It’s the institutionalization of the thing. When I check in, I confirm everything. My name. Twice. My address. My phone number. D’s phone number. Every last bit of insurance information. I forgot my prescription card and, in fact, have no idea where it is. Intake is friendly if a bit disapproving.
I’m directed to imaging, radiology, & lab to have an X-ray taken and to have blood drawn (Confirm name twice. Date of birth three times. Are these vials correct? Make a fist. Relax your fist. Let me wrap this bright red bandage of “hey I have cancer” on your arm). Despite not being admitted anywhere, I’m awarded a blue hospital bracelet (State your name. Confirm your name.) And I wait. There is a perennial traffic jam for the cold X-ray room.
Stepping in for my chest X-ray, I see a sign saying that all of my doctor’s patients must wear nipple stickers. This is a new thing from last time, and an added injustice to which the tech, Brandy, is completely sympathetic. The clear stickers have hard beads on top and they cover the tips of my nipples just so. Brandy and I chuckle about the placement and I press my chest to the ice cold board, take a deep breath and hold it three times, nipple stickers and all. Here they are in all their glory:
Then I’m dispatched up three floors to the home of my oncologist. The waiting room is huge, and lovely, but I’m (as usual) too freaked out to care. I have to write down all my prescriptions (I will be scolded for not bringing in the bottles, despite having a detailed list). I’m leaving out the clomid today – actively omitting information – because I can’t understand why these people need to know my medications right now in order to see if my melanoma is gone, especially since the doctor reviews nothing but bloodwork, X-rays, skin, and glands. It’s a little rebellion. There isn’t room for much.
The intake man sits me down takes my blood pressure and temperature. I confirm everything. Again. I explain why my blood pressure is so high – white coat syndrome, anxiety, it’s managed. You’re. Not. My. Doctor. and I try to tone down my frustration at the well meaning clucks about height and weight. I’m sent back to the lobby to wait for the doctor, mentally preparing myself to not only confirm but to answer and answer and explain and state and clarify.
In the room, the intake man tells me to put on the gown. I, as I do every time I’m in, ask why I need a gown if the scar is on my arm. He tells me to do whatever I want and I compromise. No shirt or bra, pants on. I meet the resident first who presses on my abdomen with icy hands and wants the answer to everything. Have you lost weight? Do you have headaches? Things that are cancer but are also just me and so it’s a conversation between strangers about the most intimate things. When the doctor arrives he presses and questions and slides his hands down my pants to get to more glands. I’m not sure if it would have been more or less humiliating to be pants-less.
At the end I ask him if I’ve graduated, it has, after all, been two years and there’s no sign that the melanoma snuck away into my internal organs. He looks concerned and surprised. No, he says, every year. For the rest of your life. I’m blaming a cold and the clomid – I want to cry. I’m sad and hateful. I hate this bracelet. I hate the gauze on my arm. I hate waiting. I hate the intake man. I hate the nipple stickers. I hate cancer.