“I’m going to Sosua tomorrow,” my friend Elena announced, explaining that a mutual friend was having a minor surgical procedure at Centro Medico. “Do you want to come along for the ride?”
My breath caught for a moment.
“Love to,” came my somewhat strangled reply.
To myself, I thought: Touché, Universe. Touché.
Just that morning, I had laid in bed agonizing over making the trip to the private medical clinic. On one hand, I knew I needed to get in to see a doctor. But on the other, I was scared as hell.
Let me rewind for just a minute. Two and a half years ago, a few short months after my father passed away after a prolonged battle with cancer, I had my own health scare. A scare that was made infinitely scarier by a primary care who was all too eager to jump to conclusions, not to mention unprofessional in her delivery of her doomsday diagnosis.
(As in she told me I had a mass that she presumed was ovarian cancer and pronounced that I would obviously need a hysterectomy. Oh, and while she was telling this to me me – an unmarried woman in her late thirties with no children sitting alone in a sterile exam room – she had the audacity to cry.
The only good thing she did was refer me to a highly respected specialist who assured me that I did NOT in fact have ovarian cancer. Nor did I need a hysterectomy.
What I did have was endometriosis. A nasty case of it, to be sure. And I did need major surgery. (Not to mention a new primary care.)
I have a pretty gruesome scar that, along with my lack of ab definition, has ruined my chances of ever becoming a swimsuit model.
But that scar is nothing compared to the emotional damage wrought by the whole experience. It left me skittish around the medical profession as a whole, not to mention in a constant state of angst over whether I can/will/want to have children someday.
So given all that, you can imagine my distress when I noticed something out of the ordinary on the left side of abdomen. It started out small. A hard lump that felt like I was smuggling around an overfilled water balloon. While it didn’t hurt per se, there was definitely discomfort. And I had a couple of awkward conversations because, well, it was starting to look like a had a bun in the oven.
Ok. So now you’re caught up. That morning, after a sleepless night, I was lying in bed agonizing over this issue, which, incidentally, I named Bob. (No offense to the Bobs I know. But I needed to give it a name, and that was the first thing that came to mind.)
I knew I couldn’t ignore Bob, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t scared to death to acknowledge his existence to the world and an as-yet unidentified health care professional in a clinic in a foreign country. I don’t know how long I would have put it off without the timely intervention of the Universe. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have waited too much longer, but… it was better this way. Somehow, knowing that I wasn’t the primary reason for the trip made it easier. After all, I was just going there to make an appointment. I wasn’t going to actually see anyone that day.
Or so I thought.
After seeing our friend into the hands of the surgeon who would be performing her procedure, Elena escorted me toward the front desk. My palms were starting to sweat even before a woman appeared in our path, asking if we needed help.
Elena, ever helpful, pointed at me.
At which point I promptly forgot every word of Spanish I’ve painstakingly learned over the past year.
In the ugliest broken Spanglish imaginable, I somehow communicated the fact that I wanted to make an appointment with a gynecologist.
She asked me if I had insurance. I said yes, pulling the card out of my wallet and placing it and my passport in her proffered hand.
“Looks like you’ll get to see someone right away,” Elena said with much more enthusiasm than I felt about this latest development.
As I settled myself into a seat in the waiting area, I was anxious but also relieved. Not to mention in absolute awe. It would have taken me weeks to get an appointment with a gynecologist in the U.S., and that was IF they were accepting new patients. A walk in? Never!
Not ten minutes later, I was in the doctor’s office. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw him. He was over 6 feet tall and his name was Fred (well, Freddy). Another sign, I though.
The consultation didn’t last long. We discussed my symptoms as well as my medical history. After a cursory exam, he wrote an order for a sonogram. Which I had across the hall about 15 minutes later, performed by a very pleasant female doctor.
The verdict? A giant cyst on one of my ovaries.
Lots of women have cysts, but that’s not really the important part here. Did you notice the use of the plural? Yep, that’s right! I have two ovaries! I realize that’s completely normal, but you’ll remember that I was under the impression one had been removed.
I sat there in stunned silence for a moment as my new best friend shared this surprising development. All the anxiety and angst that I’ve been carrying around for close to three years… evaporated.
Yes, I’ll need surgery to remove the cyst. In fact, I’m going in this morning for the procedure. Am I nervous? Sure. The fact that I’m having this done in another country doesn’t even factor in. I’d be nervous having this – or any procedure – anywhere. (Hospitals in general make me queasy.) But I feel pretty good going into this. The staff at Centro Medico are a class act, and I feel confident in their very professional hands.
I’ve held myself together pretty well through this whirlwind. It has, after all, been barely a week since my first trip to Sosua, and I’m having surgery today.
I’ll admit I did have a little crying jag yesterday, though. It was after I read an email from my Aunt Kathleen. She’s mobilized the troops, so to speak. The email read like a field report. Franciscan sisters in four countries are praying for me, my names been added to several prayer lists and a mass is being said for me today at St. Joseph’s Hospital Chapel in Tampa.
And this on top of the outpouring of support I’ve received from my friends and family both here in the Dominican Republic and back in the U.S.
I ask you: how can a girl not be overwhelmed when there is so much love and so many prayers and positive intentions flowing through the universe for her?
I am truly blessed to have such a network of love and support. I know when I go into surgery today, I won’t be going in alone.
Thank you, all of you. I truly am the luckiest girl in all the world.
And now I’m off to Sosua. I wish I could say it was nice knowing you, Bob, but…