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Sorry Doctor, Are you Saying I have a Soccer Ball in My Stomach?

Are you out of your mind? It’s 3.30am in the morning and you want to do what? 

‘Bath you, mam.’ 

I kid you not. When I asked why, the answer I got astounded me. The nurse said, “Our shift ends at 7.00am.” According to my calculation there were still four hours to go until 7.00AM.

How could I refuse. With a drip in each arm, a catheter, a blood pressure machine and boots to prevent clots. Where was I going to run.

Four weeks before. It probably began long before that with an increasing tiredness. The tiredness got so bad I stopped going out or doing anything. Well, I did force myself to walk short distances on the beach. Each walk, however, became a mammoth task.

I said to the love of my life if this fatigue has not gone by Wednesday I am going to see my vitamin doctor. Reassuring myself that once I got the right vitamins I would be back to my normal self.

‘Relax your tummy.’ How much more relaxed did I have to be. ‘This is not normal. I am going to send you for a sonagram.’

I leave the radiology department and have coffee with the love of my life. There is a cyst that measures 23cm.

We act normal and go for a walk on the beach. On the ride home the vitamin doctor phones. There is sympathy in her voice. ‘I am available to help you all the way.’

Wait a minute aren’t you the person with the vitamin that can make this thing go away.

‘I have made an appointment for you with the nice surgeon man.’

I see the nice man surgeon. He sends me for a CT scan. The results, it’s a soccer ball. Not really. The tumour, lets call it by its proper name, is the size of a soccer ball. It looks benign, but we would only know for sure after surgery. 

The love of my life and myself have the phone on speaker and we are both listening to the nice surgeon man give us the results. Would you like to have the surgery? Of course – who in their right mind would leave a soccer ball hanging around in their abdomen.

The surgery is planned for four weeks’ time. I read from Lamentations

“When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Do not ask questions. Wait for hope to appear. Do not run from trouble. Take it full face. The word is never the worst. Why? Because God won’t ever walk out and fail to return.”

Lamentations 3:24-34

I do just that. I go to the silence and find my peace. My lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. 

In between the peace and pleasant places there are moments of stark terror. Google will do that to you. Okay so I am not perfect, and I am curious. Knowledge is power. I discover watermelons and grapefruits that other woman have been walking around with and have had removed.

However, to hold onto that peace I refuse google, and rather read my cheesy novels. It’s a distraction.

Surgery day arrives. A nice anaesthetist man says: ‘We do not know how you are going to react, so we are going to put you in High Care/ICU afterwards to monitor you. Also, you may wake up with a feeding tube through you nose.’

The nice nurse takes my blood pressure. It is abnormally high. I have just been told I am going to ICU and may have a feeding tube up my nose. The pleasant lines have dissipated and there is no peace.

I am wheeled into theatre and climb onto the operating table. I sit with my legs hanging over the table with rounded shoulders for the nice anaesthetist man to give me a spinal block injection. Before he does that, he offers me a gin and tonic. His words. Beautiful relaxing dormicum. The nice surgeon man arrives. I feel relaxed. I feel safe. I sleep.

“Somebody move my legs!” “Somebody move my legs!” 

You will get your feeling back in two hours.

 I am dramatic and desperate. “Somebody move my legs!”

I shiver and shake. A nice nurse puts three blankets on me. I am not cold, please take them away. I shiver and shake. Somebody move my legs.

The love of my life arrives. He calms me, he talks me through my shivers and shakes, and my legs that won’t move. Then he says: ‘I am going to get a cup of coffee.’ 

I manage my mind, I slowly stop shivering and shaking. My legs slowly start to move. I sleep until 3.30 am.

It’s bath time.

Later that morning I am moved to G ward. I am put in a private room. I never asked for one. I do not protest. A nurse later tells me they like to put their ICU patients in private wards. I am thankful for ICU, the lines have fallen on pleasant places.

Nice surgeon man checks on me every morning and every afternoon. He shows me a picture of the tumour, it is huge. His guess is it weighs about 5kg.

The love of my life visits. Each nurse that comes into the room hears him say to them; “Thank you for looking after my wife so well.”

Wait a minute. That one didn’t do much, that one never arrived when I called her. Okay, so that nurse lady was helpful. 

Nice surgeon man arrives early one afternoon. “The results are back you have a borderline ovarian tumour. The cancer cells are contained in the mass they took out. There is no need for chemotherapy.”

This is how I understood what nice surgeon man said to me. I am relieved. I phone the love of my life and tell him. The lines for me have fallen on pleasant places.

A day later I am discharged from hospital, two days earlier than was planned. At home I get on the scale. I am 5kgs lighter. 

Creatives, sometimes you have to go off to the silence and not run from the trouble, take it full in the face. It is the only way for the load to lighten and open up more creative space.

P.S Thank you nice surgeon man.

P.S.S Thank you nice anaesthetist man.

P.S.S.S Thank you vitamin doctor