The first few days after surgery passed in a fog – I was heavily sedated but comfortable at home. I was surrounded by love and friendship and took my time to heal the wound and recover from complete anesthesia.
I didn’t realize how big of an impact complete anesthesia can have on a person. I was healing very quickly, so about three weeks after surgery, I felt well enough for my husband to take me skiing. We both loved it and it was a great relief from the gloom and doom of the “C” word. But as I was putting on the skis my body felt weird; as if it wasn’t mine. We went to the ski lift and suddenly I had the feeling that I didn’t know my body. To my dismay, the lift was slowly approaching, and I didn’t know if I would be able to maneuver my body in accordance with the movement of the ski lift. Somehow, however, I managed to sit on the lift. What a feeling of great accomplishment and relief!
As we were coming up the hill I realized that I had no idea of how to get off the lift and start skiing. I am the fairly good skier, and in the past getting on and off the lift was never a problem. This feeling of anxiety was completely new. I lost all confidence in managing my body’s movements. It felt as if I was completely disconnected from it. When we reached the top I stood up from the lift and skied down the little hill, with my legs feeling like stilts and not knowing how to turn for fear of falling. After three or four times of coming down the hill, I slowly regained/remembered the connection to the body and the skill came back; so I could enjoy the rest of the wonderful day.
It was an illuminating experience. For the first time, as I was trying to use my body, I witnessed with awareness, the process of rebuilding my connection with it. It was much more than remembering a once-acquired skill. It felt literally as if I was sending the signals down to my legs or hands and then slowly rebuilding the nerve connection back to my brain with each downhill pass. I talked about it with my surgeon, who confirmed that it usually takes about 30 days after full anesthesia to reconnect completely with the body.
Post-surgery time is marred with dealing with pain and more anxious waiting. We are told that the full pathology will be available after a few weeks and only then will we know exactly the kind and stage of cancer. We still do not know the next steps of the journey. “WHAT NOW? That question is still active in our minds.
After a couple of weeks, we will go to our surgeon for a follow-up appointment. Hopefully, the surgery was a success and we will finally know what type of cancer we are challenged with. This will be the first opportunity to discuss what’s next. “You will discuss this with your oncologist but most likely you will have to have chemotherapy and radiation,” my surgeon said. “Such treatment will take some time.” Well, I wasn’t having any of it. I still clung to my original plans to travel through Europe and to Trinidad. I said, “No way. I don’t have the time for chemo. I need to be in London for Christmas and then on to do lectures in different locations!” My lovely doctor smiled kindly and said simply, “You’ll talk this over with your oncologist.”
As I was discussing the next appointment with his secretary before leaving the office, she asked, “So you do not want to do the treatments?” I explained to her that I had my plans set and wanted to stick to them. She looked at me with compassion and said, “Oh Lee, but you are so young; much too young to die.”
I left the office speechless, her words still ringing in my ears. Does it really mean that if I do not do chemo I will die tomorrow? What did she mean? She said it with such compassionate conviction…
Today, I realize how many conscious and unconscious scare tactics the industry uses to have us do what they think we should do. Total disempowerment of the patient…