A little over a month ago I found out that a lump in my breast, although it was thought to be benign, had grown significantly and needed to be removed. We were planning to move the next week so I scheduled the surgery for after the move. The day before the surgery Tom and I drove to Houston and stayed at a hotel close to the hospital. That night I had to shower with a surgical scrub and was instructed not to use any lotion after. And I had to shower again with the same surgical scrub the next morning. I didn’t like it. I have really dry skin and by the time we left the hotel the next morning at 6:15, without the protection of lotion or makeup I was beginning to feel very old and wrinkly. And itchy.
When we arrived at the hospital we were promptly, and politely, ushered back to a hospital room and I was given a lavender paper gown and bright green socks with grippers on the bottom to put on after I took “everything off”. I had held on to a strong resolve to take this whole surgery thing in stride. This was nothing in comparison to what some people I know and love are going through. But, that resolve was abruptly shaken when I felt that paper gown in my hands. Bluntly I thought to myself, “Oh sh**, this is real!” I was getting ready to have surgery!
A way too cheerful chaplain came by. I didn’t like him. I like being the one to offer pastoral care. Not the one receiving it. This whole surgery thing was beginning to mess with my mind and heart. I had a growing desire to bolt.
In spite of my growing unease I obediently changed into the gown that was clearly one size fits, or rather doesn’t fit, all. There were poufs of paper puffing out all around that were hard to control. Tom did his best to tie me into the thing but about the best I could do was jump in the bed under the thin white blanket and allow the poufs to overtake me. What I would later learn, to my surprise and kind of delight was that this gown was equipped with a connection and tunnel and would later be hooked up to a warming hose. Such modern technology!
The nurses and technicians were so very nice and did their very best to make me feel at ease and comfortable. Which strangely made me feel more anxious. The guy who put the iv in did so in one stick and for that I was extremely grateful. When I saw the IV bag hanging overhead and the needle sticking out of my hand I felt the harsh reality…I was now a patient. I lay there under the stark overhead light, bare faced and pale, an old lady waiting for surgery. I looked at Tom and said in my sweetest voice I could muster, “I like it better when you are the patient.” What kind of loving spouse says a thing like that! My baser instincts were surfacing.
After a while a nice woman came in to wheel me and my bed down to the holding area. She only bumped into something once as she safely navigated us through the crowded hall. People were coming and going, passing me by. Some looked down at me, the pale paper clad figure being rolled by. I tried to smile like I was comfortable with the whole thing. I wasn’t. Then the strangest thing happened. This woman began to sing. And she had a beautiful voice. She sang that old song that Doris Day sang (in an Alfred Hitchcock film)… “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que sera sera” Wow. She sang as a prophet and it struck me as truth. I had absolutely no control over what was getting ready to happen. I was completely vulnerable. I resist vulnerability with everything I have. I will do just about anything not to ask for help. My friends and family find me very stubborn about this. I don’t try to control what other people do (I hope!) but I am fiercely determined to be able to be in control of my own situation and to do for myself. And here I was completely and totally NOT in control. How funny she would pick that song to sing. I determined to cling to it as a message, and gift, from God and I felt a peace that went beyond my understanding. I realized in that moment I was being held in Love, and I trusted this Love to be in control of all things and all time. It was a clear reminder I only live in my illusion of being in control
In the holding area I would have one more jolt of “aha” when a class of medical students walked through. They all looked straight ahead as they made their way through, careful not to look at any of the poor specimens waiting to be cut. Except for one young man. He couldn’t help himself. He just had to take a peek. The awkwardness between us was palpable as we greeted one another. And so was the humanity. At the heart of it we humans are all the same. Curious. Vulnerable. Scared at times. Relieved at times. He was relieved he wasn’t me. But we were connected, in spite of our intention to remain separated from one another. Yes, it is our vulnerability that actually unites us. And the fear of it often divides us.
The anesthesiologist was my friend of the day. She gave me whatever it is they give people to infuse them with euphoria right before they put them out. Ah! Finally. I had been asking for that since 6:30 AM. The next thing I knew I was awake and it was over. And I felt good! There was a poor guy across the way who was sicker than a dog. I felt bad for him. I think I kept saying so. Not sure what other “insightful” things I might have also said.
I’m back at home now. In full control. Ha! Glad to have it behind me but still considering what I have gained from the experience. I’m hoping it will make me a better support or encouragement to others when given the opportunity. I’m hoping I won’t forget that being vulnerable is not a sin, but rather a calling to faith. I’m hoping I won’t forget that it is in our vulnerability we are most likely to experience the love of God.
In the Gospel of John there is much talk about love, how we will be known to the world by our love. Jesus showed his love by being vulnerable. He allowed his fate to be determined by the hands of those who would harm him, kill him. Because he knew this vulnerability was ultimately held in the hands of Love. And in that Love, well, there is only more love. This is the source of life. This is a Love that makes Que Sera Sera a song of good news. Whatever will be will be….and all will be well.
Something to chew on…
Thank you, Jane — for being present in the vulnerability that life that includes — and the fearful parts we want to turn away from — giving voice to it and re-membering the All of Love!
What a gift from God, that woman singing! In recounting your experience you bring us to a place that few would choose to go, yet, as you said, it is the place we are more likely to actually feel being wrapped in God’s loving arms. Thank you for this truth, and I’m glad you’re feeling better.
Thank you for reading and for your kind comment!
“Que se ra se ra” was one of the first songs I remember my Mom singing to me and teaching me. It serves us well! The other first song I remember, along with felt figures on the felt board, “Jesus Loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Thank you for sharing Jane, and please follow up with your results 🙂 Love you “little girl”!! God is the I am of the What Is, and the Faith Hope and Love of what will be!
You have a beautiful way with words, and your joy always comes through!❤️
I’m not even sure where to start. You have said more in this blog that I can chew on and my jaw is so tired! Vulnerability is NOT my strong suit. I’m the caregiver. It gives my heart great joy to care for those who are unable to care for themselves. It has been my life’s calling. This I know. But, me ask for help? NEVER!! I CAN DO IT MYSELF!
Well, I think God is reaching me this year and it’s a hard pill to swallow. In Feb, I had to give in to a knee arthroscopy and during surgery I had some major blood pressure issues and needed to start on medicine which I wasn’t to happy about but I reluctantly agreed. After a month of intense physical therapy and taking my medicine I became sick with what I thought was the flu. After a few days I realized something else was going on, so I went to the doctor but got no real answers and for 3 weeks I continued to get sicker and weaker and angry because I DON’T GET SICK! And Marty was having to take care of everything! That was just WRONG! I finally had to go to the ER because I actually thought I was dying.. I was admitted with a dangerously low potassium level and severe dehydration. After a couple of bags of fluids and potassium I felt like a new person. Ahh.. I’m well.. All blamed on the blood pressure medicine… Medicine changed.. Problem solved!
I had a week where I almost felt “normal” and it felt good to be able to contribute to life again. This week I started running high fever again. So this time I thought ok, it’s the flu I’ll be well in a few days I can handle it. Just need some fluids and rest. Of course not..Bacterial Pneumonia and other nasty bugs floating around. I’m so weak and short of breath the doc wanted to put me back in the hospital but I gently talked him out of it. I’m home in bed once again having to have Marty care for ME! This is hard… Very, very hard for me. I do not have the art of vulnerabilty, I am not always the best patient, I get angry easily, mostly at myself but it doesn’t make for a happy house…Now through you words maybe I can be more accepting of my right now situation and actually allow the one who loves me more than anything, show me how much she does care. She is so patient and kind and loving and I thank God for her everyday. Couldn’t do it without her… One more thing, I think God gives us more than we can handle. How else would we learn to reach out to Him and others for help…
Thanks for giving me a good chaw. I needed it….
Next time we’re in Corpus would love to see you and Tom….
Dear Cheryl! What a trying time for you! I’m so sorry. And, so thankful you and Marty have each other. My prayer for you is that you will experience that peace that goes beyond anything our minds can understand. You know better than most that the path to healing can be a long journey. Allow others to care for you. It will be a gift for them. I also pray that your joy will be deepened as you trust God in the scariness of being vulnerable. Obviously, a lesson in learning as well! Thank you so much for reading my post and for sharing. ❤️
Thank you again, Jane, for always being so refreshingly authentic!! Glad you have the surgery behind you and are, hopefully, on the road to full recovery!