Pre-Op Adventures

This morning started out as normal as anything.


When five wakes up, he knows not to wake up the toddler. So he goes to the couch and curls up there under a blanket from my mom, and waits until we wake up. I knew this might be our last normal morning, so I dragged myself out of bed this morning to go sit with him.

We had a lovely talk, all about sunshine and rain and cancer and Spider-Man and his new room decorations and math. Then he decided he was ready to go pick out his clothes, so he went to get dressed and Nathan went to get the toddler ready.

They went to school for therapies, all that physical and occupational and speech therapy they need. Nathan came home and brought me hot oatmeal with coconut, and he went to work in his office and I went to get dressed.

I did my scripture study, and prayed, and kissed Nathan goodbye. Driving down our little roads would have been as normal as anything, and felt as if I were on my way to work. I miss work.

But I didn’t head downtown to the office to check eligibility of clients or do paperwork before heading out to people’s homes. I went one stoplight further, and turned instead at the hospital.

This is my hospital, and this is my battleground.


We have decided to do surgery in town because my same doctors can be here, it’s closer, and has the same treatment options as in Tulsa.

I first went to see the lovely and kind obgyn doctor.

I had to wait awhile, because he had to go and deliver a baby somewhere else.

It’s a bit of a stark contrast, I suppose, but if I cried I wouldn’t be able to stop, so I just sat and watched the fish.


When I finally get called back, they take my blood pressure (127/77) and all the usual stats.

Then I wait again.

I can hear the heart beat of the baby in the woman next door.

That seems kind of cruel.

I mean, it’s good news for her, I suppose, so that’s happy news, right?

I hate cancer.

The doctor comes in to recite the gory details of surgery, to confirm a sign language interpreter is set up, and to tell me when to come back and how they will work with oncology as needed, but mostly his part is just surgery.

He gives me my first bit of instructions, about how I get to do an enema and a douche and all kinds of exciting adventures I have never before encountered. I try not to get the giggles. Not that I am excited about either of those things, but it’s pretty funny watching him trying to gently talk to me while I am trying not to cry and both of us all tense and nervous when I have already been promised that in the end, everything will be just as it should be, which means this conversation is really about shiny-ing up my insides, so that makes me pretty special, because who gets scraped clean from the inside out?

He says I will be on liquids until Saturday morning, and then can eat solids on Saturday. Nathan better show up with some eggs and bacon and fried potatoes, instead of some healthy version of oatmeal with coconut. I say the joke out loud, and he just smiles, as if it earns me extra pity to try and keep my brave pants on.

Next I see oncology, knowing that walking myself there on my own is the only way I can consciously choose to fight this battle instead of it just overcoming me.


I find out here that my obgyn is just in charge of the hysterectomy part of surgery, but not any cancer parts, which is why he doesn’t like my cancer jokes, maybe.

Here, they like cancer jokes, and my spunk and snarky comments are both approved and encouraged. That’s when I know this won’t be so bad. I tour what I called “chemo land”, and talk to some sweet ladies who are patients and some sweet ladies who are volunteers to fetch things for patients. I like that a lot, the having people fetch things for me.

I get more instructions: don’t lose weight, eat what I can when I can, stay hydrated, Popsicles. Chapstick, soft toothbrush, lotion, and a throw or wrap or jacket. Bring a variety of things to do because there will be long days and I won’t always be able to do what I plan for (like bring audiobooks to listen to, in case I am too sleepy or sick to read).

It turns out that chemo means sitting still all day, really sleepy and bored out of your gourd. They make you walk to the bathroom every couple of hours, give you candy because chemo makes your mouth taste like metal, and offer you snacks and food or you can go get some if you are up to it. They give you a place to rest or pray, have other survivors you can meet with and learn from, but also you might get sick there or the next day or on the way home, and hopefully don’t die from complications before making it to the other side.

It’s a lot like visiting the Middle East, actually.

(That is terrible, and false, and a myth.)

After surgery, we will know whether I have to go to chemo land three or six times, and when.

I do not look forward to being sick.

I do look forward to hours of resting alone time to draw and read and write.

Except for one thing.

My hair, they say, will probably start coming out one or two weeks from now. Maybe three.

I sigh.

It will start regrowing, they say, prolly three months after my last treatment. Maybe.

Surgery has made me bald before, after my cochlear implants.

Now those scars will show, and my kids won’t recognize me, and there will be no way to hide my cochlear implant processors, so now I will really look like I just stepped off the matrix.

Nathan will be impressed.

I will have to be sure and tell him not to do any of those emo tricks of shaving his and five’s head in solidarity for me, because I really love their hair and really don’t want them to cut it or shave it. I need them to have something to tousle when I am too sore to snuggle.

A lady there suggests I cut my hair super short before surgery, so that my kids get used to it a little at a time, and losing my hair isn’t such a mess or so hard while I am recovering.

I gulp.

Fighting cancer is such an intentional battle.

But I want this over, once and for all.

They tell me to communicate with family if I want someone to sit with me or not, or just bring me food or not.

I definitely do NOT want someone with me the whole time. I am too introverted, and that would make me nuts. I am coming out of the year of grieving my mother, after a year of grieving my father, and getting a break from a year of caring for 26 kids, all while getting tons of bonus interactions from friends and family when they visit and help with other things. That quiet time will be mine, and I will claim it and protect it!

Except maybe for bringing me food, because I really like food.

Besides, I can always change my mind, and everyone is only a text away.

Next they send me back to pick up my pre-op packet, and tell me to take it over to the main entrance lobby.

I am tired and sore from the waiting and meetings and tourings, but grateful for the sunshine, and grateful for the walk. It feels good to move, and I am glad of it anytime I can get away with it.

I almost get hit (by a very slow car not looking), and think that would have just saved us a lot of trouble.

I fetch my magic papers, my healing papers, my official orders for the hospital, and carry them across the parking lot to the registration desk.

It’s like a temple recommend desk for my ovaries.


Here a volunteer lady talks to me for a long time about how awesome my shirt is. I tell her that I got it for the week I met the man who is now my husband, and that it was my mom’s favorite, and that she always used to try and steal it from me.

Then I wait. Again. Some more.

I finally get called into a little cubicle, where they tell me they don’t need to see my driver’s license or insurance card because they already have it. I tell her that I was so glad I waited for so long for her not to need me. She laughs and slaps a hospital bracelet on my wrist before I can stop her.

And just like that, I am admitted for the day and tagged like a cow.

It does say I am female, though, so that helps since they are looking for ovaries.

I also didn’t know I was 37. How did that happen? When did that happen?


When she is finished, I head upstairs to the surgery floor, same place as we have visited other friends. I meet my nurses, and they give me a tour like I am a child. I am grateful, but wonder if my chart is marked with some kind of warning about my snarky behavior or previous attempts to escape.

They wait on me for ages while I try to pee in a cup, and tell me it will be easier when tumors aren’t in the way.

Then they take my daily blood, and I wonder if I can make more blood as fast as they can take it.


And then, just like that, without any kind of farewell, I am free to go until daily blood tomorrow.

Except now, finally, I have all my surgery paperwork, and know where and when to come, and what to do.

My two weeks of normal is officially over, excepting for the bonus time of sleeping the rest of today and waiting for surgery to actually happen.

Visitors will be welcome at the hospital on Friday from 10am to 7pm, or after 9 am on Saturday. We will post a room number as soon as I am settled after surgery and ready for visitors following a little private family time.

No flowers please, because I am allergic and they may carry bacteria or little things that can make me sick after my immune system goes down when chemo starts.

Also, for the same reason, please no visitors with fevers or coughs or runny noses. Sorry!

We will have post-it notes you can write on for my room, and that I can take home then to my room at home.

Oh! Today I also found out that my office has approved my colleagues to donate two more weeks of paid time off, giving me four of the six weeks I need off to be paid. That helps so much! We are grateful!

Now, if I can just get up out of this uncomfortable chair and walk out to my car. I got tired and sat for a rest, and wrote all this, and now am too tired to get going again. My car feels really far away!

But then, while I am waiting, a friend sees me from the elevators. She is here visiting her mother who has just had her breast removed because of diabetes, and during surgery they found lung cancer. Her mom has other problems, and was pretty much told there is really nothing they can do. I cried for her, and felt so tired.

I hate cancer.

But I still have choices.

So it may not be my fastest 5k, but I think I can make it.

Posted in Health permalink

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Pre-Op Adventures — 5 Comments

  1. I love your blog. Even though you don’t know me I feel like I know you. My heart is so sad that you have to go through all of this. Sad not just for you but your family and your friends. I’ve been very worried about you but I know that your in His hands and His will, will be done. I’m just praying that His will is the same as our will. Love you so much, have the greatest day possible.

      • Dearest Emily. I have watched you since you joined out missionary team in 2010. (My comment to a team member, after you gave us a lesson, was something like “she is so bright and so cute – do you think she would mind that I think her cute?”. I was so happy for you when you found your husband – he has proven to be worthy of you, and that is saying something because you are a gift to all who know you (even in just your writings). I cried for your lost babies and laughed when 5 came into your life. You do realize he is more than a special gift? 5 is a great spirit and will be a support to you in your coming trials. With the love, education and faith you are giving him he will be a great missionary too. Now also the blessing of adopting the baby – and horror of cancer – blast it, cancer is not fair! I so admire your faith and your positive attitude in the face of all negative blows me away. Your courageous smile is wonderful. You are beautiful! <3 I have physical pains and old age (old age is a bummer) but nothing like you. I read your experience of checking in the hospital and my heart so breaks for you, I so pray for you, and your family who will go through the effects of cancer and treatment with you. Thank The Lord for His eternal plan – eventually everything will be right, and we will be happy. Waiting for the 'eventual" is the hardest. I love you. <3

  2. Emily, I have just been reading and reading and reading to catch up on everything that has happened since our lives barely crossed paths in NYC once and then again when our mother’s both died suddenly.

    Your writing is so honest and beautiful and full of life. I laughed out loud about the car saving you a lot of trouble. Cancer is the worst and deserves all the wit and snark that can be thrown to it. Keeping you and your sweet family in my thoughts and prayers.