She’s having her consult with the surgeon and I am there as moral support, and apparently to act as a repository for all the literature that the surgeon is giving her. Once again she is very brave, sitting there talking with the surgeon as though they were discussing nothing more important than the proper fertilizer to put on tulips instead of the various options she has for someone to hack pieces off of her with a knife and her long-term chances for not dying.
I take notes. The first note I take is the observation that before any of the other questions – “Do you smoke?”, “Do you drink?”. “Do you have a history of drug use?”, “How often do you eat lead based paint chips?” etc. comes the question “Do you have insurance?” It is, in fact, the very first question that the surgeon asks. So this then is the number one treatment issue – the thing that needs to be determined before any other issue with regard to her surgery, treatment, and care.
Direct and do the point. I wish briefly that the President and the Democratic front-runner were there to answer the question.
It was the best they could do.
They had to compromise.
They’ll fix it later.
Later is getting uncomfortably close.
Back when ACA was being debated. Back when ACA was being crafted. Back when ACA was slowly being enacted. Back at all those times I knew that there were people who weren’t going to be covered. It concerned me. I was vocal about it. Some of our friends agreed. Some disagreed. It was social media fodder. But now I am sitting in an uncomfortable chair in an examination room literally watching those decisions and actions made by our elected officials years ago toss my wife of 20 years under the bus.
If it was the best they could do then fuck every last one of them. I hope they burn in hell.
After a brief discussion the surgeon conducts a brief breast exam, which is bizarre for me to witness. Seeing her breasts manipulated in such a clinical environment, in such a clinical manner seems so strange and foreign. I, who am probably the world’s leading expert on those breasts, excepting only their owner and operator, feel like something is being violated, though I can’t say what. Of course I know that breast exams are part of a woman’s healthcare. Of course I know that doctors manipulate the breasts as part of that exam. But I have seen those breasts by candle light and sunlight and lamp light and moonlight and by the light of a million million stars. I have seen them in darkness sufficient to render them as mere curves of lesser blackness, and in light sufficient to render their every feature visible. I have observed them and have made myself familiar with their nuances over 20+ years. Such a businesslike manipulation – so forward and at the same time so detached – is vaguely shocking for me to witness.
Thankfully the examination is brief – the surgeon already knows from the previous mammograms more or less what’s there. I get the impression that the exam is just a formality, or perhaps a warm-up.
Then the ultrasound machine gets turned on, and I get to see the lump for the first time.
I hate it instantly.
It has been described to me after the initial exams as looking a lot like one of those nebulae that the Hubble Space telescope is always taking pictures of. And it does. In black & white it looks like an inky black thunderhead hiding inside her. An irregular mass, it has protrusions going off in various directions, and blobs and lumps. And it’s big – bigger than I pictured it. Three-and-one-half centimeters. How could such a thing have been lurking in there, unnoticed?
Monkey brain is shrieking again, and I have a vague urge, quickly suppressed, to grab the ultrasound machine by its stand, knock it over, and pound it against the floor until it stops moving and I can piss on it. Maybe that would have been good etiquette a million or so years ago, but it isn’t the sort of thing that flies at Kaiser these days, though I bet it still happens occasionally – that old programming is hard to lose entirely.
The surgeon keeps talking to her about treatment options. She smiles and nods and pretends to be enthusiastic – that trick we all learn talking to people we don’t really want to be talking to at parties.
I never really learned that trick.
So I just sit and take notes and collect literature. And every so often I glare at the monster still on the screen.
I hate it.
I hate it so much.