I sat in my wheelchair wearing two hospital gowns – one open to the back and one open to the front like a makeshift robe. Underneath, there were giant, disposable, hospital-provided granny panties and and an ink scribble on my belly, pointing to the location of my tumor.
A nurse gave me a cap to cover my hair. Then, it was time to go. We pushed through the big stainless steel-covered door leading to a hallway full of operating rooms. The door gave me a strange flashback: my heart raced exactly as it did when I rode through a rickety traveling carnival haunted house as a teenager.
After depositing me outside my designated OR, the nurse offered me a blanket and a smile. I was alone with my thoughts, briefly, with no way of knowing how long the wait might be. There was no OR hostess to remind “I have a reservation!” Just me and the uncertainty of the hours and ultimately weeks ahead.
Soon another patient dressed just like me was left outside a nearby OR. We were facing each other, like mirror images. I wasn’t sure if the polite thing to do was to acknowledge her or to avoid eye contact. I chose the latter, allowing her to pretend that none of this was happening.
It was then that I began to panic. My throat started aching and hot tears threatened to flood my eyes. I thought about how scared the tumor had made my mom, who has been through too much in recent years. And I thought about how sad my dad would be if he knew.
I don’t know why, but it was suddenly important to me that I not enter the OR crying. Not just important–essential. I have had general anesthesia before so I knew my memories of the OR would be brief, but still. I needed a calm version of myself to be what I remembered.
“Your mind is clear,” I said to myself. And then I said it again. And again.
I always liked yoga, even if I didn’t go regularly enough. I liked the stretching and the holding of poses even if the mental benefits usually eluded me. Once every three or four classes, I would find that peaceful space where my head was no longer cluttered but you couldn’t exactly call me a yogi. I have no idea where the phrase came from, but suddenly I had a mantra of sorts.
When it was time for me to walk into my OR, there were no tears. I was even able to smile a little. Hozier was playing. Once I was lying down, a woman in scrubs started my first IV line and before I knew it, the long uncomfortable period of anticipation was over.
I expect this will be my last tumor-related post (you’re probably thinking “thank goodness!). The stories have been told and the outcome is good.
Tomorrow marks another milestone: I’m returning to work and immediately jumping back into business travel. Maybe once my pain is gone, I’ll also return to yoga.
Wish me luck!
Thanks for reading.
Update (10/20): I’m back on leave, learning a painful lesson about trying to rush recovery.