Health comes before academics

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving break ended, I found out I had to have emergency surgery. The surgery story, featuring six months of misguided gluten-free living, a wise ER doctor and 15-pound ovarian cyst, is a cool one, but it is not the only notable thing about the end of my  fall semester.

Doctors discovered the problem on Nov. 30, I got a consult from a specialist on Dec. 3 and from there my surgery was scheduled for Dec. 6. The recovery, I was told, would take well over a month. I could not come back to school, of course, and missed all of finals week. Because I’m an English and creative writing major, most of my “finals” were actually final papers (three of them, to be exact), but I did miss two actual sit-down exams and two presentations.

In the hectic days leading up to my surgery, I heard two things over and over: “I hope it goes well!” and “But what are you going to do about school?”

Whether or not the surgery would go well was at the forefront of my mind right up until the morning of Dec. 6 when they put me under.

I stopped worrying about school the day I found out I had to have surgery and emailed my professors the news.

While administering doses of morphine or on assisted walks up and down the long, sterile halls, “Were your professors understanding?” was the first question my nurses asked when they found out I was a college student.

I was scared to go under the knife, but I would have been even more scared if I had learned I would have to repeat the semester afterward. My surgeon was experienced and highly-recommended. He showed up to my pre-op wearing the 3-piece suit and bravado of an older, bespectacled Tony Stark-played-by-Robert-Downey-Jr. Dr. K? He had hacked prodigious cysts out of a hundred women: I had complete confidence in him. But confidence in myself having the gumption to redo an entire semester? Not so much.

As you can guess, my surgery went well. And just like I told my nurses, my professors were understanding. I do not have to redo the semester. Looking at it from the other side, I can’t imagine why I, or anyone else, ever thought they would fail me because I had to go get my abdomen cut open, but that concern was so pervasive throughout the process that I got the feeling my professors might be exemplary in this respect—reasonable outliers in the ruthless world of undergraduate academia. The emails I got in reply from my professors were sympathetic and reassuring. Not once was I rushed, given a deadline or urged to do anything but get well soon. I received incompletes in my five classes, and that was that. I haven’t been pressured by them to do anything since. I am working on the remnants of my finals week at my own pace. It’s been slow-going, but I’ll get it done. I’m just glad I was given the chance to do it.

Thanks to my professors, I’m coming out of last semester with a rad scar and an average that will actually boost my GPA, not tank it.