Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Picking Benchmarks to Celebrate Progress

Three weeks ago today, I was in surgery. Looked at from that perspective, I can see and measure the progress I’ve made. From an in-the-moment perspective, it is harder to see. This being Wednesday, which seems to be the low day of every week so far, we are back to engaging with medical issues, as the headaches returned last night. Michael has some kind of low-grade bug and isn’t feeling well, so it’s hard to tell whether I just have what he has or if something else is going on. Late at night, we decided that I’d take today’s reduced steroid dose early, along with a decongestant, to see if it would help. It did make some difference and we’re hoping that the headache might have been a congestion headache. Some very small voice in the back of my mind reminds me that is what we were thinking at the time of the original CAT scan that found the tumor. Not being a fan of that little voice and not finding it useful, that message has been rejected. However, we’ll be consulting with the surgeon’s office again today, as we have each Wednesday since surgery, for one reason or another.

Assessing progress since surgery is encouraging: I have vastly more control over my right arm, the tingling in the arm and leg has subsided, and my fingers (except for the thumb) hardly tingle at all. My energy level is higher. Focusing on the improvement, not the distance yet to travel, yields very positive results, as that improvement is real and measurable, especially if compared with a well-chosen benchmark. I choose. I celebrate that I was able to get to each of my classes for at least a while this week and that progress is something to build upon. My reading and attention span are improving, especially if compared to directly-post-surgery. I am still “me” and my thinking, while it has small gaps, is more intact than not. My scalp/head is much better and we still haven’t stopped celebrating that I have a head-full of hair nor appreciating the ability to wash it. It may be a small thing, but it is a great thing. (It is well worth remembering that what could be up there right now is itchy stubble.) We feel really good about the therapy and strength training program, as we really like the people involved and the way that all the pieces coordinate with each other. There’s more progress to be made and the path before us is clear. It looks like there will be more sunshine today, though the temperature has dropped from last week: it’s autumn in Illinois. We have a sheltered corner in our back yard that collects sunshine and the early afternoon sun should be lovely today. On a less personally self-absorbed note, our family is healthy and happy and engaged in productive endeavors. We are surrounded by caring friends. It’s all good.

Other than medical engagement, today is a rest day. It is possible, of course, that last night’s events were related to overdoing yesterday, but on balance, that is not the most likely answer. Yesterday brought strength training, a nap, occupational therapy, a nap and an hour of my freshman class (what a terrific group of students!) and a nap. It was all paced and I didn’t feel overwhelmed at any point, though the naps were each welcome. Viewed in isolation, or in comparison with a daily schedule a month ago (not the chosen benchmark, upon consideration), it doesn’t seem like a lot. Compared with the possibilities and three weeks ago, it is a lot. Actually, an unbelievable amount. This glass is a lot more than half-full. It could even be seen to be overflowing. We choose that view.

My main issue today is that tomorrow is Michael’s birthday and I don’t have anything for him this year, let alone just the right thing. Walkers are very difficult to find good presents for and this task always takes a long time. Throughout the year and my travels, I keep my eyes open and maintain a running list of possibilities. This year, none of them ever gelled, at least in time, which is frustrating, because often I have something weeks and months in advance. I do have a pleasing card in my stash (Michael really likes funny cards), though it is last year’s runner-up card and my hope is always to find a better one. I know perfectly well that his main focus right now is that I’m here and recovering strongly, but it’s still frustrating not to have something that he’d actually use and enjoy. Ah well, in the overall scope of things, as Dr. Donny would say, these are the good problems to have. This is a count-my-blessings situation looked at from the big picture. I’m counting my blessings.

Tomorrow is also the day that Kearney gives her student seminar, so we’re sending her our support and good wishes as she prepares. Thinking of you, sweetie!

Hanging about in the back of my mind are some random post-scripts to previous items that vanished in the transition from thought to typing. To clear the cobwebs, here they are: yesterday, I meant to acknowledge, talking about the AWOL inner copy editor, that there has never been an inner proofreader, so unfortunately, she’s not missing, she just doesn’t exist. In the worst-proofreader Olympics, I’m a contender; throughout my career, I’ve always been lucky enough to work with others who are strong in this arena and always leaned on them. Now, you all get to see just how much. This experience doesn’t seem to be summoning up skills in this area, so we are going to have to muddle along with us all proofing as best we can and you continuing to overlook the aggravating errors. This is vexing and my challenge is to be able to see as another opportunity to work on becoming more graceful and to overcome aspirational perfectionism. In talking about the surgery itself the other day, I meant to include Michael’s enthusiastic surmise that what they must have used to cut through the bone in my head was a surgical circular saw. He figures that’s about the only tool that would have done the right job. He can get downright animated over the thought of what a great tool this must be. (We all march to different drummers.) We still haven’t gotten around to consulting Dr. Google about exactly how the surgery is done, though that might be one of today’s small goals.

In our lives, it is the people that count. We owe all of you so very much. Our wishes for you today are that you are able to find and to celebrate the small moments and human connections in your day. Throughout this unexpected adventure of ours, what has sustained us at every turn have been our connections with all of you. Those have brought us strength, wisdom and laughter. Revel in the people in your lives.

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