Life sometimes changes fast as all we widows and widowers know. I have just spent a week in hospital six out of seven days on bed rest. I had a spot that looked like a mole on my leg, behind my left knee. Over the past couple of months it grew so I went to my doctor who then referred me to a Skin Cancer Clinic where it was removed under local anesthetic. A week later I was in surgery in a major hospital having a further surgery this time an extra area to take a "good margin off" to ensure that all that needed to be taken off was taken, this was followed by a skin graft . We do have advertising on TV about melanomas so why did I leave it so long? Put it down to being a widow and not really caring about what was happening to my body. I was so good at taking care of Ray but didn't bother to take care of myself and that is a real wake up call.
Seven days of bed rest did give me a lot of time to think, of course not through the first few days when the pain from the surgery and the site from which the graft was taken were so painful but certainly once the pain got lesser I had time to think about my present way of life and how I operate as a widow. I am an ignorer. I ignore what I do not wish to see. I think I am one of many who use this approach to life. I am a busy person but a lot of what I do is part of the minutia of everyday living, washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, gardening, driving, visiting, doing what I can in church affairs and attending Lions Club dinners, fund raising events and other social events. It is all good and fills in the day but it also probably cocoons me into a small space where it is easy to overlook the things I really need to do, like sort my life out.
Today would have been Ray's 75th birthday. I can still imagine what it would have been like if he was still here, the phone calls, the cards, the congratulations. If he was still here and well I can imagine us as two old people still able to enjoy their lives and each other. How I still miss that companionship and how empty my life is without it. My daughter has been a rock in the past ten days, she accompanied me to Sydney and into the interviews with specialists and interventions of the medical community, sitting for hours in reception areas and waiting rooms, going off to fetch what I needed, driving between hospital and my home two hours drive away. I couldn't have gone through it all without her help. My two sons kept in touch by phone with me and with my daughter.
In the light of all that Ray went through this is a minor operation with a 6-8 week recovery period hopefully. But it did take me back to the days when I sat beside him in hospital after the latest stroke, latest fall, latest chest infection and patiently awaited his recovery. Those memories will never go away, I cared for him over such a long period of time. I surely hope that this is not the beginning of something similar for me as I don't want to put my family through that again. The surgeon seems to think it is a one off so I hope she is right. I do have to have four monthly checkups which is common with any form of cancer but hopefully at the end of two years I should be right. I am having the community nurses visit to check the two wounds and change the dressings as I am supposed to still be resting and doing as little as I can on my feet. The first one came today with a trainee who did the interview and watched the dressing being done. This goes on for six weeks.
It is still relatively cold weather for the beginning of September and without the rain we need Spring will be less than spectacular. The garden already looks dusty and neglected without me being able to go out and do the watering and keep the weeds down. My daughter is no gardener but did put a little water on the pot plants, not enough to give them a good soaking which is what they need after two weeks of strong winds and no rain but hopefully enough to keep them alive until I can go out and attend to them myself. I guess as I have to keep off my feet for three weeks this may result in some of the plants dying but that is beyond my control. As is life in general if I am honest with myself. Once again it is back to living one day at a time, praying for healing, keeping patient. I am really lousy at this but maybe this is just another learning curve.
Am I sad this happened? No I am not. Being a widow does not make me immune to the other things that plague our society today. I often respond to the fact that others are worse off than myself and I only have to see the pictures of the ravaging by Hurricane Irma of the Caribbean Islands to see others have life much tougher than I do. And I found the same in hospital among the people I came into contact with. Many were in a far worse situation than I am in and with much less support. I have to remember a saying of my father's: Bravery is compulsory not obligatory. I need to be brave and see through the next six weeks. I need to take any lessons I can from this experience. Cancer in it's many forms is so common in Australia and according to the surgeon if I am lucky I will not have another encounter with Melanoma.
I have just had a large bouquet of flowers delivered to me from friends in Ray's Stroke Recovery group. Several other caregivers from that group have rung me up and offered their help, with all they go through themselves they still have time to reach out to others, they are people with big hearts. It is up to me to live up to their example.