Eleanor Roosevelt once said “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Two and a half years ago, at 4 o’clock on a Tuesday morning, August 1st, I got behind the wheel of my car. My husband, who does not see well enough be driving at 4 AM, sat quietly in the passenger seat, holding my hand.
I took off north on the New Jersey turnpike. I had an appointment to meet my surgeon, Dr. Michael Nusbaum, at St. Barnabas Hospital in West Orange, NJ for my Roux-en-Y gastric bypass operation. I thought I had faced the fears intelligently. I did all the pre-op testing to make sure that my diabetic fat arse could withstand the surgery. I met with the psychologist to make sure I was mentally prepared. I met with our lawyer and had my will drawn up. I talked to Jim so he knew to make the necessary preprations for my funeral in the event that things didn’t go well, and I talked to Brighid, so if Jim was too upset to remember everything I told him to do, someone else would remember.
Even though I thought I had all of my bases covered, I could not possibly have anticipated the emotions. I started crying at about exit 5, and didn’t stop until we arrived at the hospital. Through silent tears, I prayed Jim would tell me not to go through with the surgery, turn the car around, and just go home. But he didn’t. So I kept driving so I didn’t look like a coward.
They took me back right away when we got to the hospital, and I was soon sitting on a guerney back in a holding area outside the operating suites. By the time Dr. Nusbaum came over to tell me things were running a little behind due to an unscheduled emergency procedure being done in the OR I was heading for, I was shivering from the fear. He rested his hand on my knee, was incredibly reassuring, and promptly called for drugs to calm my butt down.
The next thing I knew, it was over. I was bypassed. Gastrically altered. The fear was over, I faced it, and I conquered it, and in the days to come, would realize it wasn’t as bad as the anticipation of how bad it might have been. 10 days later, I was in Disney World.
But for two and a half years, I have anticipated the next step in the journey. I’ve had a lot of time for the butterflies in my stomach to multiply and the concerns to mount. I’ve gone through one other major surgery since my bypass – an emergency due to an intestinal blockage. The very neat, leaving only small holes surgery that Dr. Nusbaum performed was replaced by a lengthy red scar down the middle of my stomach. The recovery from that surgery was painful – but after a week in the hospital, I came home ready to get back to the business of living. But the emotional scars seem to still be there. I don’t know if I live with the fear of another surgery because I didn’t get to go into that one with my usual mountain of lists and plans and what ifs. But I’m worried. So as I think about the next step – the plastic surgery that I hope will return my body to some semblance of normal – the mounting fear has seemed insurmountable.
It took me about six months to work up the courage to call a plastic surgeon. I read a lot about the type of surgery I think I want, and have decided that the best thing for me is a total body lift. In doing my research, I have found that the pioneer of this type of surgery is Dr. Dennis Hurwitz, and he’s not that terribly far away – in Pittsburgh. I did a lot of research before allowing Dr. Nusbaum to do my RNY and had amazing results. I did no research in allowing the surgeon to do my intestinal blockage repair. I can’t say the same about my experience. So going into this next phase of the game plan, I am going in under my own terms, with the doctor I choose. I made an appointment with Dr. Hurwitz, only to go into panic mode and cancel a few days before. It was Christmas, after all, and the nervousness was threatening to ruin my holiday mood.
So it’s not Christmas anymore. And after reading and researching, I decided to face the fear. In order to live the life I want to live, I have to think about moving forward with the plastic surgery. Dr. Hurwitz has a practice closer to home, which made me feel a little better, because in my organized mind, if something does go horribly wrong, it’s got to be cheaper to get my body home from Chadds Ford than all the way from Pittsburgh. If I have to stay in hospital an extended period of time, it’s going to be easier for Jim and the kids if I’m only an hour away as opposed to six hours away. And the clincher? Dr. Nestor Veitia.
When I called to make my appointment, it was Dr. Veitia who called me back. He scheduled my appointment, and then spent ten minutes on the phone, addressing some fears. He laughed at my sarcasm, got my jokes, and made me feel like he’s someone who can be trusted.
So I’m going. January 27th. And we shall see what happens – like how many kidneys I might have to sell to pay for surgery, and how long I’ll have to live the life of leisure following the procedure. I mentioned to Dr. Veitia that I was in Disney just 10 days after my gastric bypass. I asked if I’d be there in 5 after the body lift. He laughed. But in a nice way.