19 December 2019

Tender Topics

Lizard's surgery took about 45 minutes longer than anticipated. I had begun to worry, but I had peace in my heart, too. It's a strange sensation to be concerned and yet know deep inside everything is going to be okay.

Lizard had received a priesthood blessing the night before. His first blessing was months earlier, after he hadn't been able to sleep for months on end. He slept through the night that first night. That blessing is what he says charted his path to baptism and faith. He had never been strong on faith until that first blessing, even though he had witnessed me receiving relief through various blessings during the past 15 years. His first blessing turned out to be life-changing.

His second blessing would put his faith and his determination to the test.

Just as tears were beginning to form in my eyes in the surgical center waiting room, the surgeon appeared, and he was wearing a big smile. He wouldn't have been smiling if something had gone wrong. The darkness that had attempted to crush my soul and my faith was rejected wholly and undeniably. Lizard was going to be okay.

At some point...

We both knew going into total knee replacement the third and fourth days after surgery would be the most difficult. Knowing didn't make those days any easier. Knowing others who had experienced knee, hip or back surgery, including my own, didn't make the two hardest days easier. I would have to say knowing did help both of us survive the darkest hours, but during the suffering, knowing others have survived and thrived didn't seem to lighten the burden.

I had experienced spousal surgery in what seems like a previous life, during my first marriage. My former spouse's eye was pierced with shrapnel from an exploding nail. His vision in that eye ultimately was dimmed, but not completely lost. An eyeball drained of much fluid typically is aired up much like a balloon but will begin to restore fluid after surgery. We were told the possibility existed the eye would over-inflate with replenishing fluid in the next few days, requiring the eye surgeon to vent the eye to allow the air inside the eye to escape. We didn't expect the "balloon" to nearly pop in just a few hours. (My former spouse described the feeling back then as his whole brain exploding out of his skull.) We were back at the hospital eight hours after my former husband's release, and there was nothing pleasant about recovery, from start to finish.

Many blessings were received, both hands-on priesthood blessings, as well as tender mercies. The eye had just enough fluid in it after the 90-minute trip to the hospital following the injury for the eye to be saved. We lucked into one of the top eye surgeons in the country, simply because he was on call when we arrived. It was another 90-minute drive back to the hospital in the middle of the night, via a tight, winding canyon and unimaginable temper tantrums. Once again, the eye was saved. Volunteering at a school for the blind during my teenage years prepared me for leading someone with patches over both eyes for days - because if you move one eye, you move the other, and you don't want to further mess up your eyelid when you have literal stitches in your eye. Dissolving stitches truly are a miracle all their own, but never more so than when those stitches are holding together eye flaps.

That first spousal surgery was not a smooth experience to endure for either of us. When someone is not valued as a human being, even though that person gives everything they've got in a continual attempt to be "worthy" of respect, the giver gives and gives and gives and gives and receives nothing in return. Or, sometimes the giver receives an unhealthy dose of anger, bitterness, vengeance and resentment in return. When faith is absent, in my personal opinion, spiritual and emotional healing take longer, if they occur at all. When love, such as what I experience now in my current marriage, is missing or inadequate, so are appreciation, gratitude, humility and compassion. In my personal opinion, life can seem extremely not worth living when those elements don't exist.

Total night and day comparison to what Lizard and I are experiencing now.

He's had some really hard days in the past couple of years. He has every reason to give up and throw in the towel. He could throw more than a towel, but he doesn't. He may get angry and frustrated at the situation, but he doesn't blame me. He sometimes asks what he did to deserve Parkinson's, Graves' and now a whole new knee, but he is filled with gratitude and faith. Sometimes he has to really work at that faith part, but doing so is making him stronger.

Above all, he respects me and tries to show it at all times, even when he can't understand why he can't do something today that he could do yesterday. Even when I ask to help with tasks in which he is not yet ready to surrender independence. Even when pain is more than he is able to bear alone, he still tries with all his might, mind and strength to treat me like and make me feel as if I truly am a princess.

Eight years ago, I watched a dearly beloved friend slowly deteriorate as cancer consumed her body. The final few months of her life seemed nothing but undeserved suffering. She often wasn't even completely aware of what was going on around her the final few months. As the cancer tortuously destroyed her body, it robbed her of her talents, her insight and her personality, but never her will to live. Her will to fight.

Toward the end, her husband had to do things most people would consider below them. He had to do things for her that would have dismantled her dignity had she been aware of anything more than pain. Never in my life have I personally witnessed more severe pain. Never in my life have I personally witnessed more compassion and absolute devotion. Her suffering and needs were so intense, many women volunteered to assist her husband as he tenderly cleaned her wounds and her body while she screamed in absolute and unrelenting pain. He never asked any of us to clean her when her bed sores became soiled, only to assist him as he did so with great love and tenderness.

I wasn't sure I would ever be able to do as he had done because even helping him was difficult. I'm not very good at all at watching anyone suffer while I am completely helpless to make any of the pain go away. Yet I stayed right by his side each time it was my turn and tried my best to do whatever he needed because I wanted to help. I could never have turned away. It's just not in my genetic makeup. And that's not a complaint.

Now I'm watching the person I love most suffer. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Lizard should heal. His livelihood should be restored at some point, even if he can never have back what Parkinson's has taken. He should be able to walk and ride again. He should be able to enjoy life again. The situation is not hopeless, as was my friend's.

When the sufferer is aware of what's happening, dignity is as overwhelming as pain and suffering. I want to ease Lizard's suffering, but not at the expense of his dignity. I will preserve his dignity as long as I am able.

This surgery rendered him temporarily helpless in some ways, just as my back surgery back in 2004 left me unable to complete some normal, everyday tasks. We had no home health assistance back then. (Is that the greatest medical advance of all time or what?!?) There were things I wouldn't allow him to do, yet there were things that required his assistance for my safety. I wouldn't allow him to help me relieve myself, but if I had tried to get into the shower alone, I could have been more seriously hurt. He was not allowed to see me unclothed because we were not yet married. He would help me without looking. I know that sounds crazy, but he completely acquiesced to my rules. From the beginning, he respected me, even though he didn't always understand my reasons.

It's kind of funny – I was trying to stay worthy of my temple recommend (similar to an ID card you have to earn to receive) back then, and he just recently received his first special-purpose temple recommend. We're allowed to see each other unclothed now, but dignity is the ruling factor determining which tasks he will or won't allow assistance. And he's no different than I was back in 2004! Two peas in a pod!

Every once in a while he will let out a word of the four-letter variety I don't really care to have in my home. Initially, he would quickly apologize and explain he's trying very hard, but he is very upset or in a lot of pain, and the word is not directed at me. I've been trying to offer up a few fun replacement words I thought he might actually enjoy using, such as fiddlesticks. He liked that one. He said his grandmother used to say that. So now that simple old-fashioned word is making both of us giggle when he unleashes it, which greatly improves the attitude and ambiance during stressful situations. Such as moving into and out of the CPM machine – continuous passive motion machine, or as Lizard calls it, the torture rack – or when I accidentally bump his knee or unexpectedly drop his heel while helping him in and out of the infernal device.

He had to deal with similar reactions (but not words) after my back surgery, when I couldn't drive. He drove me everywhere I needed to be until I got clearance to be behind the wheel again. I think it was close to four months that he did all my driving for me, but crossing railroad tracks continued to be excruciating for close to a year. I find myself wondering now if Lizard will have that kind of pain for as long.

We both have this dream of doing Ride the Rockies next year. It will be the 35th anniversary of the ride. We've done all the big anniversary rides together since we've been together. He wants to do the Triple Bypass, too. (To which people who don't know it's a 120-mile bicycle ride across three mountain passes exclaim, "You have to have heart surgery, too?!?") (And to which people who do know ask incredulously, "Both rides in the same year?!?") We don't know if it's realistic for either of us. I'm still suffering some neck issues left over from 2017. But goals are good. For both of us. And cycling is healthy for both of us, as long as drivers aren't on cell phones, but that's a whole different rant.

I don't know what the future will hold. I don't know if either of us will be able to do Ride the Rockies again.

But I do know we both will ride again.

Before Lizard's surgeon came into the waiting room, I'd watched other family members hear about their loved ones. Other surgeons said things such as, "The surgery went smoothly, and you'll be able to see the patient again shortly." One surgeon looked beat. It must have been a whale of a procedure. But it went well.

Our surgeon was just gleaming when he came into the room, presumably because the surgery had been so successful. His words to me were, "He really needed that. He is going to have quality of life again."

When Lizard's spinal block began to wear off and he began questioning if the surgery was worth it, I encouraged him to watch one of his favorite movies, "The Revenant", and challenged him to be like the real Hugh Glass. (The true story of survival, not the literary or Hollywood tale of vengeance.) It's not a movie he watches while I'm in the house. I started the movie for him, then went grocery shopping for two hours. That movie, even though fictionalized, may have been just what the doctor ordered.

Graves' Disease is treatable with medication. Parkinson's Disease is not going to go away. It will get worse. The new knee, however, will heal. Better days are coming. My Lizard will ride again.


  1. All the best to your husband and you. You both need a lot of strength. Anyway, we never know what we can do. Riding again seems a realistic goal though. Regula

    1. Thank you, Regula! We are trying to keep trying!

  2. Great that the surgery went well. Nothing happens fast when healing is involved indeed. I've used such words a few times. But I substitute Fork for it as much as I can haha True, if only one is the giver in the relationship, it is doomed. I've seen people go down hill as well. Not fun for any involved. Hopefully I just croak and call it a life when that time comes.

    1. Ha ha. Pat! I hope we all go fast when the time comes, but I am nowhere near ready for that day!

  3. I am so happy that the surgery was a success for your hubby. Praying the recovery process continues to go well and that before long you will both be able to ride again. Your faith and devotion are such a blessing - power of prayer is SO POWERFUL! Know that we are keeping you both in our daily thoughts and prayers. If there is ANYTHING AT ALL that we can do to help please just ask - we are here for you. You have my number-call and or text anytime 24/7. Steve & Lori (Neighbors)

    1. Thank you, Lori and Steve! We are so blessed to have you as neighbors!


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