My Thanksgiving this year is for four months: August, September, October, and November. They were months I came close to not seeing, because on August 3rd, I nearly bled to death.
My great grandfather died of colon cancer; my grand-father had cancerous parts of his colon removed--twice. There's been colon cancer through-out my family for years. All my siblings have been checked for it. I was the hold-out...but finally, I decided I was ten years overdue for it might as well give in and have a colonoscopy...just to see.
The doctor was re-assuring. After all, I was the kind of patient she liked. Healthy. No problems. no meds. No known allergies. Just vitamins occasionally. She said I'd have no trouble.
And I didn't. She found three large polyps that were not cancerous yet and removed them. On Wednesday, after the anesthesia wore off, she told me to resume all normal activity. So I did. I ate normally and walked my normal two miles a day, I traveled to Amarillo to visit my Dad who was in the hospital and I felt perfectly energetic, except for a respiratory infection and a mild back pain.
Sunday, I went to church but didn't stay. My throat was sore; I couldn't sing and my sinuses were stuffy. After taking some Advil and cold medicine, I slept all the rest of the morning and afternoon.
That evening was the first day of school. We had a teacher's retreat/in-service time planned down at Quartz Mountain Resort about an hour from our house. Since Turtle had services planned for that evening, I drove myself down. It was a gorgeous day.
After supper that evening we all sat out on the porch by the lake and visited. There were deer going down to the water to drink, and the breeze was just cool enough to make sitting outside perfect. We played a game, putting slips of famous names in a bowl and giving clues to guess them. It went on and on. Meanwhile, my intestines were hurting a little. I tolerated it for a while, then asked if we could take a break so I could run up to my hotel room.
There was a little wooden path that ran from the deck to the stairs. It looked mysterious and I felt euphoric. I remember running along the path, just because I liked the sound of my footsteps on the hollow wood. Then I ran up the stairs to my room and into the bathroom.
My first thought was: "On no!" Now I have a stomach virus on top of this cold, " but when I looked, I noticed a lot of blood in the stool. "Hm," I thought, "Must be the aftermath of that polyp removal." and I returned to the group on the deck and played another round of the game. However, I wasn't entirely at ease about the situation, so when another teacher arrived, one who is an R.N., I drew her aside and asked it that was normal for five days post-polypectomy. She said, "No. Not at all." So I ran back upstairs to call my husband and have him look for the paper with the doctor's instructions on what to do in case of excessive bleeding.
When I entered the room, I knew that I had to go back to the bathroom before I called. This time it was like turning on a faucet. And it was all blood. Lots of dark red blood. I called Turtle. He agreed that I shouldn't try to drive home, and found the emergency number for me. I gave three tries, but couldn't get through to the hospital, and I had to make the last call from the bathroom.
Meanwhile, Turtle had managed to get through to the hospital and talk to the ER nurse. She recommended that I come in, so he suggested I get another teacher to take me to an emergency room about thirty minutes away.
I walked down the hall and out onto the stair landing. Suddenly I felt dizzy, and I knew I shouldn't try to walk down those stairs. The deck seemed far away in the moonlight. I didn't think they would hear me if I yelled. Then a face tipped upward, reflected in the lamplight, and I beckoned with my arm. Someone stood up. At that point I sat down on the floor and began to be a little worried. I have donated blood before--a pint is what they always take, and I had never felt dizzy from it, nor come close to having to sit down. Nor felt the least bit nauseated like I did now. And my heart had never pounded nor my breath turn into little pants.
When my colleague arrived, she said: "Did you forget your room key?" "No. I need someone to drive me to the emergency room. I'm bleeding" She ran back down stairs and I went to the room again...back to the bathroom....then to sit on the bed...and once again....back to the bathroom. .It was bleeding really fast now, and I knew that if the blood kept accumulating at that rate I would bleed out before an ambulance could get out to this isolated little resort. Back to the bathroom…
Two lady teachers rushed into the room in time to see me collapse onto the floor.
I don't remember feeling terrified, but I do remember thinking something was out of control. It was like I was running and running, chasing after something that was just beyond the grasp of my arms. That something was my life.
Everything was fuzzy around the edges and I thought/prayed in weak little bursts which matched the panting of my lungs: "Lord, this is certainly an undignified way to die, but if this is what You want, I'm ready to do it...only if it will bring someone closer to you and not drive someone away...but all the same, I'd like to be here for my grandchildren, and if that's not to be, I'll see you in a minute.
The fuzziness was still there and I remember saying aloud: "I can't feel my arms. I can't feel my lips. Everything was going numb. At that moment, I felt the hands of the two teachers on my lower back. They were praying aloud. ...nothing too theologically hesitant either, just: "Lord, right now. Stop this bleeding."
People were on the phones. Talking to a paramedic. Talking to my husband. I lay on the cold floor and poured sweat. Then into the nausea I heard somebody's voice asking if I could turn over on my back. It surprised me greatly that I answered, yes, and, finding that possible, I tried to turn over and made it. The effort made me breathe faster though, and now I was suddenly cold...shaking cold. They brought a blanket, and lifted my feet. Suddenly, the nausea left. I was clear...no fuzziness. No fear either. The bleeding had stopped for the time being, and the ambulance was on its way. We sat there visiting quietly. It didn't seem like very long but they told me later that it had taken forty five minutes to get there.
There were lots of adventures after that...but I don't want to go on and on forever. To sum it up: two emergency rooms, two ambulances, two pints of blood, and a diagnosis of two sliced arteries later, I was clipped with little clamps, pumped full of IV fluids and sent home in peace. After a few days of rest, I was able to make the first day of school!
So this Thanksgiving is for August, September, October, and every day of November that I have lived...and walked....and enjoyed.