The good thing about having surgery immediately is it doesn’t give you a lot of time to stew in your worries. It took less than a week from the time my doctor told me I needed surgery until it was preformed. The week between was a blur. It felt like I blinked my eyes, and when I opened them I was being rolled out of ICU. I wasn’t scared; I wasn’t worried. I had a calm about me because I knew I was going to be okay. Any rational person would think this was crazy – going so quickly into surgery for cancer should have you concerned. I had no doubts in my mind that I’d be completely fine.
Call it divine intervention if you’d like. That’s how I refer to that week. It was the first time in all my eighteen church-going years that I believed my own spirituality. Every sermon, homily, and “miracle story” I’d heard up until then had been words and doctrine. They didn’t feel real. Sure, I considered myself a Christian, but there was this nagging feeling that although I said it, I didn’t really believe it. That week all that changed. I felt “it” – whatever “it” may be to you.
My three-hour surgery took one and a half. My thyroid was removed entirely, which means a lifetime of synthetic hormones to regulate my metabolism. I also had four lymph nodes involved, which meant the cancer could possibly have spread or could come back in the future. I quickly learned I was allergic to not only general anesthesia, but also a few variants of oral narcotics. It was all morphine for me. This also meant I spent four days in hospital hell. The morphine made my eyes rollback when I wanted to visit with my friends, nurses woke me up at all hours of the night to take my vitals, the woman who shared my room kept me awake talking to her family about her gastric-bypass surgery, I was freezing cold, and I was paranoid. My poor mother spent nights on two chairs pushed together.
In between those minor annoyances I was getting sick every hour. Yes, vomiting after having your throat slit open the day before is beyond horrifying. I’ll spare you the rest of the unsavory details, but that was the most hellish experience my body has ever gone through.
Once released from the hospital, I recovered at the hotel across the street. After all, sophomore year was starting Monday and I needed to make an appearance as a seasoned college veteran. My surgeon strongly suggested I take a semester off. I thought he was crazy. I had a life to live, volleyball to play, things to learn, and parties to attend.
I did the only thing I knew how to – I kept moving forward.