During cancer care, I was and still am connected to a secret network of Facebook groups specifically for supporting people through Colorectal cancer. A lot of the ideas we got for treatments outside of the normal chemo approach was because of these groups. Specifically, the group for Stage IV caregivers. Because cancer is such a deeply personal disease, there are a million ways to treat it. And even in that million there might not be something that helps.

So I got up close looks at people with liver complications, bone complications, open wounds, different kinds of ostomies from what Andy had, procedures I didn’t even know existed and specialists that I didn’t know could have a specialty.

One thing that always fascinated me was suction wound care. Our one experience with it was while in Hawaii on vacation, Andy started vomiting. After two days it didn’t go away, so we went to the nearest hospital. That one didn’t have CT machine, so we went to the bigger hospital. But even that one wasn’t big enough and so Andy was airlifted at 3am to Honolulu to go to the hospital there. I took a commercial flight a few hours later, the first leg of what was supposed to be our journey home, and found him with a bag attached to him

Andy had had two abscesses next to his liver. The doctors drained one quickly and efficiently, but the other was a little more stubborn. So they put a drain in, specifically a suction drain. It had negative pressure on it so it would be constantly drawing out anything that formed in that little pocket where the abscess had been. Very little trickled out, the doctor knew she had gotten most of it, so she wasn’t surprised when the bag remained mostly empty for the rest of the week we were there.

I feel like my heart is permanently bruised. Or permanently tender. Over the wound of Andy’s death is left a pink, newly grown area, and over that is a bit of negative pressure wound care. It’s ensuring that nothing is touching it while my heart heals.

Surprisingly, Coronavirus is what made this happen.

I was going around in the world, the newly healing part getting bumped and bruised regularly. But now, I’m with my kiddo all day long, taking things and mostly the pace I want to be taking them. I don’t have enough interactions during my day to bump the wound again, so it feels like it’s…healing is too strong of a word. It’s existing without incident.

And that’s nice.

When we restart whatever version of the world we have when we are done with COVID, whatever that looks like, I don’t want to go back to the old ways. I want to continue to honor my heart that is existing without incident. I don’t want to get sucked back into the vortex of capitalism and the pressure to be productive and the pressure to parent a particular way; to exist in a particular way. I want to exist and live and–dare I say?–thrive in a way that let’s my heart exist without incident. Or with fewer incidents. Maybe someday I can remove the negative pressure drain keeping the bacteria out. Maybe my heart will never be more than a mostly tender lump of strong muscle. If that’s true, I think it’ll be ok.

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