Recovery.

When the past has passed from you at last, let go. Then climb down and begin the rest of your life. With great joy.

– Elizabeth Gilbert

I could tell by the look on his face that I was going to be OK. An hour earlier – give or take, time was slippery – I awoke to a blur of fluorescent lights. “Don’t touch your face!” a nurse barked, as she wheeled me down the hallway of Mt. Sinai hospital. She parked my gurney in a curtained recovery area and looked at me. “How’s your pain?” she asked.

“Umm. . .”

“On a scale of one to ten.”

I tried to lift my head and a sharp, searing pain shot through my shoulder blades. Waves of hot, heavy cramps traveled across my abdomen. I slowly lowered my head back onto my pillow.

“Five?” I offered.

Tired, confused, and still feeling the effects of anesthesia, I struggled to put facts together. I remembered the long morning in the hospital, the paperwork, the blood draw, the pleasant, reassuring face of my doctor as she cheerfully told my boyfriend Jake, “We’ll take good care of her,” just before wheeling me off to surgery.

I remember thinking the operating room looked nothing like the ones depicted on TV. It was too crowded, too brightly lit. As I lay on the table, doctors buzzing around me, discussing their plans for me as though I weren’t there, panic rose within me. I can’t do this, I thought. The anesthesiologist leaned in close and adjusted something on my IV. “How do you feel?” he asked. “A little nervous,” I confessed, my voice small. “That’s perfectly normal,” he said, his tone as warm as the heated blanket my doctor had just placed on top of me. And then, I fell asleep.

“What time is it?” I asked Jake, when he appeared at my bedside.

“Five o’clock,” he said.

I had been in the hospital for eight hours. I was out of surgery. And I was awake and talking. It felt like a miracle. I could tell by Jake’s face that he thought so, too.

I barely slept that night. Even with the aid of Percocet, the pain was intense. The only thing that alleviated it was standing and walking, so, off and on throughout the early morning hours, I hobbled around my apartment, trying to disperse the Co2 gas that had been pumped into my body during the laparoscopic procedure. When I did sleep, I dreamt of my mother, my mind circling around something my uncle said when I told him about my upcoming surgery: “You are your mother’s daughter.”

Like me, my mother also had a large ovarian cyst that had to be surgically removed. When I was a child, her stories about the cyst haunted my imagination. Not just because it was big – the size of a grapefruit – but, because – creepily – it had hair and teeth. “It means I was supposed to be a twin,” my mom used to tell me. Whether or not that was actually true, I have no idea. But she said it, and I believed it.

After my cyst was diagnosed, I avoided the internet. I didn’t want to know anything about it, didn’t want to have an understanding of how large it was. It was enough that my doctor winced when reviewing my ultrasounds. “You’re really not in pain?” she asked.

The day after the surgery, with the mass safely out of my body, curiosity got the better of me. A quick google search led me to a chart comparing tumors to pieces of fruit. Ten centimeters was the equivalent of a grapefruit. My cyst, when they pulled it out of me, was fourteen.

How long had this thing been growing inside of me? It was impossible to know. I had been avoiding doctors for years, terrified of them after a string of deaths in my family. But suddenly, it all started to make sense: the frequent stomach cramps I’d chalked up to stress. The strange sensation of something tugging on my insides. I’d told the truth when I told my doctor that I wasn’t in pain. But for as long as I could remember, there had been something else. Something more elusive. A persistent feeling that something was wrong.

These last few years, I have worked hard to heal, to stay positive, to change my life. But no matter what I’ve done or how hard I’ve tried, something always, inevitably, pulled me low again. Over time, I’ve become used to my sadness. I’ve harbored a secret fear that I was permanently broken.

Until last week. Until the endometrioma – a benign mass filled with blood – was cut from my body. And then I began to wonder: what if this thing, this growth, was the physical manifestation of watching my mother slip into madness? What if it had stored up all the memories of my father’s physical decline, my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s Disease, the weeks I sat with my grandfather while he died? What if all the terrible things that happened over the last seven years needed somewhere to go, and this was where they went?

I don’t know if, in the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, the past has passed from me at last. Maybe it never will. And maybe that’s OK. But over the course of this last week – as my pain has subsided and my strength has returned – I have been awed by the power of my own body. I am embarrassed that I have neglected it, and grateful beyond measure to discover that it is healthier and more resilient than I could have imagined.

I still have some hurdles to clear. Some medical tests to pass. And some big decisions to make. But I feel like I’ve been given a second chance. I feel like I’ve turned a corner, one I’m only beginning to understand. And for the first time in a long time, I feel like everything is going to be all right.

Until next time, friends.

12 thoughts on “Recovery.

  1. I have missed you! so glad you had successful surgery, you poor thing! but so happy you’re ok! now you can look forward to the future, well done getting it sorted, I am like you, putting off things like that! get well soon my lovely!

  2. So glad to hear your’e feeling better! And I kinda like the idea of all of the “ugly” being in one spot that you can actually just cut out, that would have saved me lots of therapy time, haha!!! All the best and speedy recovery to you!

    • Hahaha! Right? I mean, who knows? But I think our mind and body are often more connected than we realize. And I think if I decide this surgery is a game changer, then it will be. Thank you for your good wishes! I’m wishing you well. ❤️

  3. So glad your surgery went well. I have been fairly absent in the blogging world but I never miss reading your posts. You always touch my heart with your authenticity.

  4. Sorry it took me so long to comment Sarah, it was just the cringe factor. A 14! must have been a lot of long term pain to cope with for you prior too…. My wife’s was a 10. the poor woman’s lower lip use to hang down 12 inches when she rolled her ‘R’s’ as she took so much Motrin, and to mention she drooled like a teething Rottweiler pup,

    She really went through it. I just can’t imagine someone having to take that much pain meds to cope. and we all know Motrin is crapie, especially when in such pain that your pulling more ‘G’ forces than the Apallo 11. or a Peregrine falcon in a prairie dog dive.

    What a trip, ‘Perco’s, ‘barking nurses’ and ‘Co2 purges’. I can only relate it to my Vasectomy and the aftermath or “them” resulting in coconut sized swelling SKyRoat, and all the ‘sacks’ of ice. no pun intended.

    You’re surly brave Ann Shirley’ [Ann of Green Gables’ :)] …dearly brave in what you endured prior too and during and then after your surgery, Sarah.

    Are you still pondering over a move to Savannah?

    • Hi friend! No apologies necessary. There was quite a bit of pain post op, but it only lasted for a few days and in the grand scheme, wasn’t all that bad. I’m lucky. The remarkable thing is that the mass growing inside of me wasn’t painful, which is probably why it was there for so long before I knew it. At any rate, good riddance!

      I’m sorry to hear about your wife’s experience. That sounds truly awful!

      I am still considering a move to Savannah. I’m working on an application to the college of art and design, for graduate school.

      In the meantime, I’m hightailing it out of New York to visit friends on the west coast. I can’t get out of the humidity and noise soon enough. I’ll post another blog when I’m out there.

      Cheers!

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