Monday, January 24, 2005

The Cancer Chronicles - Take 3

After making her astronomically, insensitively delivered blow, Dr. Piece of Shit finally paused to ask if I was still on the line. I wasn’t able to answer right away. My memory is slightly distorted and when thinking back, I picture myself death gripping the steering wheel with both hands. But that can’t be the case since I was holding the phone with one. I realized I was travelling down the center of the street and blinked hard to refocus.

I righted my car and stopped its plunge into a line of bumpers. A physical reaction began like I’d never felt before. In the same instance, I was hyper-aware of certain elements of my surroundings and a completely void of emotion. The brightness of the sun became blinding. The hum of my tires deafening. The smell of my lunch nauseating. Yet I couldn’t see, or breathe, and I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. For a fleeting, infinitesimal, delicious moment. A moment I will crave for the rest of my life.

I had lost my center vision and can only recall seeing peripherally down the road. Just as described by most people who have faced instantaneous life-threatening danger, everything seemed to move in slow motion. Some alternate reality as I plunged into a realm of terror I’d never experienced.

I was conscience of the fact that I wasn’t feeling anything and how that was so very odd. And although it’s bad timing for this analogy, I can only equate this strange retreat from my only known reality like a giant tsunami. The tide was instantly drawn out past the horizon leaving the sea floor barren and starving. Then, without warning, in another second, it all came rushing back over me with a force that felt like my heart had literally stopped and I gulped for air like a suffocating fish. If I had died at that minute it wouldn’t have surprised me. And there would be times when I wished I had.

My body continued to react while my mind raced to catch up. Every fiber in my being began to vibrate with horror. My flesh broke out into an icy sweat. My ears pounding with the sound of blood rushing through my veins and my chest was heaving in painful, stilted contractions. It was so beyond any previous feeling of sickening despair I'd endured before. The kind that smothers your soul when you hear bad news. That midnight phone call announcing a death, a love affair over, a beloved pet gone for good.

The next thing I remember is sitting in my car, parked in front of my office building and I was arguing with the doctor with tears streaming down my face as I struggled to speak. When had it escalated to this? Even in a catatonic state I can still fight with someone being an asshole. She was saying something about how I “had” to contact a particular surgeon and see Dr. So and So, an endocrinologist. She committed the last infraction I was going to take. Off-handedly mentioning that this was not a "big deal", or something of that nature. Now I was waking up.

Not a big deal? You fucking inconsiderate, rank, skank. You just told me I had fucking CANCER. While I was DRIVING MY CAR. My shock turned into anger, my anger into steely rage. I told her I’d already found an endocrinologist and she responded with audible irritation and said “well, it’s obvious you don’t want us to handle your case”. That’s when I’d had enough. I screamed into the phone that it would be nice if she fucking gave me a fucking minute to absorb the fact that I’d just found out I had fucking cancer fuckyouverymuch. Then I hung up. I never spoke to her again.

Time out for a lesson: I now look at medical professionals like this. If they suck. Find a new one. If they're assholes, move on. If they treat you like a retard. Fuck 'em. You wouldn’t take your car to a mechanic that never fixes the problem then takes a crap on your passenger seat, would you? Your body is much more important than an automobile, and in my experience, you don’t get a second chance with my life. You don’t try to fix the ping, you don’t get to “practice” medicine on me. Your life, peace of mind, and your right to compassionate treatment is far more important than stroking a physician’s ego or lining their wallets.

What do you call someone who graduated last in their class in medical school? Doctor.

I cried, hard, in my car for about 10 minutes, frozen to my seat. Not knowing what I should do. It was an incredible feeling of helplessness. Do I simply turn around and go home? Do I try and go into the building and gather my things then leave? How can I face anyone? How in the world am I going to tell my parents? Oh christ, my parents. Who should I call first? Who should I call at all? What do I do now? My god, I need to get drunk.

I gathered my senses and walked past the receptionist in our lobby. My head didn’t explode. So far, so good. I went upstairs and turned the corner to our hallway. Still managing to put one foot in front of the other. I only had 25 feet to go.

I didn’t make it.

I turned right instead of left and entered my boss’s office. She took one look at my face and stood up.

I wasn’t close to my manager. She was a pain in the ass and not a good boss. She had tried, in her own broken way, to reassure me through all of my medical tests, in the previous month, that she was sure everything was fine. But that’s little comfort when things are escalating at every turn and you know a lot more about the situation, and the ramifications of what’s going on and what your future could hold. But you can’t tell your superior to suck it.

I stumbled toward her and completely broke down. I sputtered through earth shattering sobs that I’d just gotten the call and I had cancer. She leapt around her desk and threw her arms around me. Her instincts as a mother kicking in with powerful force. As I continued to melt down she kissed my face and held me tight, held me up, telling me everything was going to be alright. That I was strong and wonderful and I would be supported. Another utterly surreal moment to add to my memoirs. My boss was kissing my face. Too weird. And this was something my own mother would have never done.

But I was grateful for someone, anyone, to be there and come to my aid like that, at what is probably the most vulnerable and horrendous moment of my life. The sound of her door shut behind me. I imagine the entire hallway and all of my co-workers had heard me and someone had the presence of mind to give me much needed privacy. I never did find out who it was. I managed to calm down again and we decided it was better if I went home. I gathered my things, shut down my system, assuring her I could drive. The waves were still washing over me.

I just wanted to go home.

8 comments:

Special K said...

You know where to reach me by the usual means. This pisses me off, too, and if I were there, I would spread my wings, wrap them around you, and make you warm and happy forever.

That sounds awfully lame, and for that I'm sorry. Listen...do you want to call me, or give me your phone number? Because I would so love to talk with you; hearing voices outside your head helps, ya know.

Don't make me be creepy stalker person and have to look your number up in some crap directory, eh?

Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) said...

Hi Betty,
I think I found you by randomly clicking on 1 name via Lois' site, but that's not important. What's important is that you're going through hell. I wish you weren't! You write eloquently, honestly, & humorously (sarcasm works!), while dealing with this, something many of us can ID with, but you need human touch! I hope you took up Special K's offer, b/c I'm just a person out here in cyber (spin) space who cares, but I'm "air." You need tactile and voice. I cried reading about the compassion your boss showed and how you described it; my mother is toxic. I'm so very sorry you have a similar situation. Words can't begin to describe how sorry. You're in my thoughts bigtime. ((Hugs))

whitey said...

She'll get plenty of human touch next week.

I'm glad you're doing this.

Bitter Betty said...

k - Thanks babe. There's an e-mail coming your way tonight with the info. I can't wait to rubberlip with you on the phone!

green-eye - Thanks for reading. I agree, human contact is extremely important. I didn't get much of it for a year and a half and I plan on making up for lost time with the lovely gent right below you.

baby - I'm counting on it. I know you have my back, and my front, and my...etc., etc.

Bitter Betty said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ginny said...

Wow. I can't believe you actually managed to make that more gripping than the first one, but you did.

You know all the usual... just wanted to add that this was even more incredibly written than I am used to seeing from you. and that's saying a lot.

Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) said...

Betty & Whitey- Music to my ears...oops mean eyes! I'm happy for you both, "etc, etc" ;).

No_Newz said...

I gotta hold of your back too girl (but still glad whitey has the rest). You're doing a great job getting this out.
Lois Lane