It was a beautiful evening in May, and I was content knowing I had fully prepared for my foot surgery the next day. The clock was nearing eight when the phone rang. A nurse from the health facility where my Mom had been staying for over a year was calling me.
“Your Mom went on oxygen, and I suggest you get here soon,” the nurse said. My husband and I rushed to the facility to find my mother alert but clearly disoriented. A nurse called me aside and suggested my mother be placed in hospice. “Where is the hospice facility?” I asked. “It’s the same room; it just changes the way we have to treat her.” “Okay,” I said.
On the drive home, I couldn’t help but wonder if in some odd way, my mother’s sudden deteriorating condition had something to do with her trying to prevent my surgery. I had five of them before, and one surgery only led to another. My mother was always against the surgeries. My mind was racing. Should I stay with my mother tomorrow or proceed with the surgery? My mother could live many more months; no one knew. If the procedure was successful, I could help my mother more. It certainly was strange that the night before surgery this event transpired. Relentlessly, thoughts about the operation rolled over in my mind. I decided to proceed with the surgery.
The next morning, my husband drove me to the hospital. I was ready for the procedure and anxious to get it over with. When I was taken to the operating room on a gurney, my body suddenly tensed up in protest to the surgery. I envisioned myself jumping off the stretcher and running from the room.
I awoke from the surgery and instantaneously knew it was a failure. I still felt the neuroma in my foot, and now the entire nerve was inflamed. I could barely take a step. Over time, I slowly recovered to almost how I was prior to the surgery. I had additional permanent sensations, though, that were very bothersome.
Now, six years after the surgery and my mother’s passing, my husband and I were making our weekly trip to the supermarket. We got out of the car and walked briskly into the store. We split our grocery list to hasten the trip, and I headed down the produce aisle. As I reached for the celery, I could feel my foot begin to cramp. The cramp intensified and my foot felt weak; I could barely walk. Panic stricken, I kicked off my shoe as nearby customers gave glancing stares. I grabbed my cell and called my husband who was just a few aisles away. “Hurry over, my foot is cramping again!” This scene has become almost ritualistic. I start out walking normal, but then my foot demands a rest.
My husband rushed over, and I somehow made it to a nearby chair. “I must get this thing out of my foot. I cannot live this way anymore,” I shouted. I felt as if someone had sewn my foot up inside and was tugging at the threads. I’d grown weary of sleepless nights of pain. Moment to moment, I wanted to yank the disabling mass from my foot. This time, though, the surgeon would have to access the neuroma from under the foot; a much riskier approach than from the top. I had been debating surgery for several years. I hobbled back to the car.
My mind was spinning on the way back home. In the surgeon’s words, the surgery was a “crapshoot.” One voice in my head said, “Do the surgery. You will drive again and enjoy life more!” A darker voice was fearful that my condition would deteriorate after surgery or that I still might not be able to drive. I clearly was having trouble living a normal life with my foot the way it was. Having surgery, though, had many risks and could leave me worse off. Neither situation was good. Deciding amongst two negatives is one of the hardest decisions anyone can make. I had rolled the dice many times in hopes of making the right decision about surgery: heads up, do surgery; tails up, don’t. I prayed that God would lead me to the right decision.
A few months later, and it’s just another day. My hired driver arrives at my house. Soon after entering the door, she mentions that her mother has foot problems.
“What does she have?” I asked.
“She had a neuroma. They tried to get it from the top of her foot, but it didn’t work, so they went through the bottom. She’s a mess from the surgery and goes to the pain clinic weekly.”
“Wow,” I said. Silently, I thought it odd that this stranger happened to say that her mother recently had the same surgery I was contemplating. What are the chances of that? Surely a higher power was intercepting. My instincts now were screaming that I not attempt another surgery.
Over time, the neuroma, however, got the best of me. I proceeded with another operation.
The afternoon before the surgery, my husband phoned me when he got out of work. “I’ve got a flat tire, and I don’t know if we can get it fixed before your surgery tomorrow.” “If you get it fixed, I’ll have surgery. If you don’t, I won’t,” I replied. “Do you think it’s my mother trying to stop my surgery again?” I asked. My husband said he had not thought of that, but didn’t think so. He got the tire fixed the last minute, so we proceeded with the surgical plans.
I was efficiently prepared for the surgery. I created a care book with my doctors’ phone numbers, my allergies to medications, and my current medications and dosages to make my husband’s caretaking role easier. I had purchased a knee walker, crutches, bandages, ice bags, and other medical items for aftercare. I had prepared boxes of non-perishable food that my husband could easily cook, and I had placed my clothes for the next week on the couch so my husband could easily access them. I even packed an overnight bag in the event I had to stay at the hospital. My husband had arranged for Family Leave, and I had hired a home-health aide for the few days my husband was not available. The house was in impeccable order.
We awoke the next day to a gorgeous August morning and headed to the hospital. I was about thirty minutes from being placed on the surgical table, when an event transpired regarding a nerve block. Suffice it to say that the doctor, for various reasons, cancelled the surgery! My husband and I sat there in shock, and eventually left. It took years for me to come to the decision to have the surgery, and then this.
When my husband, Dave, and I got home, we both felt sad for what could have been. I may have been driving again and had a rebirth of sorts. My husband equated the event to a miscarriage. What was supposed to be was not. We held each other closely as tears ran down our faces. We stared at the undisturbed boxes of clothes, the knee walker sitting idle, and the ice bags and other supplies yearning to be used. We kept the supplies there for days as if they were items of a deceased person. We could not bring ourselves to remove the items from the room and to admit the surgery had been cancelled.
Later, my husband and I walked to a nearby riverfront to ease our weary souls. Then, it hit me. “Dave,” I said, as I drew even closer to him. “I think it was my Mom stopping the surgery again. And the hired driver was an angel sent to forewarn me. I hadn’t heeded to the signs, and a higher power stepped in to save me. I’ll be okay.”
I’ve a greater sense of peace now. I’ve accepted my limitations; I don’t fight them anymore. Perhaps someday there will be a less invasive way to approach the removal of the neuroma. I’m thankful for my mother’s saving grace that prevented me from further injury. I feel a renewed sense of strength and connection to a spiritual force. When God sends messages our way, we must listen to them, trust in them, and allow them to guide us where they may.