Biopsy: The Waiting...

I am in the suspended time between being frightened and knowing whether I should be really frightened.
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The suspense is not killing me but it is interesting to see how all this is playing out over time. Last week, I was going for the routine yearly annoying but boring mammogram. This week I have been in day surgery, had a long wire inserted in a body part, been radiographed until I am sure I am glowing, though they assure me not, and finally been told to go home and wait for a telephone call tomorrow. A telephone call! Somehow I think that is pretty crude, but then what insurance company will pay for an office visit to "talk?"

So I am in the suspended time between being frightened and knowing whether I should be really frightened. Cancer is not something I really want to think about right now but here is the possibility and then again, there is the possibility I am over reacting, like I did when I left town before the impending hurricane last year. Nothing happened here because the darn thing turned and maybe this will be the same. Who knows?

The pathologist presumably knows or will know by late this afternoon; too late for a call. He or she will read the slides made from my "stuff" and will spend, what, maybe five minutes, looking around that minute universe for stray terrorist cells. Cells that a week ago, no one knew I might have.
Might is the operative word. Maybe.

On the strength of maybe, I weekended with my inner most fears, ate nothing after mid-night Sunday and got a friend to drop me off at the door of the ambulatory surgery clinic. I live not far from a major, major university medicalcenter. Their new ambulatory clinic looks like a corporate architect was given the wrong assignment and too much money. I wondered at the marble and glass and soft carpet. The lighting was beautiful and the sweep of the check-in counter probably cost a couple acres of some endangered rain forest.

I was checked in with a bar coded bracelet and sent out to wait for a van to take me back across the street to mammography, at the older clinic building. I had been there for a whole day last week. I knew it well. Same routine, put on the gown, bag the clothes, sit here, wait. But this time there was a more delicate procedure to look forward to, the dreaded guide wire. A very nice German resident or fellow whom I had seen last week, came in and actually stayed with me for the more excruciating parts. These involved compression and needles at the same time you are reclining on your side with your elbows covering your face and your handsreaching for something to hold onto that isn¹t there. Try making conversation while doing that for half an hour. We did though. When I got ready to leave, I said, "Thank you." He was searching for the right idiom and started with, "my pleasure." That didn¹t ring true for him and he sputtered "no problem," as he closed the door. So now I'm in a long white gown over my black pants, in a wheel chair, because of the wire sticking out from my left breast and bent over under a gauze bandage under the gown. I must look odd with my plastic bag of the rest of my clothes and my purse in my lap. Next thing I know, I am draped around my shoulders with another flat sheet, the better to hide my predicament and ward off street germs, I guess. I am wheeled down two floors and parked at the outside valet parking entrance while a van is called. It takes awhile. I have visions of the OR staff pacing back and forth while in the background ka-ching, ka-ching makes a melody for the insurance company. We are all waiting on an $8.00 an hour van driver who decided to take a coffee break. Ka-ching.

Finally, my chariot arrives; I alight from the chair, arrange my toga and step into the van. The short drive over is painless but slow in the medical center traffic. I step down and enter the marble and glass surgery center with what dignity I can muster given my bags and rumpled toga. I announce my arrival by holding out my bar code. Then, I grandly sweep to the public rest room to deal with all that fabric, among other things. I fold and tuck and toss inthe mirror. I think I resemble Electra when I emerge.

The rest is pretty grubby. I had only local numbing though it was a full scale surgery. My fear of hurling for two days is greater than my fear of being awake during the procedure. In fact, the whole team and I had a nice discussion of who was going to win the million dollars on the Survivor show on TV. Everyone had an opinion. My physician, a young man in whom I have explicit trust, was chatty and casual. It was like someone else lying there.Recovery was uneventful, as my chart notes surely say.

So I'm home and it is two days later and I¹m sore where all the bruising is. I've had a couple of Tylenol and one or two of the stronger pills. My family has called, friends brought me soup. Now it is me and me and me and myself and the waiting. Mostly I want to know what is next. Maybe nothing. I hope nothing. But a tiny part of me wants all this to result in something. You know? Not necessarily something bad, just some final thing. Maybe a statement that I'll never have to go through this again; I'm clean forever; no possibility of cancer. I know it won't be like that. Whatever the answer,I will not be able to forget. I'll pick up the telephone tomorrow and my life won¹t be the same. Yeah, I'm scared. One foot in front of the other is my motto and that is what I am sure I will do.But I feel temporarily suspended from my world. I have been working but itseems silly. Sorry, boss, but there are life and death things going on out there. Out there, over there, all those medical folks made me part of their world. The technicians, receptionists, physicians, lab techs, my German friend, the scrub nurses, and recovery nurses, they will be doing this medical stuff next week and the next, and the next. I only had to do it once, but it has messed me up. I'm lonely for that crowd. I want them to gather around me and tell me they did their best and that I'm okay. A smile,a joke maybe. What I have is the waiting... for a telephone call, a distant voice. It just seems too efficient.

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