From Start to Finish

From Start to Finish.

September 11, 2001 will forever be etched in my memory... driving to work, trembling with fear, wondering what I was going to say to my students... I was teaching a fifth grade class then, but even fifth graders are impressionable and would have a million questions and fears. Listening to it unfold in live-time, I sat frozen in my seat, unable to get out of my car and walk into the school I taught at, I prayed for the strength to stand tall and push forward.

Thus, when my surgeon's office called me two hours after I completed the last of my 3 fold post-chemo "tests," and asked me to circle the day: September 11th on my calendar. I couldn't help but feel the same raw emotions I felt then- fear, terror, confusion.

"I don't understand," I stammered.

"Your colonoscopy came back clean! Your CT scan shows no evidence of cancer! And two hours ago you gave blood and your blood work looks great. Dr. A wants us to schedule the 11th for your final 'Resection' Operation.'" (If you are looking for an amazing GI doctor, shoot me an e-mail and I will provide you with his full name.)

"Oh shit!"

"Calm down, this is a good thing."

"But, it's in a week. What if..."

"Stop, don't you want to claim your life back? This is the last step. You can do this. We can do all the pre-operation preparations next week and then all you have to do is show up on the 11th and let Dr. A work his magic."

I inhaled slowly and said, "Let's do it. For better or for worse, let's just do it." I spent the week before submerged in terror envisioning everything that could go wrong. I stopped walking with my nightly walking partner. I clammed up and shut down. I did pray though. I prayed for Dr. A for the gifts he'd been given, asked God to bless him with the ability to pull off yet another miracle, and to help him return me to what I was created for- changing lives.

The days seemed to drag on slowly as I completed a last minute EKG, visited Dr. A's office for specific pre-operative instructions, and completed all the paperwork I would need for yet another five to six week leave and four to seven day hospital stay.

I dreaded knowing that in a week I would go from being able to function at top capacity to being a vegetable again with yet another open wound.

The day of the operation, hubby and I kept busy signing our little tyke up for a Black and White Photography class at Barnsdall Art Park.

"What if this takes too long and we're late?" Hubby asked, eyeing his watch.

I laughed and retorted, "I don't think they're going to start the party without me.  Either way though, I see Kaiser Permanente from here. I"ll walk down and register myself till you're done and you can join me."

We talked, walked, and found ourselves in the hospital by 10:30 without a problem. Although the operation was scheduled for noon, they didn't call me in until noon. We spent time in the waiting room admiring the greyhound meandering amongst the patients. People stopped the dog and volunteer to pet it and talk to him about the program through which such animals are allowed to touch the lives of those who need an extra shot of pep.

I reached out to pet the beauty when my hubby snapped, "Don't touch him. They're about to cut you open, you don't need an infection!"

The man walking the hound stopped and gave me a card.

"What you're doing is amazing," I said. "There's nothing like an animal that can help push sadness aside."

"We're part of the Pet Prescription Team and this is Carmine. She was once a racer, but now she's a therapy dog."

"Thank you sir for what you are offering this community!"

"You wanted to pet him, didn't you?" Hubby asked.

I glared, "Yeah, but I understand why you didn't want me to so I contained myself." Soon enough I was called in, given a gurney, and prepped for the operation.

Dr. A visited me while I lay on my bed to stress that "nothing is for certain. Once I get in there I'll know better whether putting your plumbing back together is even possible today."

I gasped.

"You knew this, don't act surprised. I"m just warning you again just in case you forgot. If you wake up with a smaller bag, it's because it was a necessity. I need to know that there won't be any leakage before I send you away bag free."

"And if there is?"

"Then you come back in three months and the smaller bag disappears then."

I bit the inside of my cheek. I couldn't help it. The raw emotions raged within. I nodded and whispered, "I understand Doc. You are the expert and I trust that you have the gifts at the end of your fingertips with which to give me back a semblance of normalcy."

"Even then, normal will be far from the normal your remember."

"Enough Doc. I will take whatever you give me without any further complaint."

The next eight hours were spent in an anasthesia induced non-existence. I remember none of it. When I opened my eyes near nine o'clock, the first thing I did was lift my nightgown and look down my war torn body to where I discovered absolutely nothing. No bag. No big bag. No little bag. A tiny gauze covered wound stared back. Four minuscule  1 cm laparoscopic slits  plugged up by tiny bandages were also scattered across.

I cried tears of joy and prayed for Dr. A one last time, thanking God for miracles like him, people with enough valor and grit to bring about mind blowing medical marvels.  Unable to reign in my emotions, my tears gave way to giggles for I felt utterly relieved that what could have been yet another ominous day brought with it hope.

I blacked out again and the next time I awoke I was being wheeled to a room I would share with another patient over the next few days, while learning to control my bowels (details of which will not appear here due to the humbling experience endured).

Still floating on my chemical high I spotted my mom in one of the hallways and sang out, "That's my mommy! Hi mommy, I'm back!"

She cried. The gurney stopped. She kissed my forehead and said, "Thank God! Welcome back baby girl, welcome back!"
* * * * *

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