A Short Surgery Story

“What is this going to teach me?” I thought. I was shivering, but lying in the operating room version of savasana, the blankets were warm. I was like a duck on the water, staying calm on the outside and managing jittery nerves underneath.

“I feel a little strange. Is it starting?”

From somewhere behind my head, I heard the anesthesiologist smile, “Yes, it is.”

“Okay! Thank you. I appreciate you guys!” And I did. This whole team had been aces from the start. I quickly pictured myself, the OR team, and all my loved ones and friends dressed in Wonder Woman style suits with long swords lining up in a vast field of open space in a show of strength.  My friend, Christiana, told me the post-operative experience is supposed to be better if you picture positive things as you are put to sleep. So I hastened the gratitude and superhero stuff. Plus, Eric — who is my rock and my heart — and I had spent the past two evenings watching kung fu movies to cement a mindset of calm, strength, precision and positive philosophy, so there’s a synergy there too.

Someone was nudging me from the right side, and then I realized I was conscious again. Surgery was done.

I have a small incision on my right breast, some stitches and some bruising. Three days ago, I had a breast lumpectomy, and I’m awaiting the pathology report. From what the surgeon said, the pending result looks very promising.

Prior to surgery, there was an ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy, other ultrasounds, diagnostic mammograms and mammograms. There was waiting time and uncertainty. There were very frustrating insurance-related phone calls.

This experience gave me the slightest, faintest glimpse into the scary and confusing paths so many family, friends and colleagues have walked — people who have had cancer diagnoses, double mastectomies, radiation, chemotherapy, reconstruction, implants, infections, removal, recovery, more uncertainty and on and on. I know that I don’t understand the magnitude of their experiences. Not even close. But my relatively small exposure to this through my personal experience has made me so much more aware of how to treat others going through something.

What did I learn? I wish, in retrospect, I’d been more inquisitive of friends and colleagues if I knew they were going through breast cancer treatments or other health challenges. I wish I’d given them the opportunity to share what they were feeling. I always erred on the side of not saying anything in the name of respecting their privacy. And while every person is different, my overall takeaway is that I wish I’d reached out more. I wish I’d engaged and supported more. I wish I’d shown more concern. My silence was out of respect, but my experience has given me new perspective. If inquiry is not wanted and privacy is preferred, the person can redirect and defer that engagement. But at least the love is shown and they are given a choice. I really felt the love from so many people through this process, led by my family, my love Eric, and my friends. Thank you. I appreciate you. UPDATE: I received a clean bill of health.

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