Surgery Anniversary

Tuesday, 18 May 2021


We were having dinner at my friend’s place and were talking about life and all it, and suddenly I realized we’re now in the month of May!

Time has gone by so fast – and you never know what’s the day or date when your kids were having school holiday, that I didn’t realize it’s been a year since my last surgery.

I couldn’t remember the date, there are too many ‘important’ dates now regarding my health. Before, one biopsy sounded so special and almost sacred, but now I’ve lost count on how many scans and biopsies I’ve done.

When I checked my Google calendar, I found the surgery was done on 4th May, 2020. I’ve missed the anniversary – as if I should hold a celebration of something like that. Or is it actually something to celebrate? 

On the night before the surgery, my friend and her husband (whom we were having dinner with), came to my house and prayed together with me and my husband. Knowing the possibility that I might lose my voice altogether as one of the risks from the surgery, I asked if we could sing together my favorite song: Yet Not I But Through Christ in Me.

It was a surreal view. We all stood at the backyard of my house, it was during the first Corona lockdown and I was basically shutting up my social life to zero to prepare myself for the surgery. We talked while standing (perhaps I do have to buy garden chairs hehe) and we sang and prayed.

So many mixed emotions. So much fright and yet a bold sense of braveness. I wanted to cry but I had no time, no space, no courage in case I couldn’t stop crying.

Monday, 4th May 2020

On d-day, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, checked all my luggage, texted my friends and family, cleaned the house and made sure everything was prepared to welcome me back after the surgery. Soon after that, another girlfriend of mine came to our house.

We didn’t have the chance to let my parents come from Indonesia to help us this round. Our plan was to leave the children in my friend’s house until I come back from the hospital. Luckily this friend was actually my children’s teacher at school, and she’s just as dear as a real sister of mine. So I walked out my house and stepped in the car with an assurance that my children will be alright.

Did I want to cry? Did I cry? Was I scared? What did I feel that morning?

I entered the hospital with this little piece of faith of mine, holding it tightly and thinking that it was just another outing. This is just several nights away from home, a mom’s me-time, another day-out for a mom.

It was my fourth surgery, the most unusual one. Due to Corona, there were many restrictions applied in the hospital. Usually my husband would accompany me in the room when I change into the surgery gown. Usually he would walk with me through that long aisle until the last door to the preparation room.

But not this time – he was not allowed to be with me. I was alone in that big room, feeling a little bit disoriented. Changed my clothes, took two paracetamols, one oxazepam and waited – just like a lamb waiting to be slaughtered. 

I tried to feel something – anything! But I guess my superconscious mind has shutted all emotions up. The last thing I wanted to have is a panic attack. I pursed my lips and tried to smile at the same time, letting the nurse pushed my bed along the same cold and white corridor to the room where God would decide my fate.

We passed the lobby where my husband was waiting for me, as disoriented as I was – he was confused if he could see me again before the surgery or not. I passed him my hand bag, he squeezed my hand and I was pushed away. We didn’t even have the chance to pray again. Surgery room, here I come!

The preparation room was empty, my surgery was on the first spot on the doctor’s schedule. Of the four surgeries I had, I always had morning surgery except for the 2nd one. I love the fact that the doctors and everyone were still fresh and that I didn’t have to wait for so long for my turn. It made it so much easier to bear also because I had to do fasting before the surgery.

After many questions asked by the anaesthesiologist, finally they moved me to the surgery room. Funny that I got to enter this room so many times and yet I can’t remember all the details of the room. I watched the lights above me, and tried to memorize more details, making something called ‘memory’ out of this bizarre experience.

My beloved surgeon came and greeted me with his warm voice. There I laid on the surgical table, balancing myself and thinking I might fall from that narrow bed. 

“How are you doing, Mizis Purba?” asked my surgeon. I watched him behind his surgical mask and watched his hairy arms, considering what to answer. It’s not often I get to see his naked arms – he always wears a doctor coat when I come to him at the hospital. How should I answer his question? How do I feel today? Am I good, am I OK?

The buzzing of the machines, calm and deep voices of people around me, those friendly faces hidden behind the masks made me sleepy. “Think about a happy thought,” said the anaesthesiologist. “Yeah, sure. I didn’t get a good sleep last night. I’m going to catch my nap now.” They asked me to count to 10 and I went to sleep, trusting my Lord that I would wake up alright.

Hours later, I woke up weak, blurred, and confused. Where am I now? Why do I see a TV on the wall? Why am I laying in my room? Why am I not in the recovery room as I always did? What happened with the surgery? Did I have a dream?

A male nurse was checking the beeping machine beside my bed and said warmly, “Have you woken up? You’re now in the IC”. Intensive Care?? What did happen? Did the surgery fail? Can I talk? Do I still have my voice?

I tried to touch my neck but I was still so sleepy and confused. I tried to ask, “Where is my husband? Can you call my husband and tell him I’m OK?”

I’m sure I didn’t make much sense at that moment, but I did speak! I could speak! I had my voice! Oh Jesus in the highest place, I could speak! Thank You God! Thank You! THANK YOU!!

I fell immediately back to sleep after mumbling a few words, and it took me another two hours to finally wake up and convince the nurse to call my husband. He must have been very confused not to hear any news for so long.

I entered the surgery room around 8 AM, and at 4 PM my husband finally could enter the IC room to see me. It was like a very strange daylight dream. When I saw him beside me I finally got back a little sense of reality. The surgery was over. I was still able to speak!

Back home

A few days later I went home. Finally! The first night at home I slept alone with my husband without our children. My friend kept the children with her one day longer so we could rest peacefully that night.

The next day my husband went to pick up the children. My beautiful kids! They brought home their drawings and self-baked cookies. It must be very hard for them, having to spend the nights without Mama and Papa at someone’s house. It was the very first time for them. How I was proud and grateful that they were very brave dealing with the difficulties at home.

The first days were absolutely not easy, I couldn’t sleep at all. All the stress and worries for the past few months before the surgery were kept so deep inside me, but I had to deal with it after the surgery was done. It felt surreal, it felt too normal. I have tried to be brave for so many months and I was too tired preparing for everything alone. My body failed me, but my brain refused to give up the control. I was trapped in all kinds of feelings inside my head. I became very anxious and yet didn’t want to fall in the series of panic attacks again.

The after-effects of the surgery left me with difficulty breathing and it didn’t help with my anxiety. We went back to the hospital at the end of the week and the doctor prescribed me more anti-anxiety pills and a drink to loosen the mucus from my lung. My surgeon came and assured me that it was all good. I should feel relieved now, the worst is over.

It was magic – God’s given miracle in our family

The next week my husband went back to work. I slowly took over the chores at home. Thankfully it was during the lockdown so my husband could work from home, and the children studied at home so it was easier for us all.

We survived by eating mostly the food I had been stocking up in the freezer. For the last two months prior the surgery I had cooked so much that the food lasted for at least four or five months! Oh how I’m grateful we survived the surgery days!

At the end of the month, life was back to normal. We even biked a few kilometers away and had a picnic at a park near home. Somehow the long awaited day was put behind us. And through all the help and prayers of our family and friends we manage to live our days again.

Yet not I but through Christ in me

The last verse of this beautiful song says, “when the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat: yet not I, but through Christ in me.”

During the whole process towards the surgery I prepared myself again and again with the fact that I might lose my voice and couldn’t speak at all. I often thought, in what context can I sing this line? When is the race actually complete? Is it when I end my fight because I’m cancer free or when my body fails me?

One year later it’s still a question for me. But again and again, I have experienced the grace of God in my life personally, and in our family life. My race is not complete yet, but still, my lips repeat, once more; yet not I, but through Christ in me.

All glory to God in the highest for His goodness and grace, and thank you to all my loving brothers and sisters in Christ who have borne this burden together with us❤

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