In the twelve years of my work as a massage therapist one of the most common questions was: “How expensive is it to get a massage?”
At the beginning of my career I shied away from a direct answer, being one of those who believed her work wasn’t really valuable and I wasn’t really deserving to live comfortably, no matter the quality of my work or how hard I worked or how many thousands I spent to train.
But, as years went by, I learned to answer the question with a question:
“Would you be giving or receiving the massage? Because it’s a huge difference. When you pay for it you think $60.00 is a lot, but when you give the massage and apply yourself physically and emotionally to the healing of your client, $60.00 barely covers the effort.”
Along the same lines, when someone has surgery, the perspective is very different depending on whether the person is the subject of the surgery or a spectator, someone who has heard it was really a piece of cake!
The phone call from my doctor’s office was to inform me that I needed to see a surgeon because the calcium in my blood was too high. That meant the small glands on top of my thyroid gland were not doing their job and the calcium, instead of going to my bones was going into my blood stream causing not only premature osteoporosis, a disease of the bones most women experience after menopause, but because of the high calcium in the blood I was in danger of heart problems and other terrifying health conditions.
I was back at the University of Pennsylvania, but a different department. Tests confirmed one of the miniscule four parathyroid glands whose job was to control the calcium wasn’t doing its job! I immediately thought I was surely not thinking positive enough for this to happen to me, it was all my fault, as I probably didn’t “believe” on a very deep level” I was healthy, deserving of happiness and a comfortable life!” Then I filled in the family history and little by little recalled thyroid and parathyroids problems ran in my father’s family, so perhaps genetics played some role? May be?
Regardless of who or what was at fault I needed surgery.
“It’s routine, it’s easy! I will just make an incision right here in your throat and take out the gland which gives you the problems, and let’s hope you will recover without any complications.”
It sounded so easy and by now I had confidence in surgeons, anesthesia and my own capacity to recover from hardships. However, the process of healing was going to take weeks and I needed to take time off from work. Circumstances beyond my control were going to interfere with my New Year’s goal of increasing my annual income to a point of comfort.
The night before the surgery I took a long, lonely walk through one of my favorite parks. Spring smelled the same everywhere, of hope and desires, of coming to life again after the cold and the darkness of winter.
I sat down on a bench and breathed in the smell of burned wood and fresh earth which reminded me of my youth, of the Carpathian Mountains, of my dear friends back in Romania. I lifted my eyes to the skies and the stars were so many, the Full Moon so bright, they seem to press on my eyes, on my chest and especially on my throat that needed healing. I am born under the sign of the Moon, an emotional “moody” woman, and in those moments of solitude, the Moon, my Moon, was a Princess, and I was sure when men walked on it and took samples, She probably didn’t like it, as in my mind, She was alive and feeling! Just like the Moon which ruled my mind, I knew I was going to hate having my throat slid, a part of me taken away, even if it was slowly killing me!
I walked home slowly and couldn’t sleep all night. The following day I checked in the hospital and the surgery went as schedule, without complications.
When I woke up my head felt as if barely holding on to my body. There was a drain coming out of it, and bandages everywhere. I knew there was a small incision, yet, I felt that if I moved my head would walk away from my body and that in fact I could lose my head at any time!
Friends came to visit and assured me I looked “wonderful,” given the fact that I just had major surgery! They brought me scarfs of various colors and patterns and jewelry to go around my neck and mask the scars once the bandages were off…
My daughters, now teenagers, understood the seriousness of the situation and helped around the house. They actually did all the work. Kevin was in Heaven. He wasn’t calling them “my daughters,” as he usually did. Suddenly they were “ours” Sometimes, if they cooked dinner, they were “his daughters,” doing womanly work, what women were supposed to do: cook, clean, obey the rules, not question or rebel against what they were told.
The bandages came off, the pain and the feeling of decapitation stayed with me for longer than I would have ever expected. I definitely couldn’t afford loosing my head! I kept looking at the incision which was not that small. It looked red and deep and long and ugly. The scarfs came in hand, but even their light touch on my skin felt uncomfortable, and again I had to think of how different it felt when you were the one experiencing a hardship and pain, versus talking about it or learning about how it should feel like.
There is a Romanian proverb, which to the best of my ability translates, “Our skin is closer to us than our shirts.” I cannot find a better way to express the truth that a personal experience is more powerful than any description or knowledge about it and only those who went through exactly the same problems have the right to say: “I know how you feel about it.”