Tag Archive: Surgery


Keeping It Real

Sometime in the coming months, this blog will either stop, or a huge gap between writing could occur. I may be out of pocket, or I must determine how to write one-handed. God, nature, or life gifted the metacarpophalangeal joint in the middle finger (my writing hand) a lump. The doctors do not believe this is a Ganglion cyst. The doctors explained that since conclusive diagnosis appears improbable, they suggest surgically removing it. I, however, must think of some way to explain it to my employer.

There are some notable examples. Entering on stage with a shoulder spica cast, Phyllis Diller opened with something like, “I want to report a typo on page 164 of The Joy of Sex.” Another person said she sliced her hand, opening a frozen waffle. Another claimed to have broken her nose while adjusting her bra. (She was fitting her bra and slipped, releasing her fist into her nose.) Having such examples provided a creative license. 

“Hey everyone. I was coming into work and saw a cat (correct that: kitten) stuck on an overpass ledge. I saved the kitten but cut my hand. I will be out of pocket for two to six weeks.” There is an attacker’s excuse. “I saved a person from being attacked. The attacker cut my hand. I will be out of pocket for two to six weeks.” Then there is this one. “My girlfriend and I were play wrestling. My cat came to defend her and bit me. Stupid cat. I will be out of pocket for two to six weeks.” (The last one was real.) I want a great story, for truth is boring. 

Which is better? You fought off a shark, or you have cancer? I was free-climbing and cut my hand or arthritis created a node (bone spur) that must be removed? I saved a child from falling over a cliff or waking up this lump and having no idea what the hell caused it? Yet, capturing my cat’s identification tag forces me to keep it real. 

Houdini was my adopted cat for six months in 1998. His name was provided by adoption agency staff who swore to his ability to escape from anything. Place Houdini in a kennel cage for dinner, and he would be out by dessert. One afternoon, I went to see Saving Private Ryan. Houdini was placed in his cage, double pad-locked, and inserted molded concrete around the exterior. He was out when I returned. 

What keeps all this real was his death. Houdini passed away in my arms. He was real. He was alive, and to some extent, remains active in me. Houdini never complained about being weak. He never allowed himself to feel life’s sorrow, nor did he tell a tall tale. And secretly, he is probably the single essential inspiration for living today. Houdini’s aim was to love everyone and everything. He lived a pure life love, for pain was inevitable, suffering was optional.

All lives will be fraught with some measure of pain, but it is in leaning away from that pain instead of accepting it with a grace that suffering occurs. Anthony de Mellow said let the Spirit work. Stop straining your spiritual muscles. Become attuned to your deeper self and let the force of love take over. Let the Holy Spirit take over. 

There is a comfort in accepting that life is a continual ebb and flow between things going smoothly and going to hell. I think being a spiritual person means becoming a real human being. Thich Nhat Hanh said, “It is not so important whether you walk on water or walk in space. The true miracle is to walk on earth.” In other words, be real. Therefore, my medical condition will be explained as “I woke up this lump and have no idea what the hell caused it. The doctors believe it should be surgically removed. I will be out for two to six weeks.” Keeping it real.

While the surgery was a breeze, I was surprised by some low-level anxiety. Anyone saying otherwise is more than likely in some form of denial. Mine deepened when surgery was pushed back several hours. Similar to ocean waves before a storm, light bouts of emotions rolled and rolled.

I didn’t experience tomophobia, the fear of surgery. I did not fear my surgeon would mess it up and hit the spinal cord. It was always the same two questions: Should I have proceeded alone and What if something goes wrong? What if? What if?

The good news, I’m not alone. 

I was reasonably jovial in the pre-surgery check-in.

“Any allergies?”

“Yes,” I deadpanned. “Parachutes that don’t open, lightning strikes and bullets.”

“Are you sure what to attempt this using only local anesthetic.”

“Yes.”

The MRI indicated the tumor was about the size of a walnut and led the surgeon and I discussing (during surgery) why food is ‘the comparable.’

“Oh,” she hypothesized. “Mr. Patient, the tumor was the size of a radish … an orange … a baby carrot.”

I know why. Patients can relate. Patients can digest the size of an orange but cannot understand 9 cm by 6 cm by 19.5 cm. I envision her saying to a friend, “I ate a 9 cm by 6 cm by 19.5 cm tumor for lunch.

The surgery revealed my tumor was not the size of a walnut; it was more significant. Mine also had several roots or offshoots not detected by the Lipoma. That explains why my symptoms were degrading, but the scans didn’t reveal it. These roots were hidden. Unfortunately, the tumor inside the spinal cord remains. Just have to wait and see if this surgery will lessen spinal pressure. (It’s a bid to buy time. I’ll take what I can get.)

Twenty-four hours later, I feel pretty good. I met the surgeon this afternoon.

“You have eighteen stitches. Since we left a gaping hole, had we had to sew it shut. Otherwise, it would go a cavity of blood or potential infection. The surgery entry point will close in a couple of weeks. The stitches on the inside won’t dissolve for months, and the healing time will be about seven months. You’re likely to experience side effects. A hand may not work as well before surgery. You may experience headaches. Some of these will diminish. The tumor will be biopsied, and that should help us confirm the initial diagnosis and future treatment of what’s left.

“You know that cane you came in with?”

I nodded.

“Take it everywhere you go. Go to work? Cane. Go to a movie? Cane. Use the bathroom? Cane. Got it?”

I nodded.

So…that’s it for now. Back to monitoring. Here’s to another day.

Lastly, I wish to thank ‘Cosmic Traveller7’ for her thoughts and best wishes – meant a lot.

I made it past another birthday. I commented to a friend of the irony: I never expected to live this long. Yet, here I am, though tired. My body feels the burden: both in neck pain and fatigue.

I awoke this past Saturday and had no desire to rise. Sunday felt better. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t spend my day-to-day life checking for lumps and bumps. Outside of the seven or so whom I’ve told, I don’t discuss it. Regardless of what inconsiderate amount of ‘pain in the a···’ thing my body tosses my way, most never see it. Just not my style.

I still haven’t told many people. I even lied about the date of surgery to those whom I have informed. Why? For the better part of life, my symptoms were dismissed by those around me. Therefore, secrecy became the rule.

Additionally, the surgeon is attempting to extricate only the portion of the tumor outside the spinal cord. “Fairly simple,” the surgeon noted. Therefore, I expect to get up from the surgery and walk out. I don’t want to borrow others’ time and energy. They need to remain in the present.

Having worked in healthcare all these years, I know surgeons poke people with sharp objects. And surgeons can make technical errors. One might slip, have a lapse, require a microscope, or inadvertently damage something. Yet, I have an innate knowing that the surgery will turn out ok.

Therefore, I am not in a dark place. I know I will survive tomorrow’s surgery. Maybe having as much of the tumor removed will assist with pain and cramps, improve ‘the quality of life.‘ So I’m told. As Buddha would say, it’s all illusion. Maybe. Maybe not.

Even though I did create an auto-generated post 30 days post-surgery should the s··· the fan, I am not ready to wrap this life. Should it all go south, maybe I will agree with this body: “Time to call it a day. Get some sleep.

Still, I fully expect post-surgery life will find me focusing on important things.

  • Forgive people who will never be sorry;
  • Love those I can;
  • Find peace with those who will never forgive me; and
  • Let go of grudges

I will extract whatever lesson(s) and move on.

See you on the other side.

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