Sunday, September 30, 2007

Eve of a Biopsy

Eve of a Biopsy

Tomorrow morning I’m having a biopsy done. My uterine lining has thickened when it should have thinned. I’ve been feeling lousy for a couple of months, so something must be going on down there. I haven’t been privy to the information, however. A teenaged gyn is going to have to tell me. Odd, isn’t it? That so often we are the last to know exactly what is happening in our own bodies. There are ultra sound techs, radiologists, pathologists, nurses, and doctors who all get the news before we do. They’ll take a sample of the tissue tomorrow, but it will still be days before I know the result. Maybe another whole week will go by.

I wouldn’t mind waiting if it weren’t for the inevitable mind games. Because I haven’t been feeling well, I don’t tell myself, “Shoot, it won’t be anything.” I want there to be some information out of all of this-information that will lead to my feeling better.

I also say, “You know that this will at least mean a hysterectomy, so there will be _ _ _ _ _time out for surgery and recovery." Then, there is the, “Oh God, what if they want me to go through radiation and chemo, and my hair falls out and I’m sick all the time for months? In and out of various medical venues, shlepping around? Ycch.”

The fatalist in me gets some prime time, too. “You have cancer everywhere, dear, and will be dead in six weeks, tops.” If I follow that thought path for more than a few seconds, I can actually get cheerful about it. You know, thoughts of spending the money set aside for older age on a fabulous cruise and flamboyant living. That’s tricky, though. For that line of perusal to work, I have to be feeling good for the duration of the “living in the lap of luxury,” portion of life left to me. I want to be looking my best, too, as I cruise the Aegean or the Scandinavian fjords.

Okay, I think-I’ll just stock up on painkillers and symptom relievers so that I’ll feel fine while dying. Oh. Shit. I didn’t mean to actually write that. Silly me. Of course, it won’t come to that. Of course the biopsy will indicate an annoying course of life-saving measures that will assure me my old age allotment. Which is what we are supposed to want, right? Long life at all costs? At all costs? All costs?

Must I think that is what I want? Will the health police shackle me to an IV pole if I politely refuse to pursue the dream of a healthy, happy old age, via a miserable, indeterminate time of abominable, noxious, treatment? I don’t have children to worry about or worry. And honestly, I can’t love the people I love any more or in a better fashion than I already do, so I’ve clear-sailing, conscience-wise, as far as they go.

I wonder if the thoughts I’m having about it all are quite normal. My inclination is to think that people do think this way on the eve of a biopsy. Never mind how foolish I’ll feel when I get the news, as I surely will, “Oh, nothing to worry about-just a little this or that. Take two aspirin and see me again in three weeks, but please don’t call.”

If they say the other thing, will I have the courage to beg off treatment? Even if the odds are bad, I think we are all expected to say, “Yes, doctor. Do with me what you will.”
I might much rather say, “Right. I’ll just take a prescription or two, get them filled, and enjoy a wonderful change of season. Autumn can be so beautiful.”

I’m kind of curious about what might be beyond the veil of this life. I can’t conceive of emptiness, so I’m really not expecting it. I can’t imagine myself not being, so I’m not afraid of that. I’m dead certain that if we are all indeed going through some kind of preliminaries, the Main Event will be well-worth the training, the waiting, the practise, and that those flashes of brilliance we've all experienced, however briefly, are trailers for the brilliance that is to come.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

It's the stupidity, stupid!

I'm not talking politics. I'm talking politicians. Haven't they caught on that public figures are under 24/7 surveillance, so to speak? That they are a gazillion people out there just waiting to get "the scoop" on someone doing something? Did Bill Clinton think that La Monica would not talk? What woman that age (any age?) would not talk about being with the Prez? And even if Craig had not waved at an undercover agent, how did he know it wasn't Bob Woodward or someone much sleazier, journalism-wise, in the next stall? I don't care, and I'm not just saying that, what gets people off, unless it's violent, involves children, or animals, but I can't believe these people take such dumb chances, and that the revelations about them won't be instantly available. Well, I can believe it, but Jeez Louise!

Remember in Woody Allen's "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, and (or was it but?)  Were Afraid to Ask? There was a couple who couldn't do it, unless they were in a super-risky public place? Wasn't it the woman who had that particular hot button? Maybe that's the problem with these guys? Dunno. Whatdayathink?

Trust Me

Of course I parked on the opposite side of the hospital from where I needed to go. There are two of them in this town, and I’ve learned to factor in time for getting lost when I time my arrival for a test. I can’t keep the layouts straight, and I’m rather glad is hasn’t gotten to the point where I have mental blueprints of our local hospital designs in my memory bank. I don’t care to know my way around them. If I make it to sixty without becoming that familiar with them, I won’t complain.

An indoor mile or so later, I arrived where I was supposed to for a “solid phase gastric emptying study.” I showed my picture ID and insurance card to two window people then sat in a small waiting room. I had just enough time to write down the names and dosages of my meds, which I’d dumped in a tote before leaving my house. They always want a list of meds, and I always forget to write one out the night before. Well, I need to have some non-compliance. After all, I’ve conceded to the point where I keep a bag in my closet, packed with an extra toothbrush, pajama bottoms, etc., in case my heart goes wonky enough to need a sudden ER trip. I think that’s a fairly strong admission of guilt regarding my health.

Just as, my list dutifully finished, I was sneaking out of the waiting room to find a Ladies, a young man with remarkably red hair called my name. I followed him and he, Michael, let me use the lab restroom before beginning the test. Soon enough I was sitting where he told me to sit.

“Did you take a pregnancy test,”Michael asked.
“I don’t know. Don’t you? I went and got the lab work done that Dr. Evans ordered.”
“Did they do a pregnancy test?”
“Maybe. They took blood and urine, so they probably did.”
“I need to see documentation.”
“I don’t have any. They didn’t give me anything.”
“You could have asked them.” He looked upset.
“No one told me to ask and anyway I couldn’t possibly be pregnant.”
“I need documentation that you are not pregnant if you are under sixty.”
“Trust me, if there were any chance, I wouldn’t lie about it. I might even put the news on the front page of the Herald Tribune.”

I like red hair, and his was a beautiful sugar-maple-in-Vermont color, but I don’t envy redheads their complexions. His neck and face were getting blotchy from annoyance with me. A woman, my age, sitting on a stool at a long counter, turned to us.

“Let her sign the waiver, Michael. You won’t get in trouble. She’s not pregnant.”
“Yes. Let me sign the waiver. I’m quite sure I know the facts of life-it’ll be fine.”

The woman smirked and went back to her paperwork.

The unsmiling tech handed me the paper, which he had ready on his clipboard (I suspected I wasn’t the first woman to arrive for this test without proof that she wasn’t pregnant) and I signed, my conscience clear.

He pointed to a paper towel covering a lump that was sitting on a side table which was covered with more paper towels.

“Underneath this towel are some scrambled eggs, with just a tiny bit of nuclear material mixed in with them. You won’t even taste it. What we’ll do is, you’ll eat the eggs and then lie under a machine and we’ll film their progress through your system for ninety minutes. Now when you eat the eggs, please be careful that you don’t spill any on the table, the floor or your clothes, because then the radioactive material will get spilled, too. Uh, it's best if you lean right over the bowl while you're eating." Michael's smile flashed briefly. "Ready?”

“Yes. Sure.”

With that he quickly slid the table in front of me, waited while I covered myself with napkins as he directed, and whisked the paper towel off a little Styrofoam bowl. Michael disappeared as soon as he exposed the eggs. Salt and pepper packets sat next to the bowl. They glowed intensely yellow, but I ate them, without seasoning. After all, I wasn’t having a meal, really, was I?

Michael, somewhere out of sight, called out asking me if the eggs were gone, and when I shouted my assent, he came back and directd me to lie on a narrow table. He covered me with a thin blanket against the sixty-five degree room temperature and left me under the nuclear scanner for an hour and a half. Not a bad test, really. I dozed, and even had a radioactive dream.

Hopefully they’ll find that the eggs followed the usual routine in leaving my stomach, without being held up by a nasty obstruction, and I’ll be able to wait in peace two more weeks until they do the biopsy of my uterine lining. It’s gotten thick, you see, and it shouldn’t have. I’ve done with the child-bearing part of my life. Honest. I’m not pregnant.