I'm really fucking scared

Content warning: illness, surgery, fear, death

In about an hour, I will take a shower, dry off with a clean towel, put on clean pajamas, and try to sleep in my clean-sheeted bed.

In about seven and a half hours, I will get up, take another shower, dry off with another clean towel, and put on clean sweats.

In about eight hours, I will check in at the hospital and be readied for the surgical placement of a jejunostomy tube (that's in ten hours).

After surgery, I’ll be inpatient at the hospital for at least four days if you go by the surgeon’s estimates, five days if you trust the dietitian’s understanding of the situation, or “about a week,” if you’re more inclined to believe the gastroenterologist. I’ve been told it will be uncomfortable and boring.

I’ve been relatively calm about this whole thing since making the decision to proceed with a feeding tube a few weeks ago. I’ve been incredibly sad and scared—yes—and also protectively disassociated from these feelings.

When the surgeon looked at me a week ago and told me I'm obviously malnourished and that I need to gain at least 20 pounds, I didn't flinch. When my gastroenterologist reminded me the next day that this feeding tube isn’t going to treat my gastroparesis—it’s “going to keep [me] from dying,” (and factually wrote in my leave paperwork that my condition is life-threatening), I took it in stride. I haven't reacted emotionally. Instead, I've focused on the logistics and scheduling, and on getting things in line at work for my leave of absence.

But now it’s the night before my surgery and I’m scared as fuck. Like want to run away and pretend this isn’t happening scared. Like wish I was an ostrich of legend and could bury my head in the sand scared.

I’m scared of the surgery itself, of course. I'm scared that I don’t actually need it (I do) and I’m getting a really invasive surgery unnecessarily (I’m not). I’m scared I won’t wake up from anesthesia or I’ll die on the operating table. I’m scared of the hospital stay because I’ve never had one—about whether I’ll have a private room or if I might get the flu or COVID-19 while there. And I’m also scared about how this tube is going to affect the rest of my life. I’m scared that Robbie will decide he didn’t sign up for this and leave me. I’m scared about future potential infections, complications, and hospitalizations. I’m scared about my pets accidentally hurting me or pulling out my tube. I’m scared about ongoing pain and the gross things that come with tubes, like bile leakage. I’m scared that my life won’t be as long as I’d hoped because of all of this.

Last night, I shared some of these fears with my therapist. She told me they’re real, valid, and a very normal response to everything I’m going through. She also told me that choosing to do this even though I'm scared is choosing to live. Because if I don't do it, I will die.

So what I’m reminding myself right now is that it’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to not know what’s going to happen. I don’t need to be reassured with false optimism. Instead, I’m going to sit in my fear and feel it. It’s real, it makes sense, and honestly it’s one of the first full feelings I’ve felt in weeks.

In ten hours I’ll undergo surgery to put in a jejunostomy feeding tube. I will have it indefinitely. I’m scared. And that’s okay.