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  • I appreciate the difficult job that doctors have to do.
    They have to deal with people who are scared out of their minds.

    To prepare for surgery I selected a movie for distraction the night before going under.
    I chose the movie ‘Young Frankenstein’, a Mel Brooks comedy.
    I fell asleep during the movie but knew it well enough to remember the story.

    The next day, I walked down the hall with anesthesiologists.
    We kept up the chatter on the way to the OR.
    I had to prove that I would not die on the table and they had to prove they wouldn’t kill me.
    The pressure was on.

    I got up on the table and they hooked me up to a heart monitor and other sorts of tubes and dials.
    I began to tell them about the movie the night before and they knew it, as if it were assigned medical school watching.
    “Walk this way,” I said laughing, and one of the doctors imitated Igor, the shuffling hunchback.
    We all laughed.
    I was a little hysterical and shrill in my laughter.
    “Herr Brucker,” said another doctor and then whinnied like a horse.
    That was the last thing I remembered as I went under.
    **
    The nurse who came to take a bone core sample was a man.
    This is a change from our childhood stereotype of the big breasted, starched apron nurse.
    His job, that morning, was to put a corkscrew-like implement into my butt end, at the hipbone, and remove a core of bone.
    Even with the local anesthesia it feels like what it is, someone tugging at your innards.
    We were both depressed by the project and so we found out that we both enjoyed talking about architecture.
    He had a cottage in Cape May and we spent the next 45 minutes discussing cottage style architecture.
    When his work was done, he thanked me for helping make his job easier.
    **
    My running joke as the months wore on was that I had gone from being a patient to becoming an “Impatient”.
    As I recovered, my numbers and chances went from 50-50 to 85% or more. Meaning that I would survive this one.
    Chemo was pretty bad but radiation was a daily drag that also reminded me that I had lost my freedom.

    I lost my freedom for a year, but now, on my 12th year out from that time I am grateful for the process.
    The small fortune I spent on a good health-care policy, supplemented by my employers, meant that I did not spend a big fortune on my care, and did not amass a mountain of debt.
    I am currently healthy and debt free, that is a type of freedom.
    ***
    I did have one recurrence, another type, in another location, five years ago.
    “You are a healthy person with really bad luck.” One doctor told me.
    The process was different that time but still involved surgery and follow up, all manner and types of Big Medicine.
    I pay my premiums and all the uncovered extras, some expensive drugs that I take every day.
    Twice a year I get poked and prodded.
    I am reminded that my freedom is an illusion.
    ***
    I eat well, exercise, do yoga, and none of that will save me.
    Something else is at work there.
    Many people do not want to think or plan for illness, it is a ****ing drag!
    Why am I even ruining a beautiful morning with these thoughts?

    The issue of illness and care is out there, for all of us.
    We need to face the monsters and work out something to address the reality of the costs of care.
    It will not go away.
    The hounds of Hell nip at our heels.

    ***
    While I was going through chemo I had a bald-head, covered with a scarf.
    I took a taxi up to the treatment center and the driver asked me why I was bald.
    I explained my illness, and then said that I was getting medicine to make me better.
    He got angry with me.
    “Everyone talks about how good the medicine is, but it is God who makes you better.”

    I could not respond at the time, I sat quietly thinking about how much I wanted to get well.
    Today I would have an answer.
    “It is God who made the medicine.” I would tell him today.
    There is nothing that is not part of the whole.
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