Before undergoing surgery this past Monday, I had to face my own mortality.
The procedure was routine: my OB-GYN would be removing a large cyst from my left ovary. Even though it wasn’t a high-risk surgery, one of the nurses recommended that I fill out an Advance Health-Care Directive anyway. The 10-page document asked me to name one agent and two alternate agents who would be able to make health care decisions for me, should I become incapacitated. The night before surgery, I sat at my desk puzzling over lines like this and deciding what to keep or cross out:
(a) Choice Not to Prolong Life
I do not want my life to be prolonged if (i) I have an incurable and irreversible condition that will result in my death within a relatively short time, (ii) I become unconscious and, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, I will not regain consciousness, or (iii) the likely risks and burdens of treatment would outweigh the expected benefits.
This kind of thing did not help me feel less nervous about the surgery.
My friends who had been through ovarian cyst removal, laparoscopic or otherwise, told me that the procedure was common. The doc told me that, too. But I couldn’t get out of my head a recent episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” in which a young patient slips into a coma after a routine procedure, and her husband has to pull the plug. Damn you, Grey’s.
Thinking about the possibility of dying on the operating table clouded my eyes with tears. I feel as if I have so much more to do on this earth before my time is up.
I also can’t bear the thought of leaving Darren alone. Who would make sure that he eats breakfast and exercises regularly? Who would get him to talk about his feelings? I wanted to tell him, “Please promise that you’ll remarry if anything should happen to me,” but I didn’t think that would do his nerves any favors. He had seen the death-by-routine-surgery episode of Grey’s, too.
Despite all these worrisome thoughts, the upside of staring fate in the eye was the chance to reflect on my life so far. It’s not often that I ask myself big, important questions, like these:
- To what extent have I done my best here?
- What do I regret?
- What will I do differently from this point on?
Fortunately, I do feel good about how I’ve lived so far: putting my gifts to work to improve education, and being a loving friend and partner most of the time. When I’ve made mistakes, I’ve tried to set them right.
While I was drowning in regrets before I started Reschool Yourself, I’ve learned to let them go. I’ve done the best I could with what I’ve had. Every decision I’ve made has led up to the moment I’m in now, and I’m happy to be here.
Going forward, I’m re-committing myself to not sweating the small stuff. That goal alone will keep me busy for a lifetime.
So, with all this going through my head, I talked over the Advance Health-Care Directive form with Darren and signed it, listing him as the primary agent.
The next day, the surgery went smoothly, despite one twist: I had a grapefruit-sized cyst on the right ovary, as well as the left one. In addition, there was a lot of endometriosis on the left side, which can interfere with fertility. The doctor removed everything that didn’t belong and sent me home that evening to recover. I see him in two weeks and hope to find out more then.
Even though I am left with many questions — will the cyst biopsy come back negative, as expected? will the cysts come back? will I be able to have children, and will I need to have them soon? — I feel thankful beyond words. I’m thankful to be alive, to have kept both my ovaries, to be marrying my dream guy, and to have friends and family who have showered me with supportive words and thoughtful gifts while I’m recovering.
Above all, I’m thankful that no matter what hardship I may have to face in the future, I know for certain that I won’t be facing it alone.
I am convinced “Grey’s Anatomy” has permanently warped the way I see the medical profession! Not cool, Seattle Grace. Not cool.
I’m so happy that the surgery went well, they got all the bad stuff and you are recovering nicely. I wish I could be there to make you soup and play Apples to Apples with you during your recovery time, but I’m so glad Darren and your Jackson peeps are taking good care of you. You are definitely not alone through all of this, and I’m hoping you get good news when you talk to the doctor in a couple weeks. Love you lots and sending you tons of healing thoughts!
Thank you, darlin’. I know – I couldn’t help but worry that my surgeons would be exchanging gossip over the operating table like the Seattle Grace-Mercy West surgeons do! Warped indeed.
Well, the second best thing to having you here during recovery is G-chatting and phone chatting. Darren and my other Jackson folks are definitely tending to me well. Here’s hopin’ for good news at my follow-up appointment in two weeks!