I had bought just the right shirt for the trip to the hospital. A Wonder Woman t-shirt complete with a removable cape. When the morning came, I didn’t feel like being brave. I wanted to hide. I wore dark clothes out into the dark, damp morning. The morning felt like all those times I went out in the darkness to a race. I had my bag of belongings in hand. Even the familiar pre-race jitters were there, familiar.
We walked up to the hospital door but it was locked. The sign said it was supposed to open at 6:30am but it wasn’t. I joked that perhaps it was the Universe telling me to turn around and forget the whole thing. My husband chuckled and then escorted me to an open door.
We waited for a few moments before they called my name. I was introduced to my nursing team and the bed that would become my oasis for the next 24 hours.
After I was dressed in my gown the wait began. I could still run….
But they came to wheel me to pre-op and I’d already exchanged my running shoes for hospital socks. Shoot. I was rolled into a long hallway with bays of people all awaiting surgery. Everyone was so somber. So I cracked jokes. I told my nurse anesthetist how skinny and sleek my neck would be after surgery. We talked about our favorite pizza place and we regaled him with stories from our latest trip to Florida.
I learned to interact with people like that from my mom. In every instance, she draws people in with a joke or a funny comment. She sees people. I love doing the same. In pre-op it lessened my fear and broke people out of their routine enough to smile with me. It was important that they see me as a person, not just another surgery.
Yet, I was still going to have a piece of my body removed. I went to the dentist once and complained of a little sensitivity on one of my molars. They suggested a crown. To me that sounded like a little hat that would cover it and protect it. I definitely should have researched it - especially since they said they could do it right then. It wasn’t until they’d ground my perfectly fine but slightly sensitive tooth down to a nub that I realized what a crown actually was. That was the first time I had actually lost a functional body part and I still regret that decision. But now I’m going to lose a body part that is essential to my living! My body will forever be thyroid free and I’ll be on medication for the remainder of my life. This is a huge deal for me. As least I can live without a tooth.
I did actually ask for my thyroid back after surgery. I felt like I should do something nice for it. Even though we’ve had some issues as of late, my thyroid and I have been together for 41 years. It deserves a ceremony of gratitude. However, apparently once they remove something from you it’s no longer yours so I did not get to keep my thyroid. Instead, my daughter is making an artistic representation of my thyroid so we can burn it in celebration. We’ll celebrate that my thyroid was good to me for all of these years and that, because of its sacrifice, I’m cancer free.
After getting my IVs started, a few more jokes and a kiss from Paul I was wheeled into the giant OR. I remember there were a lot of people and some giant silvery lights. I waited for someone to ask me to count backward but I was out before I could finish that thought.
I know I woke up somewhere in the hospital and was wheeled back to my original room but I don’t remember much other than I was certain I would throw up. They transferred me to my bed and I curled up on my side in a ball. I couldn’t open my eyes, speak or move my body too much because my nausea was so bad. I think I battled that for a number of hours. Finally, I was ok enough to fall asleep.
Throughout this entire process I’ve wondered what I’m supposed to learn. It’s no coincidence that I had cancer on what is essentially my throttle, as my friend Jennifer Rose pointed out. I’ve always been busy, always making long lists of things to do, books to read, places to go. I actually get a little anxious when there is nothing to do so I start making stuff up. I’m certain that one of the things I need to learn is how to relax. It’s time for me to put down my lists and go out into the woods. It’s really only when I’m in the woods when I can take deep breaths and fully relax. I can learn how to do this in my day to day life but I will start in the woods.
*Blogging from my hospital room
ADDENDUM - The woods will have to wait, sadly. I was admitted after only one day at home due to low calcium levels. This is typical following trauma to the parathyroid glands. I’m hoping to be released tomorrow afternoon. I’m hoping I’ve learned what I need from this extended lesson in being still.