There are lots of people in the room and a big cake on a table. It’s somebody’s birthday. The cake’s filled with cream and fruit and it’s 2006 and I’ve just had my first operation. They ask me if I want a slice and I shake my head. They say that I can’t go until I’ve eaten some. I try to eat a teeny piece so that they will shut up. I can’t find my mouth. There’s cream on my cheek. I go home.
I’ve been prodded and poked and tested and stared at. I look different. My accent is funny. People stare at me in the waiting room. Doctors and nurses say things like “Oooh, isn’t she pretty? Isn’t she sweet?” But not to my face. I feel like a doll. When they examine me, there are lots of people in the room. I wish they would go away. I feel small and embarrassed. I don’t want to take my top off. But I’m not scared. Not yet.
On the day, we bump into Dr M. He’s off to have lunch. He says he’s going to eat a big plate of spaghetti before he operates on me. I wonder whether he will drink wine. Red wine. Then I’m in the hospital and it starts again: prodding and poking; needles and pain and the fear starts to surface and I feel woozy but not in a good way. I feel asleep yet awake and my heart is thud, thud, thudding. The tears start falling but I don’t make a sound. I don’t move. I realize now that this is what I do when I am scared. I don’t move. I don’t say a word. I am still. I am silent.
And then the anesthetist appears and he’s got a huge, livid strawberry birthmark that covers one side of his face and neck. I bet people have stared at him all his life. I expect some people think he’s ‘ugly’. I see that somebody loves him because he’s wearing a wedding ring. And I see his eyes and they’re brown and kind. And he holds my hand and he says, “What’s the matter?” and I say “I’m scared.” And he tells me not to be frightened and he holds my hand.
Then there are bright lights above me and people in masks and he holds my hand. Then there’s more drug stuff but it’s only a local and my heart is still leaping and my eyes are still wet and he strokes my forehead and keeps on stroking. Then I feel something. “Oww!” And I think, “I don’t like this.” And I say that I can feel something and they give me more drugs. And it’s ok for a bit but then I can feel it again and they tell me that they can’t give me any more anesthetic. And I lie there and I feel pulling and pricking. My heart is racing faster and faster. Now I’m really scared, but it’s too late, it’s over.
I’m on a trolley in a corridor and the man is back and he holds my hand again and says that everything’s ok and I don’t see the strawberry, I see the kindest man in the world.