Monday, December 12, 2011

Cancer, Round 2

Bout Two was worse than Bout One, though I had been told it would be far less intrusive or painful. In fact it was the opposite—more hurt and a wider area affected—and today, after having the catheter removed, I am feeling as close to normal as I could hope for.

This time around the pain rolled through in waves of three, starting with a faint urgency that would build in seconds to an all-pervasive throbbing lasting close to a minute. It felt as if some giant dark flower was forcefully blossoming inside me, taking up all the vacant space that might exist in the middle of my body. Then, after a while, the petals would close to form a tight, round ball of discomfort waiting for its next bloom.

Ha! This is as close to lyrical as I’m allowing myself.

As usual, my friends came through. You know who you are and I love you for caring.

No great epiphanies this time around. Pain hurts. Cancer sucks. Doctors and nurses do their best, I am sure, but their necessarily dispassionate behaviors are not reassuring and don’t allay patients’ fears. Telling a man in pain that he should relax is largely ineffective, which I think would have been realized by now after a couple of millennia of care-giving.
It was fascinating to watch what was nothing short of a medical assembly line that would have made Henry Ford proud: booties and hairnet, check; IV, check; anesthesiologist pep talk, check. Then it’s being wheeled to the OR with the attending nurses making jolly about bad driving. When the surgeon asked how I felt, I said, “Scared.” He responded with, “I am here,” a strangely Lafayettish comment, I thought at the time.

I had to explain on seven different occasions (I counted) why I did not want narcotic or opiate pain killers, and I was lectured by one nurse on why I was wrong. I stuck to my guns and relied on Tylenol rather than the oxycodone they wanted to give me.  No courage there—I am terrified of getting re-addicted to pharmaceuticals, and my fear leaves no margin for error.

Today, as I was disrobing, the attending nurse said, “Here, you can cover yourself with this.”  She gave me a paper pillowcase.

More to come.

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