Erin, can you hear me?”

Erin: “No, no, no. I’m just resting.”

Me: “Oh, are you in bed? I can totally call back.”

Erin: “No, I’m outside.”

Me: “You’re resting outside?”

Erin: “No! I’m outside playing with the kids.”

Me: “You’re playing with the kids outside?”

Erin: “No, I’m resting.”

Now I was laughing.

Me: “Erin, so, do you know when will you go back to the doctors?”

At this point, Erin interjected some results that I was more than happy to hear. It came out slowly, but sensibly:

Erin: “Hey, oh, the pathology on the other lymph nodes all came back negative.”

Praise God!

Me: “Erin, that’s great.”

And then it occurred to me that maybe she was feeling a bit more “with it.” But then, well, then she kept talking.

Erin: “Yeah, but I don’t know what that has anything to do with anything.”

What?! So, I tried to explain why those results were good news. After my twenty seconds of Dr. Katie, she completely interrupted me:

Erin: “Can you believe I have three kids?”

Me: “Um….”

I had nothing. But, I didn’t need to. My drug induced sister kept talking:

Erin: “Wait, you have three children.”

Now, I was just full out laughing. And in a creepy way, I was kind of okay staying on the phone for a few more minutes.

Me: “Yep, I have three kids too.”

Erin then informed me that she was going to sleep on the couch that night for her first night home. It’s important to understand the timeline of events in order to understand the conclusion to this conversation: Erin had surgery on Friday, they came home on Monday, her mother-in-law came to help on Tuesday, and this conversation was happening on a Wednesday. The older sister in me felt the need to set things straight. I have no idea why I thought I could do that at this point in the conversation.

Me: “Erin, this won’t be your first night home. You guys came home on Monday; do you mean you slept on the couch on Monday night?”

If God had granted me a gentle, nurturing personality, I probably would have simply wrapped up the conversation and told her to get some rest. However, I cannot claim those as primary qualities. My first instinct was to prove to Erin that I was right. And perhaps I could have resisted this urge if it were not for my sister who made the foolishly bold statement:

Erin: “You are wrong!”

I started arguing with illogic itself.

Me: “I am not wrong. You guys came home on Monday from the hospital, so tonight will be your third night at home – remember? You came home Monday night in time for the kids to go to bed, and then on Tuesday you picked up ….”

In the middle of my sentence, I heard loud breathing followed by an exasperated claim:

Erin: “We just got home yesterday, I’m telling you!”

Me: “Wait, you’re claiming tonight will be your first night. Now you’re saying you got home yesterday?”

I wondered what would happen if I kept trying to throw logic her way. There was complete silence. And then I started feeling bad. Maybe my poor, foggy sister was trying to sort out my words. I allowed her to do so for a minute, just to ensure that she understood I was right.

Erin: “You’re wrong.”

Good grief.

Erin: “I totally feel good. I mean I could start treatment but they tell me the body has to heal or something dumb like that. I’m healed. I think you’re healed.”

Me: “Yep, I’m healed Erin. And I will talk to you later. Okay?”

I just needed to get off the phone so I could call Bekah so that we could laugh. This time it wouldn’t be about the kids, though.

Erin: “Are you laughing?”

Me: “Yep. This whole conversation has been pretty hilarious and you probably won’t remember any of it.”

Erin: “Oh, I keep telling Matt to post funny things I say. Am I saying funny things?”

Me: “Yep. Okay, then, I’ll call you later?”

Erin: “Okay. You’ll call me because I’m funny?”

Me: “Yep. Okay then. I’ll call you later.”

I wasn’t quite sure how to make the conversation end. So I just hung up. A part of me wondered how long she kept talking. There is no doubt that I’ll be calling my sister again soon. And maybe not for typical, everyday reasons.