I have realized that Wednesdays are good. I’m either coming out of the fog and ache or coming out of the Nadir period. Wednesday before Thanksgiving I felt tightness all around my incision areas and in my chest. As no one from my oncologist’s office would be in Friday when my chemo was scheduled, I decided to have it checked out Wednesday. I was convinced it was probably fluid collecting, which can happen after this type of surgery, and it would need to be drained. Plus, I mentally needed confirmation that it wasn’t an infection before another hit to my immune system.

The nurse practitioner did a thorough exam and decided it wasn’t fluid. My lungs and heart sounded good. She looked at me and rubbed my left shoulder, “I think you’ve pulled muscles. You’re hunched over protecting your left side. Have you lifted more than normal?” Not that I could think of. “Do you have small children?”

Oh, do they count? I hesitated as the events of the last week flashed before me. Liam wiped out running full-out on the school pavement 100 yards from the van. Yes, there was that 40-pound dead-weight lift from the ground that day and the carry to the van. And then there was the rainy day I boosted him in and out of the van. And the day Will was in tears, so I swept him off the floor onto my lap. “Yes, I have small children.” I felt guilty confessing. “Do you lift them?” The viper-mom in me raised her head and started flicking her tongue, wanting to defend and if necessary attack. I so wanted to reply with my own question in Tom Cruise’s “You-can’t-handle-the-truth!” voice, “Do you have children?” But I stopped. Tamed the viper. I knew her job was to take care of me. My job is to take care of them. And we would have to negotiate a happy medium, which may include a little Ibuprofen to calm the muscles.

My prescription was for my husband to rub my left shoulder. I so wanted to ask for a written prescription to give Bill, but this was the first time I had met this nurse practitioner. I wasn’t sure about her humor level.

At 11:30, happily diagnosed with pulled muscles that required no draining, I decided I could celebrate by having lunch in Boston. White blood cells should have bounced back, appetite was good, achiness was gone. I confirmed with an employee in the elevator that Antonio’s, just across the street from the hospital, was a good little Italian spot. I felt like a kid in a four-story toy store; it was only the 2nd time I’ve been in a restaurant since early October. When I opened the door, the smells of tomato and garlic wafted by me. A crooning Frank Sinatra ushered my ears to the table. Sitting in a restaurant, able to eat shrimp over ziti in a vodka sauce with a little kick. Dipping fantastic fresh Italian bread in olive oil. (Admittedly, I did Purell after feeling the stickiness of the oil bottle. A little germy. Gross.) Then, Spumoni for dessert. But I couldn’t stop there. I thought I would share my happiness with Bill via a piece of tiramisu for dessert after dinner that evening.

Whilst dripping in phenomenal sensory overload, I sat in a safe haven. Hospital staff and restaurant workers, all familiar with chemo baldness. My hat-covered head joined by one other woman in the restaurant from the same planet. She too looked incredibly happy.

Staying strong,