The night before surgery I sat with Mr. Darcy and asked him to keep only positive thoughts in his head as I was in surgery. I wanted us to focus solely on good outcomes and happy times, to hold the hope that we could have the chance to conceive, to picture our wedding day, and recall all the fun we’ve had already in our two and a half years together. He is a worrier by nature and I knew this could be a challenge for him but he promised to try. He always tries. It is one of the things I love the most about him.
5:15am came quickly. I stumbled to feed the cats then take my second, as instructed, shower with the special Hibiclens soap. It’s a super anti-bacterial soap recommended for pre-surgery. I thought two showers was excessive (one the night before, one the morning of) and since my surgery was below the waist, I didn’t re-wash my hair. I slightly broke another rule when I put lotion on my face. I did admit it later to the nurse without being chastised.
We made our way to the hospital, found a space in the very hot underground parking garage that smelled like an antique store, and checked in at the desk. We sat for only a few minutes before we were moved into the pre-op area which is basically a bunch of curtained off areas with reclining chairs. Multiple nurses throughout the morning double checked my name, birthday, and my procedure as well as asked if I had eaten or drank anything. I likened them to police officers interrogating a suspect except they are very sweet and wearing scrubs. Lucky for all involved I am a rule-follower (minus that little lotion incident).
I got to rock the gown PLUS bottoms, a robe, and some skid-proof socks. It was, clearly, one worthy of a fashion forward post. Oh! I got to pee in a cup too.
Not pictured: matching pj bottoms and kelly green socks with skid stoppers. I think this might be my first bra-less photo on the internet. There’s a first for everything.
After spending some time there with Mr. Darcy, keeping things light and relaxed as they can be, they moved us to another pre-op area. In a similar set up of reclining chairs and curtains, we met Penny The Snorter. She was a kick. Very peppy and friendly and when she laughed she ended it with a snort. It was just the thing Mr. Darcy and I needed to keep the mood up. As we sat there we’d hear her talking to other patients and inevitably she’d laugh then snort. Another nurse came by to put in my IV and Mr. Darcy and I, both not liking needles, kind of stared off and at each other while she put it in. She offered to cover it with gauze so I didn’t have to see it in my arm and at first I declined but I noticed I was feeling squeamish and kind of obsessing on it so I took her up on it.
As we waited for the anesthesiologist and my doctor to arrive to check in with me, I started to feel more nervous. It was getting more and more real. Mr. Darcy was a champ, holding my hand and encouraging me, fetching me tissue when I couldn’t hold back some tears. I didn’t cry as much as I thought I might and I greatly attribute that to the bubble of love I felt surrounding me from all the wonderful people holding me in their thoughts and hearts, to all the meditating and deep breathing I had done the week prior, and to Mr. Darcy’s reassuring presence next to me.
The anesthesiologists started to arrive to meet patients. Many were young and attractive. And then this older guy walks in with a handlebar mustache and I knew he’d be mine. His name, despite him saying it twice, I did not catch. I call him Dr. Iz (because I could only make out the beginning). As we walked through all the risks and how he would administer the anesthesia, he asked if I had any questions. I was hesitant to inquire but I really wanted to be sure he was a positive person and would only say good things while I was under. I had been reading a book about preparing for surgery (thanks for the rec, Meg) and it encouraged patients to ask their anesthesiologists and docs to say certain healing, positive things in the operating room. Studies have shown that patients while under can still hear things and so a doctor saying something like, “this is not good, she is riddled with cancer” would make its way into the patients subconscious. Dr. Iz told us about a study done back before ethics committees were around where a doctor whispered, “You are going to die” into 10 patient’s ears while they were under. When they woke up, 6 of them claimed to be sure something terrible had gone wrong during surgery.
He promised he’d be positive and then Dr. P came over to discuss more risks and the procedure. We initialed off on adding a DNC to the list of things she would be doing- a cold-knife conization and some technical name for scraping up past the conization area further up my cervix. I also asked her to be positive for me during the procedure. She’s very matter-of-fact and direct which I like though I was grateful I had Darcy there to be the comfort. No one should have to sit there alone during all that. It’s really overwhelming. When she asked if I had any questions I inquired about if she would be shaving me and would I wake up in a diaper. I had heard from two different sources who had experienced similar types of surgery that these things could happen. She assured me neither would be occurring and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Soon another nurse came to walk me to the operating room. Mr. Darcy and I hugged good-bye, said our “I love you’s” and “see you soon’s” and tears came to my eyes. I kept breathing deeply, one step in front of the other. The nurse was very kind and I’m sure she sees crying patients all day long. Once in the very, very cold operating room, they had me drop my sexy bottoms and climb up onto the padded table. Dr. Iz told me he was starting the “good stuff” as they put these deliciously warm blankets over my body. I joked that this was almost like a spa, except for the whole cutting-into-my-cervix part. We laughed. I reminded them- Dr. Iz, Dr. P, and the two nurses, that we were going to keep things positive in there. They promised. I suggested maybe they could talk about how pretty I am and nice things like that. We chuckled. I said thanks for taking good care of me and that’s the last thing I remember.
During surgery they put a breathing tube down my throat but I never saw it. When I woke up it was already out. My only other experience of having surgery, like I’ve said, was when I was about 8 and had my tonsils and adenoids out. When I woke up from that surgery, I was surrounded by other patients waking up. One in particular was crying and screaming in pain. I recall the nurse saying she had her gall bladder out. I was terrified. And then I threw up. This waking up experience was much better. There was a nurse right there when I came to. I think the clock said it was around 9:45am. She gave me some ice chips. I didn’t feel much pain, just disorientation. Dr. P popped by to wave hello (she said I would not recall this but I do). They wheeled me to the same waiting area I started at, had me put on some mesh underwear to keep the pad in place, and got me some water and crackers.
When I saw Mr. Darcy walk into the room I started crying. I have never been happier to see anyone in my entire life. He sat with me as I sipped water and ate some crackers. I took a Vicodin and then they told me I could get dressed if I felt ready. Mr. D went off to fill the prescriptions and I continued to eat crackers. I was starving! Another guy in scrubs came by once Mr. D was back and wheeled me out to the car. I felt pretty lucid though Mr. D might not concur. I was ordering him how to get home from the hospital which is pretty standard. Maybe it gave him comfort knowing I was quickly returning to my old self? (Ha!) I really wanted a Starbucks breakfast sandwich so he stopped in and got us some. Man, that was a good sandwich.
When we walked into the door of our house we encountered balloons, a spread of magazines, bagels and muffins, and handmade heart garland. This is what happens when you give your family keys to your house. I, of course, cried. I am my grandmother’s granddaughter after all (Grandma Marion was the ultimate crier- she cried when happy or sad or sometimes over a delicious meal). Mr. Darcy went downstairs to fetch me a pillow and a blanket and discovered more treats- a robe and socks, and a handmade We <3 U Tee Tee sign. More crying!
Dash really took to the robe. That bear on our bed is TA from when I had my last surgery (31 years ago!).
I settled into the couch and caught up on all the encouraging, thoughtful, loving texts, emails, tweets and FB messages. Then I cried some more. Happy tears though, seriously. And it wasn’t just the drugs. I spent the majority of the day watching tv, reading magazines, taking painkillers and eating donut holes. After a long nap, Mr. Darcy made me tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Please recall that Mr. Darcy does not cook and please note that the grilled cheese was the Best Thing Ever. It helped that it was made with love and delivered to me in bed too.
I’m feeling some discomfort but the Midol helps cut the edge off it. I’m doing better than I thought I would as far as my energy and activity level goes. They even said I could go back to exercising next week (after I got my dance studio shifts covered). I’ll probably do some yoga and take some walks and resume dance next Saturday. Meanwhile I’m going to attempt to take it easy (by my standards) and recuperate.
I’m trying to keep focused on the positive, bask in all the support, and remain hopeful that the doctor will call later this week with good news. If you have any good vibes left to send, hold that hope in your heart for me (and Mr. Darcy). You have all been amazing and I cannot thank you enough for helping me get through this scary time.