The tears formed faster than the words as I looked out the window, yearning to see Mt. Adams, who hid behind a four-day expanse of grey. “God hides God’s face from me,” I weeped.
Eight weeks ago tomorrow I had my first colonoscopy, a screening procedure for colon problems including cancer. Two days later, the surgeon performed a colectomy in which my right colon was removed. I am just now feeling like myself despite a still-not-quite return to my full energy level.
In my fifty-five years, I’ve been blessed by remarkably good health. Yes, I have the occasional cold, spring allergies, and the typical aches and pains related to aging beyond twenty-five. This was the first time I have been hospitalized since my tonsils were removed as a child.
So, for me, six days in the hospital was a jolting surprise. After enduring clear liquids and the colonoscopy preparation, I was planning my first meal following the screening procedure only to have that hope dashed. While still recovering from anesthesia, the doctor told me that I would need abdominal surgery. I am told — though I do not have a clear memory of this — that my response was a concise, “Oh, f**k!”
The six days in the hospital, followed by nearly seven-weeks since have been filled with experiences that can in turn be described as humbling, frustrating, confusing, painful, discouraging, and sad. I’ve felt blessed, joyous (when the biopsy results came back negative), guilty, reliant on the skill and ethics of medical personnel, and extremely dependent upon my wife who was my primary caregiver. Fear, embarrassment, gratitude, bewilderment, and even a healthy dose of paranoia (presumably the result of narcotic painkiller) have visited me. Feelings of bodily violation initially washed over me as I emerged from the first thirty-six hour post-operative fog.
My iPad in hand, I began searching online for the experiences of others from my hospital bed. I wanted empathy. I wanted to know I was not alone. I wanted assurance that my feelings of trauma were typical. Though I could infer that to be the case, from the blogs and articles I found, explicit sharing was hard to find. My plan is to process my experiences here for selfish reasons and in hope that someone else may find camaraderie in my words. (This is the first of multiple posts.)
As a Christian minister, you might expect that I would have been constantly aware of God’s presence. I was not, at least in name.
The Divine One was present with me throughout surgery and recovery whether or not I was cognizant of it or not. I felt the warm embrace of friends across the nation (and a few in other countries) via social media. Though I interacted little, “likes” and comments sustained me as digital evidence of love. I felt wrapped in a divine embrace, whether called positive energy or prayers.
I felt the empathy of medical staff even when they disturbed me from sleep to draw blood. The presence of my children who flew and drove great distance to surround me in my bed assured me that I was loved. And, of course, I felt the kindness of my wife who slept in a chair in my room during my entire hospitalization. The touch of her hand on mine and her loving stroke across my head was God’s loving presence with me. It was in her voice and eyes that I was grounded. It was she in whom I trusted even when I woke from a painkiller-induced paranoid dream.
And, so, on that fourth day in the hospital when slight movements still caused me excruciating pain and I craved water and real food, I called out to God. Mt. Adams, serving as metaphor for the One who sustains and journeys with me, failed to respond. Hiding behind heavy grey clouds, Mt. Adams avoided my gaze. Tears gushed from my eyes faster than my words, “God hides God’s face from me!”
On the fifth day of my hospitalization, the sky began to lighten and though Mt. Adams did not emerge, sun peaked from behind the clouds periodically. On day six, my final day in the hospital, the divine peak showed its snowy face to me.
God’s face peered at me.
The snowy smile reminded me that God was always with me, feeling each of my many emotions with me, even when I could not see Mt. Adams. The Divine One had never abandoned me even when my thoughts were Maslowian in their focus on survival.
I cry out loud to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. Psalm 3:4 CEB
This is the first of multiple posts about my experiences of surgery and recovery following a colonoscopy.
God Hides God’s Face from Me May 20, 2014
Unnatural May 21, 2014
Out of Chaos May 27, 2014
No Big Deal May 29, 2014
Mortality June 3, 2014
Wiped Memories June 6, 2014
Perseverance June 10, 2014
Scars June 19, 2014
Why do I write about this topic?
Following my surgery I had a myriad of feelings. A myriad of web searches to find the stories of others, perhaps to validate my own emotions, left me empty handed. And, so, I write these posts to process my very real feelings and in the hopes that someone else finds them useful following their surgery and recovery.