The first time around, I worried incessantly about the incidental finding on the image of my brain, and what it might turn up: the unexpected dead mouse.
The results were taking so long, I asked my shrink, Dr. D, to check My Chart. (Actually, Dr. D is an MD who counsels. But in this cancer world, shrinkage is a good thing, shrink is a homage. And Dr. D is a gift. So shrink it is). My Chart is the online, it’s-conceivable-the-patient-will-misread-and-panic-about-what-they-find-here access point to your personal cancer information (PCI).
I'll never do that again. The PCI is filled will half-baked, uninterpreted findings that remind me of an old George Carlin skit where he’s trying to identify shit in the back of his fridge. Could be beef, could be cake, could be beefcake. This so describes my fridge and, as it turns out, my PCI as well. It's the work of docs, scientists and biologists, the PCI. It’s really Their Chart.
As you know, if you’ve been following my journey, I failed my first test to find something malignant in my brain. They tried to make me feel better by saying the test had failed me, but every time I've had to take a test second time, the fuck-up was mine. Of course, the good news with this second test: there's no studying involved. You just brace yourself for the needle.
I like to make pain noises when I think the pain is starting, to make the test administrator more cautious. Unfortunately, all it does is mislead them. But I can’t help myself. I like to announce the possibility that worse pain is on its way.
“Does that hurt?”
“Well no, not really. Sort of. It kind of pinched.”
I get this from my mother, who used to scream out when something potentially pain-inducing happened. My dad would ask “On as scale of 1 -10, what was it?” And she’d sheepishly look at the floor and admit it was a 2 or 3. My pain threshold is actually quite high, it’s my fear of pain threshold that’s low.
Yesterday I met with Dr J – my monthly pre-chemo get together, where they analyze my blood. We chat about how I’m feeling, his upcoming wedding, my Globe and Mail articles, how many kinds of Lymphoma there are, the TV pilot shoot that overtook my house for a week. Y'know, cancer-related stuff. We finally meander our way around to the elephant in the examination room.
I’ve stopped trying (sort of) to read his face when he walks in, because a) he’s always so smiley and positive, b) his idea of bad news is different from mine, and c) if cancer doctors took on 0.1% of the anxiety of each of their patients, they’d be unable to function. Looking for signs in a cancer doc is a sport that will give you a stomach ache, but burn no calories. So I just wait until we get around to it.
My house may be a mess, but my brain is REALLY CLEAN. They found nothing except one rogue cell swimming the butterfly stroke in my spinal fluid, but it wasn't a cancer cell . Who knew cells weren’t supposed to be there at all? Dr J says not to worry. Most people have one or two cells that couldn’t resist the appeal of clear, cool spinal fluid, and scaled the fence.
I start to cry.
One less thing. That dead mouse, is off my cancer plate.