Tuesday, April 23, 2013

First Follow-Up, Freedom, and Happiness

I had my first post-op follow-up appointment today.  My aunt picked me up and I chattered the entire ride about my diet and how I feel and what my various challenges are, et cetera, but all I really cared about knowing at that point were two things: how much weight I'd lost, and if I could start driving again.

I saw the PA again this time (evidently Dr. C. doesn't really "do" office visits) and she was beyond pleased with my progress.  She said, "you look healthy and well, and that's what we like to see." The scale showed a 27 pound loss since the beginning of my pre-op diet - and that was wearing jeans and a belt and a sweater - and my incisions looked "beautiful" according to her.  I thought they looked kind of red and angry, but she assured me that at this stage in the game it's exactly how they are supposed to look.  She told me I no longer had to keep them covered, but to just make sure to keep them clean and dry.

She told me to come back in four weeks, at which time they will likely clear me for exercise and I can start working out.  In the meantime, I am allowed (and advised) to walk 10 to 20 minutes a day, and I'm clear to do stairs.  Good news, since I'm running out of clean underwear and really need to do laundry.  And the best news of all?  I'm clear to drive.

On my way out I stopped at the "cafe"  - the little place where you can buy all your provisions such as protein powder, shakes, vitamins, and supplements - to pick up some protein powder, and as always happens I got into a conversation with Cynthia, the woman who works there.  She remembered that the last time she'd seen me had been the day before my surgery, so she asked me how it all went and I gave her the synopsis.  She told me, "It's obviously going well. You look really fantastic; your color is great, and you just look really, really happy."  

When I got home, I ran in the house just long enough to grab a few things I needed and then I did what I have been dying to do for the past two weeks: I got in my car and drove off to do my thing.  It was a nice day out, so I put the window down, cranked up the tunes, and headed to my first destination - Starbucks.  I had to give my boss the paperwork from the doctor and needed to put in a request on the calendar, and I wanted to say hi to everyone because, well...I kind of miss them.  I really like a good many of my co-workers, and having not seen them in a while, I thought it'd be nice to stop in and say hi.  Everyone I talked to told me I looked good, and a few people told me I looked happy. 

There was that word again.  Happy.  I looked HAPPY.  

Next stop was the bank, and then I hit two grocery stores, but in between the two I took a roundabout route just so I could keep driving.  As I rounded the corner of Elmwood and Hertel, "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" came on the radio and I broke into an enormous grin.  The window was open, the warm air was making my hair do this obnoxious flail all over the place, and ZZ was growling out of my speakers, and it hit me - I looked happy, because for the first time in forever, I FELT HAPPY.  Like, genuinely happy.  Not "trying to be happy because really I'm sad but I shouldn't be, so I'm just going to tell myself I'm happy and then try to be it," but actually, honestly, for real, shit-eating grinning, from-the-bottom-of-my-little-4-ounce-belly, fucking HAPPY.

Three months ago I called my sister from my car in a mall parking lot, paralyzed by a crushing episode of deep depression.  I'd been depressed for weeks at that point, but that night it seemed to all fall down on me. I couldn't stop crying long enough to put the car in gear and drive, and I was afraid to because I knew I had not the presence of mind to be driving, least of all driving a car with two bald tires in the sloppy, wet, sleety mess of a snowfall that was happening at the time.  And as I cruised down Hertel Avenue this afternoon, I felt like that night was a million miles behind me, and I almost forgot what it had felt like, because today I just felt so goddamn FREE.

Free.  And happy.

I know this flight is long, and I know I have a long, long way to go before I land, but this is like that moment when you reach that first level, when you can pull your tray table down and are free to move about the cabin.  You still have to keep your safety belt on while seated, because anything can happen and you never know when you'll hit a little turbulence.  And you know you haven't reached the highest cruising point yet, but you're on your way.  You hear the rattle of the drink cart, and you breathe a sigh of relief as you recline your seat.  You have thousands of miles to go, and it's going to be uncomfortable at times, but you did it - you made it into the air, and here you are.  Free.  Moving forward. And just really, really happy.

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