Some time last summer, probably around August, I started noticing a strange feeling in my abdomen. Not pain, just a feeling of fullness, and sort of a detachment, like my abdomen wasn’t really a part of me anymore. Mostly I ignored it, because ignoring things is something I’m good at. I’m a champion ignorer.
It started getting harder to ignore, though, when I started noticing that my bellybutton, always a proud innie, was slowly working its way to an outtie. Along with that my pants started getting tight. Not in the thighs or the hips; only in the belly area. Because I’m so good at denial, which goes hand in hand with ignoring, I actually had myself convinced for a tiny moment that I was really many months pregnant and that I was one of those women you hear about who doesn’t know she’s pregnant because she never stopped getting a period. That delusion lasted long enough for me to bring one of my formerly favorite pastimes out of retirement: I peed on a stick.
I’m just going to leave the results of that to your imagination, because you and I both know that the result didn’t begin with the letter P.
Finally, I decided that ignoring and denying weren’t really serving me very well, which is how I found myself today once again in the tender care of Dr. Firm Handshake. I call him that because he has one, a firm handshake. I’ve always found that surprising in a surgeon and it’s one of the things that made me immediately like him when we first met 8 years ago. Dr. Firm Handshake also has kind eyes, and if I’m totally honest, he’s also pretty kind to anyone else’s eyes that happen to be looking at him, if you get my meaning. But seriously, there are a lot easier ways to get an attractive man to do to you the things I let Dr. Firm Handshake do to me today.
I won’t go into those things in detail, but as soon as he saw my ridiculously distended belly – and looking at it, I don’t even know how I managed to stay in denial as long as I did – he said, “It’s been like this HOW long?” For the rest of the appointment, Dr. Firm Handshake kept his concerned face on.
“You need a CT scan,” he said. “And I want a blood panel so we can get a CA125.”
And that’s another reason I love him: we’ve been through this dance before*, Dr. Firm Handshake and I. He knows I know the drill, like what the hell a CA125 is. He doesn’t talk down to me, but he also answers my questions when there are things I don’t know about what’s going on. He’s a really great doctor and I trust him. Trust is pretty damn important when you’re dealing with an oncologist.
Somehow I finagled the imaging center into letting me come in today, since I was already all the way on the east side**. So the CT scan is done, and the blood is drawn. I’ll be back in Dr. Firm Handshake’s office on the 3rd for the results. He’s moving me fast on this one which, combined with his concerned face, has me a little concerned myself. But this is it, this is the last time. If there’s surgery this time – and I would be stunned if there wasn’t – there won’t be any girly parts left over for cancer to grow on again. So Dr. Firm Handshake and I get to dance one more time, and then it’s over.
*Because we’ve done this so many times before, I felt a little like I’d let him down by not coming in sooner. Like he was disappointed in me for giving in to denial for so long.
**And if there was one complaint I have about Dr. Firm Handshake, it’s that his office is in NY Presbyterian, all the way over on York Ave. It’s a pain to get there.