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

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

I have never been some starry-eyed waif waiting to be saved. In fact, I pride myself on being a fiercely independent gale-force wind. Maybe that’s reaching, but I definitely have enough wind in my sails to slam a door closed. When a problem presents itself that I truly sense I am unable to contain on my own, I feel like a failure of epic proportions.
Insurance: a true wolf in sheep’s clothing. wolf
In life we all have dreams; it’s one of the big things we all have in common. Our blood hums with possibility, determination, and grit. “Strive for greatness,” “Never give up,” and “What the mind can conceive, it can achieve” are all platitudes people tell you to ‘encourage’ you to keep on keeping on. Well, my dreams have changed a lot over the years. In wild and drastic measures, no less. My dream for the last almost five years? To live long enough to watch my boys graduate. I have other dreams, too, of course; I want to see them fall in love, find passion, and be whoever they are in their bones. I want to be around for them, I want to be healthy, and capable.
I am saying all of this because of a letter I received from my insurance company. An unprompted letter of rejection regarding my current medicine, Remicade. (Now, before I go further I should mention, I think the letter has been handled. You can mark me down as skeptical, but I have to trust that it’ll all work out.)

Be that as it may, I went into a full-on panic of epic proportions. This cold sweat engulfed me like a surfer in the ocean. I could even taste the salt but that might have been my own tears. All I kept thinking about was why? Is the Board in charge of making decisions regarding my health going to be in the stands of whatever sport my children inevitably play? Are they going to take up a collection plate on Sunday or work a 9-5 to pay my bills? Are they willing to be available for the skinned knees, lost action figures, and the myriad of other things that go along with being a parent? Or what about the duties of running a household: laundry, dishes, and budgeting? What about Jon? Are they going to do all of the things that I do, when I lose the ability to do them because they aren’t willing to pay for the medication that keeps me functioning?
I also kept thinking about what it would mean to lose the insurance coverage. I am fortunate to have found a man willing to stand beside me no matter the cost. He would pay out of pocket without blinking. He would try and right the wrong in whatever way he could. He would be willing… but I wouldn’t. How could I knowingly throw a rock into our family pond and sit idly by while the ripples messed with everyone I love and care about?
I don’t know a term for what I feel; I would describe it as the chronically ill guilt, I guess. I feel guilty every waking moment. Guilty that I don’t do enough, say enough, and work enough, or know enough. Guilt that I cost financially and emotionally, sometimes more than we have. I am only human after all.
Some nights I lay awake watching the fan spin above me and listen to Jon breathe. I know I am one of the lucky ones. I have so much in life to be thankful for and I am. Yet, that never stops the anxiety from creeping in; the dread of what tomorrow might bring.
All of this has made me question my goals in life. I thought I had it all figured out, I thought I went to school to follow a passion, but now I wonder if maybe I should go back. I think I could do some real good for people like me, maybe grant writing or something within a non-profit. Anything to not feel so powerless.