I have a blister on my baby toe. It appeared four weeks ago after going for a walk on the beach with the endoscopy nurse and colon cancer survivor. She wanted to take me through what I might expect on this journey. I didn’t dress appropriately. This has always been a challenge for me: dressing for the occasion. If it is a formal affair or a night out, that I can do. Heels speak to me, but anything else leaves me confused, unsure, and usually awkward. On that beautiful late-Spring day, the sun was radiant and my unsocked feet were tucked into a pair of slip-on shoes. My toes were disappointed in my poor decision for some time after that, and the blister eventually bubbled into the shape of a heart, taking up all the real estate on my littlest toe.
Recovery has been mostly uneventful, and I am thankful for that. The incisions are clean and healing well, and I am finding comfort in the oversized clothes in my closet that loosely cocoon around my body. It makes it easier to hide it from my son. In addition to the incisions, I have a growing field of purple pin pricks across the left side of my abdomen. I was told to circle around my belly button as I give myself my daily anticoagulant shot, but the four incisions along the right side make it tricky to pinch enough of my flesh without causing one of the incisions to ache. As the sutures beneath the surface dissolve, it gets easier, but I am still limited. My abdomen is a purple minefield.
I have been unable to hide the bruises on my arms. Every morning, after our son wakes up, he shouts for us to come and retrieve him. As I hear him pad down the hallway, I place my arm at my side, and he crawls into the center of the bed and bends his leg, placing his foot into my palm. He curls his arm around mine and places his head on my pillow. I turn on the television and we whisper I love you to each other until we have to start the day. This is our routine. We told him he had to be careful around me as he settled in next to me, and when he saw the bruises, he assumed they were the reason why.
It was hard to get out of bed at first. The soft cushion was a gentle cradle and a sneaky trap, and I had to roll out of bed the way I did so many years ago when I was pregnant. My abdominal muscles aren’t capable of much yet. Seeing my limited movement, our son began getting out of bed first and offering his assistance. He would watch me carefully and help me to uncover myself before I would roll to the side and sit up. Then he would take my hands, turn my palms to the ceiling, and reveal the purple, green and blue constellations on my forearms. Leaning down, he would kiss my bruises. “I’m gonna make you better, Momma,” he would say.
We met with oncology on Monday and it was confirmed that this is the lowest level possible. We cried from relief. Tuesday morning the surgeon’s office called and said my liver levels were extremely elevated, and I had to go for more blood work. I cried from fear. My cancer diagnosis and subsequent staging has been nothing short of miraculous, and there is a very large part of me that sits in wait for the other shoe to drop. I do not trust good things; experience has taught me that oftentimes the bad things are not far behind. We had the post-op with the surgeon this morning, and it was confirmed that the drugs I had been pumped full of at the hospital had elevated my liver enzymes, but everything is settling back down. There is no cause for concern. This is good. I am trying to trust it, but it is hard.
There will be no chemotherapy, no radiation. I will report for my next colonoscopy one year from the date of my diagnosis: four weeks ago.
My son saw the blister on my toe this past weekend and asked what it was. It has popped and is beginning to heal. From discovery to recovery, the blister lasted longer.
I don’t know why this happened. I don’t know why I caught it. All I know is I feel blessed and thankful and guilty and sore and happy and so damn grateful for good healthcare and steady surgeons and compassionate friends.
This weekend is my son’s birthday party. He will be watching me, ever aware of the slower pace I am maintaining at present, and I will be watching him, ever in awe of my motivation to never take this blessing for granted.