"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Adaptability
January 31, 2012


It’s been a hell of a day. Actually, it’s been a hell of a week – and, it’s only Tuesday!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve had a cyst that has been causing me some discomfort. I first suffered with it in Hong Kong, some years back, but it responded to treatment and stopped being an issue. The doctor offered to remove it then, but I was simply too afraid to do so unless it was absolutely necessary.

However, the cyst flared up again before Christmas and became far more painful than ever. The doctor treated the infection with antibiotics, which only eased the discomfort somewhat. But, the golf ball sized lump on my back remained.

So on Monday morning, after flying back from Adelaide, I went to my GP to discuss the options. An hour later I was in the offices of a top surgeon setting up a time for an operation to remove the cyst and surrounding infection. The surgeon was very professional and reassuring.

I’ve been to plenty of hospitals in recent years (though most had cafes and gift shops near their entrance, rather than bank branches and rows of ATMs). However, all those visits were to see family or friends. The last time I was hospital myself, the former Soviet Union had not yet invaded Afghanistan and Australia’s national anthem was still God Save The Queen!

This morning, after what was a less than restful night’s sleep, I made my way to the operating clinic. I knew the location well, because the high rise building that housed the medical centre is adjacent to one of my favourite luxury shopping malls. I guess I’ve lived in Asia for long enough to not be shocked by that kind of a juxtaposition.

I was given the choice of a local or general anaesthetic and chose to stay awake for the operation. This gave me the rare chance to talk to the surgeon while he cut me open – which, to honest, is every bit as inspiring and gruesome as it sounds. I have a wonderfully deep appreciation for what the doctor did for me, but I also experienced a range of sensations and overheard a few conversations that I am not keen to share with anyone right now.

That said, the most odd experience of all was feeling myself slip into emotional shock towards the end of the procedure. The surgeon talked me through it and all the staff were wonderful. But, in the recovery room I had a pretty bad case of the shakes and the flickering lights in the corner of the room put me in a mood reminiscent of a David Lynch film.

As is the way with these things nowadays, I was dressed an on my way in time for lunch, still reeling from the experience. In fact, I managed to make it to my daughter’s basketball game late in the afternoon. Her team lost, but just being there to see play was a wonderfully life affirming thing.

I also felt very blessed to see so many messages of support and encouragement come through from family and friends.

I’d love to be able to say the experience has given me some great epiphany into the meaning of life. Certainly I was shivering on the operating table wondering what the significance of this day would be. I’m not sure what to say though, my ailment was so minor compared to the things many people go through.

It was late evening before I picked up a guitar and played something. Although my timing was rough (a generous soul might describe it as nervous) the notes rang out true and full. Pretty soon I was playing fearlessly and enjoying not feeling the tightness that had been inhibiting me in recent weeks.

Back when the cyst first flared up, a few years ago, I had been reading a lot about the role fear plays in the lives of many musicians. I joked at the time that the cyst was a reservoir of fear built up in my left shoulder from playing in judgmental musical contexts.

Today, I’m not laughing at that joke. I’m not saying the cyst was caused by fear (that’s not my worldview). But, dealing with this cyst meant confronting some pretty strong fears.

And, in the end, the artistic and creative life is largely about naming and facing our fears, whether they be harshly judgemental critics of our music, or the number of things that can and do go wrong with our bodies.

Jeff Shattuck 12 years ago

Wow, I had no idea you were going through something so uncomfortable. I saw “cyst” and I envisioned a little pimple or something! Glad you’re doing better and that the procedure went well.

Alicia Kan 12 years ago

Bravo on having local! I insist on being knocked out for every procedure. In fact I told the oral surgeon who took out my wisdom teeth last month that I’ve been known to punch doctors in the face if they don’t give me enough anesthesia. Glad you made it through, you’ve conquered your fears and the experience has brought a new dimension to your music.

Javier I. Sampedro 12 years ago

Good to know everything went well and hoping next time you visit hospital is just not for yourself. That makes me think about the last time I was there for a surgery, I think it was around 25 years ago.

Hope you continue with normal life and enjoying the life in Singapore for longer 🙂

Kasia 12 years ago

Feel the fear and do it anyway is a great way to live life and really in all honesty probably the only way we really can live our life. Nice thoughtful sharing here Fernando, very glad for you the cyst has been removed without complication.
P.S. Big fan of David Lynch btw, so it’s not hard to imagine your recovery ‘scene’

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Kasia – thank you for the way you put that. Yes, it was a wonderfully Twin Peaks moment. That first laugh, after an experience like that, is so precious.

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Javier – thanks man. The last time I was on a basketball court, I couldn’t even throw a simple two handed layup, so I look forward to being able to enjoy life properly again.

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Alicia – I’m not sure they hand out bravery medals in the operating room, but thanks! Actually, it was kind of a haunting experience. But, I’m glad to have gone ahead and done it given the discomfort I was in.

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Jeff – I added a line to the post, to mention the size of the cyst. Compared to what many people go through, like the operation my father had last year, it was just a pimple. Still, I’m glad to be rid of the thing.

gweipo 12 years ago

Actually you’re probably not wrong about it holding your stress and fear – Tim Parks wrote an interesting book about his experiences with prostrate nerve problems that were only resolved by learning to relax and meditate which casts a very interesting light on the mind/body thing.

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Gweipo – I guess it was my rational side not wanting make a claim I couldn’t back up with “evidence.” But, in my gut, I’m pretty convinced about the holding stress and fear thing. Thank you for the encouragement – I will look out for that Tim Parks book (Teach Us to Sit Still: A Skeptic’s Search for Health and Healing).

mochachocolatarita 12 years ago

Glad to know that you’ve dealt with the cyst and it’s well taken care of.

Listening to the medical team’s conversations (even for just a moment before I was knocked out) makes me ultra nervous, thanks to watching too much medical drama series. I always choose to be asleep whenever possible (too bad I couldn’t stay asleep for lasik ^_^’).

In a way, it reflects my fear of facing my fears…

Ricardo Gros 12 years ago

Fernando: Having lunch with some friends in the medical game and i mentioned how you had decided to have a local only. Her response was smart guy, they are a lot more careful when they know you are awake !!! (you may have a different view)

Which i think may be a bit of an industry inside joke but may be with an element of something ??? in any case it made me think twice about my preference to be fully out !!

I’m not sure if i admire your courage in this occasion but may be it was a smart thing to do … i thought i would share a different perspective!

Sometimes we have to try to see the funny side.

Toni 12 years ago

It’s quite an odd sensation being awake for an operation. In the UK it’s normal to use local for a vasectomy, and I still remember the sensations of being opened up, the vas being pulled out and the smell from the cauterizing iron. But I’m sure it would make a surgeon somewhat more careful in the way they handle you.

Your comments about fear and music are also quite apt. With the changes to our church I am no longer having to work with someone who seemed to not want me there, did not like what I did and even asked me not to sing when I played. There came a point where it felt like there was no music left in my hands, and I came close a couple of times to just selling all the guitars and packing up. Things are starting to rebuild now.

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Rita – thanks. I had a few medical drama flashbacks as well.

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Ricardo – I had hoped they would be more careful, although I did trust the surgeon. Also, the reality is that when you are out, you sign away a lot of responsibility in case something goes wrong.

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Toni – I’ve had that feeling of my music drying up as well.

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