Posts Tagged 'Cancer'

The results are in…

Where were we?  Oh yes, we had just completed my prostate biopsy.

Now it was time to await the results.  Dr. Greenberg had said “Should take about a week to get it back from the lab.  I don’t like to phone results to my patients.  So make an appointment and you can come in to see how things turned out.  Good or bad.”  Fair enough.  After all, how long could a week of waiting be?

I strolled confidently to the cute young lady at the front desk.  The one who makes calls to patients’ answering machines and rattles off information faster than any human can write it down.  “Hi” I said confidently.  “How about an appointment next Tuesday?  The Doctor says my results should be here by then.”  Silence.  Followed by her nimble fingers doing speed of light calisthenics on the computer keyboard.  Followed by more silence.  “Hmmmm.  Looks like we’re booked.  The earliest I can get you in is next Friday morning.  How’s 8:40?”  Restraining myself from leaping over the counter, strangling the young lady with her telephone cord, and making my own appointment, I sheepishly said “OK.”

Ten days to wait for results.  Ten days to try not thinking about it.  Ten days to imagine the worst.  Anything from “Hey, no problem, you’re OK.  Go home.”  To “It’s stage four.  Get into Hospice and put your affairs in order…today.”

The days passed and I was, at first, only mildly irritated.  Young children I encountered on the street sensed that I should be avoided.  My feeling of foreboding grew to tsunami proportions and it took all of Sweetie’s cooing and cajoling to keep me from self-immolation.  I pasted a perpetual smile on my face and studiously maintained my public persona so as to avoid losing all of my friends.

Sleeping was fraught with adventure.  Getting to sleep was no problem.  Staying asleep was.  I tried various mind tricks.  First I imagined lush green fields with bubbling brooks.  No good.  So I enhanced my vision of lush green fields by adding romping, nubile maidens.  Not good enough.  So I simply deleted the green fields and focused completely on the nubile maidens.  Nothing was a panacea.

Instead of sticking with the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen and the U.S. Congress for laughs, I made the mistake of reading The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan.  A long repetitive dissertation on the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, it reveled in a glorious depiction of the misery of those poor farmers who lost their land to the wind, and were forced to rely on clubbing rabbits to death and boiling tumbleweed for sustenance.  As an added bonus, the book described the concurrent, abject misery of the Great Depression and the twenty-five percent of out-of-work, apple selling Americans.  On the other hand, maybe reading about their misery deflected a bit from my own self-imposed malaise.

Thursday night was mostly sleepless as the nubile maidens all sought refuge from me.  Arising well before we needed to, we leapt from bed, did our best to greet the rather dark morning, and got in the car for the forty minute trip to Ventura.  Needless to say, we arrived at the place of execution a full thirty minutes early.

The waiting room was empty except for the young lady with the flying fingers.  She was removing the last vestiges of Halloween decorations including the monstrous hanging ghost that happily greeted us on our arrival.  I decided to read Wine Spectator in the foolish hope that I might get seriously drunk.

A rather large man and his rather large wife entered the waiting room.  He held a large manila envelope that obviously contained a very large x-ray.  The Rather Larges sat across from us.  Mr. Rather Large stared straight ahead for a full twenty minutes and held onto the envelope in the same way that Charlton Heston  famously rabble-roused the NRA with his cold, dead hands speech.  I realized that I was not alone in my misery.

“Mr. Rothenberg, you can come in now.” Nurse Ratched said as she opened the door to the business end of Doctor Goldberg’s shop of horrors.

We sat in the exam room.  My blood pressure reading taken by Nurse Ratched was at the high-end of abnormal and my throbbing pulse could be felt without the need of placing her fingers on my wrist.  “How have you been feeling since the biopsy?” she said.  “Fine” I lied.

Waiting for the Doctor to make an entry, Sweetie and I talked about things of which I have no recollection.  For some strange reason, my mind wandered back to 1960.  I remembered anxiously awaiting the results of my CPA exam, results that would appear in my mailbox.  I remembered what my fellow exam takers had said.  “If your results come in a big fat envelope, you failed the exam.  The fat envelope has all kinds of stuff including how to reapply and retake that awful test.  If you get a nice thin letter, it will simply have your passing grades.”  I thought, “I hope Dr. Greenberg has a nice thin piece of paper.”

He did.  And we went home.

Slide your fanny a little…

“Slide your fanny a little bit back from the edge.  A little more.  Until it touches my hand.  That’s it.  You got it.”

Risque?  Hardly.  Warm and fuzzy?  No.  It was only Nurse Ratched getting me in position for my long anticipated prostate biopsy.  Sexual innuendos and any semblance of privacy were the farthest things from my mind.

For those of you who have faithfully followed my blog, you may recall a piece I wrote about a year ago that displayed in living color the unrelenting progress of my PSA readings.  Readings that, in some corners of the medical establishment, leave the suspicion of a sinister, cancerous infestation of my prostate gland.

I had dutifully made several breath-holding follow-up visits to Dr. Goldberg my busy, generally humorless, urologist.  This series of perilous events  led to the last one, an all too brief encounter a month ago where he blandly announced “Your PSA is up again.  Time to find out what’s really going on in there.  It’s fifty-fifty on the outcome.”   Huh? I thought.  That’s it?  No preliminaries, no show-and-tell.  Not even a hand on the shoulder.  “Just make a biopsy appointment for a couple of weeks from now and bring your body back here.”

During those weeks I had ample opportunity to think about the worst and to explore in-depth the components of the dreaded procedure.  However, except for a couple of brief light-hearted discussions with friends, I disdained the bountiful educational opportunities offered by the web, the local library and the Jewish Forward.  The most memorable and illuminating conversation was the one had with Harry.  “I spoke to a friend of mine.  He had a prostate biopsy.  No big deal.”  My, how reassuring.

The big day arrived.  I prepared and cleansed my body as instructed.  I swallowed the rather large antibiotic pill taken as a precaution against a possible infection that I was convinced was surely as deadly as 18th century bubonic plague.

Sweetie and I arrived at Dr. Goldberg’s office, early as usual.  I embarked on the obligatory viewing of the same travel magazines seen during my earlier visits and, realizing that I had absolutely no idea of what I was reading, settled back while the clock wound past my appointed time.

Other than the need to argue with the bookkeeper about co-pays, I passed the time wondering what particular urinary malady was afflicting each of the other sullen faced men sharing the waiting room with me.  The Halloween decorations, especially the sheeted ghost hanging by its neck over the entry door, did little to lift one’s spirits.

Nurse Ratched appeared and escorted me to the operating chamber.  I was a bit disappointed, given the singular importance of the upcoming procedure, that it did not look more like Mel Brooks’ laboratory in Young Frankenstein.  Nurse Ratched took my blood pressure, pulse and temperature.  All were functioning…a good sign I thought.  I was then instructed in the proper removal of clothing and the donning of that never to stay in place paper cover-up.  I was left sitting backless and alone on the dissection table.  “Back in a few seconds” Nurse Ratched promised.

Time passed.  Anticipating that I might somehow be forgotten and left to starve to death, I reviewed the contents of the chamber.  The most imposing element was an ultrasound machine.  This clever device is used by the physician to locate, measure and help zero in on the parts of the prostate gland that have been chosen by lottery as the lucky ones for biopsy.

Once located, a small snippet of obviously useless living matter is clipped, removed from the dark recesses of one’s body and deposited in a carefully (I hoped) marked container to be sent off to that mysterious place that none of us has ever visited, called the lab. There it sits ignored for what seems like an eternity while god only knows what is done to it to determine whether it is, in that generic inoffensive terminology, negative or positive.

The scariest piece of the ultrasound machine is the probe that will, when the smiling doctor appears, be shoved ingloriously into your anus on its way to the blessed area occupied by that one ounce piece of meat called your prostate gland.  With time on my hands, I had ample opportunity to observe the impossible size of the probe and I wondered what it might be like to be incarcerated in prison with giant men who have been deprived of female company.  Not a pretty sight.

And for more laughs, I stared at the near life-sized chart on the wall depicting a fully functioning urinary system including a monstrous penis that put me to shame.

Having waited for what seemed like hours, I was preparing to remove my useless paper cover-up, get dressed and sneak from the office when Dr. Goldberg arrived.   Nurse Ratched, careful to make no clever comments about my private parts, began the arduous job of sliding and positioning my fanny.  She then  placed my feet into the same kind of stirrups that you women are more likely to encounter as you pass through life.  I really don’t know how you manage it.

“We’re going to take ten snippets” Dr. Goldberg announced.  “The hardest part is getting this probe past your great wall of China.  After that it’s a walk in the park.”

Around snip number three, and concerned that I might be left prostate free, I asked how much the ten snippets weighed.  “Everyone asks that” Dr. Goldberg laughingly said.  “Your prostate weighs about twenty-eight grams and the snippets will total less than a gram.”  Seemed hardly worth the effort, I thought.

Snippet ten occurred at about the five-minute mark.  Or, in Fred time, about twelve hours.  Done, we all breathed a well-earned sigh of relief.  I was allowed to recover some of my dignity, get dressed and proceed to the waiting room of sullen men where I gave Sweetie a big kiss.  I’m due back in Dr. Goldberg’s office in about a week.

Meanwhile Harry, tell your friend that he must have practiced.


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