In four days I will have major surgery. Hysterectomy. Some people (nobody in my fastidious family) used to refer such surgery as “going under the knife”. In a way that tired cliche expresses how I feel about it. I am trying to understand exactly how I do feel about it. I imagine the scene. It’s the operating room where everyone is anonymous under green and white gowns, masks and head coverings, identifiable by voice and function only. Lots of lights. I am covered with sterile drapes which are parted to expose the relevant skin. Now the first incision; the scalpel slides across my lower abdomen — I suppose a little above the pubic region. White flesh parts and blood oozes. I am sedated so I don’t really know what’s going on, but when they get finished I will be minus a few organs. I am almost 84 years old. These are organs I have no further use for; yet somehow I feel a loss. I will no longer be complete.
I have been waiting a long time for this event. The surgery was decided 3 months ago, but the schedule is crowded and an 84 year old with a fibroid is not an emergency, so I wait. As the time comes closer I become more anxious, though sometimes I can regard this calmly and think about what I will do in a couple of weeks. Sometimes I panic and can’t think of the future beyond 9:40 Tuesday morning. Some nights I sleep badly, uncomfortable and ruminating. Last night I slept well.
The reason for the surgery is that the fibroid tumor needs to be checked for cancer. Cancer is unlikely and I do not worry about that. Why I don’t is a mystery to me, since I have worried about all sorts of sillier things in my life.
How shall I present this to my world? Shall I be secretive and tell no one till it’s all over? I could, but it’s not really my style. Should I talk about it all the time? Of course not. I try to be frank, but not boring. I fear I err on the boring side. I have resisted friends’ offers of help — bringing meals, shopping for food, driving me home form the hospital — all that. I have told my children to stay home. I think Jerry and I will do better quietly on our own.
Last night I played Mah Jongg with Tammy, Sue and Grace. We played in a house that Tammy is house sitting in. Tammy said it was an interesting house, but I did not like it. There was a quantity of heavy woodwork around the windows and on the vaulted ceiling and the interior space was oddly organized and dark. After we finished playing Kay came from the Beach Store Cafe where she is taking a 4 week course on French wines. She was enthusiastic. She said there was a lot of wine. For most of the evening I was tired and preoccupied. I hope I didn’t talk too much about the operation.
Tomorrow I will go to Lorna’s workshop and paint the two guys walking that I have identified as hipsters (according to the description given to me by my daughter and granddaughter). There is a fat lady in the background. There isn’t the remotest possibility that anyone will buy the painting when it’s finished. It will be odd. After the workshop I will drive back to the ferry and pick Jerry up so we can go out to dinner in town. I will eat a lot of oysters. I will try not to dwell on the operation, or on how eating raw oysters might affect its outcome.
Sunday we go to Bobbi and Malcolm’s for dinner. The conversation should be good. I will try not to talk about the operation. I will talk instead about our local neighborhood drama. Brenda is suing the Hilltop Water Association from which we get our water. Malcolm is the former chairman of the board. Brenda seems to be focusing her anger on him and on the present chairman, Rich. They have both worked hard at this non-paying volunteer job and done well. Under their guidance the water supply has become safer and far more reliable. Brenda’s motivation seems to be to get money, but there must be a better way since neither the water association nor its chairmen have deep pockets.
All around in the world there’s more to think about than a looming operation. I think about my painting, local and national politics, food and fun and friends. It will be the same after as before I tell myself. Just that I will be missing a few troublesome bits.
A week ago I had a friendly phone conversation with a hospital admitting nurse who gave me detailed instructions about when to stop eating, what pills not to take and how to wash with antibiotic soap before coming to the hospital. I must put clean sheets on the bed and wear clean pajamas the night before.
On Monday I finally have my pre-op appointment with the doctor who will operate. It is a woman, in her 50’s I guess, who I have only seen a couple of times for a very few minutes. She seems smart and I suppose she is competent, but I am not filled with confidence. I was supposed to see her today but they are short handed and I was put off till less than 24 hours before the zero hour.
The next installment about this will come after it’s done. I hope to write it up in the hospital where I may have to stay for 5 days. I’m sure all will go well, notwithstanding the brochure I was given about this surgery which listed all the possible complications. The last one was death.