conversations with my doctor, part 3

“The knockout punch is always the one you don’t see coming.”
— the prophet aimee mann

me: I can’t believe you’re working with a young doctor who can totally kick your ass running.

doctor: Well, sure, now, maybe. But I’m 63 and he’s 30. I’d put the 30-year-old me up against the 30-year-old him. Well, maybe not. But maybe the 24-year-old me against the 24-year-old him. (turning to other doctor) Were you fast when you were 24?

other doctor: A small shrug and the sort of silence you partake when you want to keep your job.

doctor: Defiant nod.

And then we talk about my impending demise.

He points out that the reason I feel crappy is because I’m four pints of blood low, which apparently isn’t a good thing. That’s about 1/3 of the blood in my body. This could explain my weight loss, although I’m not certain how much blood weighs. It also explains why running has become an exercise in futility.

The question is:


The lymphoma seems to be a bit less of a polite guest these days, so he suspects that may be it. Occam’s razor, he says. The theory that simpler explanations are more likely to be correct; avoid unnecessary or improbable assumptions. Something is going on; he’s just not seeing what it is. But if I have anemia and lymphoma, he suspects they’re related. He’s just not sure how.

And so we go spelunking. He is pretty excited about a test that sends a Nikon camera with zoom lens down my throat and then out my butt. I suspect he’s excited because he’s not the one who has to do it, and because I joked about him being slow. Mo asks if he personally goes through the poop to find the camera. Of course not, he says. This guy will. He points to the young doctor suddenly regretting his superior leg turnover.

And then a PET scan. If you look up “not fun” in the dictionary, there’s a photo of a PET scan next to it. What you don’t realize when you do it for the first time is that there are no actual pets involved. Just claustrophobia and a nose that begins to itch the very second you’re told to lie perfectly still for the next 20 minutes.

He’s talking about pumping pints of blood or iron or marijuana into me (I wasn’t listening because I was trying to think of more jabs about the faster doctor) because my numbers are so low. I assume this will disqualify me from the Tour de France for sure. Oh, wait. This WOULD qualify me for the Tour de France. All I need is a butt patch and a Livestrong bracelet.

And then? Then we see what we find. The funny thing you learn after hanging out with doctors is that it’s mostly eliminating stuff. It’s not this or this or this, so maybe it’s that. We just don’t know what that is yet. That’s the part that terrifies me. Clearing out the fog and finding what lies at the bottom of the scary movie.

What’s the chance the cancer will intensify, Mo asks him. Ten percent, he says. Is that good or bad, she asks. It depends on how you feel about 10 percent, he says.

What we DO know is that the cancer isn’t playing nice. And that lymphoma picking up speed can cause blood loss. Occam’s Razor. I didn’t see this coming. You never see the knockout punch.

And so it’s off on a new adventure. I’m not sure where we’re headed. I’m not sure how I feel about going through another ordeal. I’m not sure I ever forgave Aimee Mann for being a jerk outside the vintage clothes store.

What I AM sure about is that the young doctor is totally faster than my doctor.  And damned if I’m going to die before I can razz him about that some more.

Onward through the fog …

About gary

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