a bladder shaped globe with a blade flying around it

How Do We Thank Our Surgeons?

Having gone through a number of cystoscopies, TURBTs, and ultimately, a radical cystectomy (complete bladder removal), I began to think of all the people that have been involved in my treatment, surgeries, and recovery. And what a number of people it is - from nurses to surgeons, physical therapists to family and friends. All have played an equally important part in my treatment and recovery.

My surgeon

But without having access to a brilliant surgeon and medical team, well, it doesn’t even bear thinking about. “The Proff” (short for Professor), as he likes to be known. Well, what a guy! He is the one whose skills ultimately saved my life. He is the guy that I feel I owe every day of my life to. I surprise myself by welling up as I write this. “Why?" I ask myself. It’s because I am so emotionally grateful.

How do you repay someone who has saved your life?

I can give you the answer to that. It’s by living it! Very soon after my radical cystectomy, my hubby and I went traveling. From Latvia in Europe at five weeks post-op to five months later, embarking on an 8-month backpacking trip around southeast Asia. I was determined to live my life to the max!

Our first trip was to Riga in Latvia. I felt so blessed to be here, to be able to travel and experience new things. It was here that I saw in the window of a dark old-world chocolate shop, chocolate butterflies. They were in a beautiful “magic box,” a box that when opened, little brightly colored paper butterflies flew out, revealing the chocolate delights beneath. I had to buy them; to me, they were so symbolic. My surgeon had provided me with the “wings” to fly again. This was going to be my gift to him.

My first annual check-up post-cystectomy

A couple of months later, I had my appointment with my surgeon, the Proff. At the end of my appointment, having been given the “all-clear” for another year, I reached into my oversized handbag and pulled out the beautifully wrapped gift. I quickly told him of all our travels and ended by saying, “Thank you for giving me another year of life." I handed over the gift. It was said with genuine, deep gratitude. He just wryly smiled.

Twelve months later: another check-up

It was that day again, the day I meet with the Proff. The day I get the results of my annual checkup.

We had spent the previous 8 months traveling around India. On our travels, I came across a figurine of a Hindu deity. It was a small bronze, bull-like figure. Beautifully boxed, in colors of emerald and gold. But moreover, it had a small scroll. The scroll was a blessing to keep the owner safe. Well, we certainly need to keep my Proff safe; he was needed to treat others like me! I immediately purchased it.

At the end of my appointment, and after being given the all-clear for another year, I once again quickly told him of our travels around India. I then pulled the small box out of my bag. As I handed him that emerald and gold box, I briefly explained what was inside. I then looked him in the eye, shook his hand, and thanked him for another year of life. This time, his eyes welled up. I really don’t think he had realized just how much he is appreciated.

Symbols of my gratitude

The gifts I bought weren’t expensive. But to me, they were hugely symbolic. After all, what price can you put on life? But what I’ve learned is that a genuinely said “thank you” can go a long way.

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