During the past two weeks, I have made five trips to the hospital: the gynecologist, the scan of my bones, the MRI of my breasts, the debrief of the medical exams with my surgeon, and a check of my heart condition. In addition, I had an appointment with Ana. She is a gynecologist, and a good friend of Elisabeth. She will be available to translate any medical reports into human language, and answer any questions I may have. I’m sure I’ll have many questions, and it reassures me to have her support. Ian and I drive to Elisabeth and Greg’s house. Greg is Elisabeth’s husband. The four of us have been good friends for many years. Elisabeth is always generous and kind. She drives me to Ana, who lives very close to her. Meanwhile the men do the last preparations of dinner. Elisabeth understands what I am going through. I’m happy she takes to time to accompany me. Yet due to COVID, she has to wait outside. Ana strikes me as a kind and capable rock of calm.
“You look tired” Greg says when I arrive.
I feel tired, but I didn’t know it shows.
By the time of dusk, we enjoy our late dinner on the terrace, surrounded by green. A good glass of wine, cosy conversation. Ian, Elisabeth, Greg, I couldn’t wish for better company. I feel scared and fragile.
The medical exams were fine, aside from the bone scan that revealed a mystery on my back-bone. It could be a trauma that is healing. There indeed is an area of pain there which I have felt for quite a while. I can’t tell for sure if I hurt myself. As a result, there will be an additional scan next Monday, on August 10. One can never have enough scans? I reason through it a zillion times. Maybe it is due to having been squeezed between Desert and the iron protection around her drinking fountain a while back. Maybe not. I have to stop worrying about every loose end. I have already decided to no longer read the medical reports: as I don’t have the skills to interpret them correctly, they leave me with anxiety.
My surgeon tells me he will do the surgery next Wednesday, on August 12. He seems like a tough man to work with: very much to the point, little tolerance for errors. Excellent features for a surgeon I think. The lady who is renting a half board for Po, our pony, is a nurse. She used to work with him, and left his team, disgruntled. “He would never be my surgeon” she tells me fiercely. I don’t dig into the topic with her, but I decide to discuss with Grace.
“He doesn’t leave a stone unturned for his patients, but he is highly demanding towards his team” she tells me. “You need to be comfortable with your choice. If you have doubts, you can still change.”
“He has an excellent reputation that goes beyond this hospital.” I reply, based on what Ana told me. “He should cure me, he should not be my friend. The feedback I received seems more about a personal dislike than his capacities as a surgeon.”
“That seems indeed the case.”
“Thanks so much Grace.”
“Any time, you know!” she replies warmly. Reassured, I hang up.
A heat wave has been announced for the coming days. I have booked a dressage lesson in the cool hours of the morning. Desert turned twenty this year. She still is a strong and beautiful horse, but she starts showing her age. She used to be queen of the pasture, first in the picking order to eat. This spring, a younger horse tried to defy her when I let her into the pasture. She ignored the other horse, but it hurt me to see her like that. After a good gallop, she now breaths more heavily. As a result, since last year, our lessons with her have been limited to half an hour. In her younger years, twice she was provincial champion in a dressage competition together with her previous owner. She was always well taken care of, as she consistently takes great care of her rider. In the spring of next year, she will retire. We purchased a pasture for her retirement in June. A horse can live up to thirty years. Her blood-test taken last month showed perfect values, so I have good hopes we have many years ahead of us. I will love taking care of her as much in her old days as I have done while riding her. But this is for next year.
This morning, I’m looking forward to our lesson. Mika, our coach, has an eye for detail. She relentlessly corrects me: balance, legs, feet, hands, head, back. Small changes can make a big difference. Often, as the lesson evolves, she lifts us to a point of glory, leaving me marveling for the rest of the day. I try to redo the magic without Mika, yet rarely do Desert and I achieve the same level by ourselves. This morning, the lesson goes just perfect, and I jump off with a big smile. I give Desert a big cuddle, loosen up her girth, and clean her hoofs. After I put her gear in the locker, I take the time to give her a fresh shower, which she greatly enjoys. As it will be a hot day, the horses won’t be out on the pastures. I walk Desert back to her box. It was our last ride in a while: the coming days will be even hotter. It is already Friday and next Tuesday afternoon I will check into the hospital. I give Desert another big cuddle, my arms wrapped around her strong neck, my face buried in her wet fur. “Desert, you will be there for me, right? I need you. I will live longer than you will, right? I love you so so much.” In tears, I walk back to my car.