This is what a dear friends of mine said about having a kidney removed today. The kidney had to go because it harbored a tumor, and the only reason he knew about the tumor was because of emergency heart surgery a few months ago. One danger led to one miracle. Given just how mortal we are, and how much we know this up close and personally as we age, the adventure can shift to high gear on a dime.
I’ve been thinking about the adventure of being a body, more than usual lately as I prepare myself for upcoming surgery to repair my hiatal hernia, and in the process, hopefully solve a bevy of medical issues related to where my esophagus meets my stomach. My issues started with pregnancy (short-waisted woman + big baby = trouble in River City) and escalated during chemotherapy. The oncoming surgery circles me back 25 years to when this body went from party of one to party of two; it makes another loop back to fighting off a totally different kind of intruder.
To take a break from worrying about surgery and its aftermath, I went to see the play Shrek at Theatre Lawrence, and laughed and cried myself silly at what this performance said about accepting who we are. Just five hours later, during the evening performance, the talented young actor who played Donkey collapsed because of a heart attack in the middle of a song. Subsequently, he was put in a medically-induced coma for several days. Today, I read in the paper how he came back without any apparent brain or heart damage, and my own heart soared in relief. I remembered Ken and my intense joy and relief when our youngest son was woken out of a medically-induced coma 13 years ago, and how his return from his outer-rim adventure saved our lives in ways that keep unfolding.
Life gives us this adventurous vessel in which and to which anything can happen — for ourselves and those we love. As my kids grew up, I learned about surprises of the body often, including epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, something called Intussusception (when the small intestine telescopes into the large intestine) and even head trauma. In any family, if you give it enough time, the surprise of ailments can astonish, but so can the resilience we grow in the process.
Being a body, even in less drastic times, is hardly ever a walk in the park. Sometimes, it’s a combo safari/water park/cruise ship during a thunderstorm/ice storm on roller skates kind of journey, each turn thrilling, exhilarating, terrifying and utterly human. This is the ultimate ride, and it’s extreme sports all the way at moments. Looking ahead to my surgery, I tell myself to exhale, strap myself in tight, and take in all the love around me. After all, it’s not just a body; it’s life in all its most tender and expansive adventures.