No Big Deal

“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

This is a photo in my pre-op room the Friday morning before my right colon was removed. Photo by Maggie Sebastian
In the pre-op room the Friday morning before my right colon was removed, I still did not exhibit (or feel) intense anxiety. Looking at the photo now, however, I feel some anxiety. Sometimes not-knowing is bliss. Photo by Maggie Sebastian

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.

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This is the fourth 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.

A Place to Gather

A Place to Gather

Though there are many reasons to avoid McDonalds, I am often tempted by the (relatively) clean facilities and free wifi. I now find myself sitting with a Diet Coke on my laptop writing on a semi-regular basis.

I have learned this about McDonalds: it is a place for people to gather and visit. It is a place where people can have a bite to eat and sit and catch up with friends. They do not feel rushed to finish and leave. I often see people sitting laughing and smiling with one another long after meals are finished.

This morning while traveling alone to Boulder for the IDEC 2013 conference, a place where educators from across the globe are gathering to connect with one another,  I got off the freeway at Mountain Home, Idaho. In pursuit of the McDonalds’ free wifi, I found human connections.

I have had friendly conversations with multiple people I do not know. I smiled and listened to one older man’s incredulity at the salaries of sports figures. I nodded as a woman shared with me her frustrations and fears about her financial future. I observed a young family enjoying time together. I smiled, catching the emanating joy, as a group of older women laughed and talked. Two teen girls — staring at their phones — remained connected to one another as they giggled and talked quietly to each other.

Older women catching up. Photo by Tim Graves
Older women catching up at McDonalds. Photo by Tim Graves
A young family and teen girls find a place to connect. Photo by Tim Graves
A young family and teen girls find a place to connect. Photo by Tim Graves

Like the One, in whose image we are created, we crave connection. We are social creatures. We need one another. We also need a place to gather. For many, that is a fast food restaurant.