Friday, July 09, 2010

In which I briefly discuss being a human pincusion, and how much more fun it is to be alive than dead

The sky has drifted from blue to gray over the course of the afternoon. I love overcast days and the promise of rain. The greens look greener and the asphalt looks less harsh. No doubt it its still hot and steamy, but at least it appears more bearable – the light isn’t boring into my skin.

Speaking of boring, I had to have another biopsy yesterday, of my left breast. I am always amazed at medical science. They make such extraordinary leaps in technology and yet they cannot design any device for human comfort. Stereotactic biopsies aren’t painful – they shoot you up with lidocaine and then the extraction needle itself continues to inject lidocaine – but the contorted position you must hold for 30 minutes or so is. Perhaps it wasn’t that long. Perhaps it was just the incredible tension in my neck, which I was forced to twist to one side as I lay face down (“Don’t move!”), and the creeping numbness in my right arm, or the fact that the positioning device felt much like an unending mammogram. I greeted the lidocaine with some relief, although after a number of minutes of immobility, I began to imagine the remarkable discomfort had disrupted the flow of time and I was not entirely in the room but was perhaps also inside that computer screen just out of my line of vision. At times like these, doctors and techs display a remarkable serenity and deliberation, as if they are not in the same reality with you, the reality in which you are being compressed with some force into an unnatural state of being. Instead, they are in a world without limits, with an infinite amount of time to adjust, examine, adjust again.

Afterward the tech told me that they inject epinephrine along with the lidocaine. I asked why and she told me that it reduces bleeding. “When we have someone in here who can’t tolerate epinephrine, this whole room is covered in blood by the time we’re done.” I gave myself a little mental pat on the back for my good relationship with epinephrine. I was very grateful that I did not have to stumble out of the room slipping in my own blood.

I’m supposed to have the results in 5 days. I’m not unduly worried, because I simply do not have the energy to worry about it. It has reminded me, however, of how much I like life and this world and how uninterested I am in heaven. Sorry, but I would much rather be with my family than with God, and given that He created us to have fierce ties to other people and our own lives, I don’t think he should expect anything else. Lately I’ve wondered if I have any deep belief in an afterlife. When I was younger I thought it didn’t much matter – once you were dead you had no consciousness with which to be disappointed. It matters while you’re alive, while you’re alive and someone else is dying. You don’t want them erased or even “to live on in your memory.” Really, that latter is pathetic. I don’t want someone in my memory – I want them in the flesh. I find heaven difficult to believe in. I won’t even bother with hell, which is so obviously some sort of sick fantasy dreamed up to satisfy both our bloodlust and our sense of justice.

Besides the obvious desire not to miss watching my children grow up or travel around the world with Dear Husband, I find myself hoping that I don’t die without seeing the final Harry Potter films. And what a shame if I were to miss the next technological advance, or the emergence of the next great actors or writers or artists. Or even the next morning’s coffee. There seems to be so much to look forward to, even when I lag and am weary and depressed.

The wind is growing wilder and the sky is drawing close. I expect to soon see the first dark marks of rain against the pavement. I’m looking forward to watching movies with the family, or perhaps reading a bit, and then sleeping in as much as Firecracker will allow (DramaQueen would sleep until noon).


  1. having been through one such biopsy, I know what you mean about the bodily contortions that have to be held. And, while it didn't hurt I could, nonetheless, FEEL the needle as it pushed through my tissue, tissue which clearly did not want it there. The resistance was, well, something I could feel. Very weird.

    anyway, no sense in worrying....but I will pray for you, and hope that you are able to enjoy the cup of coffee, the weekend, and some movies.

  2. Let us know how it goes, esp. with the results. Take care.

  3. aw, karen, this is so beautifully written. i've just begun reading mccarthy's The Road and to its bleakness your post is a wonderful counterpoint. i love to hear this esp from you, bad alice. thanks and get through the summer with a cool head and boring diagnoses...

  4. Mompriest and Jan: biopsy benign - but needs further investigation, so excisional next

    Marcus: Thanks for the kind words. Hope you are doing well. Keep meaning to read McCarthy