Saturday, September 27, 2008

It’s the brain that really matters

Monday, August 25th

I go to see Dr. Jeruss (aka The Best Breast Surgeon Ever) on Monday and I’m greeted like a returning rock star the second I walk into the building. I’m used to this, of course, but here on the Cancer Ward it’s a little odd. I think it’s the fact that it’s obvious that I got injured doing something spectacular – and so, sitting there at the Northwestern Breast Cancer Center with my arm in a sling and the entire right side of my face covered in bruises (including a lovely black eye), I am an object of awe. Especially since the average age of someone with BC is oh, about 65 – in other words, people unlikely to be out breaking their collarbones.

This is my interpretation of things anyway.

Dr. Jeruss comes into the room and the dear woman is beside herself. In awe, folks, in awe. I explain what happened, something about my going faster than anyone has been known to go – because I’m just that good – on the Dairyland Dare route, and then some mention of a rabid squirrel derailing my stellar performance – I don’t know, something like that, that’s my understanding of how events unfolded. Dr. Jeruss gives me a hug – clearly feeling grateful and privileged to even be in my august presence.

Me: “....and so,” I finish modestly, “even until the ambulance carted me away, I was determined to finish the ride, all 200K of it. Puh, what’s a broken collarbone? Alas, they wouldn’t let me.”
Dr. Jeruss: “You poor thing. Isn’t it painful?
Me: “Oh, a badly broken bone isn’t that horrendous, even as I feel the bone shards scraping against each other when I try to move. I just gut it out, as I usually do with things that would fell mere mortals. Not a big deal for me. There were other riders that also crashed, a couple of people wound up with broken hips, one girl smashed her three front teeth. A bike crash at high speed – I’m just thankful I didn’t break my neck or something worse. As I always say, my brain is my crowning glory.”
Dr. J: "But what about Ironman? You must be so upset that you won’t get to race this year!"
Me: “There’ll be other Ironmans. Besides,” I say, smiling beatifically, “as my friends are always hearing me say – it could be worse.”

On Tuesday I have an appointment with my new orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Merk. Colleen goes with me, to keep away autograph seekers and, oh yeah, because my mind is a sieve these days. We get there, and lo, what’s this? A McHottie? Finally! Dr. Merk has that manly, “I wrench bones back into place then pin them into submission with a nail gun” air about him, but in a nice way. He hangs up the latest x-ray of my collarbone that’s just been taken.

Dr. MerkHottie: "Up until about a year ago, the accepted wisdom was to not operate to repair collarbones, just let them heal as is. That’s no longer really the case."

We all gaze at the x-ray, which shows the bones overlapping with the top part jutting out towards the sky. As a bonus there are several bone shards perpendicular to the main one.

Me, definitively: "So we’re operating."
Dr. MerkHottie: "Well, I don’t like to tell my patients what to do. But basically your collarbone shattered like a loaf of French bread, that’s why you see those shards. And if we leave the whole thing as is, it’ll probably give you problems later on."
Me: "Yep, definitely operating. My collarbone is my crowning glory, you know."

Dr. MerkHottie is silent and has furrowed his brow slightly. Either he’s worried about his ability to restore my collarbone to its former perfection, or he’s worried about the possibility that’s he’s stuck in a room with a total loon.

Me: "I’m just joking."

He looks relieved.

Dr. MerkHottie: "And if you do sports, the collarbone could also present problems, especially with something like swimming."
Me: "Oh, that’s not good. As a triathlete, I’m very much about the swimming."

To Colleen’s credit, she does NOT break out into loud guffaws.

Dr. MerkHottie: "And you do know that if we operate there’ll be a scar."
Me, with eyebrows raised: "Umm, yeah. That’s what usually happens when you operate......"
Dr. MerkHottie: "Well, some women are surprised and complain that they have a scar, when they wear things that show off their shoulders."
Me: "Not to worry. Not only do I understand the concept of surgery, I also look forward to having a way cool scar that will immediately identify me as a serious cyclist. As if it weren’t already obvious," I add.

Dr. MerkHottie lapses into silence again. But at least we have surgery scheduled, for this Friday. Then later that afternoon Dr. Jeruss calls me and tells me that some lab results came back that show that I might not need chemo after all, just radiation, so she says we might as well go ahead and do the breast cancer surgery as well. So now I have both surgeries scheduled for Friday.

And at this point, all I can say is thank God for broken collarbones! Because the damn thing is bothering me so much, to the point that I can’t sleep and so I get up and pace and try to read and then doze off on the couch and then pace some all I can think is “let’s get this fucking collarbone taken care of already, shall we? Bring on the surgery!” The other surgery doesn’t even enter my head, which is good, because if it did I might be a bit more perturbed about it. But it doesn’t, so I’m not.

Friday, August 29th – Surgery Day

Yet again I have a bone to pick with the crackheads who write for Grey’s Anatomy or any other medical tv show. Because every time a patient is going into surgery, they show said patient engaging in witty banter, engaging repartee, etc., all the way until the counting down and the anesthesia kicks in.


For me, this is how things unfold. First I’m visited by about 8 anesthesiologists – the head one being a cranky schlub who rolls his eyes when I don’t answer his questions quickly enough. Maybe there’s a reason he went into a profession where he just puts people to sleep.

Then soon enough it’s showtime, and they wheel me out of my little room and down a hall, and are about to wheel me over to the adjoining wing, first giving me a little cap to put over my hair. The next thing you know, I’m being poked awake by a nurse and 5 ½ hours have elapsed. WTF? I’m stunned! Outraged! Where the hell was my witty banter, dammit?! I remember nothing! It’s all a bit fuzzy, but as Dr. Jeruss later tells me, apparently I’m still ranting about this when she comes in to tell me that the operation went well. Luckily, as she also explains, one of the nurses said that since I was a finely-honed, clean-living athlete, the anesthesia and drugs probably affected me more than most which is why I was so completely loopy post-surgery. I nod sagely and do nothing to disabuse Dr. Jeruss of this notion. Nothing at all.

1 comment:

D said...

So as quickly as we get your most excellent blogging back, you're going in for surgery and will be all doped up again? It's bull shit. I don't accept.