Cofrin Park

Cofrin Park
Cofrin Nature Park

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Medical Malaise, Starring the Reluctant Patient

Been frequenting medical offices these last few months, following an over three year hiatus. (They had me at colonoscopy.) Now I'm playing catch-up, and that game is harder than I anticipated.

I've spent this past week on crutches, visited my general practitioner, an orthopedic doc, physical therapists, had x-rays and a noisy MRI and ended the week with an excision of 4 inches of skin to remove a lentil-sized morphia basil cell: some type of sneaky skin cancer that just popped up out of nowhere and landed on my back, looking very unobtrusive, blending in with an allergic rash. The rash disappeared. The basil bump did not. Apparently, those adolescent hours in the sun, slathered in cocoa butter, have taken their toll. Burning Woman.

The next several weeks do not look much better. Five more appointments, and counting...inflamed this, torn that; degenerative this, deteriorated that; chronic this, syndrome that, and another "superficial" basil cell on the

Have you noticed that surgeons like to describe measurements in metric, knowing that most of us who went through the old American school system do not use metric measurements, and therefore do not know exactly what they mean? "Can you tell me in inches?" No they could not, so I asked the surgeon to draw me a picture. She drew an ellipse around a quarter-sized circle. (Hope she cuts and sews better than she draws, or I'm foo-bared.)

Having never been cut before, at least voluntarily, I did not like the size of it. My heart pounded. My blood pressure spiked in retaliation and I made ready to bolt. Instead, I rolled over and took the shots they said would numb me out. They didn't work. How many times is this guy gonna stab me? I felt more anxious than ever. I waited to feel the knife slice through my innocent flesh. I had not slept the night before and felt nauseous all morning. Would projectile vomiting stop the insanity?  I hate to expel food through the same door it came in, so I tried to breathe and stay very still. I looked at my fashionable gown and squeaked "who's blood is that?" "It's yours," said a voice from above. I looked up at the white gauze soaked with my blood that lay on the surgical tray. Such a vibrant shade of red, I thought. I do eat beets every day...

During the procedure, my surgeon announced that she was 19 years old (she looked 17), and had just cleaned up her life, commenting that she should call and apologize to her parents for her earlier errant ways. "Thanks for instilling confidence!" I croaked. "Doogie Howser," I heard in unison.

The surgical nurse added that he had left home at age 15 and drove his parents into premature aging with his disappearance into the tattoo culture, reappearing months later with body art and attitude. Sorry mom.

O.K. Where's the camera? "IT'S LIVE SATURDAY NIGHT!" And I am the unwitting star!

"We're done! We got all the cancer." Thank you. I tried to move. I cannot seem to get up off this table. Get me outta here! But wait! When can I....? No movement that may tear the stitches. No swimming for 2 weeks? No shower for 48 hours? I'll wrap it in plastic.

And that's exactly what I did the next morning. I recruited my bunny, Gene, and he taped over the wound with plastic. Then I took one of the shortest showers of my life. I'm a water-baby. One of my childhood nicknames was "the shower queen." I need water rushing over me, baptizing me at least once a day, preferably thrice, so a half-shower didn't cut it. But, I felt grateful for the quick head soak anyway.

The moral of the story--well here's a couple:

1) Although it may seem easier to bask along the river of denial, don't' do that! You know your body better than anyone, and you must take responsibility for it's care, because you only get one! Take care of it now! Heed the warning signs your body emits. They may be subtle at first, so do not ignore the messages your body sends you. Get symptoms evaluated as soon as you notice something is not quite right.

I suspected that the lesion on my arm could be cancerous, yet I let it go for years. I've been limping out of dance classes for months, playing injured, pushing past a myriad of pains. Now I have to sit on the sidelines for as long as it takes. Don't do that.

2)  Caring for your body, the temple of your soul, takes courage and perseverance, especially since you may eventually need to allow a stranger, like a surgeon, perform their magic. Never assume that all is well, just because you happen to find yourself in a doctor's care. You must accept complete responsibility for your health at all times. The doctor is merely a tool in your care kit.

Trust your instincts when dealing with the medical profession, or any profession, for that matter. Enlist a confidant who can accompany you to office visits and record the conversations. Research your conditions so you know your options, rather than blindly trusting the doctor, who unfortunately is at the mercy of the insurance companies and hospital administrators. Ask questions, and more questions and don't make a decision until you feel comfortable with the answers.

You are the star of your life and deserve star treatment. Give it!

I'm off to the shower...