through surgeries and beyond
By: Fela M'tima
A year ago, I was anxiously waiting to meet a new surgeon. I had one exploratory Laparoscopic surgery months prior and was in more pain post op than before. It was a really dark winter for me and my destroyed reproductive system, to say the least. I kept saying to myself, it's a new year, you're going to meet a new surgeon, she's going to be great, and you're going to be great. Your LIFE will be great. Well, things didn't go as "great" as I had hoped, but I did meet this surgeon that changed my life.
My mom flew out to drive me to meet my new surgeon, Melissa Pendergrass. I was so excited to meet her. I had even watched a small video of her online and the only way I can explain it is that she just seemed so freaken cool. I searched her on facebook (because I'm a grade a stalker) and she had an Endometriosis Awareness cover photo, I mean, this woman right? I was finally meeting someone who didn't just operate, she really cared. I was nervous the whole drive because I knew this would lead to another surgery. Looking back, I wish I could talk to the girl anxiously walking in circles outside of the office and tell her, "This is going to be the best path for you and the hardest path. You will also be here a lot, so relax, and get used to it." And that I was. In the year of 2016, I spent almost every two weeks in that doctors office. Every time I was there, I had the most kindhearted nurse, Katerina. She always made me laugh, she was always joyful to see me, even when I was beyond miserable.
Melissa performed a wide excision in April and did a beautiful job at suspending my ovaries which took away that type of pain you get when you basically keel over in public. Unfortunately, my endo was more severe than either of us thought and I still needed a bowel resection. On top of those issues, I had a lot of post op problems with bleeding and ureter pain. Melissa was with me every step of the way. Calling me to check in after long ER trips, my bi-weekly visits where we both sat around, discouraged, but never losing hope. I remember her looking to me and saying, "Your case is just too severe for me". But, unlike some doctors and surgeons, that didn't mean she was done helping me. We continued to meet, pushing me into acupuncture and physical therapy, trying to mange my pain with medicine, she tried it all. She continued to try and find surgeons who could at least address some of the other pain I was still having and eventually she found one. The best part of her finding me a surgeon, was that she got to assist him during the surgery. I thought, "Hell yes, I know I'm in good hands."
After my second surgery with her, I had to do something that felt strangely more difficult than most conversations I had with her that year, I had to say goodbye. I was moving back home and had all my "last" appointments, but this one was so different. I had never been to a doctors office so much, so many memories of sadness, joy, hope, laughs, and fear, all in this cute little pink building. I wanted to cry, I'll admit. I had so much love for this woman, so many laughs about silly things I had said to her while going under. (Like the time she held my hand and I cried to her about my cat) There is something so special about a doctor patient relationship like this one. I had a lifetime of gratitude for this woman.
The best part of my last visit is that I was at a pain level of 0, which was of course, something that had never happened before. In so many different ways Melissa had relieved the endo pain I was so terribly used to. The second best part of my visit was that Katerina told me I was one of her favorite patients. (Little did she know, she was my favorite nurse)
I felt like a chapter of my life was ending, and I guess it was. I still had Endometriosis, but I had hope. Hope in myself, hope in the kindness of surgeons, and hope that no matter what happens this next year, I can beat it. I mean damn, I had come so far in one year. Then as I was leaving, Melissa raised her hands up and cheered, "Go live your life!" and I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed because for once, I believed I was actually capable of doing so. I owed this feeling all to her, the one who never gave up, and to the one who gave me my life back.