As it turns out, I don’t like surgeries… In case anyone was wondering.
I didn’t sleep the night before, I tried, and I just couldn’t. I must have dozed on and off while watching one YouTube worship video after another, but it didn’t feel like it… There was plenty of truth going in my ears, and yet just so much fear in my heart.
I feel like a surgery when cancer is involved isn’t simply routine… there’s a whole level of added wondering, “What are they actually going to find in there?”
My husband parked the car, but I didn’t want to move from my seat. Never in my life have I understood the feeling of wanting to just bolt. To complete AVOID everything that was in front of me.
But as I journey more and more through life I’m coming to realize that discipline, in all things, must be at the root of who I am.
So, I got out of the car and walked forward into that awful space of the unknown.
Machines were incessantly binging. It sounded like my kids were playing video games, and that was familiar at least. My husband had to leave me at the door, and I lay there waiting alone. The surgeon came by to introduce himself, drew a line on my neck quicker than any girl would ever apply eyeliner, and ran off again.
I recited Psalm 23 over and over mostly because I couldn’t remember anything else.
And then my anathesiologist came by for an introduction. She knelt down beside the bed and just started talking to me, in one of those reassuring voices.
“Do you have kids?” I asked her after a minute or two. She looked at me a little surprised before she answered, “Yes I do!”
“You just sound like you do. You sound like a mom.” And then she said, “Listen, I’ll be taking care of you, and I’ll be with you the whole time.”
And then it was just simply over.
One moment I was telling the pregnant nurse beside me how cute she looked, and the next I was half asleep lying in a bed with a really sore neck and drugs pumping though my veins.
And that huge emotional burden that I had been carrying around for months now was gone, the one that hadn’t let me sleep the night before… it had lifted.
I had traded it in for physical pain, and it was a relief.
“Hi…” I croaked out hours later on the phone the nurse brought me so I could talk to my husband. “You can talk!” He said. That fear of my voice being damaged was obliterated.
Praise God. I didn’t want to write the book on, “How to Homeschool your Kids without ever saying a Word.” But I had been willing to.
The rest of the day was filled with hours of alarming machine sounds, and lots of extra oxygen. It turns out that I’m really bad at doing any sort of drugs. I kinda figured, but now it’s been medically confirmed. And as a patient, I was like that kid in the class who’s still sitting there when the whole rest of the class is gone. But eventually, it was my turn to graduate to the next level of recovery.
“You can walk can’t you?” The nurse asked when they brought me up to a room 12 hours later.
I nodded and walked from one bed to another with her help. I was on the other side of the mountain. Finally.
On my report it simply says, “Thyroidectomy, unremarkable procedure.”
Boy, if you ever wanted to hear the word unremarkable, it’s then. Routine, zero excitement, no surprises. Amazing. I’m so grateful to be boring.
The next day I got to go home and my job for an entire week was to rest. My husband’s full time job was to take care of his needy wife, and what a great job he did. I required more pillows, more attention, more back rubs, more assistance, than I ever did while pregnant…
My kids walked in the door on Christmas Eve and saw the bandage on my neck, and their frail looking mom… Some said, “Ew!” and others burst into tears while holding me. “Oh Mom, I love you, are you ok?!” He said every ten minutes for the first hour.
“When are you going to be the old mom again?” My 4 year old asked me a few days later.
“Not yet. But soon!” I said with a little laugh, but not too hard because, fun fact, laughing and sneezing are both catastrophic with a neck incision.
It’s been just over 3 weeks now and I’m just FINALLY almost swallowing pain free like the olden days…
I hope I never take that simple wonder for granted again.
I’m a couch sleeper now, elevated at a nice 35 degrees.
I’m a middle of the night sermon watcher, and a 24/7 ElevationWorship subscriber.
I’ve taken more painkillers than I’d ever like to in my life again.
I can move my neck and look both ways again.
I can sleep at night without losing the air in my lungs from the anasthetic.
I can support the weight of my own head again for a solid 15 minutes.
And the weirdest 3 day parenting streak of ‘writing everything on a white board because my voice was too weak’ is behind me…
I have watched my body heal. Slowly, like watching a plant grow I think… but steadily. Every single day it becomes stronger. Psalm 139 holds all new meaning for me.
Now I know what they found in there. I know that the doctor sounded REALLY surprised as he told me, “Sitting next to the microscope now… that mass in your neck has doubled in size in the last 5 months.”
What a miracle that the aggressive weapon inside my body isn’t there anymore.
I know that in a few weeks I’m going to have to send my kids off again while I drink some radioactive iodine… the hope is that it’ll kill off every last bit of cancer still inside my body. I know that it holds risks for awful side effects or permanent damage, that it might not work, that maybe there’s a second surgery, that maybe… lots of maybes…
But, I’ve learned that wasting too much time on the maybes isn’t a space I am going to dwell in.
And that there’s a lot to learn about the love, comfort, and strength of God in the midst of suffering.
I’ve learned there’s a LOT of kind, generous, supportive people within a church community. What a gift they have all been. We have been so blessed, so cared for, so prayed for, and so loved. I am so very grateful.
And I’ve learned that in this earthly life I will be required to do hard things, to conquer big metaphorical mountains, but most importantly, I’ve learned that God is with me every step of the way.
Photo by: Katie Mills Photography