It was a year ago this morning that I had surgery to remove a cancerous lump in my left breast. In a way, it seems as though it was just a few weeks ago. In another way, though, it seems as though it was in another lifetime.
When the hospital gave me the paperwork outlining everything I needed to know about the surgery and how to be prepared for it, the pages were filled with pictures of smiling patients. When I arrived at the waiting area before surgery at 6 a.m. on Jan. 30, 2012, I didn’t see any smiling faces. I saw the faces of people who were just as scared as I was.
It’s a surreal experience to be going through the motions of preparing for something such as surgery. In a way, it was very normal, because I had a checklist of tasks to accomplish before I got there. Mostly, though, it felt as though I was stepping into a world that I’d been able to avoid for all the years of my life until then. If it’s not overly dramatic to say so, it felt like preparing for death.
There was no reason for me to think that morning that I was about to die, but the experience was so foreign — as well as cold and antiseptic — that it was oddly reminiscent of what it must feel like to prepare to die. I can’t even explain that. It’s more something I feel. It was very cold and impersonal. More than anything, I felt very alone.
An old friend brought me to the hospital and waited for me. When the nurses were ready for me to come to the pre-op area to get ready, I left her behind with other people’s families and friends and entered a world that felt like death’s waiting room. I had to take off all of my clothes and put them into a bag. I dressed in a gown with hospital socks and a net over my head. One of the anesthesiologists connected a plastic tube to my arm.