Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Feat #23: Closing one Book, Starting a New One

The title of this post represents an act of faith. I refuse to be discouraged by the obstacles I've encountered in my path since I started my 50 physical feats project--a project I am still committed to even though it is no longer the year I turned 50 and actually about to be the year I turn 52 (gulp!).

On my list of physical feats I've imagined writing about, I was going to include having a colonoscopy, which is expected by physicians once a person turns 50.

But something more challenging than a colonoscopy came along for this surgery virgin: having my gallbladder out. So I'm going to claim that as #23. It's been just over two weeks since I went under the knife, and my recovery has gone well!

Here are some things I'd like to remember about the experience before I close the book on the whole adventure:

  • When all was said and done, I handled the idea of being unconscious while someone was mucking around on the insides of me pretty well. My strategy was to not think about it too much. Roger asked if I wanted to see a video of the procedure ahead of time. I opted out. Maybe some day.

  • My big-hearted 15-year-old son showed me his big heart over and over.

    The night before the surgery, I discovered that, on his own, Jack had watched a video of the procedure and, as he described it with uncanny recall, he assured me that it was pretty straightforward and would not be so tough.

    The day of surgery, Roger and I got home just before school got out. After getting me settled upstairs in bed, Roger ran to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions. Since the car was gone, Jack didn't know I was there when he got home. Then Roger called to ask a question, and both Jack and I answered the phone. As soon as we hung up, Jack ran upstairs to check on me.

    Whoever is concerned about the next generation being too self-involved and irresponsible has not met Jack.

  • Serendipity was a constant companion.

    My doctor recommended a surgery practice. When I called them to make an appointment, I had no idea which surgeon to ask for and said as much. They made me an appointment with Dr. Peterson. I immediately texted my friend, who is married to an anesthesiologist. Has he heard of Dr. Peterson? Why yes, he worked with him just that day. Thumbs up, she texted back.

    Then I met Dr. Peterson for a consultation. I told myself that if he was at all condescending or dismissive (I have issues), I would seek a second consultation. If I had a good experience at our meeting, I'd stick with him. I liked him. He laughed and told me it was smart to ask if I could have the colonoscopy I need done at the same time, even though it wasn't an option. Anyone who can honor wishful thinking like that gets my vote.

    A few days before surgery, I went to a lab to have blood drawn for tests. The woman who drew my blood read my form and said, "Dr. Peterson? He took my gallbladder out!" She was very happy with him and gave me some personal tips about going through it all.

    It turned out that I was able to request my anesthesiologist friend. I saw him a week before and he told me all about the cocktail he'd be mixing up for me and what I could expect. But more than that, it was a great comfort to have a familiar voice in my ear as I went under.

    When I came to afterward, I looked up and saw a familiar face. My recovery nurse turned out to be an acquaintance from my town! She took good care of me, and any sense of vulnerability I had melted away.

  • Hearing what the doctor said afterward about the state of my gallbladder ("It was ugly!") was vindication--proof that I'm not a whiner.

    The only reason I had the surgery was that I had finally mentioned to my doctor at my annual exam that sometimes I have this pain. Like, for years. As I described it to her, she ordered an immediate ultrasound. Why was I so slow in taking it to her? I don't know. I guess I didn't want to be a whiner. Way to get in my own way!

There were a few things I didn't quite anticipate even though I knew a lot going in. For example, it was much harder than I expected to pull my brain out of it all, and my 51-year-old belly skin was awfully stretched out afterward. But my brain and my skin are both getting back to normal.

And tomorrow I will open to the fresh and hopeful pages of a new year!

(Although I've got that colonoscopy coming up in a few weeks . . . )

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Itch

Two separate conversations I had today:

I talked with Tina about how when Jack graduates in about two and a half years (!), I'm going to shift back into full-time work. Having two part-time jobs has been great so I can be home in the afternoons when school gets out, but I can tell I'm heading toward making a change. One of my hopes? That I will find a job that requires me to travel (and, okay, pays for it).

I have this persistent itch that I just can't quite scratch enough.

Not five minutes later, I ran into Merlene. She grabbed me and proclaimed, "You travel more than anyone else I know!" And then she confessed that she prefers to stay home. Maybe that colors her perspective.

Because, really. I haven't scratched the itch nearly enough. Not even close.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Utah Lake, December 2014

I started reading The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coehlo, a novel about a man searching for his path on the road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, on the way to my cousin Peter's memorial service early this fall. I set it aside after that, then finished it on my way home from my Uncle Chuck's memorial service a couple of weeks ago.

For many years, I believe I was searching for ways to disconnect. I found caring can be too painful. Living on autopilot seemed like a good way to numb the pain. The problem with skimming the surface, though, is that it sucked the soul out of everything. And life stretched endlessly on before me.

So I started searching for ways to connect. To be real. To dive beneath the surface. To care. It's hard, but living on autopilot was worse.


I drove out to Utah Lake a few days ago. It had recently been unusually calm, a good destination to make a pilgrimage to reflect.

Bright and early this morning, I'm going to have my very first surgery. I'm getting my gallbladder removed. It's totally routine, but not for me. I have every confidence that it will all go smoothly, but, you know, things can happen.

So I want to put here that I've had more success lately figuring out my path.

And though I'm sure I'm going to come through my morphine haze just fine, I thought I'd make a few requests. I have a feeling they'll still be valid when I die a nutty old woman.

Take some of my ashes to a place I loved. Take some of my ashes to a place I've never been but would have loved if I had. And at my memorial service, please sing "For the Beauty of the Earth." Joyfully, like it's meant to be sung.