358: heavy air

{i had a biopsy and all i got was this lousy scar}1. chick flick

I’ve been feeling restless lately. Maybe it’s the humidity, the arrival of summer and clouds of gnats that surprise me on the walk home from the bus stop. I begin to sweat almost as soon as I step outside and squint into the sunshine. Nights are the worst — wind is high, and I talk on the phone outside my building. Not only because my cell phone reception is bad inside my apartment, but also because I enjoy the wind blowing my skirt up past my knees.

Last weekend, I saw The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants with Rozi, Jacinda and Jalissa. Andrew, Joe, and Kevin came with to snark, though we would shush them as we choked back tears and drank gigantic sodas. After the movie, Kevin swore he’d just grown a vagina. We all groaned, then laughed, then groaned again as we looked out the main doors of the theater to see heavy rain. We played in the arcade, waiting for the storm to subside. I am convinced that I could have beat Andrew at Dance Dance Revolution if I had not been wearing flip-flops. Saturday night found me at Kevin’s again. Kathy, fresh from a work trip to LA, convalesced with us while we watched Finding Nemo and wondered how to amuse ourselves. Kevin was boyfriend-less for the weekend, so we got to read Gabe’s text messages from his college reunion in Iowa. Geoff Fischer was in town for reunion, and he came by to get Kevin for an evening of drinks with some other college pals. Kathy and I went out for slurpees, then I went to bed early so I could get up on Sunday to meet Christine for breakfast.

2. weird people I saw on the way to meet Christine for breakfast at tweet

a. middle-aged Eminem-wannabe on child’s bike, peddling around the intersection of Lawrence and Damen, sipping an Old Style tallboy wrapped in a brown paper bag

b. old guy sleeping at bus shelter on Lawrence and Damen wearing a sweater and heavy corduroy pants

c. creepy sunglass-wearing guy at bus shelter on Sheridan and Lawrence, arms folded in his lap under two jackets, arms moving up and down repeatedly while I stared at him from behind huge sunglasses and he stared right back

3. sunday afternoon

Another hot day, so I spent Sunday afternoon indoors mainly. On State Street, shopping with Kathy and Christine. Kathy scored a hot dress for the ball she’s attending on Friday. Christine got a sweet pink sundress, some tomato red pants, and espadrille wedge sandals. I bought a dress that will look very good on me in a few weeks if I lose a few more pounds. After clothes-shopping, Kathy and I stopped at Whole Foods so we could get fruit for this week’s salad. A pineapple and blackberries. I bought pomegranates so I could go home and make myself pomegranate martinis. Also, a Linda McCartney frozen entrée, which I didn’t think exist outside of that Simpsons episode where Lisa becomes a vegetarian. It was butternut squash ravioli, and it was delicious. Acquired two mangoes at Stanley’s. The mangoes were lovely, but a bitch to slice up and most of what I did manage to cut just turned into a big pulpy mess. Ugh.

4. the silver monkey

Jolanta is moving to the north side of town, so I inherited her elliptical trainer. Jeremy, friend that he is, drove me down and helped me bring it back in his truck. It is very pretty, silver, and resembles a monkey. It doesn’t take up very much space. It wasn’t very heavy, but it did take four of us (me, Jeremy, Jola, Jola’s sister B) to get it down the back stairs. Spencer, excited because he thought he was being taken for a walk, supervised.

Jeremy and I had fun driving it home. We were worried it wouldn’t survive a quick drive on the Stevenson and Kennedy expressways, so we took Pulaski up to Ogden, then Ogden up to Damen and then up to home. Ogden was kinda scary — I saw lots of drunks, a hooker wearing no pants and her pimp, and a smashed-up car just sitting in the middle of the street. Jeremy and I talked about the Twisted Spoke and porn. It was a perfect night for a drive.

5. rid of me

“For a laparoscopic biopsy, the physician inserts a special tube called a laparoscope through an incision in the abdomen. The laparoscope sends images of the liver to a monitor. The physician watches the monitor and uses instruments in the laparoscope to remove tissue samples from one or more parts of the liver. Physicians use this type of biopsy when they need tissue samples from specific parts of the liver.” (nih.gov)

Cynthia left me in the waiting room at the hospital. We’d been waiting for an hour, and she had to get back to work. She had taken a nap while I read Giant Robot magazine, stared at the old lady bent over in a chair opposite me, and tried not to be especially nervous, or brave, or heroic.

People keep telling me I’m brave, but I don’t want to feel this way. I want to act like this isn’t a big deal. I’d rather reserve the bravery in case things get worse. But it’s not terribly easy to maintain composure when you are asked to go into a hospital and give strangers — okay, highly trained and educated strangers — permission to stab you with a giant needle and take parts of your body.

I tried to call Kevin, who was coming to pick me up, to let him know that I’d be in interventional radiology, and that things were running behind, when Mike the orderly came and got me. I had to go. I hoped Kevin would be able to find me. I was happy to leave the waiting room, as I was the youngest person in the room. An hour spent waiting, where I had to drink water a whole bunch to quell my coughing, and sign formsfor Dr. R. so she could have an extra liver sample for a study she was running. Mike took me to a busy room where doctors, nurses, and orderlies attended to other patients behind white curtains. A girl with a sweet face and large elaborate gold hoop earrings showed me the gown to put on (I had to remove my top, but everything else could stay). After I changed, she took my blood pressure. The doctor came in, I signed another form, then he walked me down more corridors to room 6. An operating room. I forgot the doctor’s name, but he was my height, curly hair, and had a habit of rapping the wall as we walked.

Room 6 was fairly ordinary. If it wasn’t for the operating tables, the bright lights, and the large needles stored on shelves on the opposite wall, I would have thought I was in the reading room of a small library in a city somewhere. Jim, another nurse, helped me onto the table. Robin, Dr. R’s assistant, appeared with a large stainless steel container. I had to initial another page of the form I had signed earlier, which allowed her to take the sample back to Dr. R. I lay down, Jim slid plastic arm rests under my torso. Before he even asked me, I pulled down my skirt to my hips, tugged my gown to just under my breasts. Jim asked if I’d had a biopsy before. No, but I’ve had two ultrasounds and an MRI in the last month, so I had the drill down. Jim draped sheets on me, leaving my abdomen exposed. He cleaned my stomach, then applied a warm gel and started the ultrasound machine. Dr. W, the guy who’d be doing the biopsy came in to say hi and explain what would happen. A resident came in, introduced himself, and took over the ultrasound duties from Jim. Jim was replaced by Bay, another nurse who prepped a table just out of view. I think she put out petrie dishes and other equ
ipment to take the samples.

My liver, on the ultrasound, looks like, I don’t know. A cave. The bottom of a well. It was not unlike the ultrasounds done on pregnant women on television shows. Only this wasn’t my uterus and I wasn’t knocked up. Dr. W. smeared more gel on my stomach, and I had to laugh because it tickled. The ultrasound again, and there was the well. Shadows, some ridges — the liver. It looked a lot clearer now than it did in the ultrasound I had in April. Dr. W. warned me before he injected me with lidocaine, that this was usually the least pleasant part of the process. And he was right. It was like three big bee stings, and then nothing. I could no longer feel the gel on my stomach. I could feel the ultrasound sensor moving over me, pressing into me, but it didn’t hurt like before. Dr. W. said I may not want to watch the screen, but I couldn’t tear myself away. I saw a bright fuzzy spot appear in the upper right hand corner of the screen, and it was then that I felt the needle moving inside me. I wanted to sit up and look at my stomach, but I didn’t. I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to make sure that my lungs didn’t get punctured. I lay very still, marveling at the feeling of the needle as it wiggled around. I didn’t understand what Dr. W. and the resident were talking about, so I was taken by surprise when they took the first sample. POP!, a flash of light on the ultrasound monitor, and the needle was out so they could deposit the bit of liver in a dish and give it to Robin. The POP! sound was like a staple gun — swift, precise, sharp. And it felt that way, too. Dr. W. went in again, deeper this time, for another piece. Again, the same bright fuzzy movement, and I wanted to keep a hand on my stomach to feel that POP! again. POP!, the needle came out and I felt Dr. W’s hand on my stomach as he pulled. His hand stuck a bit, and I wasn’t sure if it was blood on my stomach, the ultrasound gel, or both. Last sample, this time taken by the resident. He took a bit longer to nab a piece, the needle going in at a wider angle. I could feel my liver pushing up against my lungs? my rib cage? and I inhaled sharply. It didn’t hurt. It felt kind of good. POP! again, and it was over.

Dr. W. thanked me for being so patient while the resident cleaned me up, put a bandage on the hole before I could get a good look at it. Bay came back to clean up. I read the agreement I signed for Dr. R., listened to the classic rock station play over the PA system. Roxy Music and Led Zeppelin, great music for a biopsy. Bay helped me onto a gurney, wheeled me back to the first room with the curtains, where I napped for an hour until the nurses came in, cuffed me with a blood pressure cuff that was attached to a machine that could take my blood pressure by itself. Kevin appeared, bearing bread from the Au Bon Pain downstairs. We chatted some, he read the Giant Robot magazine, and I lay, staring at the ceiling, occasionally touching the hole where before there had only been skin.


“Hon, this is, like, nerd hot talk?”
(Abbey Bartlet)

PS: If you want me to e-mail you a picture of the hole, let me know.

The Whispers – Rock Steady; TV on the Radio – don’t love you; Roxy Music – More Than This; Black Eyed Peas – Pump It; Dean Martin – Love Me, My Love



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