Brulog

Words of occasional wisdom from Bruce Oakley

Unstrung

Posted by boakley59 on February 24, 2008

I have finally gotten rid of a big pain in the butt.

The mischievous among you may wonder whether something has happened to Suzy or one of our dogs, and a few months ago you might have thought I meant I had quit my job. I am happy to clear up all such misperceptions in reporting that I mean to be taken literally. The knotted surgical string implanted in my butt to plug an unnatural hole has been removed after two months of discomfort.

The implant had been enlarged over the course of four followup visits to the surgeon with the addition of 10 rubber bands. Each time bands were added, the enlarged lump pressed harder on soft tissues. Very painful. The lump also was positioned so as to make contraction of certain busy muscles painful, so it was a most unpleasant experience.

But pain and discomfort are partly perception, and it seemed that both eased a few days after each addition of rubber bands, except for the last addition of two bands, which produced new pain for more than a week. No amount of self-control mattered with the last bands.

When the implant, called a seton, was inserted, the surgeon had told us essentially that “this, too, shall pass.” Apparently I am the clinging type, however, and it did not pass. After two months of patience with his patient, the surgeon decided to cut it out.

As Suzy writes in her blog, this involved an anesthesia needle, a scalpel and blood, so she had to leave the room before the surgeon got down to business. She writes too about the pain I have been enduring and in showing how bad the pain has been, hopes that I won’t mind her reporting that she saw me crying.

I don’t mind that at all; I do not feel diminished by having people learn that I cry at certain moments. I am curious about the moment that Suzy means, however, because I did not shed any tears. I did have a moment when my jaw was working, my lips were clenched and I sniffed in the beginnings of a sob. Already, only two days later, the moments are a little fuzzy, because indeed there was considerable pain and Suzy did a small errand on the way home, so a few stops and starts, bumps and strains on my butt blur the moments together.

The moment I recall came shortly after we pulled out of the parking lot of the surgeon’s office, but it was not the pain that had me starting to sob. I realized at that moment that for the first time in nine months, I did not have an abnormal swelling or a surgical artifact causing pain in my butt. I had a bleeding surgical wound, to be sure, and the local anesthetic and the pain pill I had taken before the visit were wearing off, but joy and relief, not pain, brought me to the brink of tears.

Suzy saw me suffering; I saw relief of my suffering. So much of what we see depends on the filters we apply. Suzy tries hard to imagine the pain I must feel so that she can serve and support me with appropriate gentleness yet without coddling. I consider pain a signal to be acknowledged and met with a controlled response, if not subdued. She always thinks it’s worse than it is; I seldom think it’s as bad as it is.

Between us, there is wisdom, and reason for tears of joy.

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One Response to “Unstrung”

  1. you appeared to be suppressing sobs for a few moments on the sofa after we got home. it was brief.

    Bruce sez: Ahh, the sofa — that was definitely pain, no philosophy. The “sobs” were either deep breaths to control my reaction or sharp intakes upon sudden stabs of pain. I did have a couple of emotional moments, when I thought of your father and the back pain he endured for years and when I was upset with myself for losing control and scolding our little dog, Pepper, for pressing on me in tender spots or in spots where flinching was painful.

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