So, I received a few emails regarding a follow-up to my post-appendectomy story. I guess I can accommodate.
When we last checked in with our hero – mild mannered (then) orientation program assistant, Blobby: On my second day back at work (four weeks later), I get a call from the Emergency Room saying they found ‘something’ on one of my xrays and I really need to see someone……..
In most medical practice settings, it is a crap shoot if anyone is going to be helpful. The nurse could tell me nothing…or next to nothing. She confirmed that there was a ‘shadow’ on one of the films they took a month back. When further questioned, all I got was a laundry list of things it could be – or that it could possibly be nothing. …and I was told I had to see the orthopaedic surgeon who was on call that night I was in the E.D. – even though I wasn’t there for an ortho problem. Oh – and he was a Sports Med doc, because a shadow on my x-ray indicated a sports related injury.
Though I got in fairly quickly to see him, my mind had already gone to the dark place. That is my M.O. – envision worst case scenario and you’re never bound to be disappointed. Smart thinking, eh? I got put through some very uncomfortable positions to take a series of x-rays of my right leg. Then I was put in the exam room for that prolonged waiting period. Somehow each five minute period is triple that in your mind – or as I call it: Soap Opera Time.
I had worked on oncology floors in my past and always heard that when the word ‘cancer’ was used in a diagnosis that it is the last thing the patient hears. But I’m smarter than that. I knew this going in – and my dark place had me all prepared. That is, until the doctor came back and said the word ‘tumor’. He blabbed other shit after that – but I didn’t hear a word of it. Not one. Somewhere I did pick up on him referring me to a orthopaedic oncologist. The nurse gave me the name and number as I was leaving.
My friends did a lot more for my mental status. Beer helped. Lots and lots of beer. Ruckiry (not Jon’s boss) there was always lots of cheap beer around. We kept Black Label in their profits for this entire time period. And though I had not (and have never) seen Kindergarten Cop, their tag line to cheer me up was: “it’s not a tum-ah” (remember – you have to say it in an Ah-nald Schwartzengger). I did kind of get the last laugh when I pulled up to my apartment building where everyone was waiting and I got to say “It is a tum-ah”.
I called Dr. Weis (the oncologist) the next day – and told the scheduler I was hoping to get in before Thanksgiving, which was the following week. Though it’s great to get immediate service, it’s not the best when accompanied by, “oh we always get these type of diagnosis in within 24 hrs”. There’s a confidence builder.
More x-rays followed there. Nothing conclusive other than they knew it was a tumor. I probably should have kept my mouth shut, but told my parents over the T-giving weekend.
Over the course of the next several weeks, there were CT scans and MRIs (which is like being in a tube with a dozen guys hitting hammers all over the place . THIS is technology?). Still nothing more conclusive than a mass in the bone.
Then a few weeks later it was a bone scan – which was the most interesting of all my tests. First the technicians come in wearing outfits made partially of lead. Then they take a syringe out of a lead-lined container, and inject you with the radioactive material. It’s not like I was planning on having kids anyway. You are required to lie on this table while a scanner runs the length of the table and then back again – to get the anterior and posterier sides of your body. Oh – and you can’t move at all. It takes 40 minutes. The image, which comes out on a transparency-like paper shows the outline of the patient’s body with any hot spots. There is was (again), that shadow in the right femur. (The above pic is not of me – or even my actual diagnosis. The fuckers wouldn’t give me a copy and I wanted one!)
The bone scan showed but the other imaging tests – that it was a tumor. But the bone scan showed one other thing: activity. This was something they needed to know before moving on to the worst (and last) test – the bone biopsy. This would determine tumor status: malignancy or not. First they had me orally take 10mg of valium….which btw did not even touch me. Damn drug tolerances! But they numbed a portion of my leg and then pulled out the needle. Did I say needle? More like some fuckin medieval contraption. I think they used a device like this to lay the Union Pacific railway. Maybe 20″ long and thicker than any needle you’ve ever seen. I swear it wasn’t shiny either – but a bronzish colour. Definitely not a needle you get blood drawn with.
The ‘needle’ went in with absolutely no pain. Drugs are a great thing. However, drugs don’t numb bone. When Dr. Weis hit the bone, well, you do your best Dr. Smith (the boy-hungry pedohile) from Lost in Space ….”oh the pain….THE PAIN!” Anticipating this, the doc told me to squeeze the med student’s hand when it became painful, as it would distract me. The poor guy will never be a surgeon with the four broken fingers I surely inflicted on him. btw…I still have the scar from that biopsy.
Test results weren’t immediate. Dr. Weis had a three-week ski trip he had scheduled. It was the holidays anyway. But when he did come back, I had a 3:00 p.m. appointment with him. I just walked from my office to the health center. After sitting there for 45 minutes, finally the nurse came back and said that Dr. Weis wanted to push my appointment of the last of the day…4:30. Yeah – I’m sure he waits till the last patient to pass along good news – is what I was thinking in my head. Then I said it out loud when I called back to the office to tell them not to lock-up, as I didn’t bring my keys with me.
Say what you want – my dark place, to a degree, worked. My knowledge of how medical offices, to a degree, worked. I knew what was coming and this time I was prepared. I did get news of malignancy. I did get a name for the cancer: chondrosarcoma. I did have questions on procedures and treatments, which there are few. The doc and his nurse were seemingly impressed by my laundry list of questions.
The tumor was self-contained in the femur. There was no spreading anywhere – which was good. At least at the time, radiation and chemo were not necessary. Removal of the tumor however, was. Since the tests I had just had were the baseline, there was no way of telling how fast or slow growing the tumor might be, but we determined we should get it out sooner than later.
coming attractions: surgery