Last year this time, I went on a trip with my writing group in Korea. We were messing around trying to take pictures as we jumped off some big boulders and as I made my leap, I remember thinking that I was probably going to regret it. And regret it, I did. I landed and immediately wet myself. Not a dribble, but full on, I need to change my pants, wet myself. By the time I got home from the trip my entire backpack smelled like piss and I had spent the rest of the weekend sweltering in the one other pair of sweatpants that I’d brought with me.
At the time, I had no other symptoms from my growing fibroids and so I just chalked this up to being 36. I had noticed that I’d needed to go to the bathroom a lot more in recent months and this was my warning to make sure I never ignored the need to pee again.
Here I am a year later and the fibroid that was causing me to become incontinent at 36 is now out. All five pounds of it. You read that right. Five. Pounds. My five pound Elvis has left the building taking my uterus and cervix with him.
For those of you who have been along for this ride, you know there was the abortive first attempt at removing my fibroid masses back in March. Night and day. Black and white. Ice and fire. Yin and yang. Pick your opposites and that will give you a sense of how much different I feel post surgery this time around vs last time. Last time, I actually came out of surgery, overall, feeling worse than when I went in. This time, post surgery, I feel better than I have in nearly a year (though admittedly I haven’t tried leaping off any boulders yet to really test things out).
I am in almost no pain. I’m sleeping through the night right out of the gate. My bladder is working pretty close to normally again. Despite the fact that I shouldn’t have any core strength right now, I’m having no problem with movements that use my core. In contrast, after my last surgery, I had this crazy pain in my hips that made it impossible to sit or lie down for a long time, so sometimes I just had to stand against a wall. It took two weeks to start sleeping through the night and a while longer than that before I could sleep on my side again. The urge to pee was intense all the time making it hard to walk very far or really do much of anything physical. It was a production to get in and out of bed because my core muscles were so weak. And then there was just the good old fashioned depression that went along with this. I don’t think many people realized how depressed I was; I don’t think I realized how depressed I was. I can only see how different I feel now emotionally–how much more positive I feel.
So how could I possibly mess this up? By pushing my body too hard, that’s how. As good as I feel, it’s hard to bear in mind, at times, that I am still recovering from surgery. I am inclined to neglect my body at the best of times. The last few months have been the worst of times and still I didn’t really take good care of myself. I think I had this sense that if I gave myself a break from the intense stress, if I acknowledged how tired, in pain and depressed I was, I’d never get out of bed again. I’d curl up and stop living. I always have this fear that if I slow down for a minute, I’ll stop all together. Like some emotional equivalent of a shark.
My surgery went super well but there are still things to take care of. I have to see the cardiologist for three follow up appointments to sort out the heart palpitations I was having in hospital and still continue to have here and there. The urologist needs to make sure that those painful stents did their job and that my kidneys are functioning normally now. A general surgeon had to come in and do some extra work where my fibroid tried to attach to my bladder so there’s that to be wary of. And of course I’ve got a 6″ abdominl incision to heal up from. It feels like child’s play this time around but it isn’t.
I started reading this book called The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron, before my surgery, on the recommendation of a friend. While some of it seems to fit, I’m reluctant to take on a label that might make me feel limited, so I’ve been reading with interest, but holding judgment. In a nutshell, highly sensitive people will tend to pick up on subtleties in a situation more quickly and thus feel overstimulated much more easily, which has both good and bad outcomes. I was intrigued when one of my nurses at the hospital mentioned that I might be having heart palpitations because I have a sensitive nervous system. She and I certainly hadn’t been discussing my pre-surgery reading.
Post-surgery, I’ve been tackling this book again and while I’m still hanging on to my grain of salt, today’s chapter brought me back to the idea of just being a lot more in tune with my body; with what it can handle and what it can’t. For the first time in a long while it struck me how wrong headed and actually dangerous it is to ignore my body’s cues, especially now when I seem to be hypersensitive to everything. For the first time in while it hit me all at once that there are no do-overs with this body. This is the only one I get. I’m grateful as hell to my body right now for how it has has rolled with these two surgeries. Now it’s high time I stopped telling it to shut up and do what I want, but instead to sit quietly and listen to what it wants.
It’s scarily easy to ignore my body’s needs when I’m healthy (or even when I just feel healthy); it’s unfortunate how much I do the same when my body is crying out for care. Reading this book is reminding me that taking a break doesn’t mean that I’ll never get anything done again. It’s reminding me that when I feel edgy and overstimulated, I’m much better served by taking a walk to the lake than to the fridge. It’s reminding me that when my body needs sleep, an Advil, some quiet time or to take a pass on that party, it’s okay to give it that. There are a lot of things I want to get done in these next five weeks that I’m off work, but if it takes an extra month or two to achieve those things because I took care of my body first, so be it. It’s the least I can do for the amazing body that has gotten me through all of this.