Preparing for Surgery, I Search for a New Mantra

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by Ari Anderson |

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sma technology | SMA News Today | Main graphic for "Soaring With Hope," a column by Ari Anderson

I like the saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” but I think it’s overused. We should come up with other phrases that mean the same thing so that the idea doesn’t become too cliché.

People can pick whatever words they prefer, based on their own situation. All that matters is that the original meaning remains intact so that folks can hang on when things get tough.

I’ve written before about how I’ve always viewed myself as a fighter, partly because of the boxing gloves I was given when I was younger. Those gloves are now symbolic — when life hands me a blow, I know I need to fight back to survive.

Sometimes, a single hard punch can feel like several. The same is true for the problems in our lives. This is because a big problem can be multifaceted, and one must approach it from multiple angles.

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I was dealt a multangular blow around Thanksgiving last year, when I was told I needed surgery for the first time in almost 30 years. I already had been taking a beating since last summer from extreme pain in my lower left side that was so severe it drove me crazy. All I could do was focus on the pain and on breathing. It briefly went away, but then returned with a vengeance, forcing me to get a CT scan.

After studying the results, my urologist said that my right kidney is “chock full” of kidney stones. Another fairly large stone in my other kidney also caused it to swell up. This, in turn, was causing most of the pain and agony on my left side.

Fun times, right?

The urologist was fairly certain I could pass the stone on my left side on my own. To my relief, that’s exactly what I did a couple days later, releasing me from my prison of pain. Yet although I may have been out of prison, I wasn’t entirely free from my shackles — I still had the kidney stones in my right kidney. There wasn’t going to be an easy fix for that.

The punch in the gut was that I needed a surgery called percutaneous nephrolithotomy. With this procedure, doctors plan to blast the kidney stones into dust through a small opening in my back. And while this may seem like a video game, it’s not to me. I have several things to consider, including:

Punch 1: It’s an overnight surgery. I have been extremely blessed to have avoided the hospital since 2006. Not many people with SMA can say that. What makes it scary for me is that being hospitalized has been such a rarity.

Punch 2: I’ll have to lie on my stomach during surgery. I haven’t been in this position in at least 25 years. Before my surgery, my nurses and physical therapist will need to figure out the best way to flip me over without stressing my breathing.

Punch 3: No date for the surgery has been set yet, partly because of omicron. While I’m not currently in any immediate danger, if the problem continues, I’ll risk losing a kidney, which is reason enough for alarm! Hopefully, I’ll have a date soon, likely around April.

All of these blows bring me back to how I want to update the phrase I mentioned at the start of the column. I want to use one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies, “Rocky IV.” In the movie, Rocky says, “Going in one more round when you don’t think you can, that’s what makes all the difference in your life.”

This line helps me to have faith that better things await me on the other side of surgery.

Fellow SMA columnist Sherry Toh quoted a similar line from a different show: “Don’t quit before the miracle happens.”

What quirky phrase will you use to get to a better place after battle? Please share in the comments below. 

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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