May 6, 2014
Five years ago, to the day, I awoke long before the sun was up to prepare myself for the longest and the shortest day of my life. I took the hottest shower I could stand. I swallowed a small bluish-purple pill to calm my nerves and make me compliant.
I sat in darkness in our living room trying to mentally prepare myself for surgery and not knowing how the procedure was going to turn out. Prior to that day, I had never had surgery, received stitches or even a cast prior to that day. I’d never visited the emergency room because I’ve lived a mostly safe and boring life. In the four-ish month stint prior to that morning, I had completed 25 treatments of chemo and several weeks of a bleeding edge chemotherapy treatment taken via large beige pills. I can remember their slight chalkiness, their warning labels for no one else to touch them but me (even touching them was hazardous to the non-sick).
I remember putting on my stupid basketball shorts and stupider pajama pants over top of them. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and trying to imagine where my new scars would be and if they would be distinguishable from my fat fatterson stretchmarks.
I can’t remember who drove to the hospital, if Christina drove… or if I did it.
I remember walking from the car to the waiting room in the surgery center and seeing some family there. I remember seeing friends in the waiting room and people from church praying with me just before a nurse calling my name to go back to a cold room to change into a gown.
I remember smelling iodine. I remember crudely joking about the cold. I can remember the anesthesiologist’s Siberian Husky-like blue eyes. I can remember Dr. Shedd turning on a radio and reassuring me that he was going to do the best job he could do. I remember the white plastic bar of the surgery table. I remember thinking I was too fat to fit on it. I think I remember looking at the ceiling and the lights before I blasted off into infinity. I remember the being all cares and phobias being removed by pharmacology as if each one were a finger to pluck from a ledge.
I can remember waking up and seeing three things. A boring clock like you imagine every hospital has. The OR nurse who was crying. She had long blonde hair in tight curls. Those kinds of curls always remind me of some kind of fancy pasta whose name I don’t know because I was born too low for it to be important. Standing next to the nurse was my wife. She was also crying and holding my hand and touching my face. (These three things are in ascending order of importance , before someone says something about me recalling a nurse before my wife).
I can remember feeling around my abdomen trying to figure out where the surgery site was. If it was high, that was good. If it were low, it was… less than desirable. Because I am always at the mercy of the universe’s statistics, my new wound was in a third and previously undiscussed surgery sight. I didn’t understand why everyone was crying and if they were good tears or bad tears or if I was even awake yet. Good news was tempered with bad. Positively ebbs and flows with occurrences of set back and disappointments.
I don’t remember talking to the surgeon but I do remember repeating the words “Thank you” aloud. I remember saying it after everyone left. I remember saying it before falling in and out of sleep every day and night I spent in the hospital and I remember saying it when I finally came home.
I am not always thankful. I thought I always would be. But today, tonight, I am remembering and I am thankful to still be here.