Let me begin with the end. Everything is fine and I’m okay. So, there’s that.
Now: At the end of May I started having some issues. At first I didn’t think much of it, slightly odd girly stuff, but… eh. Within 2 weeks I ended up first at the hospital, then at an OB/GYN’s hospital office the very next day.
My Spanish is…well, let’s just say I mostly understand, and if I take my time I can get my point across, but I’m no linguist. Thankfully, my ever-wonderful landlady was happy to go with me and try to help if I needed a translator. Also, thankfully, I have no shame and very little modesty, or this would have been the world’s most awkward experience.
After doing some scans and muttering a lot of ominous sounding things, the doctor scheduled me for a D & C in two days and gave me stern instructions to take it easy until then. I was scared, exhausted, and in general feeling miserable. All I wanted to do was go HOME…which was a completely impractical idea, since healthcare in the states is stupidly expensive and the problem wouldn’t have gone away just by getting on a plane. I stuck it out, and I learned a few things, as one always does in times of crisis.
Firstly, I learned that I maybe ought to give myself a little more credit in the language department. Both the day of my first appointment and the day of my surgery I understood the vast majority of what the doctors and nurses said, with the exception of some big medical terms that I probably wouldn’t have understood in English either. Pepita was with me the whole time, but as long as I was concentrating I didn’t need her to translate. She did anyway, because I was nervous and unsure of myself, and kept asking her to clarify what I thought I had heard, but I was right every time. It was even more obvious when I started coming out of the anesthesia in the surgical unit. The first real thought that crossed my mind when they woke me up was, “It HURTS!” Some man had just scraped the insides of my uterus like a Halloween pumpkin; I think I had every right to say I was in pain. And I did. In Spanish. Without being clear-headed enough yet to actually think. “Duele.” It was my very first word, first thought, first anything. And in short order the nurses got painkillers into my IV and I could switch from “Oww” to “Mejor. Gracias.” At least until my right calf started to cramp. But I was able to tell the doctor what was wrong, and understood completely when he told the nurse to add potassium to my drip.
Secondly, I was reminded of just how much I share my family’s disease of being incapable of resting. I’ve tried and tried to escape it, to break the cycle of workaholism and live a more balanced existence. And, for the most part, I’ve succeeded. I say no. I don’t overbook myself. I rest and do things I love as much as I can. I spend whole Sundays wearing nothing but yoga clothes or a bathing suit and reading. But I’m still afflicted. Before he let me loose from the hospital, my fatherly doctor once again, in the sternest of ways, ordered me to rest. No going to work. No yoga. No swimming class. No walking. No being up and on my feet. In bed, even. “Descansas,” he commanded firmly, “por lo menos 3 dias.” Just a few hours post-surgery, I thought, “Yeah, no problem, mister. I can definitely sleep for three days right about now.” That was early afternoon on Thursday. By Saturday afternoon, I’d had conversations with a sad minimum of people, had seen even fewer faces, and was going positively crazy stuck inside my house with no one to keep me company and nothing to do. I’d puttered in the kitchen off and on, making food or just looking for an excuse to be out of my bedroom. I’d started working on syllabi and curriculum maps for next year’s classes. I’d done some writing. I’d taken a couple of short walks around the block in between rainstorms. I’d even spent a few hours seriously wishing I could knit, just so I’d have something to do with my hands. I was in danger of pulling my hair out until my housemate, Jennifer, suggested we take a taxi to the mall and catch a movie. I evidently suck at resting.
Thirdly, I discovered just how much of a fishbowl I live in. A week after my surgery I had a followup appointment to go over the results of the biopsy and make sure I was doing fine. The doctor, who has 4 kids in our school and who I genuinely like, asked me how I was feeling, what my week had been like, how things seemed to be healing, etc. I assured him I was feeling great. Plenty of energy. No more dizzy spells or weird blood pressure or fainting or anemia. And, thankfully, a minimum of post-surgical ooze. He then frowned and, quite literally, shook his finger at me. “No te descansados!” he insisted.
“What? I totally rested! I stayed in bed for almost 3 whole days. I slept and watched movies and barely left the house.”
“Estabas en la Plaza,” he accused.
*face palm* In a city of roughly 150,000 people, somehow, someone who knew me and knew him saw me at the mall Saturday night. And they told him about it. And he remembered. And I was castigated for not resting enough. I assume it must have been one of his kids, but who knows. In any case, I was quick to assure him that, while I did go to the mall Saturday evening, it was only to see a movie with my housemate. We took a taxi and we didn’t wander around the mall much while we were there. I rested, okay!
He frowned and muttered at me, but didn’t yell any more. He probably would have if I’d mentioned the very, very bumpy bus ride home, which left me thinking, “Ow, that kinda hurts more than it did before.” I didn’t figure it would be worth telling him that part of the story. Especially since I have another follow up appointment in 3-4 months to do some blood work and make sure my hormones have gone back to normal.
Finally, as irritating as the fishbowl can be, I also find myself forced to acknowledge a reality. Back home, poor and insuranceless as I am, I would never have gotten the kind of medical care where the doctor was even able to connect my name with my face without my chart in his hand, much less the kind of care where what I do when I’m not in his office is reported, remembered, and used to remind me that I’m not invincible, where he actually thinks it matters that I take care of myself. As much as I miss my family, my friends, and my car, there are things that are good about living here. Things that are good enough to make me want to come back next school year.