Seattle, WA USA
So on Friday (the 13th!) I walked out of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court with my friend Denice Moewes having just finished up my last court hearing for several months. “It’s Friday the 13th and its good to be me” I told “Bull”. I was only two short days away from the start of my sabbatical. After saying goodbye to the Bull, I headed back to my office. It was just after 10 a.m. as I walked past my assistant’s desk. My cell phone rang. I pulled my cell phone out of my purse, looked the number and did not recognize it. I answered. “Hello.” “Deborah?” “Yes.” “Deborah this is Dr. Rogers.” (Uh oh.) “Deborah the biopsy just came back on the little skin lesion I removed from the right side of your back on Monday. It’s a malignant melinoma.”
Now I’m not a doctor (although with all the work I have had done on my body I guess I could be…), but it doesn’t take a medical degree to know what “malignant” and “melinoma” mean and it’s not good!
“OK. So now what?” Visions of my sabbbatical going out the window crossed my mind as I asked the obvious question. “Well I know you are leaving Monday night so I’ve cleared my calendar Monday morning and I’ve scheduled you for surgery at 8:20.a..m.” ….ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??!! I have spent two plus years planning my trip of a life time and the day I am set to leave I am having surgery?!
“Uh Dr. Rogers you know I’m leaving for Peru at 10:30 p.m. that day.” “Yes Deborah I realize that,
but we have to remove this. We caught it very, very early and there is a 95% cure rate at this stage, but the melinoma has to be removed. Waiting until you return is not an option. The incision will be about 3 inches. I’ll use dissolving stitches and you should be fine in about a week. But, I don’t want you lifting anything heavy for ten days to two weeks.”
“Uh Dr. Rogers I’m traveling around the world by myself. I am packed for 3 ½ months. I have a carry-on with all my meds that cannot be checked. How am I going to travel with luggage if I don’t lift it? (At this point I started thinking about all those people who asked if they could carry my luggage for me when I told them about my trip. Now the answer seemed to be “why yes, yes you can….”) “Well you are going to have to ask for help.” Great. Asking for help has never been my strong suit. “I’ll see you at my office at 8:20 a.m. sharp. You’ll be in and out in about an hour.” And with that, the start of my sabbatical took a lovely little detour. (And I am pretty sure after Dr. Rogers hung up, most of North America heard me use some pretty choice expletives.)
Fast forward to Friday evening. I couldn’t sleep for worrying about the luggage thing so I got up and unpacked all my suitcases to figure out if there was anything I could take out to make my luggage lighter. Four hours and 3 in the morning later that would be a big NO. So option two. Off to Bergman Luggage on Saturday to purchase a a luggage carrier for my carry on. Nothing screams invalid quite like one of those fold up luggage carriers.
So when Monday morning arrived , rather than being off the wall excited, I found myself in the Dr. Rogers office lying on my stomach while she cut a 3 inch incision in my back. Multiple dissolving stitches, sterry strips and a big bandage later she was done. I walked out feeling pretty darn good along with a prescription for vicodin. (I was clearly forgetting that my back was so numb I could not feel the incision.)
Three hours later. Holy ****. The middle right side of my back began to throb. Not crying with pain serious, but definitely unpleasant. However, the stubborn streak in me refused to give in to the pain and take the vicodin so I gritted it out. (How bloody heroic of me!)
By 8:30 p.m., it was the family send off time. My sister, brother-in-law, two nieces, niece’s husband and grand niece took me to the airport. They helped me put the suitcase on the Alaska Airlines scale only to find out … “uh you have an overweight bag”. Great! Just what I need when I’m supposed to avoid heavy lifting. I paid the $50 overweight fee and headed off to security with my carry-on bag strapped to the little luggage carrier. I said my goodbyes to the family and proceeded through security. “Um excuse me Mr.Security Guard. Can you please help me lift this bag.” As I explained the reason to the TSA dude I was surrounded by a bunch of other TSA folks trying to help me out. I even had an offer of a wheel chair. (People really are kind hearted, but the outpouring was a little embarrassing).
On to the plane. Take 2. “Excuse me sir. Could you please lift my carry-on into the overhead bin for me.” Smirk. “Why of course.” Then, for whatever reason, I felt the need to explain myself. So I suddenly found myself blurting out to a perfect stranger the medical reason I was asking for help. (As I already said, I have a real problem letting people help me…. but that’s another story.) Anyway, the flight attendant overheard me, cames over and told me to let them know if I needed anything. At this point I really needed the vicodin so I asked for some water. I took 2 pills and then was asked by the same flight attendant if I wanted a drink as well (one of the perks of the upgrade to 1st class are the free drinks right out of the shoot). “Uh yes please. Double vodka, soda, splash of cran.” (Yea I know mixing vicodin and alcohol is not a good idea, but I had a 6 hour overnight flight ahead of me, and the idea of leaning back against that large bandage for 360 minutes did not sound appealing without a little mind numbing assistance.
Twenty-five minutes, two vicodin and one stiff drink later, the plane took off. Hey this wasn’t so bad. (OK it wasn’t so bad because I had self medicated.) Despite the happy place or maybe because of it, I looked out the window at the lights of Seattle below me for the last time in several months and reflected on the past few days. And I thought about the Bull’s comment to me on Friday after I told her about the “call”. “Hey your Friday the 13th really is a good day”. “Uh how so”. “Just think if you had gone away for 3 ½ months and this had not been discovered until you returned. Then you would have been in a heap of trouble. This is just a little inconvenience.” And you know what? The Bull was right. I’ve always said it’s all about perspective. It sucked to have this happen as I was heading out on my sabbatical, but the alternative on my return would have been beyond worse. Friday the 13th really was lucky for me! And so as I left the lights of Seattle behind, I closed my eyes and began to think ahead to my first stop: Peru.