October 15, 2005


This blog has not followed the '70s feminist slogan, “The personal is the political.”

Guy that I am, I've focused on politics, society, the magnificence of French engineering, and Tuvan throat-singing.

Events have led me to make an exception. This is personal.

About three weeks ago, I went to the men's room at work, and suddenly my urine was bright-red bloody. It ain't supposed to be that way. Of course, my family MD's staff wouldn't give me an appointment until the next week. Thinking it might be an infection, and if so, it might be a good idea to get started on an antibiotic, I went to the emergency room. I picked Hoag, a bigger hospital than our nearby ER, also because Nancy had had a nasty experience with the small ER that same day.

They were very nice and seemed competent, allowed as how it was probably an infection or a kidney stone, took a CT scan, gave me an antibiotic, and said I should see a urologist. I asked my MD biking friend Meredith for a referral, and went to the urology group. My MD was a seemingly very young Iranian-American fellow, who announced that the standard procedure was to send a tiny camera up the urethra to send a TV image of the inside of the bladder to see what was happening, and set me up with an appointment for this delightful experience about a week later.

There I was on my back, with a tube up my virile member—yes, it hurts a bit going in, though less than you might think—looking at TV. We look at everything on a monitor nowadays. Dr. Tebbyani said, “There it is! A tumor.” On the screen was something resembling a sea anemone. After the mildly nasty post-exam events, the good doctor announced that they would schedule me for surgery, and using the same means of entry, snip out the cancer and cauterize the margin. That would probably be it, except that I would need to undergo the camera procedure every three months for a couple of years. Worst case, of course, the thing would have metastasized and I'd soon be dead, but except in my half-empty-glass mind, this outcome was unlikely.

After what seemed an interminable wait, I had the surgery last Thursday, on Yom Kippur. If the Dr. was Muslim, I didn't want to think about whether he would be fasting at the time (it's Ramadan), as I was required to do. The anesthesiologist, apparently Japanese-American (white bread Orange County's long gone, I guess), asked me whether I wanted to be awake or out during the procedure. I allowed as how I did not need to watch a doctor thread an electric knife through my pecker, and putting me out would be just fine.

Nancy drove me to the hospital, after I had mistakenly taken two, not one, tranquilizers. I joshed with the nurses, they stuck me with a needle, put in an IV, and before I knew it I was in the recovery room, joshing with the nurses, who didn't want to let me go home because I was still woozy from the two tranks or the anesthesia.

Eventually, they did kick me out, and home I went. I promptly slept for 18 hours, waking every hour or so.

The aftermath was not as bad as I thought it would be. I anticipated pretty constant pain, but it only hurt for a few minutes after I peed. They've given me pretty good drugs and I'm gradually getting better, although I suspect I'm not quite as strong as I think yet. One of the drugs is from the old Azo dyes and makes your urine bright orange. Believe me, it's a lot better than bright red.

In any case, I was able to see Katharine debut as Brigitta in The Sound of Music and enjoy it, and am able (now that cable is back) to blog.

So perhaps this is all a non-event.

There was a time, however, when people wouldn't mention the word “cancer.” They'd say “C” and doctors would hide the diagnosis from their patients. Now they might say “tumor” but people are pretty open. Of course, in my youth they couldn't remove a bladder cancer without an abdominal incision (talk about nasty, painful experiences).

The word still makes one aware of mortality, and of what's important in life (my family, more than anything), and how little time we have to stay, and all that. All that philosophical stuff, ya know. But I'll divagate on that some other time. Today, just the facts.

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