I had expected the worst and was not disappointed.
My surgery 10 days ago to remove a cyst in my jaw was successful in all of its gory awfulness. As I awoke from the anesthesia with ice on my face and drooling blood in a not-so-hip-vampire-way, a nurse placed my glasses on my nose so I could see my surgeon who smiled down at me and told me how “great” I did.
He turned to Dave who was hovering nearby, “I really beat her up. She was a champ.”
I wanted to respond telling him “Thank you – I really didn’t do anything except show up” but at that point my eyes rolled back in my head and the next thing I knew they were kicking me out of the recovery room and we headed for home. Over the next 48 hours, I went through a complete exorcism, vomiting up the only thing that was in my stomach – blood – and swelling up on one side of my face like a pathetic, rabid killer chipmunk, despite the constant icing and upright position I resigned to taking, even at night. It was as miserable, as I thought it would be.
But then, on Day 3, things began to get better.
As quickly as I was thrown into this narrow tunnel of suffering, I saw a light at the end of it – not back to the happy place I was before the surgery, but to a manageable way station. The outside swelling decreased dramatically; the pain became addressable with Advil; I could eat some pudding. I started working again on Wednesday and went to the boys’ track meets, cheering from the sidelines. As I write today, the inside of my mouth is still completely shredded and I can’t chew yet. But, I am looking forward to getting some Lee-Press-On teeth perhaps later this week. And while I will have to do a repeat of this process in October, it feels good to be on the other side of this hill that I never wanted to climb in the first place.
But, thankfully, I did not climb the hill alone.
A temporary but still scary health issue can be eye opening in many ways. For me, I was completely floored by the rally cry of my community; one that I knew existed but didn’t truly understand that power of until I needed it. The level of support I received in the days leading up to and following my surgery left me completely humbled. I felt as if I was wrapped in layers of caring and concern, with everyone’s roles completely in line and in sync with one another — just super-sized for the occasion.
Dave and Mom moved in as close as I let them – which was pretty darn close. Between my tears, nausea and bleeding Dave was privy to more of my bodily fluids than it is reasonable to ask any partner to bear. It was Fear Factor: Matrimony on Friday night and he emerged completely victorious. The man was a rock and left my side only when Mom was around or when he was certain that the cowbell system he had rigged in our bedroom was working. And Mom was there at the hospital and in the days that followed, with no agenda than just to be, as I was not very good company but still desperately wanted her nearby. Together, they were both incredibly annoying as they tagged teamed me on drinking fluids – but they are like that, and I needed it.
My closest friends brought food and flowers. Mo cooked up some nice mushy food; Lisa and Sue came for lunch and made me laugh even though it hurt; Alison sent me a new robe which made me feel less like the killer chipmunk creature staring back at me in the mirror.
My Dad, brother and sister stayed in close touch, knowing that a visit wasn’t necessary, but knowing they were there if I needed them was. My in-laws were ready to come and baby sit me at a moment’s notice.
My synagogue community offered us a tremendous amount of support. I shouldn’t be surprised by this – that is what we do. But having never been on the receiving end of misheberach, I was incredibly touched by their concern and monitoring. Sometimes its less about God and more about doing work on his behalf.
Those who weren’t in the immediate area – colleagues from work, out of town friends, my Tribe and relatives – expressed concern, sought updates regularly, sent flowers and well wishes from the moment I arrived home on Friday to Wednesday when I started to feel better. As I didn’t tell too many people about the procedure, relying on the blog to get the word out, people are still entering the circle of caring as they are made aware of the ordeal. Offers of smoothies, soups, and other strained and blended delicacies continue to come in.
At some point last week, I became embarrassed by the attention, particularly as the swelling subsided and I wasn’t feeling pathetic enough to be worthy of it. But these efforts by others on my behalf went far beyond soothing my sorry little self in a time of need. They reminded me of how lucky I am to be surrounded on all sides, in multiple layers, by people who care. It was a defining and re-affirming experience for me – not about who I am, but rather who others are. If I chose to have these people in my life, I chose very well indeed. I owe my healing not just to the miracle of modern medicine, but to those who rose up and made it clear that I mattered.
Thank you everyone for being there in all the ways that you could. I expected the best and was not disappointed.