Two years ago today I set my alarm for 6AM, waking up earlier than anyone in the house. I quietly crept downstairs to my “office”, sat in my cheetah print reading chair in the corner, journal in lap. I knew I had 30 minutes, at most, to take a moment for myself to start my day in peace. I vividly recall taking deep breaths, repeating to myself that I need to observe and appreciate how good this expansion felt in my upper body with each inhale and exhale. I reminded myself that I will need to come back to this many times today, and the days to come. I then picked up my journal and wrote about how my life, my future, my story, and more specifically – my body – was going to be changed forever by the end of the day.
I was right about the 30 minutes of solitude because on minute 29, my husband comes racing down the stairs while on the phone with someone.
“Oh my god, yes of course, we are on our way now! The hospital called me last night with her surgery time, but the guy hung up right away and never told us what time to be there! We had no idea! We’re coming now!”
And just like that…the chaos had begun.
Within 5 minutes of peacefully sitting in my chair to journal and meditate, I was now in the car with a winter jacket over my pajamas. My hair was washed the night before and was falling out of the messy bun I’d slept in. The way we ran through the hospital entrance, looking for where to check in, telling them that I was there … It was just like the scene in “Home Alone” where the family is running through the airport trying to make the flight before it leaves the runway.
Looking back on it now, it’s kind of funny how urgent and panicked we all were. My sister is racing down I-94 with my parents in tow – crying and borderline shrieking on the phone to my brother.
“I have to see her before she goes! I can’t fucking believe this! How did they not tell when to be here?! Don’t let them take her back until we see her!”
But they took me back immediately, assuring me that my family would see me before surgery. I remember the nurse walking me down the hall, trying to make small talk. She was about my mother’s age and I was grateful for the maternal energy she was giving off. She handed me my gown once we reached the bathroom, saying, “And I’ll be right here when you come out.”
While in the bathroom, I made a mental note of the steel handicap grab bar above the toilet paper. You’re going to need help getting on and off the toilet soon. You’re going to need help with everything soon.
When I came out, the nurse was there with a sympathetic smile. I followed her into a room where asked me my date of birth and checked my vitals. The blood pressure reading was good and she joked, “And we know you’re well rested.”
Within minutes of being in the room, a doctor walked in and introduced himself. I didn’t catch his name, nor could I describe him to you in any way because the only thing I saw was the metal case he carrying. I was told to hunch over. I cried when he told me he was prepping me for my epidural. I looked at my nurse in horror. thankfully she was still there. I instantly started crying because id didn’t know I was getting an epidural. I thought an epidural was for women giving birth. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what is happening here? She took my hands and held them as I got into position. She told me how sorry she was for all I was going through. And the epidural was done.
Next thing I knew, I was relaxed and situated in the hospital bed and my family was brought back to see me. I could see them all trying to hold it together, while I was surprisingly composed. You see, the epidural was honestly the first emotional reaction I’d had throughout the diagnosis experience – with its countless scans, blood work, and IVs – I never flinched. I had no idea what was coming with every appointment because I made sure not to Google what I was in for. Therefore, each step of the process came as a surprise to me in the moment. There was no time to be scared or to toss and turn all night, dreading what was to come. I just showed up brand new to it all, submitting my arm to find the vein. Reflecting on that now, it’s hard to believe how strong I appeared to myself and others, but a more accurate description would be that I was just emotionally numb. Crying about it certainly wasn’t going to change the fact that I had to be there. After years of avoiding doctors and a lifetime fearing hospitals and needles, my future now depended on them.
I remember the kind, motherly nurse walking alongside me as they wheeled my bed into surgery. She’d seen my husband and promised me she’d keep him updated. I told her how he was the one who hounded me to make a doctors appointment and when I wouldn’t, he made one for me. And that first appointment just a few months prior had led me to this surgery.
She told me I was a miracle and that he must be an actual angel because he saved my life.
And when I saw my surgeon and the bright lights behind him, I closed my eyes, remembered my breath, and imagined angels in the room. Angels, Angels, and then the anesthesia took me out.
Obviously, the story doesn’t end there. But on this anniversary, it felt like my heart was bringing those few hours before surgery to my attention. The fast-paced, emotionally charged, shit hitting the fan morning … and how I found moments to re-center in the midst of it all.
Maybe there’s a lesson in that too. Because right now life is once again feeling fast-paced with weeks passing by in a blur, I’m emotionally exhausted, and shit has been hitting the fan on a daily basis. But I found my way through that life-changing morning then, so it must be that I will find my way through this too.