July 12 is going to be a big day for me. I’m going to travel to Iowa City the day before with my husband, have a fabulous meal, wander through Prairie Lights, and report to the University of Iowa Hospital for (gulp) surgery. I’ll spare you the details, but I will say that 1) I don’t have cancer, and 2) this has nothing to do with my headaches. My surgeon, the only specialist in her field in the entire state of Iowa, is going to remove an organ or two, and fix up a few others. I plan to sleep through it all.
Surgery is a new experience for me. Sure, I’ve had tests and biopsies requiring general anesthesia, but the worst part was the twelve-hour fast beforehand. I awoke demanding popcorn or a root beer float, not much the worse for wear.
This upcoming event is referred to by my doctor as “major surgery.” It makes me think of the doctor in The Simpsons – not crazy Dr. Nick, but the chucklehead guy who reassures Homer, “It’s just a procedure. A deadly procedure.”
I’m sure “death” is on the list of possible complications of my own upcoming procedure, as well as the possible need for a transfusion, but I’m trying to look on the bright side. Not only will this operation correct some very uncomfortable body woes, but I’ve been ordered to take six weeks off work to recover.
I like my job a lot, and it’s not like I’ve been dying (pun intended) to take an extended medical leave. But I don’t want to undo what the surgeon is going to do, so I’ll be at home for half a dozen weeks. Or perhaps out for a walk, which is all the exercise I’m allowed, so I don’t turn into a slug. I can’t pick up anything heavy, so that rules out all sorts of onerous chores: adding litter to the cat’s box, emptying the dehumidifier, hefting a big bottle of liquid detergent to the washer, and so on. This could be fun. We’re even hiring someone to clean the house.
I find myself thinking of this time off as one great big Snow Day. You know how much fun snow days can be, when you are forced to stay away from work or school. Time stands still as you read or watch movies or cook some elaborate dessert, provided you bought all the ingredients when the blizzard was just a vague promise of a “weather event.” Snow days are guilt-free, and thus, a gift from the heavens.
My recuperation won’t be quite like that, I know. I asked an elderly friend if she was able to walk up and down stairs after a similar procedure, and she answered, “Sure.” A few beats later, she interrupted me to point out, “I didn’t say I wasn’t in PAIN!” Point taken. I know I’ll be in pain, because they’ve promised me supersized pain pills. Who knows? Maybe they’ll keep my headaches at bay. It would be a shame if a pesky migraine made me forgo all the reading and movie-watching and writing on the computer I plan to do.
I should say, “hope to do.” Because really, how do I know how I will feel? Maybe I’ll be flat on my back in bed, moaning loudly for someone to bring me another pill. My husband has no idea what sort of meals I’m going to want, but I have a feeling it may involve soothing nursery food like egg custard, or milk toast, neither of which he knows how to make. I can just see myself staggering into the kitchen, trying to concoct some comfort food to feed the invalid. My daughter did buy me a lovely lap desk, from which I can take my meals or write the Great American Sonnet while in bed.
I also bought a new pillow, and sheers for the bedroom windows. I really wanted the ceiling painted, since I might have to spend a lot of time staring at it, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. A new iPad would be fabulous, too, for looking at magazines in full, brilliant color in my sickbed, but somehow I don’t think that qualifies as a medical expense.
When my children were younger, snow days were when Mom got out the special toys, and let the kids play to their hearts’ content in the living room, creating large but creative chaos. And I used to say, with a wave of my hand, that I would do some tedious chore (organizing photos, cleaning out files) “when there’s a blizzard.” So now I’m thinking, all right. I’m finally going to get that big To Do list all done.
Then I remember the PAIN, and think I may be lucky to finish any of the 47 books I’ve bought for my six-week snow day. I could end up watching all the seasons of “The Tudors” I missed. That would be entertaining, but far from productive. I guess I’m not a very good patient, because I feel that a day without accomplishments is a day without value.
My yoga teacher posted this Esther Hicks quote on Facebook, and I’m afraid it was pointed at me: “All is well. You did not come here to fix a broken world. The world is not broken. You came here to live a wonderful life. And if you can learn to relax a little and let it all in, you will begin to see the universe present you with all that you have asked for.” All I ask for is a body that’s unbroken, and doesn’t hurt so much. Too much to ask? We’ll see.