Turning the crank

This week I was struck by the way the profoundly significant development of this tumor has plunged me into a world of bizarre mundanity. The insurance issues that Kimberly dealt with yesterday are one example.

Another example is the 8-page patient history form MD Anderson sent us to be filled out before our appointment. Kimberly earlier railed about the silly forms we’ve seen. This one, I must say, is a whole different level of competition. (I couldn’t even start on the form for a couple days after it arrived. It just seemed unfair that I should have to bear a cancerous tumor, hideous surgical procedures AND long, bureaucratic forms.)

It’s actually a pretty well-designed, comprehensive form. Still, it’s 8 pages long! Kimberly cajoled me into working on it by agreeing to actually fill out the form while I answered the questions from across the room. Along the way I became freshly aware of just how much medical crap I’ve already lived through. Jeez.

As you might expect from a major cancer center, they have a section for Prior Cancers, Prior Radiation Treatment, and Prior Chemotherapy. Also, Past Hospitalizations, which is separate from Past Surgeries. There was a large space for Current Medications, with the added features of the “reason for taking” and “length of time taken” columns, which I haven’t seen before.

They also take care to check up on your emotional health. “During the past four weeks, have you been feeling…calm and peaceful?” Boxes to check are “All of the time,” “Most of the time,” ” A good bit of the time,” “Some of the time,” “A little of the time,” “None of the time.”

Have you have you been feeling…”had a lot of energy?” (pay no attention to the grammatical problem there.) Same boxes.

Have you been feeling…”downhearted and blue?” Same boxes. (I wanted the “No, having a tumor in my head cheered me right up!” box)

In the last four weeks, because of emotional problems, had I “accomplished less than I would like” or “didn’t do work or other activities as carefully as usual.” I answered Yes to both. (Of course, there are some healthy perfectionists who would answer Yes to both questions even when they weren’t preoccupied with head surgery.)

By the time we got to the Work History section, page 5 of 8, I was REALLY beginning to “have an attitude.” I answered “software development” to “What job have you held for the longest period of time?” To “What type of tools, equipment, or chemicals did you use on that job?” the answer was computers, telephones, whiteboards, coffee makers. “What kind of company did you work for on that job?” Internet pioneers.

Alcohol History included the question “Do you drink alcoholic beverages regularly (at least 1 drink per month)?” I wondered how many people would consider one drink in a month “regular” alcohol consumption. Choices included “Yes, currently”, “Yes, but quit”, and “Never/rarely”. (I guess that last choice is for the person who really cut loose that one year and had a drink every month, but then got their life straightened out.) There was a grid with rows for Beer, Wine, and Liquor, and columns for number each Day, Week, Month and Year, and number of years of consumption. I wondered about the concern for my drinking behavior from a state where you could drive with an open can of beer until recently.

The Social Work section held the gem “Please circle the number (1-10) that best describes how much distress you have been experiencing in the past week.” 0 was No Distress and 10 was Extreme Distress. Kimberly and I discussed my interpretation that the entire scale was on the “negative” side of neutral, since “.1” distressed would still mean you were distressed. (I decided not to become more distressed about the exact meaning of the word “distressed.” )

We did make it through all 8 pages, finally, and I was not quite reduced to tears by remembering in detail all the surgeries and chemo treatments, while anticipating the next round. Not quite, but close. (Oops. I forgot to factor the distress caused by the form into the ten-point scale.)

Anyway, after all that, going to the hospital to pick up the slides containing the tissue samples of my tumor seemed pretty normal.