Workin’ it


Finally, after 49 days away, guess where I was last week? (cue drumroll) Back at work! (cue fireworks)

I finally figured out that I could hurt at work as well as I could at home. So I finally tottered back in to the office, wiped the dust off of my computer and plopped down to do some critically important work. This consisted mainly of digging through long and winding trails of emails about events which had already occurred and whose drama had already been forgotten. Some of the calls have gone something like this:

Me: “Hi, Dr. Who. This is Laurie, in media relations for the hospital. I understand we might’ve had a bit of confusion over your Very Special Event a few weeks ago, and I wanted to see if we needed to discuss it. I’ve been out on medical leave for seven weeks, so I’m happy to explore what happened and how we can fix it for next time.”

Dr. Who: “Event? Was I at an event?”

Me: “Um, I believe so, yes. This was the major award event for which you requested a full media push, from national press to local weeklies, and on down to the two-reader bloggers and 12-year-old Facebook readers?”

Dr. Who: “Well, I might’ve gotten an award. I can’t really remember. Did I say cool things when I accepted it?”

Me: “Well, I’m not really sure. I’m just working off of a series of emails from your team, written in ALL CAPS and explaining how important this was and how we needed to do a multilevel media push. There are also the few BOLD-FACED ALL CAPS notes, which quite frankly scare me a tad.”

Dr. Who: “Well, if I remembered it, I’d love to talk to you about it. But since I don’t, I’m sure everything turned out fine. Thanks for calling, though. Bye-bye!”

Me: “Uh… OK. Great. Call if you need me. (Select email, select email, select email, select email, select email, delete)

Whew. Now just 1,297 more to go through.

My first mistake wasn’t going back to work too soon, even though Dr. Lea wanted me to stay out through the first of the year. The real strategic error was in going back on Tuesday, Dec. 14.

This, as everyone knows except for a few Hutu cattle herders whose wi-fi only works on certain hills, was the day that “Despicable Me” was released on DVD. I. Love. That. Movie.

I took our 8- and 10-year-old goddaughters to see it in the theater, where it was $9 each to get in unless you wanted to see it in 3-D for the bargain price of $491 a ticket. That did at least come with those nice free plastic eyeglasses that look so chic.

However, I have to admit I went back the second and third times just for me.

And now, on the very day I could screech into the Target parking lot on two wheels, then push my  little legs into the store as fast as they could go for my very own copy, I had to go and do something silly like tell my boss I planned to be at work that day.

Let’s see… pick one:

Work: Get up, put on real clothes, drive downtown, dig out of thousands of emails, catch up on newspapers and TV shows about the hospital, leap into action for all 4,402 coworkers who apparently were just waiting on tenterhooks for me to get back, all while my abdomen still feels as if an alien baby got left behind and is trying to chew its way out of my stomach.

Or Home: Loll on couch in pajamas and soft, fuzzy socks, eating bon-bons and watching “Despicable Me” hour after hour after hour, getting up only to eat more and collect the deliveries from my stoned-out nights of gauzily ordering online stuff.

Yes, I know. Poor planning on my part. What was I thinking?

So Tuesday found me gainfully employed back at Children’s, where the holidays bring out the warm fuzzies in everyone, spurring them to rush to the hospital to do merry things. We have singalongs, football teams, basketball teams, soccer teams, teams of every stripe and color. Not to mention our huge holiday parade. So my coworkers looked a bit tired and gaunt, and I really wanted to  help them out with an extra set of hands.

The “real clothes” might be a bit of a stretch, though. I was able to find about four pairs of pants that aren’t too, too painful for me to wear right now. They’re not the most stylish, although I do feel more stylish when I’m not grimacing in pain, so I’m gonna wear ’em. And since cold is still very painful, I’m planning to wear several layers above my pants, especially since the weather this week is a freeeeezing 75 degrees.

So all of those things kind of collided to push me back to work. Seemed like the universe was telling me something. Or maybe it was my bank account, which has been hit heavily by those same stoned-out, gauzy shopping sprees. One of our cars sprung a leak, too, and had to be repaired to the tune of $1,900. Plus one tire, which became the second one on that car to shred in just a couple of months. I’m thinking Dallas streets aren’t too hot for low-profile tires, unless it’s just D’s madcap driving on her four-mile commute to work. (When I moved here in March, I brought that car, drove 14 miles to work and never shredded two tires. So my money’s on D spending her lunch hours screeching around Farmer’s Branch on two wheels and fleeing the cops. Maybe she decided chasing bad guys that way was more of an adrenalin rush than hunting them down through DNA.)

It really is nice to be back with my work family, though. I’m getting used to forming phrases again, although I have yet to string them together into actual sentences. While I’m sure my brain is working at its usual lightning-fast speed, what I say usually ends up something like, “I think maybe today I’ll uhhhhhummmm ummmmmm uhhhhhhhh. Uhhhh.”

And there seems to be some little holiday goody every day. I’d have hated to miss those. It’s hard enough missing all of our friends’ holiday events in Nashville, like our annual “Toast the Tree” evening. This consists of a big group of friends traveling to each others’ houses one after the other, imbibing more than a few adult beverages and appetizers at each house, and then toasting their Christmas tree(s). Luckily, we all lived within walking distance.

Last year, I was the one trying to take the group picture, despite having a sip or two too many of various punches and toddies. I’d forgotten the remote for my camera, so I had to click the timer button, then leap across the room and try to fling myself into the photo just in time. This might have worked better if the other 21 people hadn’t also had a few sips too many and rendered themselves unable to take direction of any sort. We ended up with 20 photos of the group; my rear end is in the center of seven of them, my slightly melty face is leaning into the camera lens in another four. Two show only half of my left thigh; five more actually capture me in my correct place but with half of the others looking at me instead of the camera; and one shows my face frozen in a scream, because Paul knelt on my hand as I slid into position, snapping my finger.

The final shot perfectly captures all of us facing forward, smiling and happy and festive. And D’s eyes are, of course, closed.

We haven’t found Dallas neighbors who are willing to have that kind of fun with us yet. Maybe next year.

I’m back at the doc later this week for more scans. The week before I went back to work, I ended up at the doctor on four of the five days. Not exactly how I’d wanted to spend my last week of recovery, being scanned and poked and prodded and hauled around from building to building. My doc saw white spots along my ribs, words a cancer patient never really wants to hear. The radiologist was quite sure those weren’t metastases, just calcifications. So they discussed it a lot. I love that about my doc — if she worries about something, she’ll march down and find the guy who did it and ask him questions until she’s sure of an answer. (God forbid you or someone you love ever need her skills, but if so, write this name down: Dr. Jayanthi Lea.)

Now it’s a scan to try to figure out why I still hurt. After that one, I’m done. Finito. Taillights. Not doing any more. I’ll wait this out, which is what I’m pretty sure has to happen anyway. I’ll learn to live with my bathroom counter looking like a Walgreen’s. And my FSA card melting. And with my head being all foggy when I go to sleep and when I wake up. And with my belly feeling like it has termites.

(If the scan does turn up termites, I guess I’ll have to be tented and fumigated. I wonder if I’ll have to take off work for that, too?)

About wordsmith1313

Now: Somewhat retired, although I don't do it very well. Formerly senior director of Communications and Marketing for the Dallas Zoo. Journalist. EMT. Writer. Breast cancer survivor. I love to travel, and will always return from a trip with a new friend or two. Those fortuitous meetings bring velvet to the rough edges of life.
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