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The War Inside: Part 4

It would be nice to be able to say we did some magical hocus-pocus and everything fell into place.

Of course, nothing’s that easy. Yes, I now had a vision and a desire, but perfectionism-paralysis burrows into everything, and decision-making is a classic. How do I know if I’ve made not only the right decision, but also the perfect one for ever and ever, amen?

This is where it helps to have friends.

Several months previously I’d gotten up the courage to join a local writing group. The woman who convened and led the group, Anna, came to visit, dying to know all about the conference.

I guess I was bubbling over with it. She listened and laughed and nodded.

Finally, she said, “I’ve never asked you this before because I didn’t know how you’d react. But have you thought about gastric bypass surgery?”

My knee jerk reaction was hell no. No one’s doing a fruit salad slice-and-dice on me.

Of course I didn’t say that. I said, “No, it’s way too expensive.”

She didn’t back down or beat about the bush—and for that alone I’d always love her. She said, “Don’t be silly. I believe in you. I’ll pay for it.”

She had to be joking. I knew she was wealthy, but that was beside the point. People just didn’t go around paying for major surgery for someone not a family member.

So I laughed and thanked her for the thought.

But she didn’t laugh in return. “I’m not kidding,” she said. “I really want to do this. Think about it and let me know.”

I was so taken aback, so embarrassed, I didn’t know what to say or what to do. I thanked her, beyond grateful, even while knowing we wouldn’t take her up on the offer.

However, she made me think. Why had I never considered surgery—and why was I so reluctant to think about it now? Money obviously wasn’t the real issue or I’d have given her offer serious consideration.

So what was the real problem?

It took a while to figure out, but here it is.

You can be a perfectionist and have excellent self-esteem, accomplish your goals, and maintain wonderful social relationships.

You can also be a perfectionist, have lousy self-esteem, set goals impossible for even God to meet, and shy away from healthy social interaction because you know no one can possibly like you—even if they say they do—because they don’t know the real you and what a disgusting failure you are.

So you end up afraid. Afraid to look at yourself in the mirror.

Afraid to write a do-list because you know you won’t get it all done.

Afraid to go out for coffee with people who could become friends because it means talking—and talking means communicating. And you’ve nothing positive to contribute.

So you live a kind of half-life, detached from others—because you must be in control of your environment. And anxious—because you’re never really in control of anything.

It’s this dichotomy that leads you to do crazy—sometimes dangerous—things just to cope with the awful truth that scares the crap out of you: you’re human and humans are inherently flawed.

The real problem wasn’t that surgery was expensive. It was that, for the period of the operation, I would be completely helpless and under someone else’s control. The idea of that level of vulnerability … of the possibility the surgeon might make a mistake … that I wouldn’t be awake to tell him …

Yes, in case you’re wondering why I have a big-empty-head photo above here it’s because that’s a photo of me at my graduation from medical school. (Didn’t happen! My husband said I’d better put the disclaimer in!! LOL)

You’re allowed to laugh. I hope you do. I can now, but I couldn’t then. I didn’t want to undergo surgery IN CASE I DIED. Talk about an about-turn.

Once I’d pulled my head out of … um … the wall we started thinking seriously about the gastric bypass surgery. We had health insurance, so we approached the insurance company and explained the severity of the situation. They were very nice and said go and talk to the surgeon.

Which we did. The surgeon was fabulous. Such a kind man. When you’re overweight, most doctor visits are a nightmare. This wasn’t. He talked to us—to me—explaining the procedure, its pros and cons, the changes in lifestyle. We left kind of shell-shocked, but with hope, and talked about it all the way home. I think it was the next day we got back in touch and said yes, I wanted to have the surgery. The hospital booked me in for October.

Then, because hey, let’s not make life too straightforward here, the insurance company came back to us. A gastric bypass operation was elective surgery. As such, they wouldn’t pay for it.

I remember wondering just what the hell was going on. What was the point of paying for health insurance if—when you go to use it for the first time ever—you’re told you’re not covered for the procedure?

On the face of it they were right, I guess. The surgery was elective. By not having it I was electing to die in less than eighteen months.

Well, I wasn’t electing to die.

There had to be another way. We could take Anna’s wonderful offer—and talked about it seriously. But borrowing money from friends always puts the friendship at risk—and taking it as a gift (which was how they offered it) didn’t feel right either. We were grateful, so, so grateful. But they’d be giving us family money we felt should be going to their own children.

Which gave us only one real choice. Although neither of us believe in going into debt except for a house or property, we’d run out of options. We extended the mortgage on our property to cover the cost of surgery.

By late October 2004, two months after the Romance Writers’ Conference, we were ready for the Big Day.


When was the last time someone did something outrageously generous for you that took you by surprise? What was it? How has it affected you? Tell us about it in the comments!

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