“You will stay with us after this hysterectomy procedure,”my dad said with comforting finality.
I winced. I had not lived with my parents for at least five years. I was accustomed to being the gung-ho, gusto, and independent woman who could do it all AND all alone. I felt like I was intruding and bothering my dad and stepmom yet again—especially my dad who had been the brunt of my health ailments since I was pretty much born. I hated depending on others. All I wanted to do was live my life the way I wanted to. It seemed all these health bumps had to pop up to slow me down again and turn to others for help.
I pathetically mustered, “I’m sorry about all this.”
“Why are you apologizing? Things happen in life. Not your fault. We try our best to deal with everything the best we can,” my dad said.
Throughout my life of the unpredictable health bumps in the Mary Wu road, the steady stream of comfort, force, predictability, and loyalty was my father. He was always the first face I saw and the first set of hands I held on to and squeezed when I was rolled out from the operating room and into the recovery room where I was all doped up.
This time with the ’unwanted cantaloupe’ was no different. With a foggy head, a foley catheter tugging on my urine hole making me want to pee even more, and a dry mouth, I felt warm hands squeeze mine and opened my eyes to the warm, round face of my father.
In my raspy voice from a tube that had been stuck in my throat from the general anesthesia, I kept repeating, “I have to pee. I have to pee,” or “Ice chips. Ice chips, please.”
With one hand gripped tightly to my hand, my dad fed me ice chips with his other hand. I was desperately dehydrated. I greedily sucked and savored the frigid ice chips that quickly melted in my overheated and dry mouth.
That first night in the hospital, my dad slept uncomfortably upright in a stiffly cushioned chair by my bedside. Whenever I woke up due to pain or the IV bleeping annoyingly, he woke up and fed me ice chips and put the straw to my mouth for me to slowly sip water.
When the foley catheter was removed, my dad was the one to guide me to the bathroom with the IV pole decked out with hefty bags of narcotics and pain relievers Abouta day later when I felt more adventurous and was told that the best thing for me to do was move, my dad walked me to the lounge that had a beautiful view of picturesque New York City and with the warm sunshine streaming through.
“See this gorgeous view,” my dad said, “All for free you get vitamin D and a great view.”
My stepmom’s loyalty matched my father when she drove intoand battled Manhattan traffic for the both of us. My stepmom is not a Manhattan kind of gal. Yet, because she is the epitome of cool, calm, quiet, and collected, she was a prime candidate to battle the jungle of NYC. I greatly appreciate and value how, in many ways, it can be and is much harder for my stepmom who has been placed in the role of dealing with us wacky Wus. She did not sign up for the situations that us Wus have had to survive, yet she has handled these situations and all of us with a quiet and unreadable grace and strength.
After four days of being in a NYC hospital, I was more than ready to return home. But, it was not my home. It was my parents’ home.
I was too weak to analyze more of this, but I felt wrapped up in warmth, comfort, and gratitude to have my parents’ here for me.
Being back in the house I grew up in and with the people who raised me has been nothing but the greatest gift. My parents’ spoiled me with letting me sleep in their bedroom on the main floor while they trudged upstairs to my old bedroom, which was still decked out with the sunflower clock and cookbooks scattered everywhere. My dad and stepmom cooked me my favorite foods: chicken in a rich and salty soya-sauce infused sauce and then drenched in fluffy and steaming white rice, pasta with goat cheese, and eggs with shrimp. These were staple and favorite foods that I grew up with.
Every morning, my stepmom has had breakfast waiting for me. Every Sunday since I’ve been here for nearly three weeks, my stepmom has bought my favorite foods or protein-enriched foods that she was sure would fortify me. Meanwhile, my father keeps saying:“You need to eat more. Eat more fatty foods. You’ve lost too much weight.”
My childhood friends were the first to jump at the chance to visit me and walk with me. One childhood friend lived a block away. Another childhood friend lived less than 3 minutes away by car.
As one of them said to me, “Count me in to walk with you as you heal! Oh, and we have to watch ‘Days of Our Lives’! It will be like old times!”
Just like old times. Familiar, comforting, cozy, and warm ‘old times’ and people who had been there for me throughout my life and were here for me yet again nearly twenty years later with yet another surgery. These people and their loyalty of coming through in my life and the predictability they provide make me feel safe and sane—and that in the midst of the unknown, uncertain, chaos, craziness, and even scary that everything is still the same. My healing journey thrives because of those who are trusting as still the same.
And, yet, there are subtle and quiet differences in my surroundings, certain people, and myself that are evolving. Now, when I go outside to walk, it is the vibrant gold and orange leaves that crunch beneath my feet rather than the hot summer sun making drips of sweat form at the base of my neck. The flowers that were in full bloom with fat and fuzzy bumblebees flying by them are now closing with velvety petals falling delicately to the pavement. Certain people who I believed would be here for me have not been here for me because of their own worlds spinning uncontrollably. Certain new people who I never imagined would join me on healing journey have surprised me with their desire to be here for me in whatever capacity they can. My work routine was taken away from me, and yet my workplace continues functioning without me. Routine has become a questionable quandary for me that has left restless and void of normalcy.
Then there is me.
I am physically different from the obvious that a nearly one pound multi-labeled growth (fibroid, mass, aggressive tumor) has been extracted from me. This humorously named cantaloupe from my imagination and coping mechanism of laughter as the best medicine has resulted in a deficit of my hormones, episodes of extreme fatigue, and the absence of my monthly period (which I could not be happier about!). Then, there are my abdominal muscles that feel like guitar strings being plucked and pulled with the plucking and pulling at the most painful in the early mornings. A new 6-7 inch scar starting at my caved in and abnormal belly button from an over-abundance of surgeries brands me and solidifies my latest overcome health hurdle hiccup.
I feel different. I’ve always prided myself and was certain of my internal strength, but now I feel even stronger and more capable through an unexpected new sense of calmness and contentment that I have never fully felt in myself and in my life. Calm and quiet acceptance has never been me, but I suddenly feel these qualities and embrace them with a renewed sense of hope and happiness. The evolution of the self and people never cease to amaze me.
What has remained the same for me is my sense of gratitude. I feel extremely grateful for my ending to an unwanted cantaloupe removed from me to embark on my very own beginning. Most often, when slammed with the most unexpected of news, we perceive our very own world ending when it actually is the greatest blessing of a beginning. And, how much more of a blessing it is when our world of endings and beginnings are surrounded with constant comforts that make you feel that everything is still the same.
May we always recognize and treasure the people who provide ‘home’ to us during our most ‘un-homely’ times. May we recognize those who may not provide ‘home’ and have the understanding and capability to love these people from a distance.
Most of all, may we embrace ourselves and what and who are still the same—yet different.