Early yesterday morning, I headed to Princeton Hospital to meet Edwina, who was scheduled to have surgery to remove the uterine fibroids that have been causing her great pain for more than a year. I’d been sitting alone in the waiting room for 20 minutes or so when Edwina and Tyrone wandered in, and we began the process of waiting for Edwina to be checked in and led back to the pre-op area.
I could tell as soon as Edwina sat down that she was anxious about having surgery. She hadn’t heard the results of a biopsy the doctor had done the week before, and she feared that the surgery would reveal that she is suffering from something more serious than benign tumors.
“What if I got cancer again, Miss Rayan?”
“Then we’d face it just like you did last time around,” I replied.
Edwina reminded me that she’s been dealing with a lot of pain “down there” for much too long, and she just wanted to “get it done” and not have to hurt all the time.
As we talked and caught up on family and recent challenges–for Edwina, a car in the shop and too many people wanting to crash on her couch–Tyrone stood up to head down to the lobby for a smoke. As he got ready to leave, he handed a Styrofoam cup filled with the coffee he’d just discovered in the corner of the waiting room to Edwina to hold.
Without skipping a beat, Edwina lifted the cup to her lips and took two quick sips.
“You can’t have anything to drink before surgery,” I quickly reminded her.
My comment came too late. The woman who had registered Edwina was standing next to her, in need of further information, and saw her drink from the cup. Within minutes, the message had been communicated to a nurse who marched out to the waiting room to tell Edwina that she wouldn’t be having surgery until Thursday since she’d sipped coffee with cream and sugar.
Edwina began to argue, loudly. She was angry “that woman [had] told on [her]” and insisted that she wouldn’t be coming back on Thursday. I knew that she’d be back; she just couldn’t process the idea of not getting through the procedure after dragging herself–body and soul–all the way to Princeton.
As Tyrone and Edwina’s sister, Clara, went in search of the car to take Edwina back home for the day, Edwina and I took the elevator down one floor and walked slowly towards the hospital entrance to wait.
“I’m just so tired,” she told me. “Them doctors just keep me waiting, this all’s been goin’ on for too long.”
“I know, and I know that you’re hurting,” I told Edwina, rubbing her back and drawing her close. “But you’re gonna get through this, I promise, and I’ll be right here beside you.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Edwina so emotional, so vulnerable to circumstances over which she has no control. We shared a long hug, and I walked towards the parking garage as Edwina climbed into her sister’s car.
I called Edwina earlier this evening. Her surgery has been rescheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. I told her that I’d meet her in the waiting room at 8.
“Ok,” she replied, her voice shaken by the unexpected delay and knowing that tomorrow she’ll have to make her way back to Princeton, back to the worry and waiting for an answer to her pain.