Sometimes there are messages we don't want to hear.
A few days after my last newsletter, we headed off on a much-anticipated trip to Missouri and Arkansas. It was high time for a visit.
While we were there, I had an appointment with my ob-gyn, for a second opinion on a medical issue: I'd developed a large ovarian cyst. It would have to be removed, and it was too large to remove laparoscopically.
This was nowhere in my life plan.
My doctor in St. Louis told me exactly what my doctor in Puerto Rico said. Their consensus was a relief, because it made the next decision easier: the decision to have a major surgery, requiring a large vertical incision of my abdomen, while we were in St. Louis.
Five days later, I was being prepped for surgery.
I've been in the hospital twice in my adult life. Once was because I broke my shoulder. The other was to give birth. (Our other three children were born at home. On purpose.)
I was nervous, which is an understatement.
There were so many things out of my control.
Yet, as is so often the case, the way things worked out was just right.
The surgery was supposed to take an hour and a half. It lasted for about four hours. The cyst, which I'd been carrying around for months, weighed over nine pounds. And some things didn't look right, so the doctor did a complete hysterectomy. We knew this was a possibility.
A week later, we got lab results. There had been malignant cells in the ovary. Technically, they were in a "pre-cancerous" stage.
The cyst itself wasn't cancerous, but if it had not grown to the size it did, there would have been no surgery. Those malignant cells would have been left alone. Most likely, they would have developed, from low-malignant, pre-cancerous cells to life-destroying cancer.
Friends, I know what those words mean.
I watched my mother die slowly and painfully of breast cancer. I know what it is to see a life ebb away. I know what it is to feel helpless against a monster you cannot fight. I know what it is to grieve so deeply that you feel broken. Because you are broken. I know what it is to grow out of that grief. (Not recover. There is no recovery from grief, and there is no end. There is only growing into a new person. A person who carries that loss with them, who is changed, who is a different and sometimes alien version of the person you thought yourself to be.)
Most likely, by the time the symptoms of ovarian cancer became apparent, it would have been too late to do anything about it.
The thing I resisted, this cyst that burdened me, limited me, created pain and suffering for me: it saved my life.
My body was trying to send me a message. When I wouldn't listen, it insisted, with a messenger I could not ignore.
Let's pause right now. Let's take a deep breath, friends. Breathe that in. That's air. That's life. That's you, being alive.
You and I are alive together. And I am more aware than I ever have been that this truth, this moment of being alive together, is a gift.
It is the only thing that matters.
Our kids were taken care of by our amazing family. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all kept them happy and well-fed and loved while I had surgery and for the first few days, as I was in the hospital. My Dad and sister came up from Arkansas, and took the kids back with them for a week.
I was able to fully relax, knowing the kids were happy and cared for. Joe was able to focus on helping me as I recovered.
And I recovered fast. We returned to Puerto Rico 20 days after my surgery, and other than moving a bit slower than usual, I felt great.
We got back and immediately jumped into moving, which is perhaps a slightly more stressful ordeal than surgery. Ugh.
Now we've been in our new place for almost two months. We love it. It's off a busy road, so there's some noise. Apparently this stretch of road is popular for drag races in the middle of the night, and showing off how loud your radio is. Oh well. Our street is nice and there are lots of kids. There's a little park we can walk to, and a panadería and feed store and hardware store and small produce stand. The kids have about two weeks of school left, and we'll celebrate summer's beginning with a visit from my sister and niece.
In the meantime, I've been writing.
I'm working with a new client, Teamup. There are some clients who are such a great fit. This is one of them. If you need a calendar for working with groups, managing a team, or any sort of collaboration or sharing, this is an amazing option. More about Teamup right here.
I wrote an article about some dear friends of ours here in Puerto Rico, Javier and Sonia. They are some of the hardest-working people I have ever known. This is just a little glimpse of their story, how they recovered from María: When a Hurricane Destroys Your Farm, You Open a Restaurant.
A few days later, all that I've seen and learned here in Puerto Rico, especially since the hurricane, was weighing on my mind. I woke up on a quiet Saturday morning and started writing about it. That ended up being this piece: We Don't Always Have Electricity, But We Accept Bitcoin.
It was picked up by Medium editors & featured on the front page and in their newsletter. That was super exciting for me, and I hope people will keep thinking and talking about Puerto Rico. There are no easy solutions, but that's not a good reason to give up.
I've added a few posts to my blog, too: on drama llamas, and letting go, and taking care of yourself. There's nothing like surgery, and the clear reminder of your own mortality, to get you thinking about how you care for yourself, and how maybe, just maybe, you could do a better job of it.
There are messages for me, for you, for all of us. The messages come, sometimes, through pain. The pain can be great or small. It can be insistent or gradual, cumulative or sudden.
If we can quit resisting the pain, hiding from it, stuffing it down and out of sight, insisting that it's not real, pretending to be brave, pretending that we are okay, then we can listen. We can receive the message.
And receiving the message, we can learn. We can understand what is needed. What do we need to release? What do we need to change?
What freedom and health and joy and gratitude waits for us on the other side of pain?
Don't be afraid of what is painful. It may be the very voice of God to you. It may be the answer you've been seeking. It may be the holy path forward. It may be what saves your life.