Yesterday 172 house Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women Act. Can you imagine voting against a bill that expands services to respond to domestic and sexual violence. That prevents people convicted of such forms of violence from owning firearms. Jesus. Why would you be against that? Because you are funded by the NRA? Because you hate women? Because we are so fucking fucked up?
When I started looking for my internalized racism 30 years ago, I was looking for how I had outright biases for people of color. I spent years watching and listening to myself. I really did. What I saw was less bias against people of color and more bias against men. Specifically, white men. Do not get me wrong. I have PLENTY of internalized racism. I just couldn’t’ recognize it then. But I saw bias against men. (Not sure it’s actually biases or just smart.) I often didn’t feel safe and I was constantly assessing. Violence against women is one very real thing so of course I was. Every woman I know takes precautions all damn day long. And I’m not kidding. To the point where we don’t really know we are doing it.
When I learned I was getting a bag I had a very disturbing thought. ‘What happens if I get attacked?’ Men do horrible things to women and raping them in their anus is not unusual. ‘What if that makes the attacker angrier and they kill me because I don’t have an anus and I have a bag?’ I. HAD. THAT. THOUGHT. I didn’t linger on the thought. I pushed it out of my mind, of course, because it’s fucking awful. But that’s how terribly fucked up our culture is. Or humanity is. Cuz I don’t think that is me being fucked up. Sure, it’s me being anxious or over the top, but it’s our culture that created that particular anxiety.
I promise I’m not walking around all day worried about violence against me. I’m not. But I am always aware. It makes me sad I had this thought as brief as it was. (Whether it was rational or not). It makes me sad for my kids. And your kids. And women everywhere. Maybe I’m more paranoid than other women, that would not surprise me. And, I certainly don’t think all women would think this. Maybe no one else would. I am always on the lookout for safe/not safe. It could just be me. But isn’t one woman thinking that enough for all of us to want to stop violence against women. I think so. Fucking maga republicans.
Whew. do you notice how I’m almost apologizing for having that thought? Jesus Christ. And I was embarrassed by having had that thought for a long time. Internalized sexism right there.
My night nurse, Dina, is very kind. She calls me, and I expect all her patients, “My Dear”, but I don’t think she really hears me. Or maybe it’s a language barrier and she doesn’t understand me. She’s been my night nurse since I arrived, and I felt she contributed to the mismanagement of pain on my first night. I don’t think she wanted me in pain but there was definitely a struggle between us. She’s also the nurse who, when I asked for Valtrex for a cold sore developing said, “You don’t have that on your chart” and then walked out of the room. I know that I do have it on my chart and in the morning when I asked the doctor for Valtrex he said, “Of course, I’m sorry, you should have gotten that last night. That’s not acceptable.” So, the only thing I can figure is that when I said “Valtrex” she heard me say something else (although I said it twice and also said Valacyclovir twice). I have no hard feelings for this woman, but I wonder what I’m missing? Or not saying or not communicating clearly enough. Then I wonder, if after 33 years of night shifts, she is just done. I wouldn’t blame her.
I had significant pain last night. It’s hard right now to know what the pain is. If I move, I’m in a lot of pain but some of the pain is from bloating and then I have break through searing pain from the incision/stitches in my anus and maybe gas moving around. Sometimes I don’t know if asking for pain meds is valid and when the nurse questions it and says, “let me see how often you asked for it today” I start to wonder if I’m in enough pain or justifiable pain or just wanting… I don’t know… to feel less? I’m honestly not wanting to be stoned. So, she looks at my chart and said, “You have not had that one time today?”. “That’s right. Can I please have some for this breakthrough pain I’m feeling”, I reply. “Yes, okay, but let’s wait 30 minutes”, Dina says. Whatever.
I had already waited an extra 30 minutes for the oral pain meds which probably made the pain worse. During that whole conversation I’m taking very deep breaths and trying to relax through the pain. It was visible. One whole hour later, when Dina didn’t come back, I called the desk from the phone because the call lights still don’t work. (One time when I had horrible pain, I kept seeing a “7” on the white board instead of a “4” and called the wrong number for 15 minutes. That was frustrating.) A different nurse came in and gave me Dilaudid. I finally fell asleep about 11 pm. I had thought I’d be sound asleep by 9PM because walking 1/10th of a mile during the day exhausted me.
When I was waiting for pain meds. I was thinking about going home. That’s going to be another big transition with this stoma. I’m getting used to it here a teeny bit. I mean it hasn’t’ started working yet and I’m not walking around much so it’s easy to be unaware of it. Occasionally I lift the blankets and look at my stomach and the bag. But at home, shit, that will be more real. Trying to wear my clothes or do the things I normally do. Although I guess I won’t be doing anything for a long while.
The other thing that struck me last night was what Assafa said, “I like wounds”. It occurred to me that this is actually a wound. Part of my body is open and exposing an organ. That’s a wound, right? It’s helpful for me to think that way because my tendency would be to ignore what it takes to keep this safe and healthy. I realize it may seem less than “empowering” to think of always having a wound, but that perspective is good for me. At least for a bit. I need to get real with what my body has been through and will need to continue to be healthy. Believe me, I’m good at ignoring my body and its signs and symptoms of unhealth. Hence the stage 3 diagnosis last time. But I’m getting better at listening to my body.
My surgeon’s residents come in every morning early, when it’s still dark out and I’m still asleep. They enter the room with a lot of energy and get right to work. They look about 15 years old. “Wow! You are morning people, aren’t you?” “Well”, they reply, “We have to be!” They ask me questions and interrupt me when I’m answering. They ask leading questions that have an answer in them so that I agree with them. (I don’t always.) Man, I want to train them. Having done communication and relationship training in organizations for years it’s so hard not to say, “Let me tell you five things you could change today that would make a world of difference for your patients”. Geesh. I know that I can do this, and maybe I should. I also know that very few people are good at hearing feedback (it’s a practice we should all take on). Also, I don’t have the energy to do it. And, I get paid for that shit.
I turned the light out after they left and closed my eyes to go back to sleep. About three minutes after they left, I heard myself say, “Go the fuck away”.
My surgeon came in about twenty minutes later. I like him more and more. He’s a good and caring guy. He said things look really good. There’s a 50/50 chance I’ll go home tomorrow. Which scares me a bit but it’s all good. And happening regardless of how I feel.
It’s time to order my non-fibrous breakfast. I remember when Ted and I left the hospital after his initial stay, the nutritionist said, “he needs to eat food that has been pre-digested, like Wonder bread”. We never ate Wonder bread. It’s sort of a drag that a cancer patient needs to eat that way but it’s not forever. Ted can eat almost everything he wants so the pre-digested or non-fibrous menu is only for a couple months, I think.
Sharing helps. Being listened to, helps. Being seen helps.
I’m happy to listen and see. Promise. I’m here for you too.
I picture your caring faces (some of you look younger than you are!). I hear your caring voices. It’s a huge source of support.
Thank you. Each of you.
I love reading your comments.