Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Tales of the Bad Bladder
When in doubt, write. And since right now I am in doubt, anxiety, denial and anger, all bleeding into a fearful marmalade, writing seems like a safe venue.
Dr. K’s verdict this morning was of the good news/bad news variety. Yes, both tumors excised from my bladder were cancerous, but worse, one of them was a High Grade lesion, a sort of aggressive abnormality that may already have invaded nearby tissue. This translates to another bout of surgery in six or so weeks, under full anesthesia. Dr. K will take small plugs of tissue which the lab will biopsy. If I am invasion free, it will threaten to be a good Christmas. If not, more cutting, more manipulation of tiny blowtorches to cauterize internal wounds.
All in all, there are better ways to spend a cheerless, rainy day. We are on the cusp of autumn and the first leaves are painting the sidewalks with random colors. In his third floor office, Dr. K, a large but not genial man, has explained to me the ramifications of what has already been found. He is not an emotional person, and when I am first to use the word ‘cancer,’ he dismisses it as uninformative. “It’s all cancer,” he says. Dr. K, I suspect, is by the very nature of his profession a daily bearer of bad news. Is there ever good news to tell the patients whose innards need fixing? And so he uses a tone of voice remindful of an economics professor I once had at Georgetown explaining guns and butter to a listless class. “Do you understand what I am telling you?” he asks. I nod dumbly. I think I do but will probably need a few minutes to take in all this new information. I understand that my body, of which I have been taking increasingly good care, is betraying me. Cells are taking over other cells, replicating as with a mind of their own. He gives me an illustrated pamphlet, Understanding Bladder Cancer. The cover has an elderly couple walking hand in hand in cane. Dr. K shows me what may be happening inside me, underlines specific words, tells me of a treatment that originated in France (and therefore must be exceptional) that will be used to boost my immune system and fight off the bad guys. I get my prescriptions at the pharmacy, including a bottle of small pills that will turn my urine a jovial shade of red. I am somehow cheered by this; it’s just in time for the holiday season.
I sit in my car in the parking lot and the small joy derived from peeing a primary color vanishes. It strikes me that I do not want to share all this new information with the people who care for me and for whom I have feelings. After a bit of soul-searching, I find a strange philosophical equation forming in my mind. Divulging the information will cause sadness in others. I am ashamed of causing sadness. It is easier to stay silent. But of course, it isn’t. In the end I spill the beans, all the while thinking I do not want to be responsible for anyone’s discomfort.
It’s raining; the skies are low and uniformly grey. A bus disgorges passengers who look at their feet as they alight; there are puddles to avoid.
Fark. It’s gonna be a long six weeks.