Posted by: jeanne | June 26, 2008

a routine doctor visit

ever since i got cancer, i don’t worry about the small stuff. like, i used to have this varicose vein running year by year from above my knee up the inside of my thigh. and it would pulse a little, and bother me sometimes, and i would  obsess on it like i was going to die.

but then i was faced with an actual life-threatening affliction, and suddenly who the fuck cares about a varicose vein? i don’t even notice it anymore, except to pat it like an old friend and laugh about how i used to worry.

so, the perspective of knowing you’re going to die. you’re doomed. DOOMED.

and this takes a great deal of the worry out of it, if you can only see it that way.

* * *

my dad died of a ruptured ascending aortic aneurysm – his heart shredded inside his chest. he said it felt like being hit with a baseball bat, and he drove himself to the hospital. he had to be dying at the time, he would never have gone to a doctor otherwise.

turns out it’s hereditary. my little sister has one. and she’s been begging everyone to get checked, so i added it to the list.

i told my nurse practitioner, a wonderful woman who reminds me of an old hippie mother teresa. any way, i recounted my family history, dweling on my sister’s fanatical insistance on the worst possible outcome. she raised her eyebrows and sent me to a cardiologist, who has started in on what promise to be an endless series of tests.

we did the echocardiogram. it’s an ultrasound all over your chest wall. it bruised the hell out of the ribs on my left side. the tech and i had a lovely conversation, and she said she saw nothing except a little valve leakage, nothing abnormal given my age, 52.

that was 3 weeks ago. the following week we were supposed to do a cat scan of my chest. but the insurance company balked, and wanted more information, which nobody has gotten around to giving them.

i learned this today because i went back to the cardiologist for what my daybook says was another echo, only to be told i’m just following up. 

i got put in an exam room. at least i can’t say i was kept waiting in the waiting room.

i sat in the exam room and finished my novel. an hour or more. good thing i come prepared.

then the doctor came rushing in. they’d only just paged him five minutes ago, he swears, and apologizes up and down.

no, i told him, no apologies needed. i just now this very second finished reading my novel (an interesting thing about britain in the 70s, ending in something straight out of finnegan’s wake.) it would be late back to the library if not for this opportunity. thank you.

i caught him up to date with my chart. the tech hadn’t found anything, an the insurance balked at paying for a cat scan. this surprised him no end.

then he left me to go look at the results of the echo. and came backall smiles, because he looked at the results and saw an enlargement, just a slight one, but just at the large end of normal, which he could call a suspected enlargement, and the insurance would have to allow a cat scan then.

hurray.  i’m so enthusiastic. i personally felt that it wasn’t wasting my time to be told that they hadn’t followed up on a few things they should have taken care of, and while i really shouldn’t have had to come in, in fact i stopped at the fabric store on the way in, and i finished reading my book, so i couldn’t call the time a total loss.

and now there’s a cat scan to schedule, an <angiogram. i feel tired.

wait. there’s more.

i got home, and was told my gastroenterologist’s office had called, so i called back and they’ve scheduled me for a cat scan of my abdomen and pelvis for the middle of july. so now i’m going to have 2 cat scans. what did they report about cat scans and hiroshima? maybe i can combine them. i’ll go to my little nurse practitioner warrior woman.

and when he said there was a slight enlargement visible on the echo, what he was really saying was that he’s seeing an aneurism, because that’s what aneurysm means, enlargement. neat sidestepping, doctor.

so if i feel like someonebody’s pounding me on the back, i need to rush over to the hospital, where they maybe don’t freeze your body to stop your heart so they can go i and sew it up anymore.

so maybe i won’t die of cancer, after all? does that cheer anybody up?

but why should i mind which way i die? it’s over so quickly, what does the type of death matter?

what does the quality of life matter? if we’re all going to die, what does any of it matter?

well, it doesn’t. it matters more how you take it, what you make of it, so that you’re happy with how you managed, and don’t have too many regrets. whatever kind of life that takes.

i try to schedule one medical procedure a week, no more. i spent 3 hours not seeing the doctor today, and that ruins what little i can get done of my very important artwork. very important simply because it’s what i’m doing, and what i’m doing is more important than 99% of what anybody else might want.

the coolest flag they can put on your chart in the hospitals and clinics is ‘hypochondriac.’ i’ve had ‘trouble’ used on my chart before, and it elicits a different response from the staff, but if you’re a hypochondriac, then the best thing to do is to humor you, so that you go away reassured, so that you go away.

so they’ll run some tests, no problem. especially if you’re nice about it, and i always try to take them little presents and talk about their personal lives. just so they’re not bored all the time. they can have a dose of me to talk about later.

who was that wierd patient? what did she say?


  1. Oh for the days of the varicose vein.

    My varicose vein was my weight. Oh for the days of just a weight problem.

    Have a great weekend Jeanne.

    Love Renee

  2. Hey Jeanne

    Just hoping that everything is okay with you because I haven’t read any of your funny blogs.

    Have a wonderful July 4th day.

    Love Renee

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