After a year of having an on-again, off-again “funny stomach” that I blamed on bad food or bad-for-me food or a passing flu, I woke up one morning with excruciating pain just under my right rib cage.
A few hours later it passed, but I knew I couldn’t blame the episode on bad food or the flu. Within a few weeks I saw several doctors who concluded that my gallbladder was the culprit. Surgery was scheduled, but in the meantime I still had graduate classes, work, and household duties.
It was difficult to keep up with my responsibilities. The pain was so strong sometimes that all I could do was lie still, nibbling on crackers to try to settle my stomach. Additionally, I was relearning what I could and couldn’t eat, which meant I spent a lot of time worrying about what I’d eat at weekly work lunches and how that would affect me. Plus there were all the doctor appointments. I had blood drawn at least once a week for months and saw four different doctors during the ordeal.
One professor showed me endless grace that semester. I missed several classes, couldn’t help out with a group presentation, and was behind on a few assignments. Each time, though, she assured me that whatever I could do would be enough. I couldn’t help but feel guilty.
After surgery, friends and family helped out. One person stayed with me while my husband, Jim, refilled my pain medication. Another brought magazines and some post-surgery food. Some friends brought food from a local BBQ restaurant for Jim to eat so he didn’t have to share my bland meals. Despite their generosity, all I could focus on was how terrible I looked in front of guests.1