Cancer Follow-up

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:

photo (1)

And here they are on poor Khloe Kardasian:
photo (2)

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.

It’s not usual but I wait an hour and a half. I’m not sure what sort of emergency warrants that delay.

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.

17 Responses

  1. Virtual hug.

  2. Different states, different cancers, different doctors. Same experiences. A virtual hand squeeze and nod of solidarity to you.

    • I’m not sure what it is about the institutional feel. Our center is new and fantastic and seemingly in tune with so many good things (meditation space, hair and hat shop, etc) but the hospital-check-in-esque bit makes me feel less empowered, not more. Not what I wanted (or want) as a cancer patient.

  3. Suckity suck suck. I’m sorry.

  4. I’m sorry that you have to go through this routine every year. I hope that cancer continues to stay away, and that the institution becomes a little kinder over time.

    What are the nipple stickers for?

    • I know, right? WHAT ARE THEY FOR?! The tech said something about identifying areas of density and that the stickers make it so that shadows cast by nipples are misinterpreted as a suspicious mass.

  5. I’m sorry. That blows. Big, huge hug.

  6. Cancer effing sucks! I hate it too.

  7. Fuck cancer.

  8. I get to wear those when I go in for my mammograms! Actually, mine are more band-aid like with the studs.

    Fuck Cancer. Fuck the idea of scaring the shit out of you while making sure all is well.

  9. How dehumanizing. I am sorry.

  10. ((HUGS)) My thoughts are definitely with you today, meridith!

  11. Kia ora,
    I’m stopping by to say ‘tag you are it’, I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Award. Call by my post ‘Leibster Award – Rua’ for the questions.
    If you can’t participate then no worries, just know that I really enjoy your blog and love getting comments from you.
    PS- so the nipple stickers were anti- radiation or something?

    • I’ve already been tagged! I think that makes double it or something… Thank you! And, those stickers are, I think, supposed to make clear where the nipples are so that they aren’t confused with a mass of some kind.

      • Oh I see about the stickers, that makes sense.
        As for the nomination, I’ve received multiple nominations in the last few weeks so am doing a series of posts, I figure it’s as good a way as any to get my A into G (ass into gear) about blogging again.
        So if you feel like accepting another nomination then that would be great.

  12. Cancer suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. Good on you for not just punching everyone in the box, yelling PARCOUR!! and jumping out a window.

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