In the past several years I have come to understand that being vulnerable is a strength, not a weakness.
Synonyms for the word vulnerable, found in the Merriam Webster dictionary are: endangered, exposed, liable, open, sensitive, susceptible.
l believe that vulnerability is a worthwhile and honorable trait in which to indulge, especially as my life experience involves the last three synonyms: open, sensitive, susceptible. Recently, however, I felt vulnerable and I didn’t like the feeling at all as it gave me a feeling of being endangered and exposed.
Several days ago I had skin cancer surgery on my nose, and although vanity is not a prominent characteristic in my modus operandi, the fact that my visage was going to be messed with sent me into a tailspin of unease, bordering on depression. It’s not the surgery itself that was of a concern to me; I had hip replacement surgery four years ago that was far more invasive and brutal and I don’t recall feeling as emotionally affected as I did for my nose surgery.
Perhaps what was at issue was the fact that the affected body part is face forward – so to speak – and therefore more noticeable than a joint replacement could ever be. The very good news is that the surgery was minimally invasive, not even needing stitches, so the same face I’ve had for sixty-eight years remains intact.
I’ve had this same face – more or less – for sixty-eight years! Fortunately the alteration leaves it just slightly different from how it used to be.
I know, my sixty-eight year old body isn’t the same as it used to be either, because aging is a privilege and with that privilege comes pain, body sags, and wrinkles rivaling an intricate interstate highway. But the face? It’s somehow a different entity all together. Fortunately, my concerns turned out to be much ado about nothing.
Let me clarify, however, that the unease/depression I felt wasn’t a function of how I’ll look once everything is healed. No. It’s related to the vulnerability I felt leading up to the surgery, and the time during the surgery when I was fully awake, that really messed with my mind and my emotions. A surgeon who knows absolutely nothing about who I am, whom I only met once prior to the procedure, was in charge of ridding my nose of cancer. Once patient number 1234 was out the door, the surgeon would move onto patient number 5678, and so on and so forth, committed to her surgical training but not necessarily committed to Irene Frances Olson, born in Southern California, the youngest of three siblings, who couldn’t have asked for better parents, who eventually wrote two novels to first document her family’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and then to document society’s struggles with tolerance, acceptance, and human kindness.
Was it my outward appearance or my inward identity that was at issue?
The latter, to be sure, and since beauty is only skin deep, I will fall back on the inner beauty that I’ve worked on throughout my life. With age comes wisdom, and for me at least, without the aging, wisdom would still be on the sidelines waiting to make an appearance. So maybe this whole surgical experience has taught me something new that without the unease and depression I experienced, this new nugget of wisdom would not have been birthed:
My inner beauty will always outlast my outer trappings, and those who truly know me see that first and love me for it.
WHAT A BLESSED WOMAN I AM!!!
On May 17th of this year, I had a surgical consult for a nasty, invasive skin cancer that decided to make itself known on my right leg. On May 19th, I had surgery to remove that skin cancer.
I then had two subsequent post-surgical visits, May 25th and June 1st, with the latter being my final visit (knock on wood) at the Skin Surgery Center in Bellevue, Washington.
Right before I left I said good-bye to the front desk person, Ashley, and quite truthfully told her, “I’m going to miss you!”
Ashley made my cancer journey – and no doubt those of many of the center’s patients – one that felt less clinical, and more restorative. She always greeted me by my first name, recognizing me among so many that pass through the doors of the surgery center. She also remembered something important about my life – important to me anyway – and brought it up as I left.
“Enjoy your hiking this summer!”
Big deal, right? Yes, it was, because of all the things that bothered me about my cancer, it was not being able to hike that I bemoaned the most. Her farewell greeting put the biggest smile on my face because I was cleared to hit the trails once again, and she was celebrating my ability to do so.