My surgery story, part 2.

For the first part of this story, go here.

November 16-24, 2013:  Before my surgery, I wrapped up loose ends at my part-time job and my full-time live-in volunteer position.  It was a whirlwind of a week, and I tried to stay focused on what I needed to do.  Write a how-to list for some of my tasks at work.  Make sure the house had coverage.  Announce that my surgery date got moved up. Cancel plans.  It was exhausting, but I almost didn’t notice.

I remember looking at my stomach in the mirror, which had swelled slightly as the tumor grew.  I touched the unmarked skin, realizing that I would never see that skin smooth and without scars again.

Somehow, I had kept the pain at a minimum.  Sometimes I would have a twinge of sharp pain that would make me flinch for 30 seconds or so, but then it would go away.  The night before my surgery, though, the pain was excruciating.  It was as though my body was saying, “It’s time.”  My parents, who had flown in to be with me for the surgery, wondered if they should take me to the ER.  I did energy work (Reiki) on myself that night, and my pain level went down.  The next morning, I went to the hotel’s hot tub and let the warm water relax me.  I was able to go to the hospital at the scheduled check-in time – 1 p.m. on November 25, 2013.

Considering the situation, I was actually pretty calm,.  There wasn’t much space for me to be anxious – I went into a space of absolute necessity:  it had to be okay for several doctors to not only touch me, but cut into me. I also had to accept any possible outcome.

I signed off on the possibility of a total hysterectomy.  If they found cancer, then that would be the result.  I didn’t know if I wanted to have children, but I appreciated having that option.  I knew that I would lose my right ovary when they removed the tumor. That thought was strange, too.

I remember being in the operating room.  It had white walls.  I remember sending good energy to the doctor’s, nurses, and other medical personnel.  They put the mask on me and I was out.

Upon waking up from my surgery, I remember a vague impression:  someone telling me that I could “still have babies.”  I came to fully with my mom by my side, who explained more in detail.   Result from the biopsy: borderline, also known as a “low malignant potential” tumor.  They removed the ovary with the tumor, along with my inflamed appendix.  Surgical terms:  oopherecotomy and appendectomy.   Borderline tumors are a strange category – they grow slowly, they grow on but not in organs.  They have characteristics of both benign and malignant tumors.  I always thought it was a question of either/or.  Not both.  (If you’re curious, here is a medical article about borderline ovarian tumors. The first page is enough to get an idea). I was relieved when I heard the diagnosis, but I also felt uneasy.

I was in the hospital for 2.5 days – Monday afternoon through Wednesday evening. My mom stayed by my side, sleeping in a chair that converted into a bed of sorts.  I had a roommate who by Tuesday was on the phone coordinating Thanksgiving (which was that Thursday).  After she left, I had a night of quiet before I got another roommate, who was in for followup surgery for a head wound and seemed to be chatting away happily with the hospital staff while saying her pain level was at a “10”. My own pain level ebbed and flowed.

Fear hit me afterwards. Before the surgery, I insisted that I was healthy aside from the growing tumor, and I realized that wasn’t quite accurate.  I repeatedly looked at journal articles about the chance of recurrence (it’s low).  Grief hit me, too, feeling a loss that seemed to go deeper than losing an ovary.  Exhaustion hit me, too, and I spent time napping, resting, and taking short walks.

About two weeks into my healing process, I burst into tears and didn’t really know why.  When I look back, I see that as the beginning of a depressive episode.  This depression would grow much deeper in the coming months and leave me with nagging thoughts that maybe life was not worth it.  It was all so much to go through.  And even though my incision healed smoothly and clean, and I started to regain physical strength, I still felt depleted and out-of-place.

After a few weeks of rest, I returned to my volunteer position.  A few weeks later, I returned to my job. I kept my expectations at the level they had been at before the surgery, and found I could not meet them.  My energy was lagging and my focus seemed blurry.  I continued to try.  It didn’t work.  I could get more into the details, and how other people played into my process and the trauma involved.

However, I think the bottom line was that I needed to take time off to rest and heal.  I needed to hit the pause button on my life as it had been, and restart when I was ready.  I now believe that my system was on overload and I kept on adding things on.  It was too much.   I worked hard and stayed longer than was healthy, and in the end, I collapsed – mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  This collapse led me to make a huge choice:  to leave and change almost everything, for the sake of myself, for the chance to renew my life.

My scar, while visible, has long since healed.  It will always be part of me.  I had my annual ultrasound a few weeks ago, and it came back clear – no signs of tumors.

Over a year and a half post-surgery, I am pretty healthy. My life looks different and my dreams have shifted.  I do have to say the surgery was a wake-up call, one that began with:  Listen to your body.  Listen to yourself.  Listen deeply.  Now, I am listening more than ever before.
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3 responses to this post.

  1. […] For my full surgery story, go here for Part I and here for Part II. […]

    Reply

  2. […] read my full surgery story, go here and here. Scene:  April 6, 2016, Doctor’s Office at a Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. […]

    Reply

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