“I’m nervous. I’m pretty much always nervous,” I repeatedly told every doctor and nurse who asked me how I was doing before my surgery.
When you’re 32 and your pre-op nurse describes you as healthy, it doesn’t dispel all the thoughts that fill your head as you stare at the drop ceiling tiles at the surgery center. “Is this real? How is this my life? What am I doing here?” Those are the kinds of thoughts that usually precede a panic attack for me. But I breathed deeply and stayed in the moment. “Soon this will be over,” I told myself, “and then you can finally eat something today.”
“I’m healthy, but my body is betraying me,” those are the kinds of thoughts I bat away. My body is my temple. I take such good care of it. And yet it’s no match for high-risk HPV.
I was recently diagnosed with moderate cervical dysplasia. I had a procedure to remove high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions from my cervix using an electrosurgical loop (LEEP).
I’ve worked so hard to recover from a life filled with abuse. It’s a long journey from shedding the denial, entering therapy, learning to tap into resilience, and build self-esteem, then getting in touch with the body I had often dissociated from. As soon as I struck a balance, dysplasia threw it off once more.
When I woke up from surgery, not nauseous, not in a great deal of pain, and immediately ready to scarf two packs of Lorna Doone shortbread cookies, I was more than grateful to my body. The next day the pain was less, and less the day after that. I suffered a little femoral nerve dysfunction after surgery and even that slowly resolved itself. With a beautiful start to recovery, I wrote my body a thank you note:
You really are my greatest ally. Thank you for keeping me safe, for being so resilient.
I’m sorry I was so hard on you about not clearing the virus, about letting it do so much damage internally. I know you did the best you could. I’ll do whatever I can to stress less from now on and give our immune system a break.
I’m sorry I was more worried about not being able to exercise for five weeks than I was about relaxing and giving you more time to recuperate. I know you need this time to heal and you’re doing such a great job so far. I won’t push you. I will respect this healing period.
I see now that I have put time, nourishment, and endurance into you and you’ve paid me back tenfold. We’re a good match, you and I. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t wish for a different body. I love this one.
I had mixed feelings going into surgery with a healthy body, except for some very unhealthy cervical tissue that if left to its own devices would eventually graduate to pre-cancer. That doesn’t sound very healthy to me. So what have I been eating right and exercising for? Everything. I just couldn’t see it. It was intangible.
The body is a garden that we tend each day and much of it we can’t even see. One can only trust in it, the same way the body depends on the mind each day.
“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos — the trees, the clouds, everything.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh, Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living