I had the pre-op appointment on Thursday for my hysterectomy that is happening next Tuesday. I was already filled with anxiety when Dan and I got to the UAB Women and Infant’s Center over what will be my first major surgery, but when we walked in and they were testing the fire alarm system for twenty minutes? Well, I was about in fetal position by the time the nurse called us to come to the examination room. Sweet Dan rubbed my back and tried to meditate me down from the proverbial tree, but it was tough to find my happy place with the chaos of the incessant alarm blasting throughout the building. I felt especially bad for the incredibly pregnant woman sitting near us with an excited toddler crawling all over her. We laughed about it, though, as Dan said, Wow, who else would this have happened to? You’re going to want to write about it. He knows me well.
Dr. Gleason’s nurse is very kind, and when she saw my eyes well up as she questioned me (I am such an emotional wuss lately), she reassured me that everything would be just fine, telling me there was no better place to have this procedure done. Angels always show up when you need them, don’t they? It was comforting to have Dan with me, always my rock. He listened as the doctor talked with me, chiming in when I forgot to share details from my prepared list of questions. I have been so scattered lately with rollercoaster of life that has gone on in the past weeks, and I was grateful to have Dan there to listen and to advocate for me. I will always do the same for him…just hoping that we Gaineys can take a break from surgical procedures soon.
I had done a lot of research before going into this meeting, but discovered that I was misinformed about some of the things I had assumed. I found that I will indeed have robotic assisted laproscopic surgery, and that they will remove not just my uterus as I had thought, but also my cervix and fallopian tubes. It felt weird to find they would be taking even more of my ‘plumbing’ out, but I trust my doctor. Unless there are complications, I will spend one night in the hospital, and Dan will stay with me to make sure I have what I need during the night. Dr. G asked if I wanted to keep my ovaries and I said yes, as I had read that they provide benefits well past menopause (or “mental-pause”, as my friend Lisa calls it…how perfect is that?). An endometrial biopsy had to be done (standard procedure) before the surgery could be approved, and so I got to hear yet again the words that every woman knows well, “Scoot down a little more.”
I had to laugh…I had told Dr. G about ‘George’ the tumor and my uterus doll, and as he examined and pressed on my abdominal region, he found the large tumor and said, “Oh- hi there, George!” Other than that moment, it wasn’t a fun experience, but the angel nurse stood by me and made me laugh (not an easy task when one’s feet are up in stirrups, I might add), telling me that it was Dr. Gleason’s turn for the examination next. I told Dan that he has paid his husband dues for quite some time now- it takes a brave man to sit through something like that.
After we met with the people from Anesthesia we were done, walking out into the bright sunlight of Alabama Spring. I felt different, somehow changed. I was empowered with the knowledge of what I have to face; no more fighting with shadows- I had a plan. I thought of the countless women who have gone through this- probably many much braver than I, and some perhaps just as anxious at the prospect of having organs taken from your body and the effects that would have. And, as weird as it sounds for a fifty-four year old woman to say, it feels strange to know that I will for sure never have children. (Not that I want to be that grandmother from Alabama on the cover of The National Enquirer who gave birth to triplets at sixty, just for the record). It’s just that the possibilities are gone. I will be the only one of my mother’s children not to have a child, and I have a strong maternal instinct (which I guess is a good thing for my animals and my students). It’s never bothered me before- how funny for that to pop up in all of this, but to be expected I guess. There’s no turning back now, and that ship has sailed.
And so, I wait. I have three days to make the house, yard, and dogs perfect (I am laughing at that idea even as I type the words), to finish any remaining work commitments, to prepare my ‘spot’ for recovery…and to try to not be ridiculously anxious. Staying busy helps me to keep that tendency at bay, but I know at some point soon I will have to deal with the feelings. I know it will all be fine, and the whole experience will teach me so many lessons- probably the most important being that the world will go on just fine without me for a while, and that it is really okay to let go of responsibility and focus on myself and my health as I navigate this experience. Difficult lessons for me to process to be sure, but some that it is high time I learn. Spring seems to be a great time for lessons and growth, doesn’t it?