He’s been in the operating theatre for around 2 hours now. Only another 8-10 hours to go.
The first thing they will have done is the tracheotomy – that tiny little cut and tube that’ll allow him to breathe until he learns how to do it again himself. The two surgical teams will then spring into action.
One team will be working on the tumour-ectomy (which, I’m sure, is just a word I made up) and removing the lymph glands in his neck. The other team will be working on his arm, cutting out the muscle and skin for his new tongue as well as the vein and artery for circulation (thought: will he have a hairy tongue?). Bits will be attached to other bits. Other things will be cut and replaced. Tubes will be attached and machines will be hooked up.
At around 9pm this evening, I hope to get a text telling me all went well.
In the meantime, I am frustrated and angry. I’ve just learnt that the sisters went to see him at 6am before he went into surgery. I understand they’re his family, I get that. I’m just annoyed that they didn’t even bloody tell me. Ask me whether, just maybe, I might want to go and see him before he went under.
And it worries me. My mother has been worried on my behalf that I might be pushed out because I’m not “family”. I reassured her all would be well. All I’ve heard over the last three years is how I’m part of the family. These last two weeks, it’s been my role to coordinate, and plan, and ferry, and explain. I thought I was firmly on the “family” list. Apparently not.
Granted, it’s the younger sister who just mentioned it to me. It may be that she went on a whim and didn’t think that other people might want to know. I know she’s been hit hard by the news and hasn’t been coping particularly well. She tells me she just went in to “see him, give him a kiss before the operation”. I need to remember how young she is (not in age, but sometimes in maturity) and that she’s not sure how to deal with the whole thing. I pray for patience and understanding.
I don’t think she realises that it’s exactly the kind of thing I would have loved to do this morning. That turning over and not seeing him there created a gaping hole in my morning routine. I’m afraid I was rather short with her over text message when she told me. “It doesn’t matter” I said, “I’ll see him some other time.” She tried to justify it. “It was early, we couldn’t sleep, we didn’t know whether we’d be allowed to.”
It just highlights the massive gap I suddenly see. A gap which until this morning I didn’t think existed. It’s hard to put into words (but since the whole purpose of this writing lark is to get my head in order, I shall try) but it’s almost like…
She asked me how I slept last night. As it happened, I slept like a baby – I haven’t slept so well in ages. So I told her that. And now I feel guilty for sleeping. Should I have stayed awake all night worrying? The rational side of me mocks how stupid that is. What will it change? Will your tiredness help you support him? Is this a competition to see who’s in the most pain over this whole situation?
No. I slept because I was tired. Because there is nothing I can do now – it’s in the hands of the hospital and of him. I need to make sure I’m fully functioning and ready to face whatever’s coming.
I feel like the gap that’s opened up is about coping strategies. The family copes in one way, I cope in another (helloooo blog!) and neither is right or wrong but I feel like they’re judging me for not being in floods of tears the whole time, for sleeping at night, for getting on with my day job.
And so I don’t know where I am. I just have his messages to me last night before he fell asleep.
Sleep well tonight my love
Be brave for the next days
I’ll do my best to get better as soon as possible
Even in his pain, this wonderful, selfless, kind man is thinking of me.