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.
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.