Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Year Later

So yesterday marked the end of the cancer treatment phase where a virus (really, not a virus, it was a bacteria; there was some confusion there but it turned out to be the latter) was injected into me by means that reverse natural functions. A collection of different medical people did the deed, some of whom were more gifted than others.

Every Monday for the last six weeks, I have gone to the office of my health care provider, dropped trou and traded witty comments with folks—all women nurses—whose senses of humor were strangely missing. This may have to do with the chore they were performing. I do not imagine that there is much joy to be gained from it, at either the giving or receiving end.

My understanding is that whatever live little thingies were forced up my urethra went into pitched battle with the cancer cells.  Hopefully the former won and I will emerge from the experience a better man.  But I’m not sure yet. There are more tests scheduled for the future.

It’s been an interesting year. I was diagnosed with bladder cancer eleven months ago after a pretty long period where I complained almost monthly of recurring UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) and was given varying doses of antibiotics that seemed, at least temporarily, to do the trick.  

Then one morning, a fleeting expression crossed my GP’s face as she brought up the results of blood tests done the day before. “I’m going to send you to the urologist,” she said. The she smiled, hit Escape on the keyboard and the screen went blank.

It took three weeks to get an appointment, and two more before The Good Doctor there (TGD) did a cystology. This is not a fun test. Basically, a long tube with an attached camera is snaked up the urethra to inspect the area. I was lying down with a television screen overhead showing what the inside of my bladder looked like when I heard TGD says, “Uh ho.” He manipulated the camera and I clearly saw three small tumors, pale little raised things that obviously did not belong in my bladder.  Then TGD added, “I’m going to have to biopsy that…”

Silly me. I thought he could do it on the spot, maybe with a clever pair of little scissors attached to the snaky thing, snip-snip and we’re done, but no…

Another two weeks and I am in the pre-op room, needles and tubes coming out of the crook of my elbow and the back of my right hand. I am scared. In fact, I am downright terrified. Cancer runs in my family. My mother, my father and one of my half-sisters all had it. I am told by the anesthesiologist that the medical facility will not be responsible if my capped teeth are somehow dislodged during the procedure. I remember that when I was interning at a rehab for medical personnel, anesthesiologists were our prime clients. They have a high rate of addiction to the controlled substances they routinely handle; this does not inspire confidence. Will my guy maybe sneak a little toot before the procedure and forget to turn one of the valves on or off?  

I sign a form acknowledging that the facility is really not responsible for anything that may happen to me while in their care, up to and including death and I think this is beginning to appear less and less promising. TGD makes an appearance in full surgical gear and asks how I am feeling. Peachy keen, I say. He nods, “Good, good.”

Sometimes later I wake up. There is a catheter in me, attached to a bag that is strapped to my leg. My friend Paul drives me home, asks if I’m OK and I say yes, more or less. My innards hurt.

I have been given two bags into which my urine will drain, because my bladder has been poked and sliced and is in no shape to do its duty. There is a large home bag that holds, like, gallons, and a much smaller traveling bag good only for a couple of quarts. With this smaller attachment I am supposed to be able to go shopping, eat with friends, be social, but I am thinking I will never leave my house again, ever.

My entire body is sore; I feel just like I did after a motorcycle accident of years before. Joints and muscles and even bones are unhappy and complaining. Peeing—something I have admittedly taken for granted my entire life—is now excruciating.

Life is not good right now…



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