July 22nd, 2010 - Jenn Jones Sutliff
I am a human bowling ball, I thought as I looked down at the three swollen incisions on my abdomen. They lay delicately on each side of my stomach with one tiny hole living in my belly button. They itched and burned, but it was better than the utter heaviness and pain I had been living with for the past year. I tried to sit up in the hospital bed, ignoring the slight sting of pain as I struggled. The nurse adjusting my IV broke into a huge grin as she helped me sit up. She asked how I was feeling.
I felt hollowed out, scraped clean. I had been both of those things more or less the past year, but hopefully this time, that feeling would be gone for good. I imagined myself as one of those watermelon centerpieces at parties, filled with cubes of fruit so people could pick at me with their toothpicks while they laughed and talked and didn’t pay any mind to the emptied-out woman in front of them. Don’t mind me, I would say as they stabbed at me with their little wooden sticks and carried on with their conversation. This is normal!
That thought had been in my greatest hits rotation for the past year, along with:
Oh, we’re going to freeze my cervix and scrape some cells off of it? This is normal!
Oh, we’re going to numb me, attach an electrode to my thigh, and cut out pieces of my cervix without any general anesthesia while l am awake? This is normal!
Oh, okay, so we’re going to inflate me like a balloon and root around inside my uterus? This is normal!
People like a real can-do attitude these days.
Of course, I don’t tell the nurse this. I opted for an awkward, pain-killer addled thumbs up. Nobody wants to hear you complain about being a centerpiece or your reproductive issues at eight in the morning. In this economy? Forget it.
The door swung open and in strode my doctor, clipboard in hand and smiling. We had become a team, the two of us, over the last twelve months against team Don’t You Want A Baby? Something funny happens when you get diagnosed with reproductive issues. Everyone around you graduates from the Google School of Modern Medicine with a Minor in I Know It’s Just My Opinion But. The key to ending endometriosis and potential ovarian cancer according to these esteemed scholars? Pregnancy. Just have a baby, my then mother-in-law said, talking over my head to my then-husband as I stood in front of her, won’t that get rid of her “issues”?
I had become invisible, as my ability to incubate a human and shoot it out of me like a tee-shirt out of one of those cannons at basketball games was clearly in peril. Never mind the raised cancer antigen levels in my blood work or the fact I couldn’t take a step without lightning rods of pain shooting up my back and legs. Won’t someone think of the uteruses?
Doc checked a few things on my chart as she sat down in a chair next to the bed. She grinned.
“We got it all,” she said, patting my arm, as she went over the procedure.
I had had tissue growing outside of my uterus. It wrapped around my uterus, bladder, rectum, both ovaries and both fallopian tubes. It had spread out like vines, invading my body, threatening to fuse my organs together. It had formed a tight little ball that compressed against my sciatic nerve that made every step I took agony. I closed my eyes as she continued to tell me about my defective, heart-shaped uterus and my dead ovary and fallopian tube that now lay in a lab somewhere. I let it all wash over me, eyes closed. When she finished, she told me it was the worst case of endometriosis she had seen yet. I opened my eyes, still feeling toasty from my painkiller cocktail.
“Hey, doc,” I asked, “you can see me, right?”
“Yes, she said, chuckling, “yes, I can see you.”
I laid back in bed and shut my eyes in relief.
Jenn Jones Sutliff is a writer and English instructor from Southern California. She has been published by Pencil Box Press and more recently in Waxing and Waning Literary Journal.
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