Letter to my Surgeon

After years of hemming and hawing, I finally sat down and wrote a letter to my surgeon. I am sealing the envelope tonight and mailing it off tomorrow! I don’t know if he will respond or if he will even see it, but it is a thank you that needed to be said.

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Dear Dr. Ahmad:

You might not remember me, but I was a patient of yours in 2010-2011. I was referred to you after months of battling a flair like I had never experienced before. I was a 20-year-old kid who felt alone and lost in this giant world, without so much as a road map to guide me.

I remember our first visit in waves; never in full focus or with much clarity. You wanted to perform surgery and give me a temporary ostomy. I was scared–but not of dying–at least I don’t think. I was scared of what happened if I survived. I know that probably sounds crazy, but it’s as close to the truth as I can surmise.

To this day I don’t know what compelled you, but you offered your surgery pro-bono. You saved my life. I’ll be honest though, I hated every minute of that bag. I remember feeling powerless. I remember the bag leaks and the shame l felt, like it was yesterday. You were true to your word though, and it was temporary. So temporary in fact, that I never truly got to appreciate what that first surgery meant. I was so focused on what I had lost, what was taken from me, that I never stopped to think about what I had gained: faith. Faith not in God but in science and in humanity.

I have spent the last six years trying to write this letter to you. I think I have never felt worthy, like the things I have accomplished were not enough to make you proud or happy that you went through all the effort. I might not ever be the model patient, or save the world, but for the first time in my life I am proud of me and I have you to thank for that. I have you to thank for everything. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I have included some pictures of the things that I am proud of. Things I was only able to do and achieve because of you.

After surgery, I re-connected with a boy I knew in second grade. A boy I fell in love with and married. That deep-in-your-soul, shout-it-from-the-roof-top, write-a-sonnet love, that I thought only existed in fairytales and Hollywood. After being told I would never have kids, I had two. Two crazy, full-of-energy, wily, smart, and handsome little boys. I went to college, graduated with an Associate’s before deciding to go back for a Bachelor’s. I even bought a house and started a career. I have lived and continue to live well. The hard times are surrounded by the good times, and I know I owe my success and family to you.

So thank you, truly.

Respectfully,

Kayla Lauer

Father’s Day

As Father’s Day approaches, so does the cracking of my artfully crafted exterior. I think about my dad often but I try to hide the pain I still feel. I know my sadness and unease makes people uncomfortable so I internalize it.
Only a few times a year do I let myself grieve or allow my pseudo tough-girl exterior to dissolve and just feel. My dad was a lot of things to a lot of people, and although it has not always been so, I know I can have my own opinion about him. It has taken me years to realize that despite what other people feel, my memories are mine and mine alone to keep.
He will always be the man who held me when I cried after I got into a huge fight with my first boyfriend. The man who, when I felt like my world was falling apart, told me to “never let them take my smile.” A man who, after losing a bet, got his hair braided and walked around downtown Waikiki with me.
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For better or worse, he was my dad.
He taught me a lot. He showed me that some of the hardest lessons we learn in life are ones that come from the people we are supposed to love and trust. His actions both directly and indirectly have shown me the type of person I do and don’t want to be. Even in death, he taught me to love people like they could disappear tomorrow.
Nothing I say or do will physically bring you back dad, I know this…but I still search crowds for you. I play the songs you loved and pretend we are in the car together. On days I miss you most, I toast plain strawberry pop-tarts and slather them in butter, even though I hate them. For those few seconds, I am a kid again; I can close my eyes and have breakfast with you. I see your face when the boys smile, and I sometimes hear you when I talk. I think about what I would say if I could call you. I wonder if you would be proud of me.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I wish I could be with you today.

An open letter to my son for his fourth birthday

Little man,
For months I convinced myself I was pregnant. The doctors explained the unlikelihood of my ever having kids, but every month…I was so sure. Every negative test felt like a personal attack, like I was being punished for wanting a kid knowing my condition can be genetic.
Then it happened. I cannot explain why it was different, I just knew. Your dad had that look in his eye, the one he gets when he knows how badly the fallout will be when I get hurt. Your daddy though, he’s a patient and supportive man. He just smiled along as I talked about you; about the possibility of our life with you. Hearing your heartbeat, it truly was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.
I won’t lie to you, pregnancy was as terrifying as it was magical. I was determined to finish school and make a good life for you which kept me busy. The doctors’ appointments stacked up, the usual and the specialists. Then I developed SUA (Single Umbilical Artery) and that required extra fetal monitoring. Between trying to contribute financially and still figure out who I was, I cried a lot. I spent a lot of time wondering if I was a terrible person for wanting you so badly, when you could end up like me.
I want you to know, that if that day should ever come, there is no one that will fight harder for you, with you, than me. I am now and forever your biggest cheerleader.
You turn four tomorrow buddy, and I couldn’t be any prouder of you. You are smart, so smart and that makes it harder for mommy to hide things from you. I want you to know how loved and valued you are. Sometimes mommy hurts, sometimes mommy cries, sometimes mommy gets mad and anxious about things that have nothing to do with you, and I am sorry for that. Sometimes mommy will have to sit things out, or be away from you for a few nights. In these moments I want you to remember that you are the breath in my lungs and the blood in my veins. You are the reason I fight so hard. The reason I have survived.
Falling in love with your dad was like finding water in the desert, but falling in love with you was like finding myself. Finding where I fit, where I belong. Thank you for being my son. For being a loving and caring big brother, and for making your daddy and I so proud.
Happy Birthday, son.
Jack & I hospital