Thursday, June 2, 2011


Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you.
Psalm 56:3

I am afraid, as my dreams show. Not quite full-blown nightmares, they are projections of what I fear will happen at my six-month bladder cancer check-up. In last night’s dream, a nurse did a pre-exam and found cancer, plus my organs were all twisted and in the wrong positions. I think these dreams make it possible for me to get through my days without keening and wailing in fear and dread, but they don’t make for a restful night.
            One of three things will happen. It’s possible there’s no recurrence—that happened the last time, but I don’t trust it, because it was the first time in three years. I feel fine, have no symptoms, but then I never did. It’s possible that in six months, tumors have sprouted and grown to gargantuan proportions, making surgery the only option. I know what that means: outpatient surgery, followed by a bag for a week to let the bladder heal. As one might expect, I feel pretty awful with the bag, and worry about it leaking and slipping down my leg, because I don’t manage those elastic straps very well. Or there could be small tumors, which my doctor would “fulgurate” in the office. It sounds like fumigate, but it’s really a synonym for cauterize. As in, burn. He’s assured me that most patients tolerate the pain pretty well. I have a high tolerance for pain, but still.
            I am going alone, because it’s easier. If I feel okay after the exam, I’ve got shopping to do in a part of town I rarely visit, where there are health food stores with items I need. And if I feel bad, I don’t have to make anyone else feel bad. I don’t have to try to put on a good face, or minimize the shock of bad news. I don’t have to chatter on the drive there. I lose human sympathy and a friendly face, someone to celebrate with after hearing good news. But I’ve been going to doctors for almost five years now, have had seven or eight surgeries, and I feel I should save my friends’ graciousness for when I really need them. This suggests I’m afraid their goodness is exhaustible, when they’ve shown me over and over that it is not. So perhaps it’s just my hubris. I’ll let you know.

I was wrong. There’s a fourth option: number of small tumors—the usual non-invasive, Stage 1 kind—too many to fulgurate in the office. We’re scheduling the surgery.
I’m not happy, even though I dreaded the pain of being awake during an office procedure. Surgery is costly; anesthesia is a nuisance. I tell myself that having outpatient surgery once a year is much preferable to multiple recurrences of the ovarian cancer. That’s true, but I still wish I didn’t have to do this.

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