Every couple of years, my mom trots out this old story of when she got her tonsils out. She was twenty, and it was during a time when hospital stays were much longer than they are today. Women stayed in the hospital seven to ten days after having a baby with no complications, for instance. However, these days, no matter what insurance you have, you are not going to spend the night in the hospital before the morning of your tonsillectomy if you are an otherwise healthy person. You’ll come in before dawn the day of your surgery and you’ll be sent home later that day. But it was a different time then, so there my mother was, a young woman lying in the dark in her hospital bed, waiting for morning to come.
Out of the darkness came a voice, thick with accent. It was an old gypsy woman. Like a ghost, she said, “Don’t let them cut you.” (Only to hear my mom tell it, it’s more like, “Dohn’t a-let dem caht yooo.” For a “gypsy” woman, her accent is as much Italian as it is Eva Gabor’s Hungarian or a cheeky, Americanized Dracula.)
“Once they start cutting you,” the voice continued, “they never stop, until you die.”
My mother went on to have her tonsils out. A few years later she had her appendix out. A few years later she had her uterus out. She has had, as she says, all the ‘ectomies. (Never mind the fact that she still has her gall bladder, but I’ll spot her that one since she’s also had cataracts out and she’s not even of retirement age yet.) Who knows what she’ll have out next.
What triggers her to tell this story every couple of years? I seem to have a health crisis every couple of years.
In 2000, the day before HG and I were to leave on a week-long vacation for our first anniversary, I fell ill with appendicitis and had to have emergency surgery. This was the first time she told me about her gypsy woman’s portent. (Um, thanks, mom? That totally made me feel better, I think.)
In 2002, I had to have my thyroid obliterated with radioactive iodine to treat my Graves Disease.
In 2004, I had to have an emergency c-section 5 weeks before my due date in order to save the tot from dying in utero. I like to call this one my baby-ectomy.
Now, in 2006, I’ve had a mystery pain in my lower belly since February, and I’ve passed all the tests – the ultrasounds, the cat scan, the colonoscopy. At this point, all the doctors say that yes, I do have a mild separation in my abdominal wall, but that mild herniation isn’t the cause of my pain. Probably it’s endometriosis or surgical adhesions from my appendectomy and my baby-ectomy. The method of diagnosis and/or treatment for any of these conditions is laparascopy. Yet another cut.**
So maybe my mom’s gypsy woman was right. If so, I’ll be fully bionic by the time the tot graduates high school, and I suppose that might be kind of cool. I’ll be able to tear phone books in half or run really fast, and every time I jump into the air to get a cereal box down from the top of the cabinet, I’ll hear a “na na na na na na.” I doubt the gypsy could have foretold that one.
*With apologies to the creators of Six-Million-Dollar Man.
**Yay me, however, that it is not cancer or an untreatable disease. Of course, there were a few days that the gastroenterologist had me worried it might be cancer, but that is neither here nor there any longer.