surgery & sarcasm

Bee's picture
Thu, 06/02/2011 - 02:07 -- Bee

For those keeping score at home, my visit with the surgeon happened earlier this week.

The first puzzle of the appointment occurred when I asserted that I am allergic, or otherwise opposed, to pain medication.

The doctor seemed quite concerned, and suggested various options as I stared quizzically before halting the debate with the comment "Really, it will be fine. This stuff isn't what i would call 'pain.' I've had worse. It won't bother me."

This kind of statement always makes people uncomfortable, but fine - on to the question of surgical dressings, where, once again, severe allergies complicate otherwise normal proceedings. The surgeon rifled through possibilities and I listened for a bit then asked "But I don't really need them, do I?"

He put down his pen and stared at me. "Ah. Well. there will be a certain amount of. . . seepage."

I shrugged, and said "Listen, I don't know if you have my complete medical files, but I can assure you this delicacy is really not necessary. At the height of the cancer years I would have a couple dozen biopsies in the morning and go straight back to school. No dressing, no pain medication, sometimes not even local anaesthesia. Honest. Skin cancer was, and remains, the least of my troubles."

My variety of full disclosure is rarely favoured by, oh, anyone, and this doctor doesn't know me at all so I continued. "Really. I was never coddled, not for a second. My mother took the position that the genetic disorder would be a fixed feature of my life so I needed to learn to live with it. And by that, she meant live, not convalesce."

For this, of course, I thank my mother every day, whether she knows it or not.

The doctor blinked and replied "Quite sensible, really. Probably the only way to look at it. Though very unusual."

Shrug. What is the alternative? For me, cancer is just an irritating permanent characteristic. Like my cowlick, or the fact that one foot is half a size smaller than the other. On a simple biological level I do not have the option of being anything other than what I am, so there is no point worrying about it.

Though I was referred to this surgeon specifically because of the bits of nonsense on my face, and I was hoping he would give a brusque all-clear. But no.

Much to my chagrin he verified that I need the biopsies, and if they are positive "it will all have to go" - meaning sections of my lip or chin. Though he, like me, thinks the thing on my lip is benign, and anyway "that will be the least severe scar." My history simply precludes hoping for the best. Heavy sigh.

This was all predictable, if not desirable. The only surprise? Upon examination (my directions included a vague wave toward my back with the comment "there have been a couple hundred where I can't see them") he agreed with the other specialist about two suspicious lesions. And then he found at least four more that fall in the category definitely cancer though we won't say so until the histology report comes back.

I thanked the very nice man for his time, assembled my gear, and walked out through the lobby waving my arms like an orchestra conductor and chanting "Cancer, cancer, cancer, cancer, I'm such a lucky girl."

The patients and visitors in the lobby did not appreciate this display of high spirits.

On the train home I was exhausted and morose and Byron (always so attentive) asked what was wrong.

"Um. I'm riddled with cancer!"

He grabbed my phone and started to snap photographs as he said "So what? You've always been riddled with cancer!"

True. And how awesome is it that I have friends who make me laugh?


bitch-face's picture
Submitted by bitch-face on

wonderful read. Speaking about this exact thing to my mom (who is mostly in remission)and I made a point to come back and reread your entry. In life, funny friends are a must.

lilashakti's picture
Submitted by lilashakti on

thank you for writing what you did.

i respect you, your words, and the way you live, a lot.