On the first day of Christmas, the doctors gave to me …. Another freakin’ surgery.
Oh, BRCA. The gift that keeps on messing with my life.
Tomorrow I head back to the hospital for a surgical procedure to stop the 77 day stretch of bleeding I’ve been having. It’s been an emotional — and physical — toll on my body which has impacted my daily life and, not to mention, my half-marathon training. Sometime in mid-October, after my 10 mile run, I was told to stop exercising and see if the rigor was influencing my symptoms. Now, I just live vicariously through the people on the pages of my running magazine, curled up on the couch, in my pajamas, as my running-partner audiobooks lay unplayed on my iPhone.
Did I ever tell you about the time I was 12-years old and stumbled upon a video of a doctor performing cataract surgery?
Back when there were VCRs, I had put in an exercise video tape into the player and completed half the workout. When I got home from school, I wanted to finish the rest of it. So, I took off my school clothes, changed into my black/hot pink spandex, and took my position in front of the television. I pressed play, waited for the delay of the VCR to register my directions and spin the tape wheels, and closed my eyes. I inhaled deeply. I opened my eyes expecting to see Jane Fonda in her unitard and headband doing a reach-and-pull. Instead, I saw a close up of an eyeball with a small metal tool carving out the upper layer of the eye.
“Dad!” I screamed to my Dad who I knew was still in his office two towns away from our house.
At some point between my workout yesterday and this moment in time, my father had inserted one of his medical procedure tapes, likely just passing the time while eating breakfast or waiting for my Mom to get ready for work.
Now, call it exercise-laziness, or maybe just fascination, but I sat down on the floor and continued to watch the rest of the surgery. I was amazed by how the ophthalmologist precisely lifted the outer layer of the eye in order to clear up the cloudiness of the cataract. I pressed pause, and just like my dad, grabbed a snack, and hit play again. It was beautiful.
Last night, as I try to fall asleep, I pulled out my iPhone and searched for videos about hysteroscopy polypectomy — the procedure that I’ll have tomorrow. The description walked me through, step-by-step, the exact process of what will happen when I get to the hospital. Then, I watched what my gynecological oncologist will be doing — from the inside.
When the video was over, I closed my eyes. I inhaled deeply. And, I fell asleep.
While tomorrow’s procedure brings me comfort knowing that my marathon-medical-issues session will end, I would be lying if I wrote that I wasn’t nervous. My last surgery left me with, essentially, what felt like a betrayed body; so, there is certainly some residual trauma from that. But, I know that all will be fine. All will work as planned. And, as I constantly remember, I am very fortunate to know what I know; to have access to medical care; and to have support from friends and family. It is especially during this time when I think of the many who do not have access to what I take for granted each day.
For me, I have the privilege of re-framing my struggles. Knowing about my BRCA status has been, minimally, a burden, but largely a gift. But, I know that is not always available to others. May we continue to all live in solidarity with one another. As we enter into a holiday season when we cherish miracles, faith, family, and love, I ask that you not only remember those who cannot, but that, together, we demonstrate acts of kindness and humanity towards one another.
Peace and one love,