The surgery was scheduled for the following week, and so began another adventure into the big world of the unknown. Because I never expected to experience another journey with cancer, I entered this in a state of shock, confusion and disbelief. The minute I heard the word cancer I reverted back to being seven years old, looking to my parents for the support I would need to travel this road again. I was witnessing this occurrence with the numerical age of an adult, but with the coping abilities of a child. Wow, the word cancer held a great deal of power in my life, enough power to change the way I saw myself as well as the way I reacted! During this time my life felt surreal, and believe me, that was an uncomfortably awkward feeling scented with the pungent odor of fear. What happened to the competent woman, mother, teacher, wife and friend? Where had she gone, what had caused her to disappear, and what did I need to do to get her back?
My first memory after the surgery was an unknown voice saying,"Laura, smile for me." I had not come out of the anesthetic completely, but I do remember wondering who would ask me to smile when I felt such deep pain in my neck. I managed a weak smile and the voice thanked me. I promptly returned to sleep. It wasn't until the next day when the doctor explained the intricacy involved in successfully removing the affected areas in my neck, causing him to be concerned that he may have severed an important nerve that controlled the left side of my face. He couldn't be certain until they could observe my ability to smile. I shuddered when I had time to consider how a different outcome could have had severe consequences on the rest of my life...a sobering reality reminding me why, in the midst of this journey, it was important for me to give profound gratitude. This was a "light bulb" moment, thinking back many years before when my mom had also felt the need to give boundless gratitude.
I refused to look at myself in a mirror for several days due to the drastic length of the stitches I could feel from the surgery. They had shaved my hair from behind my left ear and all the way down, so the stitches ran all along that area, through the length of my neck and ending at the top of my chest...no wonder I remember feeling such an elevated pain coming out of surgery. A few days later I felt the need to have a quite serious pity party for myself, and following that deep sadness and anger, I was able to look in a mirror at the bandages that seemed to cover the entire left side of my head. The next day I watched as the nurse changed the bandages, and I was then able to begin my true healing.