Writing again

Life’s Latest Detour

The road goes ever on and on…

My husband, aka my superhero Spouseman,  went into the ER for a kidney stone in late winter…and at the end of April he woke up from successful surgery for prostate cancer. Nice punchline, right? Boom. Done.

Not so much. For one thing, cancer makes awkward joke material. Second, that ellipsis hides a lot of stressful testing, waiting, and prep.  Third, the wake-up is the beginning, not the end.

The recovery is a process. A journey. A trip into uncharted waters. A leap into the thin air of the unknown. However you analogize it, there’s a point in common: the best travel tales aren’t fun while they’re happening. Pain, conflict, stress, and suffering make riveting fiction because they’re hell in real life.

Stories are what I do, so I’ll be relating events as they happen to me and Spouseman here in my blog even though it isn’t about writing. I probably won’t do it often, but whenever the muse tickles my fancy, whenever life leaves me no heart for other words, I will end up telling tales here.  Life is one long series of detoured plans, and art is life. Here we are.

I’m pleased to announce that Spouseman and I have made it through the prologue stage of this trip, so to speak.  Great time to throw in a bit of ‘splainy exposition, right? Right!

As cancer breeds go, prostate cancer is more like a hyperactive terrier than a pit bull like leukemia or an ovarian-cancer dire wolf. The tumors grow exceptionally slowly. The survival statistics are notably high compared to other cancers. There’s also a lot of controversy in the medical literature and media right now regarding overzealous testing, high false positive results and unnecessary treatment. So here’s a note to alla y’all armchair medicos out there wondering if a surgery needed to happen:  yes. This terrier was as ferocious as they come, and it needed to be put down fast.

Nuff said on that. Onward to the Fun of Life with A Post-Surgical Patient.

The last month ain’t been smooth sailing by any measure. No matter how well you know someone, there are still discoveries to be made. I recently discovered an interesting and relevant bit of trivia about Spouseman: he magically reached his current age without ever once breaking a bone, needing stitches, or even being sick longer than a week–or with any ailment more serious than flu or chicken pox. (Which he didn’t catch until adulthood,  a tale in its own right.)

Compare that charmed life to my medical adventures, which started at age two with 13 stitches in my chin, followed by eye surgery at age four, onward into adulthood via a dislocated elbow, a variety pack of stitchings, a broken finger, broken foot…I’ll stop, but there is more. Lots more.

Why is it relevant trivia? Well.  Ahem. Spouseman has been an empathetic and understanding caregiver through many a healing of mine, but he’d never once experienced it himself. And somehow he never picked up a solitary clue from watching my woes or those of friends. Bless his heart.

If he had ever endured serious physical injury or surgery (or had a larger talent for learning by observation) he would’ve known he was facing a long, frustrating, unbearably awful experience.No matter how painful or devastating the inciting incident, being taken apart and put back together is a singular life event. Healing spans whole epochs of life history. The grind of re-adjusting to a body fundamentally altered is a horrendous test of emotional endurance.

Since Spouseman didn’t know those truths at the gut level,  this past month has been one long, grueling lesson about the way gain follows pain. (Or doesn’t, as the case may be.)

Improvements don’t appear on a nice, regimented, logical, predictable schedule. They’re more like a happy little lambs at play. They pop up here and there, they disappear and panic everyone, they produce startling, random, and indecipherable smells, noises and sights. And everywhere one turns, one steps in the steaming heaps of aggravation they leave behind. Even when things are getting better, they’re different. And that chafes.

My biggest new job? (other than laundry…oh, gods of chaos,  THE UNENDING LAUNDRY) My job is whatever helps. On a daily basis: offering comfort and a listening heart;  being the growly voice of reason; and finding smiles amidst the daily indignities.  Humor is an effective weapon against pain. Laughing through tears is sometimes the only way to get by.

Me being me, there’s the occasional bout of snarly snapping, exasperated impatience, and passionate intolerance for certain core traits that hamper the whole getting-better process. That comes part & parcel with the whole “for better, for worse” promise. The dude is stuck with me, sharp tongue, short temper, sour personality and all.

I’m not sure where I was going with this post (if anywhere.  I wanted to share the details of this shift in my world, and I have. This is where I am, where Spouseman is, where we are. Declaring to the world that we will keep grinding forward through this journey  one bumpy, awkward detour at a time.


By K. M. Herkes

Author, gardener, and cat wrangler.

13 replies on “Life’s Latest Detour”

We’re still in the midst of things with Bryan. His cancer was in his jaw, palate and along a nerve. First surgery was early December 2015. He returned to work in March. Second surgery coming up this Monday. I understand what a hard, scary, journey this is. We’re still deep in the forest at this point but hopefully this surgery will see us through to a better place. Thinking good thoughts for you and spouseman.

I have my fingers crossed and all the well-wishing fired up for you and Bryan. Meeting you two online is one of those things that makes me thankful beyond expression for technology’s ability to bring people closer. You’ve brought much light into my life (our lives really, since I share almost all social media with His Royal Privateness) I cannot say enough thank yous for that.

I somehow missed your mention of this post. Noelle covered the basics of what we are dealing with. What I’d add is that there is no way for anyone to prepare for the way dealing with this grinds you down. It seems like the issues keep coming at you like an incoming tide, and sometimes all you can do is hold your ground. The good news is that you CAN hold your ground. Spouseman will find a way, and so will you.

One thing any caregiver needs to remember is to give care to themselves. If you aren’t well, you can’t take care of anyone else. So, recognize when you need help and ask for it. Hell, **demand** it if needed. And recognize when you can’t take on another burden.

A lot of people will no doubt wish you strength, luck, and fortitude in facing this. I wish you irrepressible humor and those playful things which bring you happiness together.

Because otters. 🙂

Otters and hopes for humor are gifts I can gratefully accept. This is not a journey I would wish on anyone, but I couldn’t ask for better company. You and Noelle have both brought immeasurable brightness and encouragement to our lives already. I offer my best well-wishes and worst bad jokes in return. Always.

And self care — thank you. It’s is a point I can be ferocious about defending. (Lessons learned from experience. ) But the guilty twinges are best stifled when I see the reminders in other peoples’ words.

I’m fond the “put on your own oxygen mask first” analogy, because it is both accurate and pithy. Plus I can issue warnings to myself in flight attendant voice.

Please pass on to your spouse my sincerest wishes for a complete and successful recovery. I can’t offer any advice or hard won wisdom on what the two of you are now going through as my little world as been blessedly free of such tribulations. Just know there is one additional person thinking of you both and hoping it all turns out right. And for you, our chronicler of writing insights and the vagaries of life, please take care of yourself.

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