Friday, January 21, 2005

Take Two

This is so fucking retarded. I should be able to write about all of this. What’s the big deal? I lived it. Am living it. It’s not like I don’t know what has happened or what I still deal with. And I'm totally kick ass dammit!

Here’s the scoop. I’m sensitive. Over-sensitive one could say. In certain circumstances, don’t get me wrong, I’m also a fucking barracuda and will eat your young if I’m so inclined, but I’m also extremely responsive (that’s a positive spin I learned from a counselor) and easily affected by internal and external forces. I also battle near-crippling fears. All the fucking time. And this was a particularly hard week. I don't know what happens. What triggers it. But it sucks.

Something I have learned, am still learning, is it’s important for all of us to accept the fact that what you refuse to face, the things we expect to fade away, will chase us down like junk-yard dogs. The more you try to not think about it the more you think about it. Like the pain of heartbreak and every song you hear is a brutal reminder of lost love that re-opens the wound with every note. A perpetual turd swirling the bowl.

I won’t even try to profess that this bullshit that continues to ruminate around in my brain is a result of what happened 18 months ago, because that would be a big fat lie. On a certain level, I’ve always been this way. But, things have intensified and morphed and new fun challenges (can you smell the sarcasm?) were added to my repertoire of crap to handle. In fact, my entire life changed, and please note, this is not a dramatic exaggeration, and not all in good ways.

This is why a confession of sorts is proving to be incredibly difficult. Opening these floodgates is an exercise in unpredictability, and that scares me. However, the bottom line is possible freedom inside my own psyche. I don’t know if I’ll ever recover on a physical level, but hopefully the chains binding my brain will be loosened. And I’m confident I will be able to compartmentalize what is now my life and all the new thing that it encompasses. I just don’t have a timeline. Yet.

I can’t wait to become a decent writer, the artist I want too much to be, spilling forth eloquent prose to impress and move. And I can’t sit around wishing and waiting for feedback from anyone anymore. That is a bad habit. A false wish. And I can’t let my intense anxieties cloud my progress worrying that those I admire, respect and love will change their opinion of me and go running for the door. This has to be for me and me alone. And I won’t apologize if my words sound crazy, or uninteresting, or untrue. It’s my reality. It’s for me. And hell, I can always delete.
_____________________________________________________

Where was I? Oh yes, in the shower. I ran my hand down my throat and felt something, something odd. There was definitely a lumpiness there. Not your typical breast-exam handout description pea-sized dot but more like those fat cysts dogs get. Great, I thought, now I have a disease only animals get.

I had already been suspecting something was wonky with my thyroid. In the previous 6 months I’d had increasing symptoms of hypothyroidism, or a bum thyroid. I was steadily gaining weight and had attributed that to eating my way through a break-up, but then I started consuming less like a hyena and more like a human, but the weight kept creeping on. Then my skin got all dried out, my hair felt funky and I was really cold and really tired. By June I was feeling like I had a slight case of the flu all the time. And now there’s some weird mass in my neck. Shit.

I arrived at the new doctor’s the following Monday only to find a line of about 40 people waiting to cough up their co-pays in some cattle call area. I had never heard of such a thing and ended up being 15 minutes late to the doctor’s actual office. They refused to see me. And thus began my foray into the fucked up medical world of hell.

I was not happy about this and blurted that I’d found a lump in my neck. They managed to squeeze me in later that afternoon. When I was finally seen, I hoped up on the exam table and the new doc sauntered in. She had the bedside manner of a great white shark and I was a bleeding seal. She poked around my neck and claimed to feel nothing. I think about that moment ALL THE TIME. If I had decided at that critical point in time, to give up out of frustration or stick my head back in the sand, like so many with a nagging inner voice do, my future might have turned down a decidedly different road.

I insisted I had felt something and she resigned to squeeze my throat from another, more uncomfortable angle. And that’s when she too felt it. It was suggested that I had a nodule, something extremely common, but needed to have some tests. I was still blessedly unaware and naïve. As I was walking out the door she flippantly mentioned that if it was cancer I’d be “lucky” since it was the “good kind”. WHAT?? CANCER WHAT?? Lucky? Good? WHAT. THE. FUCK?? What did you say? CANCER?!?

That was my introduction into the world of stupid comments from medical professionals.

I’d never, ever, had the word cancer cross my mind. I thought I needed some medication for a few months, drop these lb’s and go on my merry way. Such was not the case, by a long shot. I'd already been dismissed by my other doctor FOR A YEAR, treated like some hypochondriac, and now my world seemed to be crashing down. I wanted an answer, but not that one for chrissakes.


I went for some blood tests and an ultrasound of my neck. The labs were once again normal but the ultrasound showed 2 nodules. Frick. I’d never been diagnosed with rocks on my thyroid before and knew that someone hadn’t done their job and adequately checked my neck during my annual check-ups. And it pissed me off.

After a follow-up appointment with Dr. Dead Eyes, I was sent for a special gamma scan where I felt like I’d been plunged into a comic book scene with some huge space machine hovering over my face and I’d be shrunk to the size of a field mouse, resigned to living in Barbie’s dream house trying not to be eaten by a cat.

I’d just started doing some research since the “C” word had been mentioned, but didn’t realize that they’d fed me a small dose of radiation for this gamma scan until later. A particular type of radiation that accumulates in your body every time you have some. Super.

In my readings of nodules, I knew that a “hot” one was A-OK and a “cold” one, not so much. After the scan they made me sit in the room. This was odd but I was new to all of this and didn’t get it. After about 20 minutes of sitting there getting increasingly nervous, a new face walked in and introduced himself as a doctor. I didn’t expect to see any doctors and it took me a moment to comprehend what he was saying. One of my nodules was “cold” and I would have to have a biopsy. What? Oh shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.

Biopsies don’t sound like much fun. And they’re not. Oh brother, they are not.

Another factor that had never crossed my mind began to take form. I’d been going to all of these appointments by myself since that was my norm and I don’t have any family in San Diego or a significant other to hold my hand in waiting rooms like sweet little old couple’s. I was getting really worried but trying to hold my fears at bay. Easier said than done. I didn't have a smiling, understanding face to greet me when I walked back into the lobby with this news pressing me into the floor.

Becoming the persistent and informed patient that I now am, I’d already found a thyroid specialist for a consultation. He also used the phrase "good cancer" and "lucky". What the fuck is wrong with these people? I told him of the biopsy recommendation and he confirmed it was necessary but half-assed reassured me, without being bothered to look me in they eye, that even the worst-case scenario was no big deal. This would become the biggest lie I heard.

Upon the instance of my manager, I had a co-worker drive me to the next procedure. I felt very uncomfortable with this since I can be compared to a wet cat in cage when I’m frightened. It’s better to leave me alone and not make eye contact. I was already scared shitless and now I have to be fucking brave for someone else. But, I appreciated the fact that a friend was putting herself out like that. I don’t like to burden anyone else and have a hard time leaning on anyone but me. Another lesson to learn from, don’t try to be a pillar, doesn’t mean much when you’re all alone without supports. Eventually you’ll topple.

I’m pretty stubborn (no, really?) and don’t like being treated like anyone’s meat puppet. I’ve been known to refuse stepping on the scale or disrobing to my birthday suit when it’s not warranted, in my opinion. Sorry folks, you don’t need to see my hoo-ha for a sinus infection. The nurse called my name in horribly broken English (God, I hope I’m being taken to the correct room and won't end up with my asshole sewed shut by accident or something) and tried to get me into a skanky hospital gown. I wasn’t havin’ it and her irritation was not lost. Fuck her anyway. They were messing with my throat and I wore a v-neck t-shirt. Fucking deal with it.

I was made to wait for an obnoxiously long time at the end of a lonely hallway, all by myself. I nearly backed out of the whole damn thing. Finally, after I was good and freaked, I was taken into a room by a tech and told to lie down on a gurney. The small room stunk like a hospital and was full of machines and people. None of who were acknowledging me in any way.

As I was beginning to have a full-blown panic attack, the doctor came in right as I said the word “fuck” in what I thought was under my breath. He immediately admonished me for swearing and our relationship was over before it began. I tried to explain that I was scared but he didn't care. I thoroughly fucked myself with that display of non-restraint. I believe he did nothing to make the biopsy go smoothly and I would accuse him of hurting me on purpose. It was bad. Very, very bad.

I was instructed to scoot over the edge of the gurney and hang my head upside down. A sterile surgical paper was taped to my throat and covered my entire face. Without much warning, he began. One person continually swiped an ultrasound thing over my neck while the doctor attempted to "retrieve" cells from inside the suspicious nodule. This consisted of me being tortured with sharp objects for what seemed like a lifetime. He injected me with lidocaine, which I learned later makes a biopsy of this nature hurt worse. Yea for me.

This was the most excruciatingly painful thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. The doctor had tons of trouble getting the needles into the nodule. He had to keep using bigger and bigger syringes. I was convinced at one point he was using a McDonald's straw. There was also some conjecture that the nodule was partially calcified, which justified injecting another substance that would hopefully break the nodule up enough to get a viable sample. This meant another needle plunged deep into my throat like a sewing machine. Poke poke poke poke poke poke times 100.

The doctor handed over a slide to some lab geeks standing by. No one had yet to say a word to me. I was in so much pain I was death gripping the gurney pad until my fingers cramped and I sounded like I was giving birth. Tears were a constant stream down my face, falling into my ears and onto the floor. All while I was hanging upside down and trying not to move. 6 people in this room with me and not a fucking word.

To my horror, the first sample wielded nothing usable. We were going to have to go through the entire routine again. After about 45 minutes of this, I couldn’t take anymore and said so. I was responded to with a puff of exasperation from the asshole armed with the hypodermic's and he told me if this one didn’t have enough cells I’d have to do it again. No fucking way Jack. Not by you at least. I'd rather have an epileptic with a rusty knife do it.

It took me a few minutes to recover. The lights were turned on and still, no one said a word to me. It was getting surreal. I sat up, wiped my face dry with the back of my shaking hand and told everyone in the room that it would be nice if when a patient was going through something like this that someone, anyone, say something. I was met with blank stares and again admonished for swearing. Unbelievable. I made a point of reminding them all that these were scary times for a patient and a little understanding goes a long way. If I hadn’t been so traumatized I would have called them all flaming fuckers and kicked someone in the crotch.

But I gathered my senses, and wobbly legs, and got the hell out of there. I was driven back to the work in a daze. Unable to swallow or move my head for days after. My entire neck turned black and blue and remained that way for 2 weeks. It was the middle of a beautiful Southern California summer. But all of that meant nothing to me. My life was coming to a stop. Winding down like an old carousel, ponies with chipped paint and vacant eyes.

It was Friday July 18th. I had gone to pick up some lunch and was heading back to the office. Trying to keep my life in some semblance of normalcy. Only telling my company what was going on as to not worry my friends and family.

My cell phone rang. It was Dr. Cold As Ice. She asked if it was a convenient time. I replied yes. She asked if I was on my cell phone. I confirmed and told her I was returning to work in my car with some lunch. There was not a pause. Not a moment inbetween. My last word still escaping my lips. Without skipping a beat she said, “the results are in. It’s malignant”.

I almost crashed my car. I don’t remember much of the next 10 minutes. My lunch was never eaten…

14 comments:

whitey said...

My opinion of you threatens to only get better. Shit, darlin'...I'm all tense as hell just reading this.

You're doing it! You're loved.

whitey said...

My opinion of you threatens to only get better. Shit, darlin'...I'm all tense as hell just reading this. You're doing it. You're loved.

Ginny said...

Thanks for reminding me why I will never treat people like inanimate objects. Ever.

I lived through some of this too and I know exactly what you are talking about.

I also once screamed at a gynocologist for having a pic of a wet cat on the ceiling. "Oh, wet pussy, is that fucking funny to you, asshole?"

Anna said...

WOW! Your story made me sad and angry. Sometimes I think Doctor's forget why they are in the profession that they are in. To HELP people. Not to treat them like crap when their hearts are already breaking.

I hope all works out and you find a doctor with a sense of humor and a heart of gold. I will e-mail you a goofy picture of me to hopefully lift your spirits!

Pirate said...

You were right from the beginning, FUCK, is just fine to say on any occassion. I could say I know how you feel or I have a sister who has, blah, blah, blah, but that would only comfort me. I will say you read like a fine writer. I look forward to visiting your blog as much as I can. You paint with your words vivid scenes and extract real emotions. You're ery good and will make it just fine. Keep good notes and build on the doctor character. She deserves to be the villian of your first published best seller.

And I would encourage you to write down all the different meanings "fuck" has. You ever wonder why 99% of the people walking around and sharing air with us has fuck on their mind 75% of the time but the whole World acts offended when the word is used. Fuck 'em.

No_Newz said...

You are on a roll girl and doing great. I'm sorry you were treated that way. I wish I knew you then. I'd have helped to crotch kick.
Lois Lane

MrV said...

This is the first time i have ever read a blog where the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. The shear intensity of it...

It's one of those things where no matter what you say it won't be good enough.

I truly hope the best for you

Anonymous said...

Cheers my love. Good job. I wish I'd had a bit of warning before having to remember that whole thing again, but it's about you, not me.
I'm so very proud of you. I hope you know that.
Bad shit happens to good people and it's beeen your strength of character and will that has pulled you through to be able to say "I told you so," in a different way. To say, I'm here and I'm getting through this, see!
Husband

Becka said...

I'm so sorry you had to go through that alone.

(((((Betty))))))

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
C said...

Came here from whitey's blog...

I've had a different, although similar, experience... Physicians and nurses can be real assholes and forget why they're there. I go through doctors like toilet paper until I find one I like.

Jack the blogger said...

I also came from the sordid details. Good luck on your journey and don't forget to take care of yourelf first. Hey my philosophy is fuck'em if they can't take a joke (most medical professionals can't) so go on with your baaaaad little self.
Jack

magz said...

you are amazing. I think you ARE the worlds queen... and my bestest desert medicine thoughts are beaming yer way, contstantly. Your 'tude is just right hun... and dont ever ever disbelieve in your own powers, and the power of love.

Bitter Betty said...

whitey - Thank you, baby.

ginny - I know you know what I'm talking about. Everyone knows doctors have no sense of humor, why did he even bother trying?

anna - Thanks for stopping by. I've gone through a lot of doc's and have some that are pretty good now, thanks.

pirate - Thanks for the kind words, they totally make my day. And I hear ya on the fuck thing. It's actually something I studied in college and I agree there are too many hang-ups. I for one could stand a good dicking and I'm not ashamed to say it.

lois - As always, thanks for the support.

mrv - I'm doing better all the time. This journey is a fucking bitch, but stay tuned, I'll get to all of that.

husband - Thanks darlin, you know the real score and who I am. Love you.

becka - Thanks to you too. I'll always take a cyber hug. I might have spent a lot of time taking care of myself, but I have had tons of awesome support from far-away friends. Stay tuned...

c - Love the toilet paper reference. I know exactly what you mean.

jack - It's been a fucking suckfest, but never fear, I'm goin on. Thanks for stopping by and I'll be sure to blogroll you.

magz - You're a doll, doll! And a right-on mammajamma.