The problem with being a hypochondriac, similar to a paranoid, is sometimes you're right.
Some of you may remember I used to write a blog around these parts, and occasionally waxed glib about my doctor Fish and my inability to convince him that whatever small ache or pain I felt that week was, from what the internet told me, cancer. Many of you (if there's any of you left) will remember that sometime before Thanksgiving I fell ill with one motherfucker case of food poisoning and was hospitalized for three days--whereupon I began a serious relationship with heavy narcotics through an IV tube. I managed to kick the junk--or "stop" as they say in the common parlance--only to become extremely addicted to the world of daytime television and self-loathing. Which brings us right up to the "Diary of a Mad HouseJosh" portion of the program.
Some days later the Fish calls me in for a follow-up visit. It goes something like this:
FISH: So...You feel okay?
ME: I feel good.
FISH: All right. Good. Well. You know the CT scan they took of your abdomen when you were in the emergency room last week? They found a couple little anomalies we need to check out.
FISH: Shadows. Masses, really. One on your kidney and one on your adrenal gland. I'm sure they're nothing.
ME: They're masses.
FISH: They may not be.
ME: You said masses.
FISH: We really don't know. We need to do more tests.
Now as a practicing hypochondriac I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have fantasized about my doctor sitting across from me at his big desk and telling me I've got some rare and amazing disease that I will soon battle and heroically conquer, thereby earning myself the respect of health care professionals across the world. I always imagined the jokes I would make in the face of probable death, and how Lance Armstrong could just kiss my ass.
Here's how it really went:
FISH: They're probably cysts. Harmless. Don't freak out.
ME: I'm freaking out.
FISH: Well don't.
ME: Well too fucking late. When can I do more tests?
FISH: I'd like you to do them today.
ME: Today! That soon?
FISH: You're freaking out.
ME: Are you even really a doctor?
That afternoon I went to get an ultrasound and an MRI. The ultrasound tech wasn't old enough to drink and for my money seemed to enjoy his job just a bit too much. As I lay on the ultrasound table my wife held my hand and the tech pushed the probe across my belly, pinging my insides for foreign submersibles. I thought of the ultrasounds I'd enjoyed with my wife as we'd watched our son grow inside her and I couldn't help but think that this was almost certainly not as fun as that and in fact if it was any farther from what I've known my life to be I'd be wearing ruby slippers and my wife would be Toto.
TECH: Yeah...there's that adrenal...that looks like a cyst.
ME: Well that's good news, right?
TECH: I don't interpret, dude. That's not my thing. Let's move on to that kidney...
It took him a while to find the spot on my kidney. He had to check the CT scans, confer with the radiologist, and then dive back in. Finally:
TECH: Dude...There it is...Man...See how I almost missed it? It almost looks like your kidney tissue there...
TECH: That's no cyst, dude.
ME: So what is it?
TECH: I don't interpret, dude.
ME: You don't wanna guess?
TECH: Not my job. But...lemme just say this...I see a lot of gnarly shit. A lot. Seen a dude in here with testicular cancer...I thought...that dude is so fucked. Year later he's back for a follow-up. Completely clean. So you know anything can happen. Good luck, dude.
ME: Thanks, tech.
TECH: By the way...the radiologist who looked at your CT with me said "I hope that guy's getting himself an MRI really quick" and I told him you were getting it today and he said "Cool." So...cool.
ME: Well thanks to both of you. I feel very reassured.
The MRI was fairly uneventful because you're stuck in a tube and can't really cross-examine anybody with any sense of accuracy. Besides, I was starting to get a funny feeling about where this whole thing was heading and I decided maybe the safest place for me was laying quiet in a big tube holding my breath.
Unfortunately, the hospitals don't cotton to patients parking themselves in their MRI machines until they get the results they want. So my wife drove me home instead.
I will spare you the next twenty-four hours of absolutely excruciating hell waiting for Fish to call me with the results and skip right down to it. The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving weekend I hear this:
FISH: Well. You've got a cyst on your adrenal gland. Harmless.
ME: That's what tech said.
FISH: As for the mass on your kidney...It appears to be a tumor.
ME: Tumor as in...tumor? What else can you tell me about it?
FISH: Well...we need to have a specialist look at it.
FISH: But it does not appear to show any benign characteristics.
FISH: Meaning we cannot say it is benign.
ME: Does it show "non-benign" characteristics?
FISH: Yeah. You could say that.
ME: Is it time for me to freak out?
FISH: I would.
Finally some fucking advice I could follow.
I hung up the phone after getting the name of an oncological urologist and one other piece of advice from Fish: under no circumstances was I to get on the internet and google anything including the words "kidney" "cancer" or "tumor." I was specifically to avoid phrases such as "kidney cancer" "kidney tumor" and "Josh has kidney cancer and will be dead in three months."
That last one was a certain no-no.
For the last month I have debated whether or not to write about these events and the ones which have followed. Up until recently I had decided not to do so. Frankly, I could see no benefit. If you're a reader of the blog, you're pretty familiar with the way I approach things. I like me the jokey-joke and it pleases me to jump up and down and do my monkey-dance in my monkey cage for the tourists. The blog is fun for me and wouldn't be nearly so if I didn't press "publish post" at the end of each long blogging day.
But this is not that.
This is not fun for me, nor do I think it'll be fun for you, either. You won't learn much, because I'm a fucking ignoramus. I never did like research and I certainly didn't start for this shit. Some people want to know all they can about their disease, but I figured it would only keep me on the phone longer explaining it to my friends. Besides, Fish told me to stay off the internet. So I did.
There is little inspirational to my story--I'm not an inspiring guy and if you're looking for inspiration here you have stumbled across the absolute wrongiest blog you could find. If you've come here after googling "kidney" or "cancer" or any such combination, God be with you and return to the search results page and click the next entry. If, on the other hand, you got here by googling "monkey," "sweatpants," "burrito," or "coward" then belly on up to the blogbar, my friend. I can't tell you much about where I'm going, but I'll tell you where I've been.