One year ago today I walked into the hospital for what I thought was my sixth and final surgery, a hysterectomy. It took me over two years to decide if I wanted to do it, finally say goodbye to my uterus. After years of endometriosis pain, multiple laparoscopies, and several fertility treatments including IVF, I wasn’t surprised I needed it. I just honestly thought this would be my last surgery. Like ever.
What I didn’t know is that the night before the surgery I’d learn my sister-in-law had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
I didn’t know that my surgery would have complications that lasted more than 11 weeks post-op.
I had no idea that just a few short weeks afterward, I’d be sleeping in the hospital with Heather, still in pain from my recovery, but ignoring that to help her fight for her life.
I also didn’t know that just two months and 28 days later I’d be planning her funeral on my birthday. And that my meniscus and patella tendon were torn which meant two more knee surgeries were on the horizon.
This year has SUCKED, and that’s an understatement. It’s been full of heartache and pain. Anxiety and depression. And made me wonder more than once, “What did I do to deserve this?”
I mean I thought nearly a decade of infertility issues, five procedures, plus early menopause was bad, but that was nothing compared to what 2018 had in store for me. A friend once asked me on the cusp of my eighth surgery, when I thought I was having a nervous breakdown, “You went through hell trying to have a baby and live with hot flashes every single day, you’re not going to let another knee surgery break you are you?”
The answer is yes, the patella tendon surgery nearly broke me. This latest recovery, the physical therapy, coupled with work and home stress has left me weak, weary, and exhausted. And 14 weeks later I’m still in pain due to complications and setbacks. But the thing is, I’m still standing.
I might be hobbling, and my weak quad still causes my knee to buckle. My body has morphed into a brand new shape and I barely recognize myself anymore.
But I’m still standing.
How you ask?
Sometimes I zoom out and look at this past year with a wide angle lens and allow myself to really soak in all that’s happened. I feel the grief and the pain and analyze what we’ve been through as a family and wonder, “How the hell does one person deal with all of this?”
And the answer is you just do. You have no other choice but to get up, thank God for the gift of each day, and find the good.
You celebrate each and every tiny milestone like bending your knee for the first time after being immobile for six weeks. Or the first time you walk up your first step.
You ask for help from your neighbors, family, friends, and teachers, and rely heavily on Instacart and Uber Eats.
You write in your gratitude journal, pray, and meditate.
You learn quickly how to say no to everything because you literally can’t do anything, like drive or walk.
And you remember Heather and all she went through, and how much she would have rather dealt with a shitty knee situation than dying from pancreatic cancer. So you think of her, wear her mantra band bracelet, and whenever you start to throw yourself a pity party you remember you’re still fucking standing.
This year has challenged me physically but emotionally and mentally it’s taken me to places I never knew existed. Sadness and despair, mind-blowing frustration, and anger and resentment that sometimes burns through my chest and causes the tears to sting my face.
But it’s also taught me the most valuable lesson of all, letting go.
Letting go of what I thought life was supposed to be like and actually accepting it for what it is. A big old beautiful mess. Just like the Hamilton lyrics say, “How lucky are we to be alive right now.”
This is clearly not the year I expected, and the lessons I’m supposed to learn are still coming to me slowly. But I’m here, grateful to still be standing, waiting and listening for the answers.
IF YOU LIKED THIS POST THEN YOU WILL LOVE THIS PODCAST – it’s part of a speech I gave at the Start Loving You conference. You can read part of it here or just LISTEN HERE. (Please subscribe and leave me a review!)
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And you might like this: Why It’s OK To Say No to Your Kids and Yes to Yourself.
Gian Lopez says
I imagine that it must have been difficult to write all these experiences that caused you pain. Surely, it was liberating to some degree. I am sorry about Heather, and I can only imagine the pain this brought to you and your loved ones. Liked you said, you are still standing. This IS life. Is never as high as you think and never as low. It’s easy to question our purpose in this life with all the suffering around us, and it is easy to fill ourselves with anger, resentment, and frustration. I’ve been through a whole lot in my life. Too much, I would say. But this isn’t about me, Nevertheless, I can tell you that when “all is lost”, I think of my children, or hug them, if they are around, and I quiclky inmerse myself with the necessary strenght and with the realization that those special moments fill your heart just enough to be thankful to be alive and be able to experience everything that Life throws at you. Today, you are a stronger woman than you were yesterday. Life isn’t finished and neither are you.
Kristen Hewitt says
Amen. Thank you for taking the time to read and write to me.