Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Story Of My Upcoming Badass Tiny Scar

A few months ago, I went in for my good-Canadian routine physical, the kind of thing that all women are supposed to get once a year to ensure they're not growing horrible little cells or they haven't contracted an STI. I usually go to a pretty blonde doctor, one who looks very J. Crew and healthily tanned, but this year she had mysteriously vanished and was replaced by a woman who weighed about ninety pounds and had a ponytail. If not for the wrinkles, I'd have thought she was sixteen. Call me crazy, but I like my doctors to look like they might be old enough to be high school graduates, let alone done with all that pesky medical training that comes after.

Anyway, she took my blood pressure and made some brusque small talk ("You're an English major? Huh."), and then I lay down on the paper-covered table and she got down to business. For those of you not blessed with a vagina, or who are too scared to go on the regular, a physical is a minor sort of thing. The doctor spends about five minutes with a speculum, another 90 seconds using her hands, and then "you might feel a pinch," which is the swab being done. It actually feels nothing like a pinch. It's weirdly indescribable, although the closest I might come would be "stabby, but in miniature."

Usually, the whole thing is done in, like, ten minutes, and you wipe the lube off your lady bits and put your pants back on and spend the rest of the day feeling just a little bit weird. This time, though, there was a deviation from the script.

"Are you pregnant?" she asked, hand firmly ensconced in my vaginal canal. Immediately, the mental klaxons started blaring.

"Um, no?" I said. Because my brain had immediately gone into panic mode (which renders it into a totally unhelpful jell-o-like state of affairs), I wasn't immediately able to say it like I meant it. So she asked me again, and I repeated "No!" only this time I sounded panicky. I sounded like I was lying. About being pregnant. To a doctor.

"Well," she said, as she took her hand out of my body (note to the vaginaless and the afraid-of-doctors: that is exactly as weird as it sounds), "your uterus is big. I'm going to order some tests." I shrugged. I was a student. Tests don't scare me. Bring 'em on, I said. I'll get all A's. Big uterus? Pfft. Maybe it's big because it can barely contain all my awesomeness. Why do I carry my awesomeness in my uterus? Dunno, but it's awesome!

There was an ultrasound, which was basically a ultrasonic dildo pinging around in my bits, and no less than three technicians who were concerned at their inability to find my left ovary. They kept coming into my little fabric-walled cubicle, peering at the monitor, looking at me, and then leaving to get someone who hadn't left their X-Ray Specs at home. I left feeling unsettled, mostly because I didn't fit the demographic in the waiting room: youngish and pregnant, or older and cancer-bald. Me and my big uterus and my AWOL ovary slunk outside and had a little cry on the steps of the building, because apparently things were not okay in there.

When I went back to the doctor a week later, she was mystified. "This isn't really what I deal with," she told me, which is fine. It's not really what I deal with either. I asked about cancer. She sort of shrugged and was like, "Er, probably not. But I'm not promising you anything," which my jell-o brain interpreted as yet more reasons to freak out. While she was saying things about follow-up appointments, my brain was yelling "YOU HAVE CANCER, IT'S EVERYWHERE, IT'S ON YOUR HAIR, HOLY SHIT," so it was sort of hard to hear. My brain apparently reacts to the possibilty of cancer the same way it reacts to getting pooped on by a bird.

I went to the gynecologist, a person who does deal with this shit. He was like, "Well, there's something in there, but I can't tell what it is." He then threw a bunch of words with -oma and -oid on the end of them into the conversation, but I was so addled I could barely sit up. My friend Liz, who just got accepted into nursing school and who was my number one pick for dealing with this kind of medical mystery tour, was nodding and asking questions and being a grownup, while I was clawing at the neckline of my shirt and turning gray. Turns out, he doesn't know what it is either. He was like, "Surgery will tell us!" which I said yes to, and then he mentioned that it's the size of a grapefruit.

Next time you're at the grocery store, pick up a grapefruit. It doesn't have to be one of those Floridian monsters; just a regular old grapefruit will do. Now imagine this thing embedded in your abdomen, two inches to the left and one inch down from your navel. Weird, yeah? After I left that appointment and some of the blood came back into my head (and cried a bunch more), I went out and bought a grapefruit. I was going to eat it, to show my abdominal lump who was boss, but that idea grossed me right out. I eventually threw it away.

I'm having a hard time conceptualizing this mass. While it probably looks fairly gross, what I'm picturing is, like, a Diet Coke can just wedged in there. Or maybe a lost and hibernating bat. Something foreign. Something sort of repulsive and sort of cute at the same time. Conceptualizing the mass in vaguely gross and hilarious ways is distracting me from thinking about the surgery. I'm oscillating between pretending to be blase about the whole thing and feeling fucking terrified. I've never had anesthetic before. I've never had morphine before. The nurses told me I couldn't ride my bike for a month after, which, like, hello: that's what I do. The only time I've ever had stitches is when I ran my face into a wall playing tag at a friend's house. I'm not afraid of blood or pain or stitches or throwing up in the recovery room; I'm afraid of feeling crappy, forever.

My Bill Cosby pudding brain keeps shrieking about all the bad shit that could happen, and that is getting super tedious. My more rational and tender and, frankly, better brainparts all keep trying to remind me that this is getting dealt with. The lump, whatever it is (I'm rooting for bat, just because it would freak my gyno right out), was found. The surgery, whatever that's going to be like, is happening soon (August 12!). The shitty feelings of post-surgical recovery are fast approaching, but that means they'll also be going away that much sooner. And the fear of the unknown will disappear, because these worries will become known entities.

I know this is long. Thanks for reading. Sometimes it - the lump, the fear, the story - just needs to come out.


  1. If you can't ride a bike, could you stand on a bike? If I get pegs put in on my back tires, could you double with me to get that sense of freedom? At least to get the wind in your hair?

    Where is this magical surgery happening, anyways?

  2. It's happening at Women's College in beautiful downtown Toronto! And I hope I get to double around on someone's bike. Otherwise, I'm going to have to...walk places? That can't be right.

  3. Your story was not at all too long. The wit and charm of your blog keeps us wanting more and eagerly anticipating your next post. Please feel free to vent your feelings and insights as often and for as long as you have the impulse to put finger to keyboard.

    If I had to wait two weeks for an important surgical procedure, it would drive me bananas or nutty or some such metaphor from the Plantae kingdom. Grapefruity? Might even make me batty ... Fortunately when I had the first and only major surgery of my life last September, the time between being informed of needing it and being wheeled into the operating room was about ten minutes.

    Love and best wishes.

  4. Do you know how long you have to stay in the hospital? Is it a day surgery, or are you there for a couple days?

  5. Maybe you're like, a new fancy oyster, and you've got some kind of pearl or little golden tooth stashed in there!

    Uhh. but seriously. You've only got another 2 weeks to stress out and cry, and then the fam and I will sit waiting, biting our nails and reading crap (that suddenly seems to Trivial!) and then it'll be over. And we'll see Scott Pilgrim and you'll become bigger than Anne Lamott. This is grist for the mill! (easy for me to say)

    Love you times one million billion!

  6. Okay I just read this because I just got home from vacation, and... wow, dude. My brain would probably interpret that as scary shit, too. But honestly more times than not, people get things taken out and they turn out to be things not worth the worry in the first place. The fact that you have to wait for the surgery, while undeniably frustrating, is probably actually a very good sign. And after three surgeries of my own, I can tell you that the five minutes before they put you under and the 30 or so minutes right after you wake up suck balls, but other than that it's not so bad... the hardest part is remembering that you're not supposed to lift anything that weighs more than, like, a pound for about three weeks afterwards, even though you feel JUST FINE.

    I'll be thinking of you. And I want to see you while you're at the cottage recovering!! I'll be around for a few days. :)