My day started off with a 5AM wake up and we were on the road by 5:30. A straight shot, non stop drive to the VA hospital in Portland for my first appointment at 9 of which because of rush hour traffic, I arrived just in time.
My dermatologist, Margo brought in two skin specialists. One to discuss my various moles that are so susceptible to the cancers that I have been getting and another to look at the bulge on the back of my neck. It was decided that a continued regiment of biopsies on suspected moles every 3 months and a procedure on my neck called a Fine Needle Aspiration were needed. We went over the afternoons surgery and decided to biopsy three more moles at the same time.
I then left and awaited the call for the FNA procedure. I met up with Judy and Trin who were sitting up on the 9th looking at the beautiful view there of the city and river. We decided to go over and grab something to eat. They had already been to OHMC cafeteria and had not been impressed with their meal there but it is so much better than the food at the VA hospital and the two hospitals are joined by a long glass bridge so we walked back on over. I purchased a small pizza and was eating it when I got the call for the next appointment. Judy and Trin decided to go to the zoo since it was obvious that I was going to be occupied till after 2.
I checked in for my FNA and was greeted by a nurse called Christie. She reminded me of a cross between Lisa Kudro and someone who has had far to much coffee. Try and walk as fast as I could, I could not keep up with her long legs. She took me up the 8th to new rooms that had built there. We went into the new room which had very good views of it’s own. I sat on what seemed to be a long wooden love seat sort of chair. The nurse commented on the chair. “I asked for a chair that would hold fat people and this is what they give me”, she remarked. It did look way out of place in this small medical type room.
As the nurse began setting up the computer with my needed information pages, she commented on my name. “Lyle…..I like Lyle. It is a a one syllable name, you know. But a very interesting one. Not tright like Bob, John, or Paul but very interesting. Lyle…yes, I like Lyle.” One sentence seemed to join another as she entertained me while waiting for the doctor. She explained the new room, the procedure, and the fact that she was far to old to live in a town as cold as Bend. She said, “Yes, an old woman like me just cant live in that cold. I am 57 and not getting any younger.” I laughed out loud at that remark and she looked at me as if to say ‘what are you laughing at’. “I am 57”, I stated. “But you are used to it”, she returned. “We get a lot more sun there”, I countered. “What good is the sun when it is cold?”, she demanded. I knew I would lose that argument and just let her get on to her next informational statement amazed and amused at how she could change them mid sentence without any effort.
The doctor arrived and was introduced and he began to explain the procedure. His heavy accent was a bit hard to follow but I did catch some of his remarks and one was the he would be taking the extractions to his La Bor A’ Tory. I think I watch far to many movies as I had visions of some castle and a mad doctor in a room with bubbling test tubes.
Margo told me that the aspirations would be small pin pricks. I was happy that I recently learned what is called triangle breathing for relaxation as his inserts came with needle probes to get as much tissue as he could. As the needle brushed the side of the cyst the pain was a burning one. The breathing was actually very helpful. I had bent over to give him better access to my neck and after each extraction, my nurse worked on my posture. “you can sit up straight there…..but only if you want to”. She said each time. I could tell that the hunch bothered her a bit so I dutifully straightened up for her.
The doctor took his chair in front of the microscope to make his initial assessments. The microscope was a dual one with two able to look. The nurse took her place on the opposite side of the table. She planted her feet about 4 feet across, squatted down and as she looked into her viewers, had her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth much like Michael Jordon when he would go up for a slam dunk. The view was very entertaining as the whole procedure had become to me. I know the two knew their jobs extremely well but the whole scene seemed to me to be great material for a comedian like Seinfeld to have a field day with.
The doctors initial assessment was that the cyst was benign and not cancerous which was a great relief. I left the room with a thank you and a promise from the doctor to give me the results of his La Bor A’ Tory work. With an hour or so to go before surgery, I decided to walk over to the new tram that has been built to bring people up to the hospitals from down by the river. As I walked on to the upper platform, the tram was about to leave so I just jumped on.
The ride down was quite fun and the view was astounding. I heard one of the other riders comment that it was like some sort of Disney ride. The trip took us down the hill, right over the top of busy I-5, and too another landing at the bottom. I rode at the front of the large bullet like structure on the way down to appreciate the view the best. As others moved out, I moved to the opposite end to attain that view on the way up. A man stopped me and asked me for my ticket. I was honest and told him that I didn’t know that I needed one. He asked what hospital that I was going to and I said VA. He asked me for my ID card and I showed it to him. “Vets ride for free”, she smiled. So for all you vets, if you are in Portland, here is a very fun experience that won’t cost you a cent.
I arrived at surgery a few minutes early and was greeted by a fellow Bendite that I had grown up with and we struck up a conversation with a couple of others who were all sitting around talking of the greater satisfaction of being a grandparent rather than a parent. As my name was called they all wished me luck and I was escorted into the dermatology department surgery room that I had spent time in just a few months back.
I layed on the table and was prepped for the surgery by Margo and her nurse friend. I could hear music coming from a side room and was comforted by both of the women humming along with some of the songs. Music is such a relaxing thing to me and I knew that their work would go well….that is unless they started to dance to those same tunes. The whole atmosphere was very calming for a procedure that does bring it’s own stresses. She had to cut a huge hole in my belly and then sew that same hole up. As she deadened the area, I was reminded of all of the vital organs just below her Novocaine needle.
While Margo did the initial procedure, I kept very quiet for two reasons. One was that previous thought of all of those vitals and the other was that I wanted her concentration on her operation and nothing else. When she began to sew it all up, I relaxed and the three of us began to talk like old friends. They laughed as I related my previous FNA experience. “I think she had far too much coffee this morning” she smiled as she related that even she noticed the hyperness of the nurse.
Upon finishing and taking the other three biopsies which is a procedure where they use a punch to cut out the mole and then send it to the lab, she bid me goodbye with a promise to see me when she takes out the stitches or at the diner when she stops by for a meal. The nurse then patched me up and I was sent on my way.
As I came off of the elevator, Trin called out my name. They were at the coffee kiosk getting a latte. I was very dizzy and not sure if it was from the Novocaine or a need for food. We decided to get going, however so that we could beat traffic and we could eat at the Subway at the truck stop where we would gas up the car. I drove the car most of the way home but opted over to Trin as we came out of the treeline on to the flats before Warm Springs when the Novocaine began to wear off and the fatigue of the day and the lack of sleep from the night before began to affect me. I slept in the back seat till nearly Redmond and awoke much more refreshed and actually not feeling much pain from the relaxing sleep.
And so, I am back. Unable to do some of the more physical work such as busing tables and sorting out food for a couple of days but happy that I am once again cancer free….for the time being.