Granted, I am incredibly tough and resilient. Yes, I have completed extensive post-graduate studies in Mythic Hero’s Journeying. I will also accept the overwhelming evidence that the behavior I think of as “just being me” is judged by others to be inspirational, strong and brave.
But right now, as my automatic emotional shield of detachment gradually wears away, I am beginning to freak out.
One of the early signs of this? My emotional reaction to all the people happy about the news that our surgery date had been moved earlier. “Easy for them to say,” I thought. “They aren’t the ones who will be getting cut open.”
The fact that I’ve had surgery like this before has both good and bad aspects. One bad aspect is that I know all too well what I have ahead of me. As time goes by, I’m remembering more details and things I don’t usually think about, and it’s pretty upsetting.
I’m remembering being in the ICU. While in recent years my thoughts of that experience have only gone as far as recalling our friend Chris’ description of the cartoon hearts floating on the ceiling, now I’m remembering the feeling of relief I had that I woke up after the surgery at all. (I was seriously worried going in that my impaired heart function wouldn’t get me through a 12-hour surgery.) I recall what a big deal it was that I could manage to, with help, transfer out of bed and sit up in a chair for a little while.
I’m remembering why it is that I’m able to have an opinion on the relative qualities of the powerful opiates oxycodone versus hydrocodone, and also times when I was still in incredible pain despite having plenty of them on board. (Thank god I already have my PEG installed, and we’ve learned a lot about what to put into it.)
I guess I’m OK with the fact that I’ll be trached again, and unable to talk for a few days. The last time left me with some lingering minor claustrophobia and hypervigilance, but I don’t think that will get worse. We may substitute my iPad for the purple pen and file cards we used for me to scrawl messages last time, but I know I’ll still be able to communicate without speaking.
I am not worried about having to spend too many months nourishing myself only via the PEG tube, because, in what I readily admit is a self-serving decision, not a completely objective assessment, I believe this surgery will not disrupt my ability to swallow as badly as the last one did. It will probably be only a month or two before the swelling goes down and everything has healed.
I really don’t know how long it will take to recover. It’s unpredictable.
This is BIG. And very hard, and scary. And I’m feeling it.