» I had a biopsy yesterday. (Sept 30) My first ever. They suk, so I am not looking forward to any more. The doc said he should have results back from the lab "by Friday or Monday."
So I find myself here in this particular existential no man's land .. represented by the 72 hours between biopsy and diagnosis.
If you have never had a biopsy, I dont want to spoil it for you. So I wont go into any great detail.
But I feel comfortable that most experienced people would concur that it generally "sucks".
For my biopsies he used three small needles and "one big needle". Into my neck. The visual that this paints, I admit, is not pleasant.
On the third small-needle [ after the first two were surprisingly no trouble ] .. on the third small-needle he "hit a vein" and got a little excited.
I did not have the balls to ask him » "Uh, you dont mean the carotid, do you?" .. but I was thinking it. =)
Dude, I tell him from the chair in which I am sitting, "I am starting to feel light-headed."
Now, when I said this, I thought I would be okay. I mean, I have never passed out like that before .. where you wake up on the floor, looking up at the ceiling ..
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.. "What is the ceiling doing there in front of me? How did THAT get there?"' ..
.. wondering what your doctor is doing in your bedroom .. until you realize that you are not in your bedroom .. or even in your bed.
This would be such a remarkably outstanding experience .. if it didnt suk so bad.
I am actually better today, compared to yesterday. I was a major space-cadet yesterday.
I also thought about writing about my experience AFTER I received the results back from the doctor (on Friday or Monday). But something about that speaks of chicken shit to me. It feels inauthentic.
Right now, during these 72 hours between biopsy and diagnosis, is a unique time for me .. when maybe I can learn some things about myself. It is during times of stress when our true colors come out. When they come to the fore.
Obviously, I would never wish such a predicament on myself or anyone, for that matter, and, like you, probably, I would gladly pay large sums of money to avoid this place where I now find myself .. if I had the money and if such a thing were possible.
But this is why I need to write now. So, in a way, I am really writing for myself. Because I can see that this topic is not the most gleeful.
Hey, sometimes you have to play the hand you're dealt.
Anyway, the doc said, "You stopped breathing for 15 seconds." Two nurses were standing in the doorway with an oxygen bottle, looking down on me. "How did they get there?" you wonder.
The last thing I remember was the doc blowing air in my face .. somewhat annoyingly, as tho trying to prevent me from entering the passed-out bliss that passing out promises you.
But as he blew that air in my face, I could see the end of the tunnel was coming rather quickly. The thought passed thru my mind, "Maybe I should lie down on the floor .. so I dont fall my ass out of this chair and crack my coconut."
But by then I could tell it was too late.
Passing the Fuck Out » A Rad First
Whoa. When I woke up .. that was a truly trippy experience.
When I finally realized that I had passed out .. I thought myself such the wuss .. specially after I just gave Julius shit about passing out (with a thud) while we were dissecting frogs in third grade.
But I have always had low blood pressure. So that is my excuse. I also had an empty stomach .. because I had no appetite yesterday .. as I prepared for my visit to his office (down in San Diego).
I had only eaten a banana before I left the house .. and that only because I *made* myself eat it. Even after the biopsy, I still had no appetite. At all.
But I had fixed myself a salad and some soup the previous day .. cause I figured that I wouldnt feel very much like cooking when I got home. (And I was right.)
Also, I skipped my usual coffee yesterday morning, cuz I didnt want to fuel the anxiety factor caused by the thought of several needles jabbing you repeatedly in the side of your neck .. not far from your carotid artery.
The doc went ahead and did the final large-needle biopsy while I was laying there on the floor. "I'm good," I told him. "I feel really good right now."
He said that he knew I would be okay as soon as he could get my head below my stomach.
After I woke on the floor .. I felt so relaxed, so peaceful, so rested, so tranquil. Almost giddy. Like I had slept for hours. In a downright joking mood. "I cant believe I passed out, but I feel great right now. Let's do this biopsy thing. I'm not scared."
That last large-needle biopsy hurt. Ouch. Just like the one where he hit the vein. That hurt, too.
So .. I am here in this particular existential no man's land between biopsy and diagnosis. I have another 36 hours or so. Tho if results dont come on Friday, that is likely to be one long weekend.
So far I have had an ultrasound and a CT scan of neck and chest. From the CT scan they told me that my lungs look good.
So it's not like the possibility of such a thing has never presented itself.
I felt brave enough to ask the doc about 'treatment'. He said a lot of things that I dont care to repeat. But I can tell you that none of the options sounded very pleasant.
When he first said the word 'lymphoma' .. I asked if that is life-threatening. He said, "Yes .. but it's manageable" .. whatever that means. I wanted to .. but was not brave enough to ask what 'manageable' meant.
.. how this brought him at a relatively young age (27? 28?) .. how that experience brought him to this place.
I will write more tomorrow, but right now it is late and I am tired. I seem to tire more easily these past few months.
When I asked the doc for his intuition .. he said » "Your symptoms are consistent with lymphoma."
Lymphoma .. what kind of word is that?
But there are things you wont do .. until Mr. Death starts talking to you.
I told him, "Dude, dont be getting your hopes up. You probably wanna have a seat. This might take a while. I will not go gently .. I can assure you."
No, I have never talked to Death before. New experiences. Almost everyday now.
Speaking of 'new experiences', remind me to tell you about my CT scan. On the order for the CT scan (from the doctor) that they told me to bring to the hospital with me .. they wrote » "With and without dye."
So I thought they were gonna have me gargle with some pink stuff (dye) .. or something like that.
No. That is NOT what they do. Rather, they set you up with an IV. "An I-V?!" I said.
Both mom and gramps were dead within months of their diagnosis. And it wasnt very pretty, either.
My mom got lung cancer after not having smoked for more than twenty years. She quit when she learned that smoking was bad for you.
There is a quote by Nietzsche that says (something like) » It is the long-term mind-fucking of relentless pain that really tests us.
I am starting to see the wisdom of that insight.
[[ This is not the quote that I am thinking of .. but it will give you some insight into what I am talking about »
Thanks to my long-suffering disposition, I have clinched my teeth and endured agony upon agony during the last few years, and at times it seems as if I had been born into the world for this and nothng else. I have paid tribute in the fullest measure to the philosophy that teaches this long-suffering. My neuralgia goes to work as thoroughly and scientifically as if it were trying to probe and find out what degree of pain I am able to endure, and 30 hours is required for each of these tests. I must count on a repetition of this research work every four or eight days ... But now the time has come that I can no longer endure it, and either I wish to live on in good health or not at all. A complete rest, mild air, long walks, a darkened room--all this I expect to find in Italy (.. from a letter to Richard Wagner, September 27, 1876, in The Nietzsche-Wagner Correspondence, ed. Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche, trans Caroline Kerr [New York: Liverright, 1949], p 288.]]
"Anxiety would be a normal response," a doctor told me, "for a person in your situation."
Tho there are also differences .. between jail and cancer.
Speaking of which .. remind me to discuss the effects of long-term stress on the human body.
My doctor .. do you know that feeling you get when somebody really knows wtf they're doing? He gives me that feeling. Later I may expound on why I feel this way.
But I actually thought he was gonna do the biopsy last week. I saw him Monday the 22nd of Sept. But he only examined me then.
So I've had this biopsy on my mind for while now.
He stuck this scope-thingie up my sinuses. He says, "It's no big deal. We do this to kids all the time. But I will spray a numbing solution up there anyway."
Dude, I think he sprayed a cocaine solution up my nose .. because I was feeling good after that. Very good. Nigh unto bulletproof.
When I was laying there on the floor yesterday .. confused about how I had gotten there .. the thought ran thru my mind » "Hey, can you spray some more of that stuff up my nose?"
But I thought better of it.
The doc (a real fucking surgeon who grew up in Long Island) said » "I need you to keep talking to me .. about anything .. while I do these other things .. so I know that you havent passed back out and stopped breathing again."
I *love* to be around people who know wtf they are doing .. even if it means they are jabbing me in the neck with needles, repeatedly.
The doctor actually reminds me of my Writing professor at F&M. Dude, he *narrates* to you what he is doing and why he is doing it. That feeling of competence .. ah, so good.
When the ORSE team comes from Washington to your nuclear submarine in Guam .. in order to SHOW THEM that you know wtf you are doing when you operate a military reactor plant ..
.. I would do this too. For example, when I would add a chemical reagent to a sample of boiler water or reactor water .. while running a daily chemisty sample ..
.. I would say » "Now I am adding two milliliters of such-n-such .. which does such-n-such." And I would make sure that I knew everything about everything .. down to the gnat's eyeball.
But this doctor, this surgeon, he has a most impressive skill set. I mean, he is able to help people down at a level where the rubber meets the road .. the sometimes ugly road that life can be.
He totally impresses the fuck out of me. I mean, I don't think I could do what he does. I do not know and have not asked but I would expect he is tempted to feel discouraged because few people truly understand the depth of his skill set.
After mom died of cancer .. my brother was planning to go into Oncology .. but other doctors in the family advised him against it, saying, "It's a depressing profession .. most all your patients die."
Bro said that the best hospitals are near the largest, deadliest population centers .. cuz that is where you are going to get the best experience.
My biopsy doctor/surgeon, on the other hand, did his residency at Baylor (2 years).
Last week when I saw him .. when he examined me and sprayed the happy numbing solution up my sinuses .. when he finished examining me ..
.. he said » "I'm not seeing any signs of head or neck cancer."
Me .. looking for ANY good news I can get, said » "That's a *good* thing, right?"
He said » "Well, if you gave me a choice betwen head-n-neck cancer and lymphoma .. I would choose lymphoma every time."
Believe it or not .. that actually made me feel better. Not much, but a little.
"Lovely," I thought.
To be continued .. this entry remains a » work-in-progress .. tho, not for long.
Update Thursday Oct 2, 2014 » The Call came today .. this afternoon. Uh, I was not ready for that. He wasnt supposed to call until tomorrow (Friday).
I am not ready to get into details .. seeing that I am still fairly rocked .. but he started by saying, "I dont have good news."
The anxiety that accompanies such a call .. is rather exquisite. Death started talking to me, saying » "Your ass is mine now, bitch. Time to sharpen my sickle."
Seemed like he (Death) was following me around the house and wouldnt shut up.
(Back-story history) Three months ago, when I went to the dentist for a weird tooth-like problem that would not go away for a month .. my dentist said, "You need to go see a doctor *today* (about this swollen lymph gland) because this is not a tooth problem."
The doctor who I saw that day (my friend's doctor) said, "Maybe this tooth problem will turn out to be a serendipitous thing." .. meaning that it might call attention to a bigger problem that might've otherwise gone unnoticed.
He was the one who first said that I needed a biopsy "today".
So that was the day that my seemingly simple tooth problem became life-threatening.
So .. today is the day that a trained medical professional told me that I have cancer.
How do I feel? I was actually feeling pretty good untll I got that call. But it definitely rocks your world. It sends you looking for your center of gravity.
Most noticeable however .. is that .. those things that seemed important 10 minutes before the call .. no longer seem important.
My mouth and throat got very dry .. like I couldnt drink enough water. But I honestly dont feel scared.
I am very much thinking about Dostoevsky's death sentence. Hemingway said that » Dostoevsky was MADE by being sent to Siberia. Writers are forged in injustice, as a sword is forged." [ Green Hills of Africa, p 71, 1935 ]
And certainly there is some truth to that .. but I would (now) argue that » Dostoevsky was "made" when he got his death sentence.
There are things .. that I have looked at many, many times .. for many years .. but that I didnt see the light of/on .. until after that call came .. as tho I suddenly see things more clearly.
The thought came to me » "How did I not see that before. It seems so obvious."
Does it take a death sentence? .. for me to see the light on things? To see the obvious more clearly.
Samuel Johnson said (383) » "When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it clears his mind wonderfully."
It shouldnt have to .. I would argue. But maybe for somebody like me .. who learns things differently .. perhaps this is what it takes.
A death sentence has a way of stripping away the varnish.
But I am still alive. So dont count me out just yet. And I do not fear death. "Where is your sting, bitch?"
But .. this diagnosis was the one thing that we really didnt want to hear. It was so bad that we didnt even talk about it. Beyond lymphoma.
"What is 'beyond lymphoma'?" you ask?
Where I come from we have a saying » "The shit is on."
The shit is on for real. In a big way. In a life-threatening sort of way. This will be fun. Certainly more fun than I expected.
I can feel something inside me .. that wants to write an entry titled » Dostevsky's Death Sentence (and the effect it had on him).
Everybody agrees that it had a HUGE effect on him. I mean, how could it not?
Good thing I wrote that yesterday .. because, if I had waited 'til today .. I dont think I would have been able.
» Egan Rocks
I love Egan. He gets it. I read his piece on Hemingway several times thru-out the day. Whenever the anxiety of my situation would rise to a fevered pitched, that piece would distract me enough to take the edge off.
Whenever I really like a writer, I research them a little. Where they come from, etc.
Even seeing it, it is still hard to believe. So when I saw that Egan had written a book about the dust bowl .. well before Ken Burns began his documentary .. that gave me respect for Egan.
Because it's not a pretty story, but definitely one that obviously needs telling.
Egan has a Pulitzer and a National Book Award. He is the real deal and he made me feel better today. I lived in the Seattle area for two years.
In keeping with the tenets of web site optimization, today's entry has been broken into TWO PAGES. The next page is posted here » The Existential No Man's Land Between Biopsy & Diagnosis - Part 2/2.
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