Holy Crap, Batman! (warning: gruesome medical details ahead…)

“This posting may be too intense for younger viewers.” ‘Nuff said.

Yesterday it got through to me that this is several orders of magnitude worse than I had previously realized.

In some self-protective denial, I’d been thinking of “surgery” as being some vague, super-sized-root-canal-type of thing. Nuh-unh. We’re talking full-on, Joseph Cambell Hero’s Mythic Journey caliber shit here. I mean, Full Awesome Power of Mechanistic Western Medicine. They are talking about the kind of stuff that makes me abstractly admire the ingeniousness and audacity of it, while leaving the part of me that realizes that they are talking about doing it to ME quivering and sobbing in a heap, and has the animal brain jumping up-and-down on the “flight” button of the fight-or-flight controller.

How do you get good access to a tumor at the back of the mouth? Cut through the jaw vertically at the chin, which allows you to peel back the side of the mouth! Brilliant. {Oh my god…} [OWWW!]

How do you cover the hole left behind after the tumor is cut out, since it’s too wide an area to just stitch up? Take a patch of skin from the forearm and put it in the mouth, and replace the forearm patch with a patch from the leg. Amazing. {You’ve got to be kidding…} [WHAT THE F**K??!]

How do you maintain an airway, during the procedure and afterwards, while the mouth and throat are swollen? Tracheostomy. Simple. {What? No! What? No! What?} [RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!]

How do you feed a patient that can’t swallow, either because his throat is swollen or he needs to re-learn to swallow because he’s missing nerves he used to have that got cut out? Feeding tube, of course. Obvious. {uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh……..} [AAAaAAAAAA!!!!!]

Holy crap, Batman.

We’re talking two weeks in the hospital, and a long time after to recover. We’re talking a speech pathologist to help me learn how to swallow again, and to work with whatever speech changes I’m facing. A tongue that’s permanently numb on one side. (And that’s the good scenario. Let’s not talk about the word “fistula” shall we? Good.)

(The author Spider Robinson wrote something about how God is an iron. (Logically, if someone who commits a felony is a felon, then someone who commits irony…? You get the point.) I’ve always also enjoyed the double-meaning, having been flattened before. That I’ll be working with a speech pathologist shortly after having started a new career that’s all about talking to people…there are no words.)


Boys and girls, I’m shattered. Apparently I don’t get credit for my previous Outstanding Performance in Mythic Journeys. You’d think I could at least “test out” of this or something. I don’t need another goddamn Character Building Experience. I’m too old and tired for another journey to Hell and back again. I can’t do this by myself.

Thank god* I don’t have to. I know I have your love and support and whatever prayers/vibes/good thoughts fit into your personal cosmologies. I, and Kimberly, are going to need all we can get. I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m not too proud or too stupid to ask for help. Help. Please. We may not always be able to tell you what we need or thank you properly, so we may also need you to use your sensitivity, consideration and imagination, but I know we can trust you on that. Thanks. I mean it. It’s gonna be a long haul.

(*By the way, that’s the “good” god in that expression, not the sick-sense-of-humor iron one. Don’t get me started on what MY personal cosmology looks like these days.)

OK. Back in the day-to-day prosaic dimension, I’ve spent the last 24 hours self-medicating with liberal doses of chocolate and Jelly Bellys. Oh, and plenty of fluids to replace the ones randomly shooting out of my eyes. Occassional hits of escapist novel and TV. I’m still relatively unable to speak coherently, but fortunately Kimberly has been channelling her anxiety into handling phone calls, emails, and tracking down second opinion resources. And the cats have been working on giving us lots of fur time and purring. I did 1.25 miles on the treadmill today, figuring I needed to keep my strength up, flush some “flight” chemicals, and take a hit of endorphins. That was good.

I figure my job for 2004 is to survive this. I’m focussing on being stubbornly durable, and not much else. Kimberly’s going to take care of me, and we’ll need you guys to take care of the two of us. That should work. We can do this. It’s just gonna be really hard for a time.

Hasta maƱana.

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