This past week was the anniversary of my surgery. One year ago, I was under the knife, my abdomen wide open, while the team of surgeons worked for 6 hours to repair my perforated bowels and remove the 25lb tumour that had invaded my insides.
You would expect such an event to be an emotional event, perhaps something that might bring out a few tears. You would think that I would be unable to cope for a few days, or at least have a really good cry.
The problem is that, aside from a few moments of immense gratitude, I didn’t really feel anything.
I went about my days of recovery, remembering that I can’t do everything my herculean mind thinks I should be able to do. I thought back a few times to the moments, post-surgery in the ICU. The thing is those moments just aren’t very fun, and I don’t really like to remember them. They’re all about dark days, the stuff of nightmares, the screams of a lonely young man spacing out on painkillers, unable to move. So I quickly dismissed those memories — why dwell on the negatives, right?
That might be it. Remembering something like that just isn’t much fun. A while back my shrink suggested to me that I had endured a significant enough trauma that I might reasonably be considered to have PTSD. I was surprised by this, but was persuaded when she showed me a few articles about some of the research being done in the social sciences and the hard sciences. So when we hear stories of war vets who never, ever talk about their combat days, perhaps the grandfather who fought in World War II or the father of three who is an Iraq War Vet, they don’t generally talk about their combat experiences. It’s just too much trauma, all over again.
So maybe that’s why I felt nothing. My mind dipped back into the nightmares ever so gently and realized that it just couldn’t handle it right now. No reaction is better than a bad reaction, right?
The one emotion I did experience, and experienced in spades was gratitude. Reading back through the messages posted to the Facebook Cancer* Campaign Support Group, reading through the many cards that were sent, the letters from MPs and MPPs, the knowledge that the Mayor of my city thought so much of me that he would volunteer to help ferry around my parents when they were here, to know how much my friends and family loved and cared for me — for that I have felt nothing but the deepest of thanks.
And perhaps that’s how it should be. One year later, and I’m living in a very different world, a world that bears the scars of a long a difficult recovery. Yet I have so much to be thankful for. The team of surgeons that saved my life. My family, who came out to see me at the last minute, my friends, who organized rides and food and then a giant community fundraising BBQ, I have so much to be thankful for.
It is for you that I am still alive.