I have been struggling with anxiety, the type where your chest hurts, your mind freezes, and your breathing changes, for the first time in my life. I’ve even had a couple panic attacks when thinking about the surgeries, what my body, mind and spirit will go through, and experiencing flashbacks of the previous three surgeries in the past three years.
To help center my mind and heart, I’ve been reading Psalms and going through several devotionals through the Bible app, focused on anxiety, trials, suffering, grief, illness, and hope. One of my devotions today discussed fear of the unknown as being the true origin of anxiety. It said that when we want to control an aspect of our life but can’t, it sends us into a tailspin of worry, fear, doubts, and feeling unsafe, fragile, precarious.
I immediately thought of the impending surgeries, the entire process, the sinking feeling of helplessness that hits me whenever they come to mind. I also acknowledged that my intense planning for the surgeries, (packing and shopping and making lists of lists and asking questions and gathering documents and changing my diet and preparing my body and mind) is a desperate attempt to grip onto what little bit of control I can wrestle away from the unpredictable monster named the OR.
On Friday, October 27th, after all flights and drives have ceased, after all pre-ops and bloodwork and ultrasounds and IVs are finished, my surgeon will meticulously excise (cut out) each spot of endometriosis on my pelvic walls, muscles, organs, etc. This alone can take hours, as he will make a wide margin around each growth so as not to miss any cells that could continue growing at a fast pace and threaten my chance at remission.
This takes precision, skill, knowledge, and a trained eye. Dr. Dulemba’s ability to do this delicate type of surgery is what distinguishes him as a true endometriosis excision specialist, which is closer to a gynecologic oncologist than your standard OBGYN. After the endo has been removed, he will remove my appendix, burn some nerves around my uterus to decrease pain, check out my organs, and remove whatever may be damaged. This will be followed by a hospital stay, an IV, catheter, and On-Q pump to locally manage the pain.
Five days later, Dr. Dulemba will go back in and remove any scarring that may have formed on the hundreds of internal incisions created during the first surgery. These scars, adhesions, can be almost as painful and damaging as endo itself. Then he will use Amniofix, sheets of gelled umbilical cord harvested post-birth, as a covering on the newly scraped incisions, and this will protect the incisions from scarring over again. One month later, my body will absorb the gelled umbilical cord, as it’s an organic matter. After the second surgery, I’ll repeat the routine of the hospital stay, IV, catheter, and On-Q pump.
At the end of the devotion, the writer asks you to focus on the one fear deep in your heart that is at the center of your anxiety and fears. He challenges you to surrender it to Jesus, lay it at His feet, and let it go. When I questioned my heart, I could separate my fear of the surgeries process from the fear of the outcome of the surgeries, and one outcome in particular, one that’s hard to discuss with my boyfriend and parents because it will change their lives forever too.
I don’t know if I will wake up on October 27th and hear the words “we had to remove”, “there was no way to save”, “I’m so sorry”. I don’t know, when I’m rolled out of the OR into recovery, if my fertility will be still with me, still inside me, still part of me. I don’t know if my dreams of holding a baby girl that has my cheekbones or my love’s blue eyes will die that day. I don’t know if my heart will be broken when my consciousness returns.
There is no easy way to brush it aside, to pack into a neat box and put it on the shelf of my sub-conscious, as I have been trying to do for months. It is a possibility, a nightmare that has unfolded for many of my endometriosis sisters with advanced endo after a similar surgery. I have stayed up with them crying and listening, I have shared their sorrow, and I have prayed for their shattered hearts.
Today, after reading the devotional, I prayed for Jesus to ease my fears, for Him to teach me how to fully lay it down at His feet, and for me to be able to wholeheartedly believe, “Thy will be done”. I prayed for help remembering that His love for me is so great that, if that is the path I am to walk, He has chosen this path in love, in protection, in goodness, in kindness towards me, His precious daughter.
I am still struggling with this fear, and I probably will until the fateful moment I awake from the first surgery and hear the surgeon’s report, but one of my favorite songs states “There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know.” And I know the kind, gentle, ever faithful, all powerful Friend who will be with me in the OR and beyond. So with every fearful thought and pang of fear and heartbreak, I pray for bravery to say no matter the outcome, “It is well with my soul”.