Surgery / Recovery

I had surgery one week ago.

My doctor made a medium-size incision on the left side of my neck and removed an enlarged lymph node that had been living their since July. I didn’t want to write about the lymph node too much (at all) before I got my test results back. The thing is it was either absolutely nothing or it was cancer. There was not in between, the doctor explained. We had done the CT scan and we had even done a fine needle biopsy, so we had ruled out a lot of things already. But there wasn’t a way to rule out cancer without removing the lump and studying it under a microscope, so that’s what we did. And, great news: I do not have cancer! I found out today. So now I feel comfortable writing about it a little bit. By the way, while writing this paragraph I decided to pull the wood chair I am sitting on a little bit closer to the table and I somehow managed to slice my pointer finger open on a jagged edge of wood, so now I have a medium-size stitched up incision on the left side of my neck and a small-ish open slice on the right side of my pointer finger. Both cuts hurt a little bit more than I would like.

The thing about surgery is that I didn’t really think about how I was taking a thing that was whole (my body) and agreeing that we should cut it open. Even if there is a lump in your neck, your body still functions the way it is supposed to. I could sleep on both sides of my body, I could cuddle my girlfriend, I could have energetic sex, I could go to yoga, I could pick up a toddler, I could go for a run. My friends could hug me. Strangers could bump into me. I could shower easily. You get the picture. Sure, the lump was concerning, but my actual body was working just fine.

Now the lump is gone, and the potential concern is gone – which is excellent, I am grateful, please don’t get me wrong – but my body isn’t behaving in the way that a whole perfect thing would behave. All of the things I mentioned above: sleeping, sex, showers, etc…they are currently not super effortless. And it’s frustrating because I mean, I did this to myself. My neck did not incur an injury on its own. I decided that the risk of leaving it untouched was greater than the risk of opening it up.

“Do you think it was the right decision to get surgery,” I asked Alley, while lying in bed before sleep a few nights ago. We hadn’t heard my results yet so I wasn’t certain I didn’t have cancer, but I knew that a week prior my body had felt healthy and now my body felt broken, at least to some degree. Healthy is relative, of course. Broken is also relative. “I don’t think that’s a productive question to ask now, babe,” Alley said, and of course she was right. I had already had surgery, so I couldn’t undo it. And she knows I pick over every choice I have ever made, second guessing myself all the time, and I appreciated her trying to help me not do that. “You’re right,” I said, lying uncomfortably on my right side, facing away from her, careful not to put any weird pressure on my neck.

I fell asleep wondering if it was the right decision to get surgery.

5 thoughts on “Surgery / Recovery

    • Vanessa says:

      Thank you so much, Renee! This comment means a lot. I appreciate you reading ❤

      I have been meaning to reply to your long text and I will do so now! Been thinking about you too. sending love.

  1. Jenny Bruso says:

    Happy to hear you don’t have cancer, but I relate to this self-questioning all too much. I want to give examples, but I’m having an embarrassing flood of shame about it as I type this. I literally haven’t gone to a doctor (aside from a dentist) in years for all sorts of real and imagined reasons. 2017 is the year I actually respect this temple that is my body and no, that isn’t diet resolution bullshit.

    Again, I’m so happy you don’t have cancer. Love to you ❤

    • Vanessa says:

      Thank you for this, Jenny. It is such a relief! And YES, self-questioning when it comes to medical-related things is so real — I hear this from so many friends and feel it myself so often. I’ve tried to type like 17 sentences about how happy I am for you re: your choices about how you will treat your body in 2017 but writing about someone else’s body without sounding like a condescending jerk is really hard even when I am trying to be positive and encouraging and not a condescending jerk so I will just leave it at this but suffice it to say I am happy if you are happy, and I love you. ❤

      • Jenny Bruso says:

        I love you, too. We’ll talk about how awesome we’re going to be to ourselves when I take you out for birthday brunch/meal, etc. so true, talking about bodies is HARD.

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