Two Years Ago Right Now

At this very moment (9:00 AM) two years ago, I was completely unconscious. My surgeons had me splayed open; they had their work cut out for them (see what I did there?) to cut out the cancerous tumor on and in my kidney.

Two years ago, and a little later this morning, I began to regain consciousness, or at least that version of consciousness that one has for those first few–OK, several–hours after coming out of a major surgery. It’s an odd state of being. It’s the stuff humorous moments in movies are made of, when patients have no idea what they’re saying or doing, but they say and do it anyway without any reservation or hesitation. There are parts of it I remember, while there are other parts I only know because others have told me about them.

Truth be told, I remember very little from that day. It’s almost like I have brief snapshots in my memory. Flashes. Moments. Comments. But nothing whole. Nothing complete. Just brief parentheses of being barely coherent nestled between long stretches of being completely incoherent.

I do remember hearing muffled voices–like I was in a cardboard box, underwater, and everyone had gags and marbles and peanut butter and whatever-Charlie Brown’s-teacher-had-in-her-mouth in their mouths at the same time. It was really confusing. I’d hear it, and then nothing. I’d hear it again, and then nothing.

Eventually, after several episodes of this, I remember my eyes fluttering open. I heard people talking, and it seemed like they were talking to me, but I couldn’t hear them really. I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I remember mumbling something; I think I was trying to ask if they had gotten it all. Weird how I couldn’t put together a coherent thought, but I was somehow able to ask about the success of the surgery.

The next couple days are one continuous blur–one continuous, painful, blur. I remember people being there, but I have no recollection of what they said, or what I said back, if anything. So to my friends and family who were there, sorry if I was rude. Sorry if my humor was a little darker than normal (but seriously, if you know me–what else did you expect in a moment like that?).

I remember making some stupid joke about hoping that in my stupor I hadn’t made a deal with any of my friends to give them a kidney if they needed it down the road, because I needed all the ones I had. Or something like that. At least it sounded that way in my head. Who knows what actually came out of my mouth. When you’re in that spot, everyone just nods and smiles, right?

I remember lots of pain, and that was with me being jacked up on pain meds. I can’t imagine what it would have been like without them. Actually, that’s not true. I can imagine a little bit, because there was one point where my nurse forgot to give me my pain meds for several hours. That was a new sort of pain for me. I guess I’m lucky no doctor or nurse asked me that ridiculous “If-you-had-to-rate-your-pain-on-a-scale-of-one-to-ten-what-would-it-be” question, because I’m fairly certain I would have tried to fling my hand in their general direction. OK, fine. So I could barely move at all at that point. But I surely would have given a menacing look. Or drooled with more fervor. Or something.

It’s surreal, really. It’s crazy to think that that was only two years ago. It’s an odd anniversary to celebrate, and I’m not even sure I’m “celebrating” it so much as I’m just really thankful to be here, alive and kicking. It’s good to reflect I suppose; it puts lots of other stuff back into perspective to at least some degree.

What’s that have to do with leadership? I have no idea. I’ve written about what my experience with cancer has taught and continues to teach me about leadership here, here, and here; and I’ll post another in that series tomorrow. But this just seemed like something I should share today, two years to the day after that weird, scary day they cut the cancer out.

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