Surgery

Wednesday, 1030pm

Don’t worry. This is not an enema blog.

But there is something special about the man you have been married to for less than two years when he is willing to help with such an adventure. Without complaint, with simple compassion, and much gentleness, it is moments like this that are make-it or break-it, and I know I chose the exact right husband for me.

It’s not just the willingness to do the dirty work.

It’s the devotion and love that goes beyond, like sitting outside the bathroom to sing me songs that keep me calm and unafraid and as comfortable as is possible.

Because I am afraid, though I am trying hard not to be, and it makes me cry. It’s not just this piece of things, which is plenty unpleasant, as much as it is all of it together and just not knowing. I am tearful today, either because surgery is finally here or because of the extra pain since I cannot have medicine until after surgery. He is patient with me, holds me, lets me cry, prays with me, and gives me blessings. We are taking this hour by hour now.

Wednesday at Midnight

My body is calm and clean and exhausted. I am beyond tired, but the surgery looms over me with great concern. There is no turning back now, and to change my mind is to lose my life.

It’s going to hurt, I cry.

It will hurt, and I am so sorry. But I will hold your hand, he says.

This is not a cancer story. It is a love story. That’s what I want people to know.

I look at him, with a calm face, both of us with hot tears falling.

I just want to say this once, that no matter what happens, a little pain is worth even an extra moment with you in mortality.

He cries, too, and holds me.

We waited so long to find each other, and know we are a miracle.

He looks me in the eye, with such softness, and says, I just want to say this once, that no matter what happens, we are sealed together for all eternity, and nothing changes that.

We cling to each other, and we sing All is Well.

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
‘Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we’ll have this tale to tell-
All is well! All is well!

Thursday, 530am.

I wake.

Nathan is still sleeping.

I have been dreaming that my cancer cells were Hamas rockets, and we were fighting them on our dragons as part of the Iron Dome system.

So many people keep backing out of the Israel trip that they have cancelled it again, and I am so disappointed. I am relieved it wasn’t cancelled because of cancer, but I am so sad. Nathan is disappointed because he had hoped that would be my big healing goal, my recovery trip just as I had gone there to bury my father, and then again my mother.

We will go another time, I say.

Maybe another place.

I have five more hours to go, we think, before surgery. I am already hungry, and don’t know how the final hours will pass. I haven’t been hungry for days, but now that I am not allowed to eat, I think I am starving.

I feel the pains in my belly, and want the cancer out.

Even if surgery is going to hurt, too.

I cannot sleep, so I get up to go to the bathroom and brush my teeth. That’s when I rediscover my new short pixie hair. It’s looking pretty spunky after sleeping on it all night.

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I go back to bed to lay by Nathan while I still can. I stretch out on my stomach, and wonder however will I sleep on my back for two or four or six weeks, and how much will it hurt my head from where my implants are? I lay how I always do, squirmed up next to Nathan with my feet tangled in his. We still hold hands in our sleep.

I really love him a lot.

I try not to wake him when I cry.

6am

I still can’t sleep, so I wake him instead with the light of my phone as I start to type.

There is an email from my mom’s best friend, Jo. She is checking on me as my own mother would. I am grateful for her, and it makes me cry.

Surgery is the kind of thing when a girl really misses her parents extra much.

My brother isn’t coming, his message says. He had a coworker pass away unexpectedly, and so he can’t take off work. It has been very hard and sad for them there. He asks if I will be meeting him this weekend in Siloam Springs to visit my father’s cemetery (it was our father’s birthday this week). I tell him I will still be in the hospital. Another time, he says. Then his wife texts Nathan to say she can’t come because we didn’t tell her sooner, and Nathan and I agree cancer is very unexpected and inconvenient.

This was the weekend Nathan and I were supposed to be on an all expenses paid no-kids retreat.

I hate cancer.

It’s so lame.

We reassure my brother and his wife that we will call soon as we know anything, and text his sisters the same.

I really miss my mom.

When I think the grief might swallow me, Nathan squeezes my hand and I am better.

I am grateful, I remind myself, for temple blessings that make my parents so accessible to me through the veil, and I am confident, I remind myself, that they will be present and ministering to me.

Just then my friend Rose from Tulsa texts me. She is staying with the kids some while I am in the hospital, during the times Nathan’s parents are resting while Nathan is with me. I am grateful for her help and service. She is one who was supposed to get to go to Israel, and now can’t because other people cancelled. I am sad about it, but grateful for her friendship. I don’t think I have gotten to hug her up since Passover Seder.

7am

Nathan’s alarm goes off, and we just keep laying here, clinging to one another until we really must be up and getting ready.

It’s time, he says.

Let’s do this, I say.

715am

Our two hour illusion of normal begins. Nathan helps five shower while I sing with the toddler. Then I give her a bath, which I have not been able to do myself for weeks, and which is still too much today, and I wince with pain, but know it is the last time in awhile that I will have the chance. Besides, she and I need all the bonding and nurturing we can get, and her smile and giggles make me strong. I get her dressed. I brush five’s adorable curls, and take some relief from knowing my children and house are as clean as I can do.

Five tells Nathan that “someone – I don’t know who – but someone maybe poured a little tiny bit of baby oil in the toilet. But that someone should not do that again.” We laugh and laugh!

8am

My brother sends me a praying-for-you text, and I am overwhelmed by the goodness of what the Savior has done for our family. I am so grateful.

The kids and I play school while Nathan makes them and himself breakfast, as if it is any other day teaching them to read and write and spell and count.

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While Five finishes his alphabet, the toddler and I change the clothes on her baby doll, and snuggle, and play.

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Five spills his chocolate soy milk and tells the toddler, “You need to understand I have spilled my milk. My mom and dad have helped me clean it up, and they will get me more chocolate milk to make me feel better. And I know they love me. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

950am

When we finish playing school, I give the kids my testimony. I tell them I know they are children of Heavenly Parents, that Heavenly Father knows them and loved them, that the Savior is real and the atonement is powerful, and that the Holy Spirit instructs and corrects and guides and comforts. I tell them the priesthood really has been restored to the Earth, and that because of this family are eternal. I tell them that just like we will live again because of the resurrection, our temple sealings mean that we will live again as a family. I tell them God has always used prophets, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and real a man as any prophet ever was, and that our prophet today is Thomas S. Monson. I tell them that I love the Savior, and am so grateful He rescued me, and that if I can be rescued then anyone can, and that what He did for us was amazing. I tell them that prayer works, and that I am made strong by the prayers of all kinds of people all over the world, and that knowing people pray makes me very happy.

We gather to pray as a family, and Nathan gives me one last blessing.

He wears his priesthood clothes and the purple tie from our wedding reception. Because he loves me.

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10am

We gather my things, and all of us load up in the car. These kids have been through too much, and had too many parents leave them too many times for me to just disappear. I want them – I need them – to go with us to drop me off at the hospital, to see where I am going, to watch me walk in and know I am ok, to believe us when we tell them the grandparents will bring them for a visit.

We sing Spirit of God on the way, and I am filled with calm. I remember the words of my blessing this morning, about being gifted to endure with joy and peace.

I tell the kids goodbye, kissing them and hugging them, and tickling them as I pull away. They smile and laugh, ready for their day and not worried at all. It is perfect.

I want to cry when Nathan hugs me goodbye, but I don’t dare, because I want the kids to see me smiling. Not in a fake way, and we have talked about how this is hard and scary. But I want them to see my faith and my confidence, and to know that no matter what everything is going to be okay.

1035am

I am checked in at the hospital, and checked in on the surgery floor.

I wait.

I am not excited or thrilled by any means, but I am okay. In this moment, I am calm and at peace. It just is. I hurt, and want it out. It will be hard, but I am not really alone.

Let’s do this, I say, to myself this time.

1115am

I have been checked in to surgery, met my nurses and anesthesiologist, and discovered no interpreter. The anesthesiologist has instructions to put my ears on soon as surgery is finished. After three pokes, my IV is secure, and it’s time to wait. Again.

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I read the family proclamation while I wait, because now I have family, on both sides of the veil, and now it matters. I review as long as I can, so that the memorized words can float in my head as I sleep.

Then, when it is almost time, Nathan sings me a lullaby.

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1140

There is a big debate about my cochlear implant processors, and who is going to take them off when and where they will be put and who will put them back on. My anesthesiologist tells the surgeon that if he messes them up, she will kill them. Then she tells me I a cheap date for being a Mormon, and that it makes her job easy. She is so funny!

Then she hooks a heater up to my gown! It’s so cool! Well, warm.

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Noon
Game on!

5:15 p.m.
This is Nathan. Emily is out of surgery and sleeping. We have not yet met with the doctors for the update.

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.

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