Tuesday, August 14, 2007

One-year Checkup: Part I

I went for my one-year cancer checkup with the urologist, yesterday. I got to the office right on time, waited a couple of minutes and was called in. I had to give the obligatory urine sample and then went into the patient room to wait. It's kind of like a conveyor belt of health, shuttling me from one area to the next, and at each stage someone performs an action to help build the better Fish...I hope.

So I get into the room and start thinking about how thirsty I am. It's probably just nerves, but I have real cottonmouth. I look around, and unlike every other doctor's office in America, there are no cups. And Dr. W. is taking a long time to get in. He finally gets in and we talk for a bit. He does the pelvic exam, abdominal cavity check, and testicular check, and everything is normal. I'm still thirsty, and I forgot to ask for water.

Then it's time for my favorite (favourite, for our International readers) part of the show: blood sample! I used to be afraid of needles. I remember revealing this fact to a nurse toward the beginning of my cancer journey and she looked at me and said, "Oh don't you worry, honey. We're going to cure you of that, too." And she was right. Somewhere along the line, with all of the poking, prodding, sticking, and all those blood tests, I was no longer afraid. It's not that I look forward to it any more, but I look forward to not being afraid, anymore.

I go back to the nurse's station and Doctor W. is giving instructions to one of the nurses, who gets a phone call the second he finishes. She gives quick instructions to one of the other two nurses, an older woman, who then starts to process me. I need four vials of blood, three large tiger striped ones, and one small lavender one. Another nurse, younger and blonde, comes over to assist her.

"You want three of those and one of those. Now, you'll give that one last, so put it over here," explains Nurse Blonde.
I look on. I ask, "Ummm. You've done this before, right?"
"Oh, sure," says the Nurse who is going to stick me. Somehow, I am not so sure.
"You'll probably want a tourniquet," explains Nurse Blonde.
I'm thinking, "YES PLEASE!!!!!" A blood test without a tourniquet might not be a good idea. Nurse Stick gets an "Oh yeah" look on her face and grabs a tourniquet. Then, it's go time.

Now, before I had cancer and all of this started, I would have been out of there, or at the very least demanding a new nurse. But as I sat there, I thought, "Hmmmm. I guess you have to learn to stick needles in people someplace, and it may as well be here and now for Nurse Stick." So I resolved to let her take my blood as long as nothing crazy happened. She gave me the Aricept squeezable walnut, one of those things pharmaceutical reps drop off in doctor's office to remind them to write prescriptions for their particular brand. Turns out Aricept is for an enlarged prostate, which should normally be about the size of....a walnut. BRILLIANT!

I'm squeezing the simulated enlarged prostate and Nurse Stick begins. The needle goes in nice and easy. She tries to stick the vial into the back of the needle, but she's having trouble. I understand her dilemma, but I'm in no condition to coach her. If she snaps it in really quickly, it could jolt and drive the needle through my vein, which would probably not look good on her resume. On the other hand, the vial is not going on, and blood is probably coagulating at the needle tip, which could clog it. It's a delicate tight-wire walk, with my vein as the rope. Finally, the vial snaps into place and the dark, almost purple liquid begins to fill the vial.

The other three vials proceed in pretty much the same fashion, hesitating to snap the vial on for fear of hurting me, then the blood gushing (Actually,m it kind of pulsates in, with my heartbeats.It's another thing i could not do before, but now am fascinated by) in and filling the vial. Until about halfway through the purple one. It's important, explains Nurse Blonde, that this one is filled, but because Nurse Stick took so long with the other three vials, my blood is beginning to clot the needle. I start pumping my Aricept walnut furiously. As I squash it, it becomes a cashew, release and it's an oversized walnut, cashew, walnut (there's a "nut" joke in there somewhere, but I can't find it...). The blood starts to drip a little more. A little more. Just a little more....done. Nurse Stick takes the needle out and bandages me up. I'm all done, and for all of that, I suspect Nurse Stick actually did learn a lot.

I walk to the main desk where I am to be scheduled for another six-months out and to get a CAT Scan scheduled. CAT Scan--Hooray!!! I get to drink my favorite cocktail of all-time: Barium, slightly chilled, straight up. Delicious! And by "delicious" I mean if you like the taste of modeling clay, and ever wondered what it would taste like as a drink, this is the one for you. I can still taste my last Barium-cocktail. Mmmmmmmmmmm....

So I get to look forward to a Barium Breakfast and a CAT Scan on Friday morning--Wahoo! But, everything is normal up to this point. My blood test results will probably be back next week, I'll get the CAT Scan results pretty quickly, and then I go on with my life for another six months. Next station. Building the better Fish.

As I walk out, I look to my left and see a water cooler. I stop, draw a cup of water and let the ice-cold liquid pour down my throat. It's beautiful.

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