Six days in the hospital. Strapped to a machine. Trying to find a good position for sleep in a hard bed. Listening to whaps and bangs and wheezes. Searching for something to watch. Drifting in and out of consciousness. Becoming BFFs with the pain pump.
There’s nothing like having major surgery.
The surgery was scheduled for four hours but ended up taking a little over five. I said good-bye to my family about a quarter after 9:00 a.m. December 12th and didn’t see them again until close to 7:00 p.m. that night. At least I think it was around that time. I was far too drugged to know for sure.
The tumor was a little larger than a golf ball. My surgeon was able to scoop it out without having to take too much liver tissue with it. I have an incision that starts just beneath my sternum and runs down around my rib cage, where it finally terminates at the spot where my elbow hits my waist.
My skin is torn in several places from the tape. Tape everywhere. Tape to hold down the central line poked into my neck, tape to hold down the epidural line, tape to hold down the drain lodged in my abdomen, tape to hold down the IV. Steri strips cover the incision, their corners beginning to peel.
At least a dozen total strangers have seen me naked. I shuffled down hallways, pushing an IV pole and hoping that my rear end didn’t make an unscheduled appearance. I heard people scream and moan in the middle of the night. I relied on nurses for everything from sitting up to showering. I called them at 3:00 a.m. when the pain pump began to buzz. They put up with my lame sense of humor, made sure I ate throughout the day and pushed me to move even though I didn’t want to.
Now, at home, I rely on my family. My mom helped me shower when I first got back. Chris monitors my pain pill schedule and sleeps on the couch so I don’t have to be alone in the living room. My brother comes over during the day and we watch movies. My dad brings me medicinal goods such as Pepsi.
I’m living in the recliner, propped up by five pillows. The dogs nap on the ottoman by my feet. Tears sting my eyes every time I see the incision, every time I breathe deeply, every time I try to shift into a more comfortable position. I need to laugh but when I do the pain is so great. I am tired and frustrated. So I make use of the coloring books my mom and my boss got me. Swiping crayons across the page is deeply satisfying.
I have recited Psalm 23 more times than I can count. I’ve begged God for strength, for relief, for hope. He has answered. He has continually buoyed my soul above the mire that would drag me down. I am laid low, but I am not done. I ache, but the ache will not last forever. Breath comes dear but it comes nonetheless.
I am in the valley of the shadow, but I see the sun. God is here.