"As for pain, a pain that is intolerable carries us off, but that which lasts a long time is bearable, the mind maintains it's own tranquility by entering into itself, and the ruling faculty is not injured. If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing which disturbs you, but your own judgement about it."
Yup, that's all well and good until you are consumed by an enormous controlled trauma like abdominal surgery. The notebook I brought with me tells an altogether different story of consuming physical pain, combined with morphine...
They call the day of the operation DAY ZERO. If one survives, the next day is DAY ONE. By DAY THREE I had not only watched the First Night New Year fireworks from my bed in a drug induced haze, I had listened to a woman die across the hall from me, been awakened by the PA every time a doctor or nurse was needed somewhere in the hospital, my doctor - sweetheart that he was - had snuck in a cup of coffee with cream and sugar (absolutely VERBOTEN!), and my friend who was to drive me home on DAY TWELVE said there was an enormous snow storm due in on DAY FOUR.
I told my doctor I needed to go home. They removed the large metal staples holding my abdominal cavity closed, replaced them with superglue and surgical tape, gave me a pillow to hold onto for the forty-five mile trip home, and wheeled me and my catheter out to the curb.
[ THANK YOU RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE in Providence R.I. for the hospitality provided to my friend who came to be with me every waking moment.]
The next few weeks would be interesting. Four hours after arriving home a nurse from my doctor's office called to make sure I had made it and was OK. " I hear water running in the background, were you taking a shower? Should I call back? " she asked. "No, I am cleaning my oven, its OK." That's when they started calling me their miracle patient. I spent a lot of time looking like I was nine months pregnant and ready to pop due to the swelling. I owned no sweatpants so I rolled around the house with my jeans undone and covered with shirts. My son dragged wood in and I sat in my sister's chair throwing logs into the old, non-air-tight Franklin.
I tried to think of spring and did
some really incredibly lame mediocre watercolors in my notebook.
My dad sent me funny pictures of himself in his Santa hat with one of his fellow Veteran friends volunteering to ring the bell for the Salvation Army.
In February I went to a wedding my daughter was a bridesmaid in, fueled by vicodin and slouching, it helped keep the pain somewhat at bay, and ran into my surgeon at a basketball game in Providence in March.
My daughter is actually holding me up in this, notice her shoulder stratigically placed IN my back.
At last I would return to work, flowers arrived...
A minor celebration, complete with fake champagne...
My partner of twelve years and I.
By the time spring and summer rolled around, I would be amazed at the journey I had gone through, one that was controlled by levels of pain, diminishing over time to be sure, but pain none the less. It became obvious in years to follow, just how controlling that pain had been when I look at the photos of me, and the ones I took that summer.
Impossible to sit on hard chairs, still is, I sit on my feet. I'm told it's common after abdominal surgeries.
Finding Peace in my surroundings.
My son humored me and took me for a ride in my sister's car he had inherited,
to my favorite place, Pickery Place in Mason N.H.
By the end of the summer I was back in the pool, getting ready for my diving vacation in Hawaii that coming January.
So now, on the fifteenth aniversery of that adventure, I once again renew my vow to continue volunteering, helping others whenever I can, and by surviving, reasuring others there truly is hope. In celebration, I am driving to my favorite seafood joint on the shore to have lobster, and their incredible lobster bisque.
And remember, no matter what befalls you in this unpredicable life, there is power in the mind, believe in it, and mind over matter will triumph.