I Don’t Want a Liver Transplant
Sleep is kind of like a thought eraser that swipes the day clean. But I frequently wake up in the middle of the night and remember the tumor. One night last August I awoke with the image of big clamps all around my chest cavity. Eyes wide open now, I saw myself lying on a table surrounded by doctors and nurses, my face as white as the fish I had seen floating belly up on the pond last year. I could see my head arching back with a tube tunneling down my throat that clicked and whished while forcing air into my lungs.
I blinked hard and then stared at my chest as my breasts moved up and down. I wondered what it would be like to wake up in ICU with that machine on and my hands tied down. Shaking my head with an audible moan, I flung back the covers, and jumped out of bed like the house was on fire.
My heels drummed a hollow beat on the wood floor as I fairly flew to the kitchen. I stood in the dark. I don’t want a liver transplant. The thought of someone dying to keep me alive is more than I can bear. Of course there are a lot of other things that I don’t want. I don’t want to clean the branches up from the last storm. I don’t want to pay taxes or shave my legs. I don’t want cancer.
I stared into the fridge and began moving jars and containers from one shelf to the next. Opening the freezer door, I kept searching. I knew that I needed comfort food. After years of eating so healthy with cirrhosis, who the hell cares if I eat a whole bag of sugar now? Where are the ice cream and cookies where I need them?
Sighing, I reached for the organic steel cut oatmeal. I stared unseeing as the pan of water began to boil and then threw in a few small handfuls of oats without measuring. In my impatience, I turned the fire to high and watched as the oval grains began to boil wildly. The circular pockets of air popped on the surface like craters spitting sulphur at Yellowstone National Park. I too felt like there was a giant faultline. This one was a tumor under my ribcage creating heat, and lava, and destruction. I clapped the lid on, turned off the fire and slipped out the back door.
Walking quickly out from the shadow of the pecan and elm tree, I could see a million stars. Song lyrics brushed my thoughts. I thought of Vincent and his tortured mind and cut off ear. God, I was morbid tonight. I heard Fievel and Linda Ronstadt singing “Somewhere Out There” and thought of Marleen who was probably riding her bike to work on the other side of the world. She beat breast cancer. I heard Anne Murray singing about stars being the windows to heaven and when I looked up, I think my grandma winked at me.
Breathing in sharply and stretching my arms into a V for Victory, I was in awe at how swiftly my thoughts moved from despair to comfort. I tightened my robe and moved back toward the house.
My pan of oatmeal was cooled down now. I usually ate it plain. Tonight, I opened the jar of coconut oil and let it slide gently down my spoon into the pan. The size of the bowl is chosen by the amount of comfort needed. I grabbed the largest soup bowl I could find and filled it with the warm grains, adding a handful of raisins for sweetness.
With the first bite, the tears released. They started as a watery film over my eyes, then spilled into drops that rolled down my cheeks and off of my chin into the oatmeal. I stirred them in and chewed slowly and wondered what would happen if I got a call that a liver was available right now. I would have to throw the oatmeal away and jump in my car. I would be on the road to Integris Baptist in Oklahoma City within 30 minutes.
I’m still waiting on that call several months later. I still don’t want a transplant. But time is slowly changing my heart toward the life saving surgery. I have spent a lot of time looking at the obstacles in my mind. Maybe you can understand if you’ve gone through this. I always hope that someone else will find comfort or wisdom in my musings.
I’m scared of a long surgery. Any time you undergo anesthesia, there are risks involved. The oxygen levels have to be kept at just the right levels to keep your brain alive so that you’ll wake up with all your senses. Intricate precision will be required with every cut and stitch.
I’m afraid I won’t wake up. There. I said it. Now I’m crying and typing. Dang it. I just wanna wake up and see my family, friends, and students. I don’t want to leave them in this world without my love. See, I love SO SO big and I don’t think anyone else can love my friends (yes – YOU) and family like I do. So I want to wake up.
I’m afraid of the steroids that will keep me from rejecting the new liver. What if I get hateful? Or moonfaced? Or eat myself into oblivion? Or lose my sex drive?
I thought the list was going to be longer than that. Huh. You know what I do next.. I look on the bright side. Always.
I will face the long procedure with faith that my God and my surgical team are all on the same page. Everyone will be well rested, mentally alert, and focused. I love my team at Nazhi Zuhdi. There is so much experience and passion in each surgeon’s story. The best part is that where they have human failings, my God does not. He’s also on call 24/7.
I am going to wake up. I’ve envisioned it a thousand times. I will look like poop and my family will be so happy to see me anyway. There will be signs from my grandkids and smiles and hugs from my family. My friends will high five and point toward heaven, letting me know they kept me in their prayers.
There will be wisecracks, atta girl’s, and cheering. Lisa will cry. Jammie will cheer. Mike will give an “attagirl” and Joe and Sarah will just smile their quiet lovey smiles. Julie will laugh cause she knew all along that I would wake up and fulfill my life’s purpose. The brothers-in-law will make the wisecracks for sure.
As for the steroids? Well, I took Ribavirin for 11 months and somehow managed to not get kicked out of the family, off of my job, or the planet. Moonface could be another name for wrinkle plumping. I’ll never need Botox. I’m plan on continuing my liver loving diet so to heck with overeating. And worrying about my sex drive? Nah…. Not unless I’m dead and I’ve already dealt with that fear.
Now I’m lol at my crazy self. I’m ready for a new liver. This one keeps growing tumors. A woman’s got a right to change her mind: I want a liver transplant. And I want it fast.
I love you and your praying best friendy sweet love. Xo Karen:)
All pictures via Karen Hoyt post TACE Procedure