On International Women’s Day

Today, International Women’s Day, is the anniversary of my surgery and diagnosis. I met my surgeon only moments before being wheeled into the operating room. (I had met her colleague once, but he was now away.) She was hugely pregnant and hungry, having already been in surgery all morning, and she was about to run off to get lunch before starting on my hysterectomy. But she came by my gurney where I lay completely alone in the large pre-op space. I was weak with fasting hunger and dehydration, and still shaky from having almost fainted while an epidural was inserted into my spine for part of my anaesthesia. This woman was so youthful and bright and healthy and energetic, full of not one life but two (her fourth child, I found out later)! It was such a wonderful contrast, I couldn’t help but smile.

She introduced herself, and then she told me what none of the many specialists and technicians I had seen through several scans and tests had yet had the courage to tell me, though it had been the stated concern for a month: from my recent PET scan, she could see that the rapidly growing mass in my belly was most certainly not a benign fibroid but a very rare sarcoma, a sarcoma we both knew was deadly. She was 100 % sure, though I’d been told all along only pathology could confirm the diagnosis. She assured me she would do her best to remove it all, and we would discuss further details, like the recommended chemo, tomorrow. She found tissues for me while I cried quietly, and then she ran off to eat.

I had many thoughts then, but one of them was that I was so pleased to have this woman as my surgeon. It seemed oddly fitting, if also ironic, that a pregnant woman would be removing my uterus and ovaries, and that she was in the process of bringing forth life while mine was now on the path to ending, and all on International Woman’s Day.

Susan eating in hospital

Happy to eat even hospital food after a few days of no food at all following my surgery!

A few minutes later I was wheeled into the operating room and awkwardly transferred, still crying, onto the rather terrifying, crucifix-shaped operating table. I was grateful when the anaesthesiologist introduced himself and wasted no time administering his injection while a flurry of nurses prepared my body for what ended up being over six hours of surgery. I hope they brought my surgeon plenty of snacks and a stool to sit on to get her through that! However, I know she got a break while a general surgeon was brought in for a surprise bowel resection when an invasive tumour was found there. In fact, my surgeon confessed that after opening me up (a vertical incision from my pubic bone to above my navel) and seeing how extensively the tumours had spread, she almost closed me back up again with out removing anything. I am grateful that she took on the task and gave me this year!

And so on this day I honour all women doing their jobs to the best of their impressive abilities, regardless of the circumstances, including the demands of their reproductive bodies, and for less pay than their male counterparts.


About susanbriscoe

English teacher, writer
This entry was posted in On Dying and Living, Other Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to On International Women’s Day

  1. What a story, Susan. Women impress me. You impress me. Happy Women’s day to you, indeed, and much love always.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Cara says:

    A few years back I found out I was pregnant, and then that it was ectopic, which meant I could die, which surprised me to no end. Underestimating these things, I was certain I was just going to have to pop a pill and I’d be fine.

    Then I went in for my ultra sound where about six women looked at my insides and confirmed that it was ectopic and I was going to need surgery. I started crying and I couldn’t stop. These six amazing women stood around me and comforted me as I tried to reorient my idea of what was happening in my body. I knew I would be fine, but the whole thing had been a whirlwind and I was just now falling apart.

    I’m extremely grateful for them, and for one of the specific women assigned to me, who after getting back my hormone report and finding out I still hadn’t been brought down for an ultra sound attacked whoever was in charge of that. At that point I would have sat waiting until my insides burst open, so I’m happy she didn’t let that happen.

    Your story is amazing. And I think it will stay in my head forever. Thank you for reminding me of those compassionate and capable women, and sharing the story of another.

    Liked by 1 person

    • susanbriscoe says:

      I am so glad you did end up getting the care you needed! Ectopic pregnancies are indeed scary, potentially lethal things! Our bodies can be so full of strange surprises. Love to you!


  3. What a testament to all strong women this post is!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. CRM says:

    Such a lovely tribute to IWD and the endless strength and compassion of women everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. QP and Eye says:

    Lovely testimony to brave women everywhere; you’re on the top of my list Susan. I haven’t commented much but your writing touches my heart. The vulnerability, and honesty are a gift to readers. Bless you 🙂 Linda

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Betty says:

    Thank you Susan for more touching examples of women finding the strength and courage to do what needs to be done. Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Bless you Susan. Thank you for sharing. Bless all the wonderfully brave women who make our lives absolutely worth living. Sending love and good energy your way!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. janfalls says:

    Thank the Goddess for your surgeon, for new life, for this year of your life, for the strength and resilience of your dear spirit, for you Susan. much love, Janice

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Michael Casey says:

    Susan, getting to know you through your postings reminds me of my own Mom. You have a sister in spirit that was as unique and loved as I know you are. I lost her when I was 19 to uterine cancer. I was a sophomore in college. So you’re right, your sons will indeed be OK. I’m now 65 and amazed every day at the rich gift of life that we’ve been given. It’s said that peace results when balance is present in our lives. I feel that balance has to include an acceptance of the ultimate conclusion of our earthly lives. You have done so, in a very beautiful way. My very best for you, your sons and Roy. All of you… and all of us will be very fine.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Eileen says:

    This is such a fantastic blog. All the vitality and presence. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. curioussteph says:

    The community of women. So strong and vital. So very REAL.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Perpetua says:

    I always say without women, there is no generation after Adam and Eve. Here’s to all Female.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dan Bohn says:

    Dear Susan,
    Thank you for your inspirational voice.
    With Joy, Dan


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