Monday, April 11, 2016

Rats and Shakespeare

Rats. I had told myself I wouldn’t write about medical stuff for a while, but after spending a little too much time at the lab giving bodily fluids, tomorrow’s surgical procedure is on my mind.

Today I will sweep the kitchen stoop, dust bookshelves, and vacuum the living room and under the bed where there’s enough discarded fur to make a spare cat. I will empty the trash; scrub out the toilet bowl and Ajax the sink. I will do laundry and shove clean clothes in the appropriate drawers. I will find things to read, or more likely reread.

My small cleaning frenzy is ridiculous and necessary.  Call it the clean-underwear-in-case-of-an-accident syndrome. On the very off-chance of an unfortunate event during surgery, I want to make sure my home is presentable. This is something handed down from mother to son, a ceremony performed prior to each procedure. As a familiar ritual, it has proven successful.  If I clean the house thoroughly, I will return to it healthy and enjoy it.

A friend has promised to come and bake things so the place will smell good. We have decided on potatoes because having not eaten for a while, I will be hungry.

I remain scared and the fright angers me. There’s a small ball of dark anticipation in the pit of my stomach. I hate the depersonalized medicine practiced these days. There will be a host of anonymous nurses and aides and surgeons asking the same question over and over and not listening to my answers. I will tell an indifferent anesthesiologist that I metabolize drugs more rapidly than most patients he’s encountered. I will say I would rather not wake up in the middle of the surgery, as has happened twice before when I was not dosed properly. A couple of year ago, I got into an argument with the anesthesiologist who told me it was all in my mind. I said no, it’s all in my liver, the organ that deals with handling drugs of all kinds and, in my case, goes through substances like a house afire. It was a fruitless argument. She took notes, shook her head and walked off. I abhor the entire process—the IVs in my left hand, the heart monitor, the tube in my throat, the catheter, and mostly that horrendous feeling of What Has Just Happened?  that surfaces as the anesthetic wears off. I am having a difficult time keeping a tenuous hold on gratitude.  All this is meant to heal, not harm.

Every time I go through this, I feel a little less human afterwards, a lot less attractive and capable, a tad less confident and sure of myself in all areas of my life. There’s a sense of not being whole and am I persuaded it shows.  This recurring mini-drama is getting boring to one and all. A friend recently pointed out that after all the surgical episodes, I may be losing optimism about the eventual outcome of all this.  I suspect there is more truth to this than I want to admit.

I will leave the clinic in a haze, hardly remembering what the surgeon has told me post-op.  I am also likely to say stupid things as the anesthetic fully wears off, to the great glee of the friends driving me home.

Goodness! Have to remember to empty the bathroom wastebasket; not doing so would invalidate the entire ritual!  And what’s this? A tomato-paste stain from the last time I made pasta. Out! Damned spot! Out, I say! Yes, I’ve been spending time with a Shakespearean actor. (In French, it’s considered inelegant to quote Molière. In English, it’s Shakespeare…)

The good part is that by this time next week, thing will be fine. I  know the associated discomfort of chemo and can live with that easily.

By this time next week, everything will be back to normal and there will be no need to write about this for a while. That will be very good.





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