Some months ago, we passed a billboard in an airport with a picture of a woman pulling a rolling suitcase that said “Travel like a pro.” I joked about it—what does that even mean to be a professional traveller? Who pays you to do that? Michael and the kids started to tease me about it because, of course, there are ways I myself am a professional traveller. I know my way around planes and airports, know how to shave time off, to roll my clothes so I don’t have to check, to visit my favourite airports or ride on my favourite airplanes. Turns out I travel like a pro.
Tonight the travel is to the hospital. I have bought (and packed) shirts that are more comfortable for putting on post surgery. I have packed my loose pants with the deep pockets to hold my drain. I have shaved my arm where the IV goes in so that removing the bandages will be less painful (I hate that part!). I have a small container of candied ginger because the surgery makes me nauseous, and ginger helps. I know the ins and outs of the whole deal, on this, my forth surgery for this recurrence and my sixth surgery for breast cancer in general (and, while we’re counting, the sixth surgery of my whole life). I have surgery like a pro.
And so here I would like to announce, just as I am at the height of my professional surgical patient career, that I would like to retire from this position. I would like to leave behind the steri-strips and the drains and the anti-inflammatories. I am ready to give up the excitement of seeing how well Stan has positioned the scar lines along my tattoo. I am even willing to give up the delightful hot air-filled blanket that keeps me so snuggly warm in the chilly operating theatre.
I know that some of you may be thinking this is too precipitous—why retire now, at the height of my career? What little tweaks and improvements might I be leaving, er, on the table by just walking away from this thing I do so well? Think of the advantages, you might say, of a profession that is accomplished entirely while sleeping!
I will answer, as so many retirees before me, that I have given all there is to give in the service of my work. I have given until there is no tissue left to give. It is time to lay down my gown and walk away.
And so I hope to do, after awakening at about noon tomorrow, the last bits of tissue removed from this much abused breast of mine. This new smaller surgery means that I’ll be discharged tomorrow afternoon—to a hotel rather than a hospital bed. And I’ll be home and walking around Wednesday afternoon rather than spending days recovering and trying not to lift so much as a teacup with my left hand.
Most everyone I know is needing some time recovering, though, often lifting stronger liquid than tea to their lips. These last two weeks since the election have been horrific. From the quaking of democracy in the US to the quaking of the earth in NZ, I have felt my life swirl into a kind of patternless chaos I struggle to understand (click here for my professional blogs about this). Suddenly even surgery seems more comfortable than peering out into the frightening and unstable world.
There is light to every darkness (as we should all be remembering now). The various forces of Trump and quake and cancer have brought Naomi home for Thanksgiving, and we will sit around our table on Thursday night and give thanks for being alive, for being together, and for each dawn we get. I will give thanks for you, Gentle Reader, and hope that you are surrounded by love and connection, and that the next year offers more health and hope than we can see from here. And I will ask you to add to your prayers the hope that I do not get called out of my early retirement from life as a surgery patient.
ps The image today is from a glittering walk last week while I was in the US to teach a program. A bridge from here to next…