08 July 2015

Finding My Voice

Last night I had the weirdest dream.  It was a mix of colors, sounds, places, and people.  Everything was familiar but the combination was dizzying.

At one moment I was at work --- well, it was supposed to be the hospital where I currently work.  I knew it to be work in my dream, but it was DEFINITELY not what, in reality, was my workplace.  In any case, locations and situations would switch from time to time as if I was watching a TV drama.  The weird thing was that I was part of each scene - from hospital to restaurant to my flat.  Someone was channel flipping through my life!

There is one situation I clearly recollect.  At every restaurant that I found myself in, I was seated with a group of people.  The chatter of happy voices surrounded me and suddenly, I spotted one of my friends.

"Sara!!!  Sara!!!" I called out.

Her gaze never turned towards me.  Sara was busy working as a server (in reality she's a nurse like me).  She smiled as she made small talk with the patrons.  I tried harder to get her attention.

"Sara!!!  Sara!!!"

No response.

What the...  I realized that I could not speak any louder than a raspy whisper, as if I was starting to come down with a serious case of laryngitis.  I coughed and cleared my throat to see if that would help.

"Hey, Sara!!!"

Nope.  Nothing changed.  Sara never saw me.

This scene repeated a few more times and each time Sara never heard me.

So what does this mean???

I used the power of Google to determine the significance of losing my voice in my dream.  A few dream dictionaries say that I feel like I cannot express my feelings or opinions with others.  As sad as this sounds, this is probably true.

For a long time, I have felt somewhat isolated.  This may come as a surprise for people who know me, but it's the truth.  The ladies who are the closest thing to sisters that I will ever have are not in Chicago and/or are busy with their own lives.  I must remind myself that I'm busy too.  Ugh, adulthood.  This means that I am not expressing myself in any shape or form whatsoever - at least not on a regular basis.

What are you waiting for, girl??? 

Yeah, I know.  This is a problem.

Although I am in a better work situation than before, I now find myself in a more relaxed state so that some feelings are starting to bubble up.  I often think, 'Whoa...  Where did this come from?'

And in the great tradition of hyper-analytical career-oriented people, I compartmentalize: 'No time for this...  Let's put it aside so I can deal with it later after I've done all the more important things I have to do.'

Honestly, this is part of my modus operandi.

So here's the thing...  I promised myself almost a year ago, that I would finally put ME first.  I have done this in many ways:  finding a new job, getting back into shape, and dating again.  What I have come to realize over the last week is that expressing myself has to be added to this list.  And it should not only be done in the few but far between conversations and gatherings that I have with my Tribe.  Expression must also be practiced in the relaxed, quiet moments of my solitude where I may find safety.  No longer can I hold my feelings hostage.

I don't know why I've done it.  Maybe I'm afraid that others will think differently about me.  Maybe I'm afraid that someone may take offense.  Maybe I'm afraid of rejection.  Maybe...

No more fear...  Time to find my voice.

04 December 2014


Oh my poor neglected blog!  I really have had so much to say, but very little energy and heart to put into writing.  The good news is that will be changing soon.  My job situation has changed and, I'm excited to report, I will have more time to really and truly focus on ME.  You have no idea how thrilled I am about this!  It must have been the right time to do it because everything fell into place.  I really do believe that for everything there is a season, just like the song says.  This is my season.

Looking forward to letting it unfold!

09 August 2014

Recovery Means Relax

Coloring is very therapeutic!

Three and a half weeks ago, I had major abdominal surgery.  My friends and co-workers gave me crayons, coloring books, movies, books, and puzzles to keep me entertained during my recovery.  I thought for sure that I would do all those things plus start and finish projects on my never ending To Do List.  What I did not realize was that recovery was not the same as a staycation.

While it appeared that I was healing from the outside, who knew that I had to consider what was happening on the inside.

Yes, Marji, the surgeon took a few things OUT of you.  This required CUTTING your tissue which is connected to your body.  You are alive and you bleed, remember?

Oh yeah...  I was forgetting about being human and my close call with cancer.  I had pushed aside thoughts of how big of a deal this really was.  After all, my surgical wound had been healing nicely.

I got a little cocky.  I fancied myself to be the overachiever of recovery from surgery.  Accepting invitations to dinner, a concert, trips to the dog beach, I convinced myself that these were not body-stressing activities.  Quickly, I was reminded that this was not the case.

Just as I thought my healing was progressing, approximately an inch-long section of my incision closest to my belly button developed some redness and started oozing a small amount of thick, white fluid.

Oh crap...  Not a good sign.  Infection?  Possibly.  Ugh.

I don't know what did it.  Was it taking my pup Maggie and her BFF Lucy to the beach a few times this week?  Maybe when I was cleaning up around the house, I overexerted myself.  Or have I been sleeping on my belly and not realizing it?

Whatever the cause, it is glaringly apparent that I am not relaxing as much as I should be.  Since becoming a nurse, it hasn't been easy for me to do this.

Oh, why are we nurses such bad patients?

In a few days, I will see the doctor to see what he has to say.  I am sure that he will read the guilt plastered on my face.  He will make me eat my words from last time when I commented on how well my healing was progressing.


01 August 2014

Post Op Notes

I could have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and wasn't.

My surgery could have been worse, but it wasn't.

I could be going through chemo and radiation right now, but I'm not.

For the last few days, these thoughts have been on repeat in my head.  It has been two weeks since my surgery and only now can I truly appreciate what just happened to me.  Immediately after my operation, I was more concerned with managing pain and what meds I should be taking, getting in and out of bed to go to the bathroom, and eating enough fiber so that it wouldn't be painful to do so.  Now the thoughts of my near miss of a cancer diagnosis weigh heavily on my mind and heart.

"You have been given another chance," one of my aunts told me.

So true.  But I am uncertain on what to do with such a gift.

It is easy to spew out a list gathered from the best self-help, inspirational websites...

Laugh more.
Love more.
Work less.
Do what you love, the money will follow.
Dance like no one is watching.

But what does that mean for me, I wonder.

Is this what happens when one makes a narrow escape from something terrible?  Maybe.  But it's not such a bad thing to take inventory of my life.

Recovery from surgery is going to take several weeks, enough for me to start figuring out how to make most of every moment going forward.

And the journey continues...

31 July 2014

Nurse Becomes Patient

The alarm on my cell phone called out to me as for the last four years.  It's 4:30 A.M.!!!  Get out of bed!!!

It wasn't that hard to wake up.  I'm not sure if I even slept through the night.  Was I nervous?  Sure.  But this wasn't the type of nervous that I usually feel when I am minutes away from performing on stage or when I have a job interview.  This was different.  The direction of my life would be impacted by what the surgical team would find when they opened me up.  It could go either way... 

I put on the clothes I had laid out the night before on the floor of my childhood bedroom, chosen in anticipation of wearing a patient gown and goofy no-slip socks.  On the other side of the house, I heard my parents getting ready.  They were as nervous as I was.

No one said a word during the car ride to the hospital.  It was silent except for the Everly Brothers singing Bye Bye Love.

There goes my baby...  With someone newww...  She sure looks happy...  I sure am bluuuuuuuue...

My stomach growled at me having been "NPO" (nil per os, nothing by mouth).

Easy girl, I thought tapping my belly, this will soon be over.

* * * * *

Like many hospitals in the Metro area, "South Side General" (SSG) was expanding their campus.  As a result, what used to be was no longer.  There were new entrances that replaced old entrances and walls that were not there before.  Although my mother has been a physician at SSG for a long time, even she was confused with all the changes.  We spent part of the morning wandering the hallways of the Ground Floor, debating on the best route to get to Elevator D.  This was not a calming experience.

I knew my family was nervous, but all I could think of was myself.  I was about to get cut open, something that I've seen happen to other people time and time again.

We found our way to Same Day Surgery.  I waited in line while other patients checked in.  Looking ahead, I could see the clerks go through their routine, explaining where they needed to go next, etc.  I recognized that this was something they did every day, much like I did in my job.  As a patient, this was anything but routine for me.

After the clerk went through her schpiel with me, I made my way back to where a nursing care tech (NCT) led me to the room where I would change and get on the patient cart.  Earlier, my mom had offered to come with me.  I said no.  I didn't want my nerves to get the best of me and then, knowing myself, I would take it out on the people I love the most - my parents.

I tried my best to relax and be a good patient.

Silly girl, you don't get any extra points (or extra drugs) for being a good patient.

Once I was comfortable on the cart, the NCT came back and requested a urine sample.  I shuffled my way to and from the bathroom, with my no-slip socks on, trying to hold the back of my gown closed.  It wasn't hard.  The gown was so big, I could have wrapped it around myself twice.

A nurse came in to register me in the system.  Her interview questions were familiar, only this time I was the one who had to answer.  Simultaneously, a familiar face, Mario, another NCT, arrived to draw my blood for additional testing.  I knew him from when I used to work there several years ago.  He made me cringe, not just because he was terrible at blood draws (you should NEVER wiggle the needle around while it's in the patient).  It was mostly because he started interrogating me about ex-boyfriends while searching for a good vein.

None of your beeswax, you tool!  Would it be against protocol to tell him to shut the f*ck up?  This is not helping me relax, douchebag...

I was thankful when his incessant verbal and physical poking stopped.  Good riddance!!!  My parents and aunt were finally summoned once the nurse was nearing the end of her list of interview questions.  Why she saved this question for when my parents were in the room, I'm not sure.

Nurse:  "Do you drink alcohol?"
Me:  "Yes."

There was a look and head shake in disgust from my father.

Nurse (chuckling to herself): "Every day? Weekly? Rarely?"

Here we go...

My father shot me a disapproving glance as I answered, "Weekly."

He frowned.

Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone...

I remarked, "You know, I am 45 years old and a nurse.  I'm lucky I don't drink every day with this stressful job.  But I guess you have to be a nurse to understand."

Big grin from my fellow nurse.

If only the regular folk could understand what it takes to be one of us.

After a visit from a resident, the surgeon, and the anesthesia team, plus a small dose of the magical drug called Versed, I was off to surgery.  I was grateful to former co-workers who agreed to be part of the surgical team that was going to take care of me.

The only thing I remember about surgery was entering the room and seeing my friends.  Then it was good night, Marji.

I woke up in the post anesthesia care unit (PACU), still fuzzy from the anesthesia, and snuggled in warm blankets.  Once I was more alert, I was transferred to Phase 2 of the Same Day Surgery unit - where I had started my day.  My parents and aunt joined me there.  I don't remember much of the conversation, other than it was done, everything was good, and it would be a while until I was transferred to the floor.

* * * * *

Once on the unit, I was more awake.  I lifted the blanket and my gown to take a look at the incision.

Hmmm...  Much smaller than I thought!

The resident stopped by to check on me.  Then she gave me the good news.

"We took out the mass which was very big - three times the size of your kidney - as well as your right tube, and part of your right ovary.  Your uterus and left ovary were left intact.  We also biopsied the surrounding omentum (fatty tissue).  Everything was benign.  No cancer!"

She smiled and added, on a less serious note, "You are the happiest patient I have ever seen waking up from general anesthesia."

Apparently, after the breathing tube was taken out of my mouth, they said, "Wake up, Marji!"  I opened my eyes as if completely awake and smiled.  Everyone in the room laughed and remarked that they had never seen someone wake up after surgery like that before.  I asked if surgery was done and they said yes.  When it came time to transfer me to the patient cart, they told me they were going to move me to another bed.  I said, "OK, I'll help!"

* * * * *

I spent two days on the unit, visited by family and friends, and then finally discharged to go home with my parents.  Overall, everything fell into place.  It would not be until several days later that I would realize exactly how lucky I was.