Unnatural

Unnatural
Photo by Tim Graves
Cottonwood Canyon State Park, Condon, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves

There is a feeling that comes over me when I’m hiking. Even in the extremely short post-operative shuffles that I’ve been taking each of the last three weeks.

I feel connected. I feel literally grounded to creation and the creator that flows through each of us — butterfly, blade of grass, snake, and human. Sometimes I pause in my hiking and just sit for a while and take in the sounds, smells, and images around me.

I feel a part of nature. I experience the divine around me and within me. I sense connections between myself and the tiny bug crawling on the flower.

As I hiked through Cottonwood Canyon yesterday, that feeling of connectedness came over me. The warmth of the sun and exercise — no matter that my pace was still slow — resulted in feeling overdressed. I slipped off my hoody, tying it around my waist. I untucked my t-shirt and flapped it so a cool breeze touched my sweat moist skin.

Bam! That pesky feeling consumed me.

I felt tainted and unnatural. Looking at my incision site, I felt distant from nature. With the neat scar, with its train track motif above my belly button, and the still-scabby area (the result of infection) below, I felt different than that which surrounded me. I felt unnatural.

I feel unnatural.

Photo by Tim Graves
Cottonwood Canyon State Park, Condon, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves

That feeling remains and twists itself into a spiral with feelings of bodily violation. I am still grappling with what it means to have foreign hands within me removing my right colon. I perceive and imagine a cavernous emptiness within my abdominal cavity.

I am still struggling with the feeling of violation upon having things inserted into every opening of my body while I was asleep. In the course of screening and healing me, a camera was inserted into my anus, a tube was slid down my throat, and even my urine function was controlled through a catheter tube.

The violation went beyond natural openings in my body. I have two tiny laparoscopic scars one on the left at my waist line and the other just above my pubic bone. The most noticeable, however, is the 2-1/2 inch opening (I measured) that was cut from above my naval to below it. All these things were done to my body while I was asleep, while I had no chance to give or deny permission.

Photo by Tim Graves
Cottonwood Canyon State Park, Condon, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves

And, though, I owe my very health and life to the doctors and other medical staff who cared for me, there is a sense of trauma that I feel that I am only beginning to sort through. Much of the time I repress the feelings to enable me to cope with recovery and resuming my daily routines. It is in the quiet moments that horror washes over me! My body twinges or tightens up in an effort to protect itself from that which occurred nearly eight weeks prior. Sometimes the tears come slowly and quietly. Other times I sob horrified at what my mind and body remember and imagine.

The medical staff to whom I feel a great gratitude have nearly completed their task of healing my body but it is the Divine manifest in nature, in the routines of life, in friendships, and in those who love me to whom my further healing depends. It is the Holy Spirit that gently holds my hand, wipes my tears, and patiently listens to my laments to whom I turn now.

Photo by Tim Graves
Cottonwood Canyon State Park, Condon, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves

And, though being among the dragonfly and sage offer a healing salve, I still have a way to go in accepting myself — my very body — as natural anymore. But I feel hope.

My life experiences thus far, nature, and the narratives of healing, deaths, and resurrections of my faith assure me that I will not always feel this way. In my becoming I have many partners. In my becoming what is to be, I journey with the divine manifest in each creature, spring flower, and snowflake.

I lie down, sleep, and wake up
    because the Lord helps me. Psalm 3:5 CEB

___

This is the second of multiple posts about my experiences of surgery and recovery following a colonoscopy.

Related Posts

God Hides God’s Face From Me! May 20, 2014
Unnatural May 21, 2014
Out of Chaos May 27, 2013
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.

 

 

 

God Hides God’s Face From Me!

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!”

Mt. Adams emerges from behind the clouds on day six of my hospitalization.  The view is through the window of Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital. Photo taken with my iPad.
Mt. Adams emerges from behind the clouds on day six of my hospitalization. The view is through the window of Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital. Photo taken with my iPad.

***

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.

Related Posts

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.