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Needle in the Neck and Healthcare for Everyone

March 22nd, 2010 by Jeff Simmermon

Red flavored robot piss

Originally uploaded by chinese_fashion

They found another tumor a few weeks back. This time, up around my lymph nodes in my throat. It’s been showing up on my CAT scans ever since this whole ordeal started. It hasn’t changed shape, hasn’t grown, just sat there like a lump taking up real estate next to my throat with no ambition whatsoever, eating little tiny potato chips and spraying crumbs up against the back of my collarbone.

I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate this particular brand of indolence. It’s sure as hell better than the alternative. But that’s the problem with laziness in things with great potential — everyone around starts thinking some work’s gonna get done pretty soon and then they all get resentful for having to wait.

That’s pretty much the exact story with this tumor. It sat there just fine for a year or more, and finally my doctor said “oh, let’s have specialist check this thing out.”

The thing about this tumor is that it was right in a place where testicular cancer can spread if it wants to. Typically it moves North slowly from its namesake zone, up into the abdomen, the chest, then the lymph nodes in the throat. There was none of that in me. But the node looked a little hinky all the same.

The specialist said, “oh, what the hell, it’s probably nothing, but we’re going to have to look at it with a sonogram. It’s a simple procedure.”

Simple procedure. The last time I heard the phrase “simple procedure” I lost a testicle.

Things have been pretty good, more or less. The big black bird seems to be fading out some. Now he’s either smaller or more grey than black. Or both. Problem is, he’s got a friend that shows up a lot less often, but MAN does he hit hard.

I’ve got some lingering trauma issues from my surgery last year. I never thought this would happen in a million years, but I’m starting to get panic attacks at the doctor’s office now. I’m cool if it’s just a regular office visit, where I go in, give a little blood, experience a curt juggling and get sent on my way. Anything fancy, though, and it’s like an enormous black wolf swallows my head.

A few months ago I was going in for my regular CAT scan. No big deal, right, just drink a bottle of red-flavored robot piss, slide through a whirring Stargate-looking portal and I’m on my way. Except this time the nurse was having trouble finding an IV to use. She was really fishing around in there good, like maybe there was a very small but expensive and slippery jewel inside the crook of my elbow.

And something about it summoned the wolf. It galloped up and swallowed me FAST and all I could see were the knives from the surgery, all the doctors blinking at me and hear the phrase “simple procedure” in my head. I could barely hold the tears back while I was going through the Stargate, and just completely moved through the black wolf’s digestive system right there in the waiting room at Sloan-Kettering after, curled up on the floor and sobbing, bawling like an infant.

Sure didn’t see that one coming. It must have been a SIGHT, 240 pounds of muscle, fat and body hair wrapped in a three-piece suit and hyperventilating.

So when I went in to have this lazy little neck-lump inspected, I expected the worst.

And you know what? I got it, too! I was told I was going to get an ultrasound, which means I was going to be rubbed with a gelatinous, vibrating wand that sounds like it would be pleasurable, but just feels weird. Then the doctor said, “you know, we’re going to go ahead and biopsy that thing. Don’t worry, it’s a simple procedure.”

Turns out, all they had to do was simply jam a needle the length of my index finger into my neck and fish around for the same slippery diamond. Simple as that!

Just when you think you can relax, they jam a needle right in your neck.

The wolf didn’t swallow me this time. It just sat there, its snout an inch away from my nose and coated my face with its cold, clammy breath. Tears ran down my face, but I was able to stay fairly quiet.

After it was over, I went into the bathroom to sort myself out a little. When I cam back into the room for my bags, it was already occupied again. A mother sat there in a wheelchair, holding a child in her arms. He was hooked up to all manner of IVs, screaming like he could see that wolf himself. His back arched backwards, stiff across his mother’s torso. His skin was a peculiar yellowish-grey color, and his hair was thinning, coming out in patches. I could see the doctor getting another tremendous needle ready.

Whenever I go to the doctor for a checkup, I never know WHAT’s going to happen. I don’t know if I’m going to be embarassed or ignored or terrified, or who I might see in there. One thing is for sure, though: I always see some people who have got it way worse than I do. And if I’m capable of being rational that day, it really helps put things into perspective.

I waited for the biopsy results all weekend. Waited past lunch today. Then I stared freaking out again. I called the doctor’s office a bunch of times, but the phones were broken. For real — a lady robot’s voice told me to call back some other time.

I’d like that lady robot to get a tumor on her circuit board and then try to tell somebody to stay calm. See how she holds up then.

Finally, the nurse called up. She said “you have no sign of testicular cancer in the biopsied area on your neck.”

I said “well, is there any neck cancer in my neck? Any collarbone cancer?” She chuckled and said “No, I’m sorry I phrased it like that. There are no malignant cells at all in the biopsied area. You’re fine, you don’t have cancer.”

I’ll be damned. What a day.

I’m not sure if you knew this or not, but they finally passed that health care reform bill over the weekend. It’s not the avenging angel of radical reform, but it’s a hell of a start. Maybe, someday now, I’ll be able to go off and start my own business. You know, the way that America was meant to be — and I’ll be able to get health insurance. And once I get that insurance, despite my pre-existing condition, those cuntbags that run the insurance companies won’t be able to drop me when I actually need coverage.

My girlfriend, also a cancer survivor, can go off and start her own business, too. And same deal: we can be a part of the Great American Economy. We can be producers of goods and services and do our own damn thing when the day comes, and we don’t have to ask a healthcare company’s permission, either.

It’s hard to believe that there are some that didn’t want that, but there you have it.

So I’ll say it again: I’ll be damned. What a day.I launched a huge project at work, found out I don’t have cancer and the rest of America gets to have something approaching decent health care. You don’t get many better days than this one.

Now I’m sitting at home in my tracksuit pants, up past bedtime and bumping the Gaslamp Killer, typing this thing out. I’m going to treat myself to 7 hours of sleep tonight and get up and do it all over again. And before I fall asleep I’m going to stare at the dark air over my bed and ask this:

What if there was never any bad stuff? What if there weren’t any tumors on our necks, no black wolves to swallow our heads? Would the good stuff feel as good? Or would it all be one numb yawn, the good stuff okay, and the okay stuff just a bland streak on a kiddie rollercoaster? What if all this complex emotional twitching is what it takes to finally sync up and feel happy — to really feel alive?

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