It’s now ten days since my surgery, and the fact that I am here writing this is a very good sign. I never doubted I would be able to do it. But it all seems all the more miraculous to me, now that I am on the other side and realizing what I knew I was getting into, and what I didn’t know.
My team of surgeons prepped me well. They explained everything clearly and in a way a layperson like me could understand. And I did understand what they said. Then, just to be sure, as I was in the pre-op area getting ready for the surgery, at least 5 people came over to me and asked me why I was there and what I understood would be happening in that extremely well-lit room down the hall. I explained to each person in increasing detail what was going to be done and why. I explained about the cancer, what form it was. where it was, and what may potentially need to be done in order to remove it and effect a surgical cure. I showed off. Everyone was very impressed with the depth of my knowledge and my relative calm considering all that we knew might happen over the next several hours. At one point I closed my eyes, and then I opened them again and found that the surgery was over. The surgeons were happy. There were no nasty surprises. Now, I just needed to recover.
That is when I realized that despite all my knowledge about the procedure, I really didn’t understand the ramifications of it at all. I hadn’t a clue what ‘radical surgery’ meant. I had no idea what my body would really be put through when the surgeons were pushing all sorts of organs out of the way, snipping at some of them, in order to extract this tiny cancerous lump deep in my pelvis. I had no idea of the extent of the pain and fatigue, not to mention the reality of the array of secondary side effects which I had heard about and knew were possible, but which were now slowing my recovery and making me all the more miserable. Then, on day 2 post-surgery, I called one of my sisters and burst into tears. That’s when I understood that i finally really knew what had happened to me.
On that phone call, my brilliant-sister-the-lawyer said that my reaction made sense to her. She described it as like having two brains, a thinking one and an emotional one. In order to get through the operation with as much strength as possible, my ‘thinking brain’ had to take over and bully my ’emotional brain’ into silence for a while. Only after it was all done, could my emotional thought process, in some ways the one that really matters, take over and comprehend the experience. That process was not easily done, but I do believe that I had to wait to even begin to do that sort of processing until my rational brain had shepherded me through the ordeal. It’s one thing to know something. It’s another to know it.
So now I know, and I know that my journey with cancer is not yet complete. Although our optimism remains that the surgery would be all that is needed, I now understand that until the final pathology comes back next week, the course of treatment remains unknown. I suppose I had felt that if my cancer could be ‘cured’ by surgery alone, then that wasn’t so bad. As long as I could avoid chemo and radiation, then this was all a sort of junior varsity cancer. To steal a baseball metaphor, I now know that it is still possible for me to be called up to the show, ie that varsity league cancer full of chemicals and laser beams. I’m now back in the waiting game. But now that I’ve had the chance to allow my two brains to do their work, my knowledge of this whole experience feels more complete, and I feel once again able to face the next steps, whatever they may turn out to be.
Beautiful Sue …Thinking of you and sending you HUGE positive prayers and thoughts …xoxoxoo
You are so courageous ,write so well and so I learn from you Sue. What a great piece this is.
So glad to hear that you are home and healing. This post makes so much sense to me for many reasons— your body needs to take over now and heal. Sending lots of love. ❤️❤️❤️
I think all this is hard for us Master’s of the Universe, who are accustomed to being able to fix anything that isn’t just how we like it. This stuff will not be hurried. We have to be faithful and patient. For me, that made me not feel like me any more. Now, a year later, I have learned patience and appreciation.Better late than never….
It sounds to me like you are doing great. I love how you distinguished between emotional and thinking brains! Keep on staying strong and healing.
So happy to see you writing. One step at a time…you’ll get there.
Sending good thoughts from UK, Sue.
Thank you Sue for your writing and for your brain crystallizing these thoughts sufficiently to be able to coherently describe your experience. I appreciate the deep knowledge you have of your journey through radical surgery and recovery. Thank you thank you thank you.
I will forward it to my 31 year old daughter who has pivoted from a career in marketing to a degree in radiation therapy this year. She is currently on her first prac placement. I am sure they will teach her the practical procedures of treating patients but not the insights you have expressed.
Dear Sue, I’m so happy to hear that you’re writing again and home again.
Your sister. Is very wise, and I will just add that there is also your “body brain” that knows that you have gone through something huge, even if, as hoped, the cancer is all gone. The embodied Sue deserves all the love and compassion that we’re all sending your way! Of course, we’ll be thinking of you tomorrow night at the Big Event!
We are all pulling for you. Thank you for writing about this so beautifully and truthfully.
Ron and Helen
I only wish I had your insight! These experiences are life-changing and maybe life-enhancing at the same time. I’m so glad you’re back to writing and helping the rest of us through your journey. Day by day…..
It’s such a relief to read this. It means that you’re back thinking with whichever brain you choose (or chooses you). Sending lots of love your way.
I recognize those 2 brains. They were at work in me this whole year of confinement,as we lived in our rabbit hole on a small island that is our summer shangri-la.. I thought we were handling it with aplomb until my emotional brain took over and rebelled. I didn’t want any more Zoom meetings. I wanted to hug my grandchildren, take the NY subway, go home to Paris. I felt unraveled. I was in a safe prison.