“It’s no big deal,” I said.
My first colonoscopy was performed on a Wednesday. The doctor was concerned enough with the results that he scheduled a colectomy — an invasive abdominal surgery — two days later. No big deal, I said. I even objected when my wife suggested that I would have to cancel an eye exam the following week. “I can make it,” I said.
Several things were happening when I denied the seriousness of the news the
doctor gave me following my colonoscopy. One, I was starving. My mind was not at its peak. At that point in time I had not had solid food beyond clear liquids for three days. I was functioning on about 500 calories a day; there are only so many cups of vegetable broth you can stomach.
Second, I think I knew at some level. I heard the words the doctor said. I even heard and intellectually accepted the seriousness of abdominal surgery of any kind. With a day-after-tomorrow surgery appointment, I did not have much time to process what was happening. Though, my wife and I talked some about the possibility that the biopsy following surgery would indicate cancer, we had very little time to discuss it. I had life-routines to reschedule and bow out of before surgery.
There were a few quiet tears that Wednesday evening as my wife and I pondered the unknown. It was my son Isaac, having flown in from Oakland to be with us, who raised the question most directly with me the next day. His pastoral tone was reassuring. He allowed me to entertain and discuss as much as I was comfortable with discussing. So, while I did not totally ignore the possibilities, I did not yet have time to explore in depth the magnitude of what I was facing.
I think my mind was protecting me. Human psychology sometimes builds up our acceptance of reality in small bits over time in much the way physical exercise gradually builds up muscle tone. Just as I had an unexpressed just-beneath-the-surface expectation that the colonoscopy would find a problem, I had an expectation that all would be well. Though it is irrational, I trusted my instinct that there was no cancer.
Finally, I think our life-lens matters. That is, the lens through which we view events in our lives colors what those events mean to us. My life lens is colored in hope and love. Even if the worst were to happen there are several things I knew:
- The Divine would never leave me. My experience of the one that I call God is pure love, is non-coercive, never throws “tests” in our path, or punishes sins with health problems or hurricanes. God is always with us. God feels our pains, our joys, and all that we experience with a depth. Process theologian Monica A. Coleman describes God as, “knowing us from the inside out.”
- I am beloved. My wife of nearly thirty-five years is my Imzadi, my soul-mate, and my other half. Whatever I would learn about my health in the coming weeks I knew to the marrow of my bones that she and I would face it together.
- My son, who I told, “you don’t have to come” loves me. He would not only take care of me but he would ground his mother, my wife, by his mere presence. Whatever was to come, his love is of divine origin even should I be diagnosed with cancer and face chemotherapy.
- My daughter Jessie, who also rallied round us with the advent of this no-big-deal event, would make me laugh. My beloved first-born, Jessie, “gets me” in a way that Isaac and Maggie do not. Perhaps this is because our core personalities have many similarities. Not only did I anticipate her skillful use of humor when it was needed, I knew that she and I would have deep conversations when we were ready. I also knew that she would motivate me. (She was the first one to motivate me to take a significant walk in the hospital hallway post-operatively.)
My life lens and these fundamental knowings, gave me the luxury to slowly come to terms with the fears, anxieties, and significance of the surgery I awaited. These knowings allowed me to lament that God Hides God’s Face From Me without fear of retribution. My family’s loving presence, their patience with my denial, my perception of the divine, and my psychology allowed me to come to terms with my reality on, well, on my own terms.
This is the fourth 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.