Monday, March 4, 2013

Vanity, Vanity, all is well…comfort.

I commented in an earlier post that I typically sleep without a shirt, and before putting my shirt on the other day, one of the interns who sees me first thing in the morning commented that I fit in like the other men at the VA now, except that I’m missing tattoos and a beer-belly!  I’ve only seen one other woman patient here and now that I think about it from my limited walking around the floor, most of the inpatients are in various states of undress – mostly without shirts. Having a PICC line in my arm full time, it’s a bit of a pain to be constantly adjusting the shirt, even though athletic sleeveless tee-shirts are the mode du jour in the latest hospital fashion.  Besides, they go well with my traction socks that the safety people want me to wear for my errands to the bathroom.

Yesterday began the next set of fashion relaxations as a result of my (intentionally) declining white blood cell count. I will no longer be able blade shave for a while, so I’ll start that scruffy looking appearance, which, for me, is, well, pretty scruffy as my beard comes in kinda patchy. The goatee area is pretty consistent and heavy, but anywhere else, it looks a bit ‘less than.’ I tried it once after getting out of the Navy, but it looked awful.  So, the big bushy beard look is out for me. Besides, I’m just days away from not having to shave at all for another reason.  My newest doc from the Huntsman Cancer Institute came in over the weekend and very matter-of-factly said, “You know, you’ll be losing your hair.” Yeah, I know, it’s one of those rites of passage for chemotherapy, but having the doc say just makes it more like it’s a foregone conclusion – thus shall it be so! And when they say that, it means every hair, including all the hair on your chest from all those picante sauce meals you were proud of…and the eyebrows, eyelashes, and whiskers. So, no shaving for me. 
For those of you, who like me, are prone to ingrown hairs, it’s not such a bad thing, but I have to say it’s a bit unnerving for it to happen in this way. Soaping up in the shower and shaving there has been a time-honored habit for who knows how long for me and I guess that, along with wandering around in various states of undress like the other guys here at the VA just became normal.  The irony here, may be lost to those of you who haven’t served in the military since those days were spit-polish and inspection.  Haircuts were just so, everyone was clean-shaven or trimmed, and uniforms were pressed just so. What could be further from those days than where I am now? It’s not like there’s a degradation of sorts or even vanity, really. It truly is about comfort and I guess in a way, I’m sorting out inside of me that it’s OK to just be as comfortable in my own skin while laughing at the absurdity of it all.
And as I found out yesterday, the dress code of sorts isn’t the only thing wrapped in absurdity here.  As is part of our weekly family tradition, we enjoy a coffee together on Sunday mornings and it was so nice to have everyone up here where I could hold court from the hospital bed. My mom and her husband, my aunt, and my grandmother made the trek up here and we had our coffee here instead of from my grandmother’s living room where she normally holds court!  I’m truly honored. She wore her American Red Cross pin and began by pointing out that she had been one of the “gray ladies” back in the day and went through her spiel of things she would offer the recovering soldiers including note cards and cigarettes. Wait, cigarettes in the hospital?  Yes, it wasn’t that long ago that there were smoking and non-smoking hospital rooms. Wow, have times changed!

My day was delightfully filled with people from my past and present and thankfully, they overlap now. Thank you, Ann, Gina, and Jameson for bringing by the lovely Trader Joe’s goodies. It was so nice to chat and get caught up. And thank you, Jeff & Jane for your encouragement as well. I thought for sure I would end up in tears with you guys here, but your strength, candor, and smiles were the order of the day. The button that says, “No one fights alone” is my constant reminder. Thank you!

Time to begin another day in the fight (not alone!) – be well, stay strong, and thank you all!