About a month ago my OB Gyn told me I had “concerning” cells in my uterus and that I had a good chance of having cancer.
“Can’t I just go to El Salvador and Guatemala first and then do the surgery afterward?” I suggested as if I was immortal. (I was very excited about an important work trip.)
She peered at me over the top of narrow reading glasses. “I…. wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
Still I made my case.
Eventually her tiny 5′ body turned from the computer screen where she sat in a short, hot pink tuliped skirt, fishnet stockings, and tall spiky heals which she somehow managed to make look classy (I kid you not) and said…
“Shannon, I know this is not an easy time for you. And that your work really matters to you. But I don’t want you that far away from me.”
So I sat quietly for a moment letting it sink in. I could feel my eyes fill up with tears. She was right. It had not been an easy time. I had been bleeding for a couple of months and already undergone some “procedures”. But this was the big one: uterus, ovaries, all the reproductive connectors. I was getting neutered! Or spayed! Or something like that. And then there was that “C” word.
As if that weren’t enough, I had moved to Kentucky only a year and 1/2 prior and left my entire family in Washington State, including my precious college girls. Oh and I was in the middle of a divorce. That’s all. So my Doc wasn’t exaggerating.
After a weekend of feeling like I was staring up from the bottom of a dank muddy well, I came up with a plan. I would have THE most fantastic week responding to the question: “What makes my body happy.”
The question is “What makes your body happy?” not “what makes you happy?”
And the answer came: good food, companionship, fresh air, touch and music.
A number of years ago I began a re-orientation in my life toward gratitude. I grew up in a family where one “expects the worst and if good happens, you are pleasantly surprised“. I hope you didn’t. Really, this way of thinking can cramp your life and suck your mood into tiny little entropic vortexes that will wreak havoc on you and all those you love. I was feeling pulled into that old way of being. A good friend gave great advice when he told me to live in what is, not what might be. Thus I began my YOLO week.
Facebook friends didn’t know about my upcoming surgery. They seemed tickled by it when I posted. I went out for drinks with people I liked. Just one drink – I really was good to my body. I went on a night walk with a friend and his dogs. I sat by the Ohio River. Walked in a rainstorm. I stopped by my favorite coffee place regularly. I listened to a local band I know playing Latin music. A friend and I went out to eat at my favorite restaurant. We were there 4 hours. I went to a movie. I made pumpkin pancakes and bourbon vanilla syrup for friends and we all jammed on my music. The hardest part was the touch part.
How was I going to do that? I have truly missed the tenderness of touch, in all it’s forms. But given my personal life transition, I was in a quandary.
Sure, sexual intimacy would have been nice, especially since I was losing all my official reproductive organs — and for a moment I toyed with asking a male friend to “fill in”.
You know. Nothing intense. Just sit and hold me and stroke my hair or something. But the only ones I felt vaguely close enough to sit that close to were gay. That would be awkward. Plus, I have a thing about how people smell. And what if agreed upon “friend” hung out with me for an evening and I couldn’t bear his smell. Maybe I would run a craigslist ad! THAT wouldn’t likely go over big in my Christian subculture. Strange things go through the mind of a woman about to lose her “girls”.
I settled for dogs, hugs and kisses from friends, the warmth of prayers and good wishes, and a lovely knitted prayer shawl which accompanied me after surgery through my return to the hospital for a nasty infection and eventually home again. My touch came after. I think that is a good omen.
To sum it up, I loved my YOLO week. And really, it only took a little extra effort! In a way, it was not particularly different than any other week. Perhaps it was a little concentrated, but it had all of the elements of my normal “at home” weeks with a bit more cash outflow. The only thing that took any organizational effort was creating music. I simply MUST do that more! Music makes my body the happiest.
Part of the joy was my heightened awareness of being grateful for the things that make me happy and healthy. I didn’t succomb to anxiety and grief over being so far from home. Granted, 3 of my closest family member took turns caring for me – flying from WA, ID, and LA. I am blessed. But it took intention.
I am still learning about gratitude and recovery. (It could have a bit to do with the instant menopause I have been placed in.) But as I write this I am remembering the literally hundreds of people I know who prayed for me, called me, sent cards and flowers and brought food, who reminded me that I am strong and loved. What a rich life I have in friends and family and colleagues. This is all I have ever wanted. Well, and good coffee.
The cells they were most concerned about had not developed into cancer. Hallelujah! We will watch some blood tests for 6 months to make sure no errant cells escaped the uterus (they often evolve into cancer). All is well.