Fear

It is 2:33 in the morning. I have an appointment today to see a surgeon to decide whether to operate—specifically to perform a minor procedure; namely, remove a small tumor from my belly.

As with the three biopsies I have had in the past, consulting a surgeon on whether to operate is a formality. Dr. Jennifer Simmons, who referred me to the surgeon, recommended I have the procedure as an overnight stay at Mt. Nittany Medical Center. I will lobby for outpatient surgery without spending the night in a hospital because I do not like hospitals.

Many of the hospital personnel at Mt. Nittany have become friends. Still I would prefer to reacquaint our friendship elsewhere. I have been a patient at Mt. Nittany three times in the past two years, many times in the previous ten years I have been living in State College.

A reasonable guess is the biopsy will happen next week.

Two of my past three tumors have been malignant despite overwhelming odds they would be benign. After a lifetime in which I have survived cancer on three separate occasions, I have learned to automatically evaluate my life chances by evaluating the odds.

This time I suspect the odds will not be with me on two fronts. First, I suspect the tumor will be malignant. Second, I suspect my chances of survival will not be good. I could be wrong. [James Branch Cabell wrote: “The optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears it is true.”]

I could explain the rationale for my gloomy prognostications, but it would be too complicated and would depress me.

Rather, as a layman who has researched cancer since my first cancer diagnosis at age 28, I will proceed one step at a time with the knowledge that what I do not know about the subject of cancer is considerable.

Two months ago, after I presented the tumor to my physician (presented being a word commonly used on medical charts) I took State College’s para-transit bus to Geissinger Medical Center for a CAT scan. I had canceled two previously scheduled scans because I had work to do which I regarded as more important.

My experience with medicine is that once I go to a doctor, I am trapped in a world where there is always one more test to do followed by the reality of considerable unpleasantness such as kidney surgery last year and radiation therapy several years previous.

I completed a chapter in a report on how to renovate a house so it is wheel chair accessible and an article suggesting that with over 90 percent of U.S. homes not being wheel chair accessible and with Baby Boomers already retiring at the rate of 10,000 a day for the next 20 years that the time has come to build new cities in America.

Meanwhile, my tumor, though still small, has increased in size and its texture has changed. After one canceled appointment with the surgeon, the time has come to see him today.

I am afraid.

–Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2014 © by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

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