Today, I was reminded of my fragility.
It didn’t happen at an Ash Wednesday service. I wish I could have led one today, immersing my thumb in oil and ashes, looking into the eyes of fellow humans, and reminding them that we come from dust and we will head back there again later in our lives.
Instead, I got my own Ash Wednesday lesson in the form of pain, shots, and a nod to my human frailness from a nurse practitioner.
As I’ve mentioned on this blog a few times recently, I had surgery for my endometriosis. While I was expecting the recover to go much like it did last time (SWIFT!), unfortunately, the amount of endometriosis and adhesions were greater so more tissue needed to be removed. That usually means that recovery will reflect the heightened intensity of my endometriosis and what needed to be done during the surgery.
I didn’t return to work on Tuesday. The pain was bad. I had a low-grade fever. And because of all of the discomfort, I met with the nurse practitioner in at the doctor’s office. Tarodol shot #1 happend on Tuesday, but it didn’t help much.
Sleep was restless, but I was going to be a delusional hero and push through. Even as late as Wednesday morning, I was intending to go to the Ash Wednesday service. Earlier in the day, I was still in pain, having problems sleeping and then needing to sleep. I called back into the doctor for a third day in a row. They urged me to come back in for my second Tarodol shot in two days for the pain.
While in the office, I saw the nurse practitioner. Reflecting on our conversation from Tuesday, she noted that I needed to take the extra time to rest. “For the first surgery, taking one week off to recover makes sense. For your twenty-fifth surgery (she meant third), you need a couple of weeks.”
Laparoscopic surgeries for endometriosis aren’t like knee or shoulder surgeries. You don’t have wraps or slings or crutches. Under my shirts and comfy stretch drawstring pants are three fresh scars. That’s all I see, and others don’t see any of that. So I don’t look that bad. And I still don’t know what my insides looked like during the surgery. I’ll see pictures next week. In the meantime, I just see three healing scars. And what I forget is that I may have healed well on the outside, but my internal cells, tissue, and organs are trying to achieve full restoration. .
I look back at my previous laparoscopic experiences. After my first laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis at the age of 30, I had a long weekend to recover. Thursday was the surgery, and I was back to work on Monday. Frankly, I wasn’t ready to return to work, but I mastered the art of pushing myself even when I was sick.
For the second surgery at 39, I took a week – maybe a week and a day. Like the first surgery, I was still stage 2 endometriosis.
This surgery at the age of 43 – We are going on one week and two days. I’m not 30 anymore, and based on the report of many adhesions, I’m probably beyond stage 2 endometriosis (the stage diagnosed during the first two surgeries).
Thankfully, my wonderful ecumenical colleagues in ministry were able to lead the service tonight without my presence. This came in the form of a group email giving me grace and the permission to rest.
Ash Wednesday in pain. And so I thought to myself out loud in a Tweet:
My pain and my inability to live fully on Ash Wednesday were more symbolic than any ash could give me. I’m limited. I’m mortal. I’m fragile. I can’t keep going the way I normally do right now because my human body is healing. I need help. God knows this. Other humans know this.
Why can’t I accept this?