Saturday, October 26, 2013

The News

So, the tests.

My doctor sent me for another blood test that day, on October 11th. Just to confirm the first results. Of course, they did.

Then a CT scan on the 17th. Chest, abdomen, pelvis. I hadn’t had one in a while, but it’s amazing how fresh the details stay. Choking down almost a full liter of barium in the hour before the scan. I did have my choice of flavors—mint, bubblegum, or orange—but there’s no hiding the chalky texture. For the record, I picked orange, but it really should have been called “vaguely orangish.”

Another part of the CT is the iodine dye that they send through an IV. The technician, a young guy named Eric with a bone-grinding handshake, put the line in my arm and fastened it with what later felt—when he pulled it off—like duct tape. He began to tell me what the iodine would feel like, but I stopped him and said that I’d been here before.

“Okay,” he says. “I’m starting it now.”

A puddle of heat spreads across the back of my throat. I swallow reflexively, but it’s not going to go away. In fact, it grows. I can feel the warmth leak slowly down the length of my spine and pool in my crotch. It’s not pleasant. It’s made even less pleasant by the fact that those two big containers of barium are now pushing urgently against my sphincter.

“We’re almost done,” he says, as if sensing my discomfort.

And then we were.

The results came in the following Monday. I was sitting in my office, ready to bike home but waiting for my doctor to call with the results. Finally, the phone rang.

“How are you?” I asked him.

“I’m fine,” he said. “I wish I could say the same for you.”

He told me that I had “multiple growths” in roughly the same vicinity as last time. He said that he’d never heard of a ten-year recurrence of germ cell cancer. We made an appointment for the next day so that we could go over everything in more detail. I knew it was coming, but clearly a part of me still believed that the two blood tests had all been a giant mistake. And then, as if I needed another reminder that we’re all prisoners in our bodies and slaves to what they might do to us, I got cold, my hands—and, presumably, the rest of me—turned white, my head started to hum, and I felt like I was going to throw up.

The next thing I knew, I was standing in my kitchen and calling my son, whom I was supposed to pick up in twenty minutes. Somehow I had biked home, but I had no memory of the ride. It was gone, just like the fragile security I’d been living in.

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