I am one week away from having rods rammed into my bone – stretching two inches out of my short leg. Half the time I think about it, I’m cool. “You got this,” I tell myself. “It’s going to be pretty bad, but it’s nothing you can’t handle.” The other half of the time I have to fight off an intense panic attack and the urge to projectile vomit. In order to approach this journey in a way that will not make me want to run screaming from the hospital, I have to put it into some perspective. I have a few scenarios that I run through to be able to handle what’s to come.
Birthing a Leg: I liken this surgery to birth. When you get pregnant, a baby grows very slowly in your belly. As it gets bigger, it pushes around other things in your abdomen and gets pretty uncomfortable – or so I’ve heard. At the end, you have to squeeze the thing out in a horrendous marathon of terrible excruciating pain. My surgery will kind of be like birth – backwards. The intense, unbearable agonizing pain will be at the very beginning – when I wake up from anesthesia and I’m guessing the first three days. Hopefully after that it will be bearable. Then comes the stretching, little by little, as my leg is forced to grow. As it gets longer, it will stretch my skin, muscles, tendons and nerves. This will be uncomfortable. But like a million women push out babies every day. And my ordeal won’t even be nine months. I could be back to normal after five or six. At the end I will not have a baby, but I will have a longer leg. Instead of onesies and rattles, I may register for shoes. (This is only a half-joke. I have told my friends I want them to throw me a shoe-er when this is all over. That’s a shoe shower, as I will have to buy all new shoes.)
It Will Get Better: I am choosing to have this surgery and at the end I know my life will be better. I have a choice in this matter and I know the outcome. This is so much easier to handle than people who are thrust into painful life and death situations where they do not know what will happen. I can’t imagine getting the diagnosis of cancer or having my legs blown off in Afghanistan or being shot during a robbery. What about that guy whose arm got stuck in a boulder and he had to cut it off himself? People who face these fates are blindsided one day out of the blue. They don’t always know whether they’ll live or die. They also might have to realize the rest of their life will be different than they had planned. Many people in these situations still manage to deal and stay positive. So I can too.
I Have it Good: Everyone has challenges in their life, but I really could not have asked for a better 27 years. I have loving parents who are still alive and in love today. No one did anything bad to me when I was little. My family had enough money. I’ve always had good friends and extended family. I got a good education and now have a career that I love. I’ve had a lot of fun and have the pictures to prove it. The biggest challenge was probably having a younger brother with a mental disability, but I’ve never known life without him. It felt normal to me. Having him be the way he is has also been a blessing in many ways. (That could be its own blog, really.) If having a short leg and facing painful surgery is the worst thing I’ve ever gone through I am truly blessed. I am thankful there is an operation out there to fix my physical problem. I know there are not surgeries to fix every birth defect and deformity.
My mom sent me an e-mail today that is very sweet. Here’s what it said:
Hello Doll, please know that feelings of apprehension are normal as a surgery date approaches. Everything should go fine. You have a skilled and caring surgeon and you are in general good health and will have strong support from family and friends to recover. But nerves are normal. We will be praying for God to comfort you and I am sure he will. Love, Mom
When I think about things this way, it makes me feel better. Although I still may have a panic attack or two before this whole thing is over. I think that’s okay. At least I have family, friends and faith to help me through.
Isaiah 41: 10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”