One year ago today, I was discharged from G.F. Strong rehab centre, sent home with a walker, a wheelchair and, in my mind, more will than won't.
I thought about getting a tattoo to celebrate. Maybe something across the top of my back, near the spot where they found the Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour in October, 2010, and where they did most of the work on the eight surgeries that ensued. Maybe some italics stating, "Dr. Robert Lee was here," and then a rendering of our good surgeon smiling and giving a thumbs up, followed by a list of the operation dates.
Yeah, if it wasn't a Sunday, and I wasn't deeply afraid of needles and pain, I'd totally do that.
Maybe next year.
May 20, 2011 feels like a lifetime ago. I had hoped to walk out of G.F. Strong under my own power, but I wasn't ready and was exclusively on a walker.
One of my goals coming home had been to walker every day to a fruit stand up the street and around the corner.
I tried it the first time my first morning home. I got to the front yard, across the the length of our house and then up the street a few blocks before I could do no more. I cried every step. Carol-Ann cheered every step, and trying to make it all better.
That was a frequent storyline this year. I was frustrated and angry and sad a lot when I tried things for first time. I'm still not sure to this day whether it's because I've always thought I was further along than I really was or I'm just a stubborn son of a gun.
I remember the first day physiotherapist Paula Peres came to the house. She put me through a series of tests. I was pissed off at my results in every one. Finally she said, "Get over yourself. I'm here because you need work on things. You're paying me to work with you on things. You know that you're paying me, right?"
I really wanted to be good to work with. I know that was part of it. I told her that I wanted her to know that I was a hard worker. She said, "You wouldn't have gotten this far if you weren't a hard worker."
Oh, Paula. You had me at "Get over yourself."
We quickly progressed from walker to cane to nothing at all. Freestyle, as it were. One of my first walks around the neighbourhood without a cane or a walker I told Paula, "I'm a little freaked out."
Paula said: "I've got some advice."
I was keen to hear it.
"Don't fall. It could hurt."
She really was amazing. There was something very logical about her approach. I could see how her progression was working from drill to drill and I trusted that she knew what I was capable of. She had also had a good sense when I needed a boot in the butt and a pat on the back. There was days that she'd show up and say, "Yeah, you don't have that much today. We're going to take it easy."
We don't get anywhere close to where we are at without Paula.
Paula punted me in December, saying that I didn't need acute physio anymore. I'm still going to the pool four or five times a week. I've joined a gym in New West, and I actually played my first slopitch game of the season last week. I've started jogging even, albeit a few 100 metres at time, with stints of walking in between.
I've been clear of any signs of cancer for a year, and our new surgeon, Dr. Scott Paquette, said that I have no restrictions. (Dr. Lee moved back to England. He said it wasn't my fault, but I reckon it may have something do with it. He said one time, "I'm not dreaming about your wound anymore." I told him, "You can have nice dreams about my wound. You and my wound could be frolicking in a meadow, for instance.")
"Just go ahead and live your life," Dr. Paquette said.
Thanks for that, doc. Geez. In front of Carol-Ann? I thought I was going to get a pass from moving anything heavy. I thought I was all set. No such luck.
She's fair though. She'll give me every May 20 off to celebrate.