Before I get started here, I wanted to let everyone know that we’re going to take the weekends off from here on out. I think we might be able to manage 5 days of blogging goodness, but if we go for 7, the quality may suffer. Who am I kidding, the quality is already suffering a bit. Thanks for hanging in there guys!
8 weeks ago 60% of my liver was removed along with my gallbladder. Derek had all of his liver removed, his gallbladder was expelled as well and his intestines were rerouted in a procedure that is absurdly complicated to pronounce: Roux-en-Y jejunostomy. I suppose like so many significant moments in a person’s life, 8 weeks seems like forever ago, but also sort of feels like it just happened last week. Aside from the occasional poking pain and the massive scar on my abdomen, I mostly forget that I had surgery 2 months ago.
Last Friday, when we were at Lahey for Derek’s weekly check-in we decided to venture down to the 1st floor, the records room. We both filled out forms, showed our licenses and asked for copies of our medical records during our stay. I was only in the hospital for 7 days and didn’t ask for any of my imaging so I was able to have a print out of the notes from the surgeon and all of my blood labs on the spot. Derek will pick up his massive file along with a CD containing all of his x-rays next week. I wanted to read the notes for a very specific reason: I was there when it happened, but I don’t remember any of it. I know, I know, that’s for the best, but it doesn’t change the fact that one of the most important things I have ever undergone was done while I was unconscious. I have a much greater understanding of women who want to undergo natural child birth now. For me, there was a desire to be present for this whole experience, to know what was happening and understand how it was affecting my body while it was happening. All of which is not possible when someone is rooting around in your abdominal cavity.
Reading the surgeon’s notes from my procedure was such a gift. [PROCEDURES PERFORMED: Laparascopic-assisted live donor right hepatectomy, donor cholecystectomy, liver biopsy.] I read the report over and over again, pausing to look up words and terms I didn’t know, throwing up a little when I saw photos of the tools that were used on me. It was like reading an historical document that was all about me. There was a vivid description of the incision that had to be made in my diaphragm because of its proximity to where they needed to cut the liver. The surgeon described the ‘purse string’ suture that was made to close up the incision. You know how when you’re on a plane and you plug up your nose and blow out to clear your ears? They had to do that to me after they repaired my diaphragm. It’s called a Valsalva. Perhaps the most exciting part was learning that they used an argon beam “to coagulate the cut surface.” The rest of the surgery seemed pretty run of the mill–cut here, clamp there–but learning that lasers were involved makes it feel very futuristic to me.
I thankfully don’t remember the extent of the pain that ensued after the surgery. I remember glimpses of confusion, the vertigo that prompted me to secretly stop taking the morphine, and I remember that I suffered through bile reflux, but can’t remember exactly how it felt. I have forgotten the pain and remember only that if I had to live my life over again I would choose to be wheeled back into surgery every single time. I have never before felt so scared, not for my own mortality, but for Derek lying on a slab one surgical room over. Before the surgery, I told him over and over again that this was all worth it, that he would feel so much better when it was all over and I was terrified of being wrong. He did feel better, initially, and then as we all know, he felt profoundly worse for far too long.
If there’s one thing that this experience has taught me, it’s that being present, even during pain and fear, yields the best outcome in the long term. So many times in my life I have failed to set aside the time to process my fear in the moment. I always packed the fear away like the little squirrels that frantically hide acorns all over our lawn in the fall, only to lose them come spring and find that they’ve begun to grow into trees. These little fears that are set aside and take root are harder to let go of, they smolder in my brain and I forget where they came from. They morph into anxious thoughts that appear to have no genesis. They manifest as abject worry. This time I held the fear in my hands and let it remind me that it was there for a reason. I wanted to remember every moment of this experience no matter how much it hurt because I knew that I would be better equipped to heal.
I was so worried that I would not be able to mentally handle the stress of my own surgery, the stress of seeing Derek sick, that I did everything in my power to prepare for nearly every outcome. And now as I look back, I realize that the work has been done, I kept my eyes open through every loop and twist, and stared down my anxiety.
This video makes sense if you pretend that I am Sarah and that the Goblin King represents my anxiety.
If time travel is invented in my life time and I go back to 2014 Logan to give her a bit of advice, without screwing up the space time continuum, I think I would tell her: Don’t change a thing. Go ahead, cook a bunch of meals and freeze them, go see a therapist as much as you want, take a tour of the hospital floor you’ll be staying on, clean your house, and hold your fear in your hands so you don’t lose track of it.