Wednesday, September 26, 2012

One Year Later, Part II

It took a couple of weeks for the biopsy results to come in, and one of those weeks I spent with a catheter, a medical imposition that can make life… interesting. Those of heightened sensitivities should probably stop reading here. Bluntly put, a catheter’s job is simple. It serves to give your bladder a rest and empty it as quickly as one fills it with liquid. I’ll simply say that it is amazing the amount of liquids one’s body discards in a matter of hours. It’s an ongoing process which seems to be unrelated to the amount one drinks, a sort of physical conundrum I have yet to figure out.

The biopsy results came back in two weeks and they were positive. The tumors were cancerous and would need to be removed. Not a particularly demanding operation, I was told, but one that would require going under once again. TGD (The Good Doctor) refused to use the word ‘cancer,’ I noticed. I found this odd and mentioned it to the psychiatrist my HMO had sent me to when the diagnosis was made. That doctor shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe he has an aversion to the word.”

Between diagnosis and surgery, I went through a deep depression which segued to anger, then to resignation. Bladder cancer is highly survivable (even though my oldest sister died from it), and if caught in time can be fully resolved. But still. Cancer is such an evil word. One out of two men in the United States will have a bout with it, and one in four men will die from it. I spoke about it to friends and noticed that some shied away. Initially, that mystified me, and in time I came to understand and justify their actions as fear of death by contagion. Never mind that cancer is not catching; I think somewhere in our reptile brain a few cells have ancient memories of plague, of leprosy, of deadly epidemics and cancer, in our times, is just that.

The second surgery was rougher than the first. More scraping, more serious discomfort. I had been given prescriptions for painkillers but my history is not good when it comes to addictive substances, so I kept the Vicodan in the back of the medicine cabinet and, in the end, never took any.  A few friends came to visit but I wasn’t particularly amicable. I wrote, I read, I watched bad television and all the seasons of The Wire and The Sopranos. I meandered around eBay and looked up cars I couldn’t afford and cars I once could afford. I got angrier. In time I came to terms that whatever was happening to me was small potatoes in the universal sense, even if it was trĂ©s grosse pomme de terre in my very small universe.

Three weeks later I received a phone call from TGD (The Good Doctor) that I was now cancer-free. The relief was enormous.

Three months after that, a routine post-op check-up discovered  I no longer was. There had been a recurrence, TGD told me, but it was hardly worth mentioning, just a small anomaly, an annoyance at best.  Still, it would require another surgical episode.

Once out and healed, I underwent six treatments of chemotherapy.

On October 29, I’ll be checked again. Right now there is neither fear nor optimism. It will be what it will be, and for the moment, that’s OK.

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