I’m thrilled to report that I am a little more cheeky today than I was at this time yesterday. A LOT more cheeky, actually, as the swelling is somewhat impeding eye-opening this morning. I was in surgery for two hours yesterday afternoon and am pleased to report that the worst (and best) is now over. It went something like this:
We got to the hospital at 12.30. Surgery was running late, so I didn’t get called into prep until 4:00. I’m not averse to sitting in waiting rooms watching TV, but when I haven’t eaten since the night before, it turns into a long hallucination about cheesecake and pizza and burgers and nachos—and I don’t even like nachos! The nurse who tried (vainly) to find a vein in my hand for an I.V. informed me that she has a cousin who is considering applying to BFA. Small world? Yes, indeed. For the first few minutes after I was called into prep, three members of the medical team hovered around me plugging me into machines that beeped and hummed and spit out ticker-tapes that somehow informed them about who I am. I’m buying those machines for all of my friends and family for Christmas. It’ll cut down on the guess work! These were the nicest people. From beginning to end, this Michigan phase of my McJourney has been populated with the kind of people who tempt a person to believe in the human race again. I’ve been blessed—blessed—by the secretaries, nurses, doctors, surgeons and other specialists I’ve seen.
I opted for something called “twilight anesthesia” for my reconstructive surgery. It doesn’t knock a person out completely, but puts them in a state of perpetual bliss for the duration of the operation, with little recollection of the events afterwards. They’re accompanied by a strong local anesthetic that allows the surgeon to cut and stitch without blissed-out patients hitting the surgical ceiling.
Once Nice Nurse Number Two finally got my IV needle into my hand (after several aborted attempts by NNN-One), they started me on the kind of drugs that make the world a lovely place indeed. As Wendy (another sweetie) was rolling my bed toward the operating room, I noticed that the tiles on the walls were beginning to change shapes…just getting a little soft around the edges and stretching and bloating and stuff. And then I caught myself saying things and wondering why I’d said them. And then…
I presume I went off to la-la-land for a while. And I presume I was in and out of consciousness for the duration of the two-hour surgery. I remember talking to the medical personnel—a lot. And I remember asking questions like, “Are any of you believers?” and making statements like, “Thank you so much for being God’s hands to me today.” Huh? I’m not sure there’s a chapter about “Witnessing while under the influence” in most missionary manuals. I do know that we talked a LOT as Dr. Bradshaw turned the circular hole in my cheek into the shape of an elongated eye by cutting triangles out of my face on either side of the circle. This allows for a clean and puckerless closure of the wound. It also extends its length quite a bit, but the scars do fade with time.
When Dr. Bradshaw went out to report to my mom, post-surgery, she informed her that I had “just chatted away during the whole thing” and that “she’s a very special lady”…which leaves me wondering:
A. What on earth did I find to talk about?? I’m convinced I was immensely entertaining in my state of “no internal censorship”! And I wonder how embarrassed I should be today…
B. What exactly is the definition of “special” when used by a surgeon following an operation whose background music was my voice uttering nonsense?
I’ve now got a beautiful “poofy” bandage on my cheek. The first person I saw when coming out of my la-la bliss was a wakeup nurse named Kip (my brother’s name—and a rare one at that!) and my first words to Kip were, “Do you happen to have a hamburger handy?” He smirked and got me some orange juice and I decided I needed to marry him. He finally pronounced me well enough to go out on a food hunt and checked me out of the hospital, giving me a blanket to take along with me as I was a little cold. (Picture that happening in grand old Deutschland…) My mom pushed my wheelchair out to the car and we were off. I do have a lovely picture of me in my wheelchair trying to smile with a partially paralyzed face and it is so horrendous that I simply can’t include it here. Actually…I’m thinking about it. But it requires more humility than I possess right now! Instead, I’ll share a piece of my celebratory meal with you (above). They told me to limit my initial food intake to small quantities of easily digestible food. Uhm…I don’t think so.
There’s some pain (of course) and swelling (I never had cheekbones anyway, so no big loss there), but it is OVER—the cancer has been cut out and my face has been stitched back together—and there is tremendous relief in that. Because a wide strip of skin was taken out of my face (diagonally) and
the edges were drawn together to close the wound, I do feel a certain amount of pulling, but I’m assured the skin will stretch over the next couple of weeks.
Have you seen the “journey pendants” advertised on TV and elsewhere? It seems they’ve become all the rage lately. As they’re usually advertised as anniversary gifts, the odds that I’ll ever own one are…well…the same as Hillary’s odds of becoming our next president. Still—I love the symbolism of the jewelry. From the small initial diamonds to the larger final ones, twisting left, then right, and growing in brightness…there is something about the “Journey” pendant that reminds me of this McJourney, my voyage with MAC.
The brightness of this journey—the diamonds of lessons learned and peace embraced and mortality faced—has been embedded in the golden foundation of God’s love and sustenance. The process has held unexpected twists and turns, but the final product, as I lie in bed on the morning after, contemplating all that has happened, is a sparkling testimony to God’s goodness.
I am living my Journey pendant. The last five days alone have proven how blessed my journey has been and how much I have to be thankful for. This phase of my life is an unexpected curve, for sure, but it has also afforded me the kind of encounters I would never have made otherwise. This has been a week of brief but powerful connections. Denise, my amazing oncology nurse, Mark, the shuttle driver, Tammy, the surgical scheduler, Anne, my surgeon’s assistant who is leaving for a month-long trip across France in a couple weeks, and Kip, the calm and kind man who tended to me during my wakeup from yesterday’s surgery. There are so many more–I wish I could remember all their names…
I spent most of my early years wondering where God was and angry that He never seemed to show Himself to me. I ranted and raved and cursed and bellowed and rebelled. And then I found Him. And once I learned to know Him, I began to see how He had indeed revealed Himself to me in the past—before I knew how to recognize Him in others. Looking back, I could see Him in the kindness of strangers and the touch of friends and the counsel of adults. Each one of those “diamonds” along my Journey were God’s envoys to me. I know that now because I know HIM now. And this week of medical challenges has further proven that the diamonds need not be old friends or fellow believers. They can be perfect strangers whose job it is to care for me.
My bandages will come off in a couple of days, the stitches (just the surface ones) will be removed in a week, and I should have a fairly good idea of what my “new” face is going to look like within a few more weeks… I’m thrilled that this part of the journey is over and eager to embark on whatever comes next. I know that my sanity is due to your prayers and that my health is due to God’s goodness and my doctors’ skilled interventions. Having seen others in much direr medical straights during my hours at the hospital, I can be nothing but grateful. The cancer has been cut out. I’ll have the scars to prove it.