Counting down

It’s a couple of days until I go back into hospital. I’m there early on Wednesday (7am), in a couple more days after that, and then home in time for the weekend and recovery. I’ve been told by a few that I’m wildly optimistic if I expect to be well enough to return to work on Monday. They’re probably right, but I tend to be bullish on these things because I want to believe in good outcomes. Some have said I’ll be out of action for up to a month, but we’ll see.

It’s a peculiar period counting down to surgery. Mostly surgery is something to be dreaded, but I’m looking forward to this, just as I was the surgery last year to remove the tumour. It’s because it’s necessary, even essential, and so you put aside the fear you might have and what to get it done ASAP and get on the road to recovery soonest.

It’s a pragmatic attitude. I remember last year there was a part of me pretty scared at what was to come. I hoped it would be successful, but the surgeon had made it clear there was no guarantee. Then there was the thought of being under the knife for 14 hours. A lot can go wrong in that time. And it gets in your head at times, the gruesome and gory details of what they will be doing while you’re under.

Last year it was my face they pretty well operated on, and I would occasionally wonder what I would wake up to. Even if perfectly successful what scars would I be left with?

This time it’s my mouth, but that doesn’t make it a whole lot easier. The solution, then as now, is not to dwell on it too long. It has to happen, so be it.

I remember the days narrowing last time as surgery approached. Without it, I would die a painful death, and so for all my occasional qualms, I was reasonably relaxed as the date drew closer. I was very conscious of the uncertainty, however. This was a big moment in my life. I hoped for the best. I expected it. But still… I was very conscious of a before and after.

There was a natural trepidation. In three days, two, one…it would happen. There was no stopping it. No going back. The bell would ring, the time to step up would come. And I remember that morning waking, still dark outside and a chill in the air.

My lift arrived and it was all very low-key as if nothing momentous was about to happen. Neither of us spoke of it. The streets were quiet as we drove in and then I was there. I parted as if normal, giving Rigby a last pat as I left. I was told later that Rigby was in distress as I left him.

The key thing was I was about to get a cancerous tumour removed. That had become the predominant consideration. I hated having it in me. It scared me. I imagined it throbbing inside me as it grew, its insidious tentacles reaching further inside me as the days went on. Surgery could not come soon enough, if not too late…

I don’t have the same fears this time. Surgery will be much less complicated and nowhere near as long. It will be delicate and tricky. They’ll need to take some skin from me somewhere for the graft. I’ll probably wake up sore, and there will be some ongoing incapacity because of it for a while. But then, fingers crossed, it will be over too.

Two more sleeps. Another hospital stay. But – and let’s believe in the best outcome – after this I’ll be able to open my mouth wide; the swelling will subside and my speech restored to normal; the pain will go, and with that the infections I must deal with three times a day; and though I fear further scarring and nerve damage, I should look more normal after this. The misshapen cheek and nose – in truth, not terrible – will hopefully back to something like before. I will be symmetrical again.

We hope. Put aside the thoughts of surgery. This is why it must be done.

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