Once again, I’m in transit as I write.   I’m on a plane on my way home from Houston.   The roller coaster is rounding the bend and coming to its last downward slope. For this turn on the ride at least. It was, as I anticipated, a wild ride full of loops. I’m exhausted, physically and emotionally, and if I am this tired, I can only begin to imagine how my friend feels after her daughter’s surgery and the past few very difficult days of recovery.

First off, the surgery was successful. The doctors managed to remove the tumor intact and she was wiggling her toes soon after she woke up. We all cheered as those happy little dancing toes were moving, indicating that one of the major fears surrounding surgery on her spine had been eliminated.   And then came more laughter and joy.   As she began to talk more, we saw the effects of the drugs and anesthesia as she asked repeatedly for a duck and then for someone to bring her 92 bags of ice from a gas station. Her mouth was so dry and she wasn’t allowed to have anything to drink yet. Finally she got some ice chips and managed a faint smile. During the last few days, I’ve realized that sometimes the little things in life make all the difference in the world.

It wasn’t all laughter and calm the last few days though. Following the surgery, she was in terrible pain and despite all the different medications they tried on her, she couldn’t seem to get any respite. Two horrible nights for my friend and her daughter, awake all night with the staff trying to manage her pain and difficulty breathing. Fear that something wasn’t right since the pain was that unmanageable. Sure enough, they did an x-ray and found a small tear in the pleura of her right lung and it was pooled with blood. They inserted a chest tube, and then a second one, to drain the lung and finally she got some relief.

Yesterday, she managed to get out of bed a few times and even took about 20 steps with the aid of a physical therapist. Unbelievable to me so shortly after major surgery. Last night brought more breathing difficulty though, and when they finally got her more comfortable and back to sleep, it was time for me to go. I wanted to stay but much more importantly, I wanted to let my friend get some sleep while her daughter was resting. While the thought of leaving them there was gut-wrenching, my heart was more at peace knowing that she is on her way to recovering, hopefully closer to her normal life than she has been. I put on my big girl panties and my poker face and hugged my friend goodbye. She’s one of the strongest people I’ve ever met, and while I know that she would have been fully capable of dealing with this all on her own (as she is accustomed), I hope that by being there I helped somewhat. I got on the elevator and as the doors finally closed, I let the tears flow. A lot of emotions bundled up in the past few days. It’s one thing to watch someone you love suffer. It’s another thing entirely to witness someone you love watching their own child suffering and not be able to do anything to comfort them.

I got up at 4:30am for my flight and realized the irony of the fact that exactly 4 years ago today, at about that same time of morning, I sat on a street corner in NYC with the same friend and finally got the words out to her that I was an alcoholic. I’m looking forward to getting my four-year chip this week at my home group meeting. I even made it to an AA meeting in Houston yesterday. In another ironic twist, the building in which I attended the meeting was named after a huge donor whom I had known years ago in the heyday of my drinking.

So now it’s time for me to head home to my crew, to whom I am very grateful for managing without me for a week and whom I missed very much. I have no idea what kind of shape my house will be in when I return but having been through what I have this week, I honestly don’t care. Health, happiness and healing are really all that matter.

“You know, all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy. Everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae.” – Paul Walker