“Your husband has a tumor the size of a golf ball in his colon. It is too big. I could not touch it. He needs an appointment with a surgeon as soon as possible. The surgeon is likely to cut the colon of both sides of the tumor to take it out. I have made a referral for a surgeon in our area and it is in the packet.” The doctor gave her the package.
The wife was shocked, speechless for a few minutes, unable to ask any questions. She looked at her husband who was still under the influence of anesthesia, wondering how conscious he was of the information given by the doctor. He seemed to be out of it. The ego is clever and can be vicious creating fearful thoughts. Questions were pouring into her mind, would the tumor be malignant? What if it has gone to the liver? Is it too late? Oh, I wish he had done the colonoscopy sooner. She was reminded of a friend they recently lost to colon cancer. She held her breath unconsciously. She could hear the pounding of her heart.
The drive home was in silence. In her mind she was reviewing their many conversations about this issue.
“You are a health conscientious person. You watch your diet, do regular exercise, go to gym. How come you are not willing to have a colonoscopy recommended at age 50?” The wife gently asked.
“Because I am healthy, I don’t have any issues with my digestion system, no history of colon cancer in my family and I DO NOT like it.” The tone suggested it should be the end of conversation.
“I am grateful for your wellbeing and not having any issues with your digestive system. This is for prevention or early intervention if needed. It is like an annual checkup. One does not have to have a problem.”
“Annual checkup makes sense. I wouldn’t have known I have high cholesterol if it wasn’t for the annual lab and checkup. Colonoscopy, I don’t like. I am OK.”
The wife, loving her partner in life, was caught in the dilemma. He is an adult, educated, well read, getting monthly magazines on men health and is free to make his own choice. She didn’t wish to be a “nagging” wife. On the other hand, she was aware of his sensitive side.
In many cultures children are consciously or unconsciously shamed about body parts by the adults in the family. Children are shaped, conditioned, and internalize many of these collective unconscious values without awareness. They are likely to feel and experience the shame without ever knowing how, when and where they entered their belief system. It is as if a virus in the computer.
What is the journey of self-discovery and awareness about the many blocks and veils we all have unconsciously? It appears only needs, fear or crisis of some kind may motivate us to face and release the shame that bind us. Unveiling the shame can be a lifelong process.
She remember for a few years, on annual checkups, she gently brought up the issue and the response was a firm decline.
On one occasion, she insisted for both of them to go to their primary physician. She trusted that a recommendation coming from their doctor may convince him for colonoscopy. The Doctor, given the family history, suggested sigmoidoscopy.
“The majority of colon cancers, statistically speaking, are all at the end of colon. I will do the procedure for you. You will be awake.” The doctor said.
Every step was a move forward she thought. The results were satisfactory for both of them. Now, he has the doctor on his side for not having the colonoscopy for years. He started having green salad on daily basis for lunch.
One day while she was getting dressed to go to work early in the morning as usual, she suddenly heard an inner voice in her head. “It is time!” The thought came out of nowhere and she knew immediately it was about his colonoscopy. It was clear to her.
On the drive to work, she thought how to approach him, given the years of resistance and denial. She trusted her intuition, knew it must be done. She called the doctor and made an appointment for colonoscopy for herself. He drove her on the day of procedure. Now, having had the experience, she was able to assure him that it is a painless and simple procedure. She was fir and asked him to have the procedure. This time he agreed, a transformation! She may never be sure what created the change of heart. They recently lost a friend to colon cancer.
An appointment for the operation was made. On the way to the hospital, he realized this was his first operation ever. He had never spend a night at the hospital. What a blessing! He was prepared for the operation and what to expect past operation.
The family was waiting anxiously. She was praying and waiting. The phone rang. She responded. It was the surgeon having a great news. He didn’t have to cut the colon. He was able to remove the tumor.
“”He came in just on time! If he had waited longer, the tumor would have become malignant and if it goes to liver, it would have been fatal. He is lucky. His digestive system has to start working again which with only liquid that may take a couple days. He must be able to release gas and have bowel movement in order to be released from hospital.” The surgeon educated the wife.
As the family was waiting in his room, he was wheeled in by the staff. Being hungry after many hours of not eating for the operation, he asked “May I have pizza for dinner tonight?” His wife always admired his sense of humor. The medical staff were laughing.
“What would you like on your pizza? Peperoni?” Laughter is the best medicine no matter what kind of pain. He was happy to have the whole family there. They stayed to the last minute of vising hours. It was his first night in the hospital.
She received a call early in the morning. “When are you coming?” He asked anxiously.
“I am coming right now. How are you doing?”
“I am in so much pain! I have never had such intense pain in my life! I cannot breath.”
“I am on my way. The medication has worn off and now you are feeling the pain. Your digestive system needs to start working. I trust you are drinking lots of water. I will see you in a little while.”
When she got to his room, he looked pale with intense pain! The surgeon had made a few small incisions, bloated the abdominal area to have access to the colon. Now the air must be released.
“I need a strong pain medication. This pain is killing me!” He asked from the nurse.
“How intense is you pain from 0 to 10?” The nurse asked.
“What is your pain measurement scale? How bad is 10?” He asked.
“10 is the pain of child delivery.” The nurse responded with a smile.
“Child delivery? How do I know?” He looked at his wife with so much affection and said “now I know what kind of pain you went through when our kids were born.” Then he again asked the nurse for pain medication.
“We cannot give you any pain medication. All the pain relief medications with opium would slow down your digestive system. You need to walk, move as much as you can. That helps to release gas to experience relief.” The nurse calmly responded.
I had never seen him in so much pain. We started taking a few steps down hall. Every moment and every step was a torture for him. He kept visiting the bathroom hoping to release gas, but coming out disappointed.
“Let’s keep walking. Movement would stimulate your systems inside. You had a large amount of medications. Now, your organs are gradually awakening.”
The wife was wondering to herself to what extent the cultural inhibitions were the barrier for him to release gas. One is not to fart in public!
Now she was praying for a fart! She smiled to herself imagined God receiving such prayer. Then she realized perhaps everyone who had an operation would have the same prayer. God is quite used to it!
He was in the hospital for five days, an experience to remember for a lifetime.
The drive home from hospital was in a sacred silence with deep gratitude. The non-verbal “Thank you” and the love in his eyes were much more powerful than any words.