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A Semi-Colon Makes New Friends

A Semi-Colon Makes New Friends

Mary Lou Fuller is the author of "A New Beginning: Living on What I Learned After 70," a collection of anecdotes that reflect her views on aging with humor. She lives at Havenwood-Heritage Heights in Concord, N.H.

Aquarians are "people" people and love nothing more than to be in the company of others. I know this to be true because I'm an Aquarian. I also know that a semi-colon is half of a colon. Read on to discover how these two thoughts actually come together.

Last August, when I was told I had colon cancer, as well as a tumor involving my bile ducts, it really sent me into a tailspin. But now, over two months after the operation, I find the trauma of the surgery, hospitalization and time spent in rehab has faded and only the memories of the people who cared for me and the friends I made along the way remain. This includes the remaining half of my colon -- I call my semi-colon.

My cancer was discovered in August during a routine colonoscopy. The doctors and nurses at Concord Hospital who took care of me during this procedure and the CT scan, MRI and endoscopy that followed were almost moved to tears as they reported their findings.

The surgeon to whom I was referred became my new best friend. Sadly, all the aforementioned tests revealed the need for a surgical technique she preferred I have done at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. The size and scope of the medical center can be off-putting at first, but from my new surgeon on down I made many new friends.

Three months following the initial cancer diagnosis I was finally scheduled for surgery. It was a long ordeal, but the nurses who attended me in recovery were a devoted crew and did all they could to keep me comfortable. I had an epidural for pain as well as a morphine pump I could use whenever I wanted.

When I was moved to a room, the RNs and LNAs became my link to getting through the days and nights while hooked up to a multitude of tubes, IVs and monitors. Gradually I was more aware of my surroundings, and my roommates soon became a source of interest and also friendship.

I was fascinated by Wilma, who phoned her husband every day to report on her recovery progress. It was always a one-sided conversation -- her husband had had a stroke, which left him unable to speak. Wilma was followed in quick succession by three others whose maladies ranged from gastric-bypass surgery to cardiac disease.

My bed was closest to the room's bathroom, which meant each of the ladies was forced to pass me, with hospital Johnnies flaring open in the back. Their trips became a major diversion.

Havenwood-Heritage Heights, where I live, is a continuing care retirement community; therefore, after a week in the hospital, I transferred from Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center to the skilled nursing facility in our Health Service Center, where my Medicare coverage kicked in. Here I was among "family" -- not only the nurses but the on-staff registered nurse practitioners who checked on me regularly. After a week I was able to return home under the supervision of the Concord Visiting Nurses.

At this writing I'm almost back to normal and the trauma of surgery has been replaced with the news that I will not need chemotherapy or radiation. I am truly blessed not only with my new semi-colon but with the people who surrounded me with their love and friendship when I needed it the most.

How did all those people who sent me cards possibly know what a boost their loving messages meant to this Aquarian?

Mary Lou Fuller

Mary Lou Fuller is the author of a collection of anecdotes that reflect her views on aging with humor.

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