After 8 months of waiting, 8 months that felt like years and were saturated with the most potent anxiety I’ve ever felt in my entire life, the day I’d been waiting for had finally arrived.
I’d been lucky; the cancer hadn’t spread, and radiation therapy had shown good results. All that remained was for it to be surgically removed.
This would not be a straightforward process, however; the tumor had wrapped itself around the tibial nerve in my right leg, so a substantial section of that nerve would have to be removed. I would need a nerve graft in order to restore functionality to my leg. They decided to use the less important sural nerve in my left leg as a replacement.
When the day finally came, it didn’t feel real; I kept expecting it to be cancelled at the last minute, or for something else to go wrong, as had happened several times throughout this grueling journey. I’d already had one failed operation and been lost in the system of the first hospital I was referred to.
When I woke up after surgery, I immediately asked them if it had worked, if the tumor was gone, terrified that I’d be told once again, as I had been after the first operation, that they’d been unable to remove it. They said they’d taken it out, but that it would be several days before we’d know if they’d gotten all of it.
I remained in hospital for the next eight days; despite the surgery having been done, these were among the most difficult days of the entire eight-month ordeal. After isolating myself for weeks, I was suddenly in a position where I was totally unable to employ social distancing. My OCD was in overdrive as I constantly worried about catching COVID-19 from one of the numerous people I was in unavoidable close contact with.
A hospital isn’t exactly an autism-friendly environment either, filled as they are with harsh lights, cloying smells, and a cacophony of noise. Each day was a struggle.
Thankfully, the nurses were amazingly supportive. To help me sleep, they even gave me earplugs and turned off the hallway light outside my room at night.
Then, on the 7th day, came the news I’d been waiting for with both hope and abject terror. They told me they’d gotten a wide margin around the tumor; that as far as they could tell, it was all gone. For eight months, this was the result I’d so desperately hoped for. I felt as though an exoskeleton of lead had fallen away from me. At last, the nightmare was over.
The following day I was allowed to go home. As I write this, I’m still only able to walk with the help of crutches, and I’m struggling a bit with nerve pain, but every day I feel stronger, and as terrifying as it was, I have confronted my greatest fear and won.